I Heard Him Speak my Name
In the evening, after Christmas dinner, my parents took me to the train depot in Portland, Ore. I was taking the overnight train to Boise, Idaho. It was unclear when I would be returning. My birthday had been in June and I turned 15. Just before school began in the fall of 1964, I found out I was expecting my first child. Naively, I thought that this was the very worst thing that could happen to me, and that the day I left for Boise was the worst day of my life.
My father had made arrangements for me to go to the Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Boise. I was scared, especially since I had been told, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be welcome at home until I got rid of the baby. It confused me as I wondered, “What was I going to do?” and “How do you get rid of a baby?” I actually doubted I would ever be all that welcome at home again. My parents told me they were ashamed of me and that I had shamed them, too.
Then the months began to pass, slowly. I found a social worker that helped me find a couple I felt comfortable about approving to adopt the baby. The social worker was getting worried because he had presented several couples that he thought would be good families but he could not convince me to budge from what I insisted I wanted. I wanted a family that placed a high value on an education and wanted parents that had college degrees. I wanted a couple that wasn’t panicky because they hadn’t gotten pregnant as soon as they hoped and were adopting. I wanted my baby to be given to a woman who couldn’t physically have a child. I believed she would appreciate a baby more. I also wanted a couple that had been married five or more years. I hoped they would have worked out their differences and would stay together.
Three days before I gave birth, I was given the profile of a family I would finally approve. Idaho was then and remains to this day a state which only has closed adoptions. Neither the birth mother nor the adoptive family is to know the identity of the other. I also knew that I was never going to receive annual letters about how well the child was doing, nor would I ever receive a picture. I was afraid. How was I ever going to know if the baby was well cared for, was healthy, was loved, was happy?
A baby boy was born on May 6th, 1965. I was told he was healthy and weighed 8 ½ pounds, but I was not allowed to hold him or see him in the delivery room. They thought that was best for me, that I would not attach to him and they thought it would be easier for me to give him up. That is what they thought – whoever “they” were.
I saw him through a window wrapped in a mint green blanket. He was awake and lying on his side and he appeared to be looking through the glass at me. This happened just before I left to go to court to sign the papers releasing him for adoption. I think this was on the third or fourth day after he was born. I wondered as he looked at me if he somehow knew or understood the enormity of what I was going to do. Would he be angry and resentful when he was told he was adopted? What if he did not bond with his parents and always wondered who I was, where I was and why I did not want him?
I was pitiful and I felt pitiful. I did want him, but in 1965, someone my age could not even get a job without parental permission. Without the help of my parents or someone else, I had no means to care for myself let alone a baby. I was still a child myself at 15 – just one month shy of turning 16.
As I watched him through the glass, I named him David. I was thinking of the Bible story of David and Goliath. I wished my baby the strength of character to deal with whatever life would bring him. I prayed he would be so happy in his new family that he would never want to find me and would never worry about me. I also promised him that on his 18th birthday I would look for him until I found him or died — whichever happened first.
That day I had no idea of what this promise would mean. I had no idea that day how much I would grieve for him. I had no idea that day the guilt I felt would linger for years and how it would affect me. I had no idea that day how heavy a cloak of depression can be, and that I would feel as though I was suffocated by it at times. And so a slow procession of years began to pass one by one with little relief.
After I signed the adoption papers, my father came to Boise to pick me up. I had not seen my parents or brothers since Christmas and had not talked to them on the phone. The drive home was long and excruciating as there was so little I wished to share and so very little that my father wanted to hear. I found out that they had moved while I was away and that I was never to discuss what had happened nor tell anyone about it. Dad made it clear that it was over as far as he and mother were concerned. My brothers were too young to know, and they had been told I was staying with a family friend that had needed some help.
I did stay at home until I graduated from high school and then immediately moved out. It had been a strained situation because I had disappointed them and although IT was never mentioned, IT hung in the air and never seemed to go away. I turned 18 two days after graduation and was woefully unprepared to support myself financially and was an emotional mess. The September after I turned 20, I married a young man from my church. It was less about love and more about trying to fill the holes in my soul. It was a terrible burden to place on him and it took years for me to figure out that it wasn’t his job to fix me. I started to invite my mom and dad to dinner every year on May 6. I always made a carrot cake and took great pleasure by including them in my private and silent birthday celebration for my unknown son, David.
