Sunday, November 20, 2011

My adoption story part 2: My Birthfather

After meeting my b1rthm0ther and learning the details of her relationship with my b1rthfather Karl, I honestly thought I would never be able to find anyone from his side of my family.  You see, my b1rthfather was not a U.S. citizen.  He grew up in Bermuda.  And when my b1rthm0ther's pregnancy with me was confirmed, Karl vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.

Occasionally I "googled" his name or looked through Bermuda's on-line white pages but I couldn't find him, or anyone with his last name.  My only option was to hire a private investigator and that seemed so risky.  Plus, I had mixed feelings about meeting someone who took off at the news of my existence.  

Since I was more than satisfied with what I had learned about my biological roots from Alice, I let go of the possibility of ever finding Karl.  Until one afternoon two years ago when curiosity got the best of me.  

On that day, I was reading a memoir by a man who spent part of his childhood in Bermuda.  My mind drifted to Karl and out of nowhere, I thought,  "I wonder if he's on Facebook."  I opened up my laptop and entered his name in to the Facebook search page.  A handful of Karl ____'s came up, none listed in Bermuda.  I copied a picture of one who seemed about the right age and sent it to Alice.  "Nope," she said.  "Not him."  I searched again on Facebook, this time entering his name plus the country of Bermuda.  A Joseph ____ popped up.  Younger than me.  A relative perhaps?  The only way to find out was to contact him.  Nervously, I sent Joseph a message through Facebook.  Not wanting to give away all of my cards, I simply introduced myself as a someone doing genealogical research on a Karl ____ who grew up in the region of _____, Bermuda, and asked if he might be related to him.

Joseph replied within a few hours.  Yes, he knew who Karl was...Karl was the younger brother of his father Eric and why did I want to know?

I nearly fell out of my chair.  

I knew that Karl had an older brother named Eric.  I had found my cousin Joe and was one step closer to finding my b1rthfather.

Joe was reluctant to share more information with me until he knew my identity.  I was hesitant to reveal too much, fearing that the door might close forever.  I finally emailed Joe my phone number, and asked him to pass it along to Karl.

About two hours later, the phone rang.  It was Joe. "Before I can tell you about Karl, I need to know who you are."  Reluctantly, with no remaining options, I confessed, "I'm his son."  

"There has been a rumor in the family about you for years," he replied, recalling a time as a child when he walked in on his parents (or grandparents, I can't remember for sure) and heard them talking about a child that Karl might've had.  

Sadly, Joe told me that Karl had died of a drug overdose in the early 70s.  Based on what little I knew about him, I wasn't entirely surprised.  Tragically, I only have two surviving biological family members from my birthfather's side of the family, my cousin Joe and my aunt Allison, the daughter of my grandfather from his second marriage.  She is actually a few years younger than me.  

Through a later phone call with Allison, I learned that my grandfather passed away only a few months prior to my contacting the family.  He lived to age 90 and spent much of his life, including his last few years, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  I spent 5 years living in Miami so we actually didn't live too far from each other during those years.  Allison put me in touch with her mother (my "step-grandmother" for lack of words) who was the only remaining family member who knew Karl.  She told me everything she remembered about him.  I learned where he went after his disappearance and what happened in the remaining years of his life.    since he was in their wedding, she had a picture of him somewhere.  (see below).  I also learned that my grandfather played football for the University of Florida and was a great ballroom dancer.  (So, which of these two abilities did he pass along to me...sigh...the dancing.  The redhead loves this about me but man I wish I had a decent arm for throwing a football!).

It is saddens me to look at the pictures below and see a smiling, happy young man who made a series of selfish self-destructive choices that eventually led to his untimely death.  The blessing of adoption always involves a loss of some sort.  Like all adoptees, I have things to be thankful for and things to grieve.  My sons will be no different but hopefully, by navigating my own adoption journey, I will better equipped to guide them through theirs.

Ultimately, this journey into my past has made me grateful.  Grateful to have reunited with both sides of my family tree, grateful to have met welcoming family members on both sides, grateful for the family that raised me, and grateful to God for his hand in all of it.  I have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

Karl at my grandfather's wedding.  I have his wavy hair and complexion.

The wedding party of my grandfather's second marriage.  Karl is next to last on the right.


Delana said...

Thanks for sharing your story! It is refreshing to read a story by an adoptee who finds reasons to give thanks.


J at said...

Wowee, what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing this with us. I wish you could have met your father, but also, I'm glad you have found peace with what is...

Tanecia Kirkland said...

Amazing story..thanks for sharing it !! I am glad you found the reason to be thankful even though your life was full of mystery and sadness during your discovery of Karl's life. God bless you and your beautiful family !!

arabella said...

Alison sent me your information yesterday when I noticed your father's picture on her facebook page. I am the young woman (not so young now!) next to Karl. I would be happy to talk to you, but sounds like you know as much as I. I loved Uncle Joe (Alison's) father very much and kept in contact with him until he passed away. My name is Stephanie Henderson Kary and my facebook is under Stephanie Kary in Ocala, FL.
With extended through the vast weird world of family, love, Stephanie

The Moore Family said...

Wow, very powerful story. You are awesome to share it. I know it will be such a comfort to your precious boys that you've been in their shoes in that way. How beautiful. Your father was very handsome! I see some resemblance!!! Happy Thanksgiving, Owenses!!!!!

Kim said...

Wow is right. It must give you closure though to know, I would think.