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Thirty years ago my daughter was born and immediately given up for adoption. I never saw her. I am happy to say that, through the wonders of the Internet and the many souls who provided me with the pieces of the puzzle that led me to her, as of a few weeks ago, we are now in each others lives again.
We were young: I was just 20, dating an 18-year-old "two star-crossed lovers" from the get-go. She got pregnant after our first few months together, and we decided to get married. Why not? Her parents were not happy, but we were in love and that's all that mattered (sounds like a scene from Romeo and Juliet).
It was not to be for long, however. A few months after our wedding, her family decided to take matters into their own hands. We were living with her parents in New Jersey, and when I came home from work one day, I found that the whole family had gone. The house was dark. All my worldly belongings were packed in boxes and put out on the back porch. A few days later, my wife called to tell me she was in Florida at her aunt's house, chilling out.
I followed her to Florida to establish residency there and try to make a go of it with my new family-to-be. I found out that the reason her family flew her there was to have our marriage annulled and our child given up for adoption. I later learned that couples from the north wanting to adopt would fly to Florida where it was "easy," especially through a certain attorney who, at the time of her death, was being investigated for negligence in arranging adoptions that circumvented the courts.
Although I wasn't welcome to her aunt's home, I kept in close touch with my wife during this period and hoped to be there for the birth of our daughter. It was not to be: The day our child was born in a Coral Gables hospital, I drove over to see her only to be asked to leave the premises and was physically ushered out. They told me that she was no longer my daughter and I did not have any right to see her.
I spent many years burying this painful time in my life, until one day about 10 years ago when I decided to try and find my daughter and to come to some sort of completion with her, tell her that I always loved her and wanted her in my life again.
A few years ago while I was performing as the Singing Chef on the Donny and Marie (Osmond) Show, a large international search agency which was having success bringing birth parents together with their adopted children wanted to stage family reunions on the show. When the producers found this out, they contacted me, since I had been telling them of the search for my daughter. They put me in touch with this agency, hoping that they could assist me in my quest. I couldn't afford their price, but they told me they'd help me when they had time and would skip the fee. Over the next few years the agency assisted me in my search but they kept hitting brick walls; they did not find any postings that fit the information I gave them.
A few years ago, I learned from the Florida Children and Family Records agency that a family from New York had adopted my daughter. In March of 2001, while I was vacationing in Florida, I called the agency again to see if they had any more pieces of the puzzle. They suggested that I register by e-mail with the New York Adoption Registry and talk to the director, Sylvia, which I did that same night. The timing couldn't have been better!
After I posted my search information, I received an e-mail back from Dave Latte in Ontario, Canada, who is also a member of that registry. He had found that he could help reunite people and has made more than 150 matches; in return he asks only for a photo of the reunion for his scrapbook. Dave told me that he thought there might be a match for me on the Florida Adoption Registry. He gave me the address and I sent an e-mail to a Patty Burns, the director of that site. It turned out that a few years ago a woman named Susan Thomas, who was adopted and looking for her birth parents, had applied to that registry, and they told me how to contact her.
The next day, I got a call from Susan. She said that her hands started shaking when she heard from me, and were shaking still. She was not my daughter, she told me, but after going to my Web site and looking at my photo, she absolutely knew who my daughter was: her best friend. She told me her friend's name was Betty and gave me her Web address, but made me promise not to contact her until she talked to her first. When I checked out the Web site and saw Betty's pictures I could not believe my eyes. It was as if I were looking at a mirror image of myself.
I choked up, and tears started flowing down my cheeks like someone had just let the water out of a dam. I knew that I was looking at my daughter for the very first time, after 30 years. The next day Susan Thomas called back and told me she had talked to Betty and that Betty was ecstatic. Betty had asked Susan to have me call her the next morning because she was busy - get this - catering that evening and would be home the next morning.
I called at 8:30 am on Saturday morning. It was Easter weekend. My heart was pounding in my chest, and it seemed as if an eternity passed between every ring. After two rings she answered the phone.
She said hello and that she was expecting me to call. The very moment I heard her voice I felt this peace come over me, this cloud of anxiety and self doubt had finally lifted off of my shoulders, and a rush of peace came over me and my heart that I have only felt a few times before - a sense of coming home. My spirit was finally coming to rest inside of my self, almost like being born again.
After that first call we talked almost every day. With pride I say she is a chip off the old block: She is a yoga teacher, and I have been doing yoga for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and, like me, is a chef.
Sharing a little at a time with each other, I felt at times that I was walking on eggshells, not wanting to say anything that may turn her away from me or make her upset. However, our talks just seemed to bring us closer together, like we both knew in our hearts that sooner or later this would happen.
On May 6 at about 5 pm, we hugged for the first time. She drove up to our house in Santa Barbara, pulled into the driveway, and stepped from her truck, and the world stood still for that special moment.
Betty told me that she was raised in a very abusive family and was told by her adopted parents that there was no one out there who loved her. Those parents were now dead, and she never lost hope, deep in her heart, that some day she would meet her birth father. I now trust and believe in miracles more than ever before. Now the universe had created a space for me to come back into her life. She is no longer alone in the world; in fact she now has family all over the United States and in Italy. And best of all, we both have the rest of our lives to grow as spiritual beings walking hand in hand and in the arms of love.
For us, it is a happy beginning.
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