Riana was born in May, 1982. Her mother and I were already broken up for six months by the time she was born. I had three young children with me half time.
I wrote to the California Bureau of Adoptions to sign a waiver of confidentiality so that if my birthson ever wanted any information about his origins, he would now have plenty. I sent pictures of myself and his 2 sisters and his brother, Josh, along with a lengthy explanation about what happened and who and where we all were and how happy we’d all be if we were ever to meet him.
I kept making salsa full time, working up to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1983, my birthson was 18 years old. Maybe now he’d begin his search to find me. I couldn’t be that hard to find, could I be?
I met a woman named Lana in 1988. She had 2 kids and I had 3 or did I have 4 kids? I never knew what to answer when someone asked me how many kids I had. I felt bad saying I have 3, leaving out my first-born child but then when anyone asked about him, how does one say, “I don’t know anything about him. As a matter of fact, I’ve never even see him.” On the other hand, how do I say I only have 3 kids, leaving out a child who I fathered?
Were Lana and I going to have children of our own (I think I figured it out!) was answered when we moved in together and lived with 5 teenagers. That lasted 2 and a half years before we broke up.
Occasionally I would attend an ALMA meeting and quickly get discouraged at all the phone calling and tracking it took. This was before personal computers were readily available. The 500 miles from where my birth son was born alone, made it seem overwhelming.
In 1989 I managed to track down Marissa in Los Angeles. After many phone calls and much frustration and after very much persuading, Marissa finally agreed to meet with me. It had been over 20 years since we’ve seen each other. She was only willing to meet at some “neutral” place. That is, not at a place that I suggested but rather at a place she chose. We agreed on my brother’s house in Diamond Bar, CA. As I anxiously waited for her arrival, many thoughts passed through my head. How would Marissa look now? Would she still look beautiful? Would she think I looked the same? Will she be happy to see me? Will she be friendly and helpful in finding our son?
Marissa walked into my Brother Richard’s house at 9:30 PM and did indeed still look quite sexy. She still had a great figure and beautiful brown skin and long black hair and eyes so dark brown that you could not see her pupils. She brought along her 10 year old daughter who she adopted on the black market from Columbia. Her husband died from a heroin overdose and she had since become a Jehovah’s Witness. She hadn’t gone out with a man in 7 years. Hmmm… I thought… Well…maybe…we can…..hmm…..? (Hey, I know how to use birth control now!)
That thought quickly dissipated when, after a few niceties, I asked Marissa if she would like to help us work together in trying to find our son. Marissa opened her mouth and out shot anger and hatred for what had happened to us 24 years before. For the next 2 and a half hours, Marissa berated and condemned me as she sat there drinking from her whisky bottle and I sat there completely dumbfounded. Finally Marissa’s daughter piped up and asked if she “could please lie down.” As I looked over at her and was saying, “Sure, honey…” “No!” Marissa yelled at her, “I told you, that if you came with me, you’d have to just sit there and now, damn it, that’s just what you’re going to have to do, sit there and be quiet!” Marissa angrily pointed her finger at her daughter for emphasis. Then Marissa looked at me and said, “What right have you got to think he wants to have anything to do with you?”
If I were thinking clearly at the time, I would have answered, “What right have you got to think he doesn’t?”
But, of course, I was in such a state of shock to finally see Marissa again and have her react this way, that at 12 o’clock midnight, I got up, shook her hand and quickly walked out the door. I looked up at the dark, midnight sky and thanked God several times for the choice I made many years before. I never heard from Marissa again.
All I could do was to attend ALMA meetings and register my name on any triad (the birth parents, the adoptee and the adoptive parents) registration lists and hope that sooner or later my birthson would take the initiative to also register on one of the same lists and we’d be matched.
In the years following my meeting with Marissa, I would occasionally meet a birth mother or an adoptee and we’d have a lot to talk about. They were always glad to see a birth father who was interested enough to actually be searching to find his birth child.
I went through another divorce. A few years later, my children were leaving home (I still had them half time as a single dad) to attend college. I now had more time and I could focus more on solving problems that seemed unsolvable before. Suddenly, 4 years after I bought a computer and had been on the Internet almost daily, it hit me: I’ll see what I can find regarding finding people on the Net. I searched the Net for adoption, adoptee, birth parents, finding lost people, etc. I came up with more lists. I registered with all of them. I went on line early in the morning until late at night. I posted inquiries on several bulletin boards searching for lost family and friends. My girlfriend, Darla, began to wonder what I was doing on line all the time. Was she with some kind of Internet freak?
I thought I found my son. It was the right birthday, the right year, the right sex, the right city and just had to be the right person. How many babies could have been born on the same day, be the same sex, in the same city and have been adopted? Evidently more than one because it was not him.
There are a lot of people offering to help find people on the Internet. They charge various amounts of money. The question is who to trust? I didn’t need to feel any more discouragement than I already have felt for 35 years.I talked to several search angels. They all promised success. I talked to a birth mother, Holly, who had a search angel help her find her son. She said hers was the best. I contacted Betsy, the search angel Holly recommended. Betsy was obviously very busy as she didn’t respond to my email right away. Soon Holly asked me if I wanted Betsy to search for me. I said yes and gave her the only information I had. That was my name, the name of the mother, the birth date and the name of the hospital he was born in. That’s all I had. I did not know what his name was changed to on the amended birth certificate once he was adopted. Marissa named the baby after me at birth.
Holly emailed me a few days later to tell me that Betsy was hot on the trail and asked if I wanted her to keep going… She had Johnny traced to 1990, then to 1994, then to 1998… When Betsy had the date for 2000, Holly told me to call her. I called Holly and it was nice to talk to someone who experienced it herself. She was excited for me. Betsy said, “I’m very sure it’s your son and it was not easy to find him as his name is very common, especially in East LA.”
I called Betsy back to talk over my thoughts about how to contact Jimmy. I was very excited. She suggested I call Holly back. I called Holly back. Holly said I should call Johnny myself as it could be the only time I ever hear his voice in case he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I nervously dialed the number for the second time after much pacing.
“Hello” a voice answered that somehow sounded vaguely familiar.
“Hi. Is this Johnny?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Ahh…. Is your mother’s maiden name such and such?”
“Yes, it is…..
“Ahh… Is your father’s name… such and such?”
“Yes, it is. Who is this? Is this my boss? Are you making a joke here?” he asked laughingly yet obviously sounding more than a little nervous himself.
“No, I’m not your boss.”
“Are you sure this is not my boss? This sounds just like my boss.”
“No, I’m not your boss.
“No…..Ahh… Hmm….. No, I’m not your boss… Ahhh…Did you know you were adopted?” I finally blurted out very nervously while sweating in the cool February evening.
“Yes…I know I was adopted… Who is this? This is my boss, isn’t it? You’re playing a joke, aren’t you?!”
See Part 3 to be posted soon.