“No, I’m not your boss. My name is Phillip. I think I’m your birth father.” I said at last.
“You’re kidding!!! This is a joke, isn’t it??” He said while obviously taken aback.
“Yes, my name is Phillip. Were you born on April 19, 1965?”
“Yes, that’s my birthday.” He answered. He paused for a moment then he added: “Phillip…? My parents were going to name me Phillip when I was born. But then they changed their mind…”
“At last!” I said as I looked up at the ceiling with tears rolling down my face.
We covered the past 35 years of both of our lives. Where he went to school. Johnny lives on the very next freeway exit, one mile from the one I took where I grew up in City Terrace. You can actually see his house from the freeway I’ve driven by, literally thousands of times in the past 35 years.
“Was my mother nice?” He asked me.
I hesitated and answered, “Oh, yes… Ahh… she was very nice and ahh….very beautiful.”
Johnny whispered softly so that his adopted mother — who he lives with — (thus, the woman who answered the phone) to insure she would not feel that Johnny was being disloyal or ungrateful or showing a lack of respect.
“I have to go Johnny said after what seemed like only a few minutes but was probably more like a half hour. “They’re some people waiting for me.” he added.
To me that was a confirmation that this was indeed my son. More concerned about someone waiting for him than talking to someone he’s wondered about all his life.
Darla and I went to the nicest restaurant in town to celebrate. When we got back home, a call was on the answering machine. I knew it was Johnny.
“Oh, hi again, it’s me, Johnny. I just wanted to say, thank you for calling me and that you sound so nice and that, I’m so happy that you called and that, well, I don’t know what to do…Ahh… Thanks again…. Bye…”
I called him back and talked for a while more. We covered everything you always wonder when you have a lifetime to wonder about someone. Who, what, where, how, why…. He asked my age. “53” I answered.
“Wow, only 53. That’s young. My mom’s 78. She was 43 when I was adopted. She couldn’t have kids.”
We made a few more calls and then I said: “I’d like to come meet you.”
Silence on the other end of the phone line. Johnny was not ready to meet me.
“I don’t know…..Maybe later,” he answered.
Weeks went by.
I remember him saying, “Thanks for calling me on my birthday. I’ll call you next time.”
6 more weeks went by. Finally on my birthday, Johnny called me to wish me happy birthday. I was thrilled.
“I’d like to come meet you sometime soon.”
“Ok. I think I’m ready now.”
“What about next week? Darla has a conference in Fresno and wants me to go with her. It’s only another 200 miles to LA.” I said.
“Ahhh…Ok… I guess I’m ready. He answered.
“Ok. I’ll call you Wednesday at 6 O’clock to confirm it. OK?” I asked.
“Great,” he answered.
I called at 6 on Wednesday. His brother in law answered the phone.
“He’s in the shower.”
“Ok. I’ll call back in a little while.” I answered.
I called back a half hour later.
“He left,” his brother in law answered with annoyance in his voice.
“He did? But…? I……Ahh…… When will he be back?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered impatiently.
I was beginning to get the picture. Johnny wasn’t yet ready to meet me now, if ever and even though I was set to drive the 1000 miles round trip to see him, it could very well be for naught. Johnny’s brother in law, maybe 40 years old, lived in the house with Johnny’s sister and their 16 year old son. The brother in law was playing the protector. The 6′ 5″, 250 pound man of the house. I was being put off.
I called again at 9 PM. No answer. I called again at 10 PM. The phone was busy. I called every 10 minutes until 11 PM only to get a busy signal.
Next morning I got up at 5 AM to get ready to make the drive to LA, very likely for nothing. Would he come to the door if I knocked?
AT 6:15 AM I called again. The phone rang. Johnny answered.
“Oh, hi, ah, I’m glad you’re there. I tried to reach you last night but I couldn’t get through.”
“Oh, I’m sorry; I had to go some place…… Ah…. Some place…ah….really, really important.”
“Yeah, okay, fine, that’s okay. I understand.” I heard myself say as I sighed with relief that he answered the phone.
“So, ah, are we still on?” I asked hopefully.
“Oh, sure.” he answered.
“Ok, good. I’m leaving in a little while. You’ve got Sunday and Monday off, so can we got together those days and spend some time getting to know each other?” I asked.
“Ok, I’ll give you a call when we pull into LA.”
See Part 4 coming up.