The years slowly passed. My marriage failed and I married again. That marriage failed as well. I don’t think I realized until years later that the depression was not something marriage or counseling could fix. I could not explain the feelings because I didn’t know where they came from or really remember when they began and could not articulate what was wrong. I simply was depressed and it was visceral, and I could not remember a time I didn’t have those feelings.
May 6, 1983 arrived. David was 18. I intentionally invited my parents to dinner but waited until after serving the carrot cake to proudly announce that I had placed my name that day, and all pertinent information, on the national and international adoption registry. I told them that I was going to look for David and hoped one day to find him. They were furious! They could not understand why I would “dredge this up after all these years.” I was determined but had no idea of the price I would pay. As it turned out, I received a letter from them about four days later informing me that I was no longer welcome in their home. I did not hear from them or another living relative for nearly 20 years.
And so the years continued to pass one after another. Eventually I was registered in almost every state that had a registry. I never received a response. In the fall of 1996, I watched Dr. Wayne Dyer on a PBS special and he talked about the power of intention – when all of your thoughts and all of your actions and all of your feelings are in harmony then you can manifest – it made me think about David and my search. The years passing had made me numb, and at times hopeless, because I just didn’t know what else I could do.
I made the decision to spend one morning each week working on my search. I did not work on Monday and made a decision that this would be the first thing I would do on this day. I did one proactive action each week. I started by making certain that all my registrations were up to date. I began to call Idaho Vital Statistics until it seemed they would answer and sigh when they heard my name. I called often because I wanted them to find out and tell me where my adoption records were located. The adoption agency that handled my case had closed, and it seemed nobody knew where the records were stored all these years later. Nobody cared really because it was still a closed state.
One Monday morning a woman, I had never spoken to, answered the phone. When I explained who I was and what I wanted, she said, “Oh, I know where those records are located.” She then proceeded to give me the phone number of a woman and told me the records were stored in the basement of the agency this woman managed. I called the woman and she asked me some questions – particularly if I was willing to come to Idaho and go to court and fight for this information. Yes, a thousand times Yes – I definitely would go to Idaho. She said she would send me the necessary papers to complete and return. Just a few days later the paperwork arrived. Along with them was a simple card with a woman’s name and phone number on it. It was not a business card and was not the same person I had spoken to. I thought this was strange and called a man at Origins, Inc. I had found this company mentioned on the bottom of a flyer sent to me by the Iowa registry. I talked to the owner, Jim McDonald, and explained the receipt of this card. Jim said, “Let me call the woman and see what I can find out.” The next morning Jim called back and said the woman was an adoptee and was sympathetic of my plight. She also worked in the Idaho Vital Statistics Department and, for a very small fee, was willing to help me get the information I wanted about who had adopted my child. I mailed a check to Jim for $250 and he paid the woman. A couple days later I received a call from Jim and he asked me if he could do some research for me. I said, “Go for it,” and within a day he called me and said he thought he had found my son in Denver. I asked Jim to call and use his talents to see if this was the correct person. This person’s legal name was Roger. It sounded so foreign to me. Jim called Roger and Roger told him he was adopted but
told Jim he would have to call him back in the next week or so as he was not certain my name was correct. When I heard that my heart sank. I was afraid but also prepared to respect his wishes if he did not want anything to do with me.
The next morning Jim called me at 8:00 a.m. and said that Roger had agreed to a conference call that evening at 7:00 p.m. Jim would arrange the call and make the introduction and listen and be proactive to help us if we ran into problems. The date was March 21, 1997. The Spring Equinox . . . a day symbolic of new beginnings. I felt that day would never end, that 7 p.m. would never arrive. I was a mess. I felt nervous, I cried, I could not concentrate at work. People wondered what was wrong with me. I had never told anyone about David. I did not know how to break the silence and really didn’t want to. At least not that day.
7 p.m. finally arrived. The phone rang and Jim said, “Roger, I want you to meet your birth mother, Diane.” I held my breath as I had only imagined this moment. And then Roger said, “Diane, I have always been so happy that I never thought about looking for you, but I am absolutely delighted that you found me.” Roger had no way of knowing, but his first sentence to me was an answer to my continual prayer that the family that adopted him had loved him so well that he would never have a desire or a need to search for me.
During our conversation, he told me that his mother, Lucy, and his father, Larry, had named him Roger David after they adopted him. Roger turned 32 the following May 6th and flew to Seattle to meet me and celebrate his birthday. He stayed with me until Sunday and left around noon to fly back to Denver. I knew he was a very special person that Sunday. It was my first Mother’s Day with my child, but he wanted to be sure to get to Denver and catch a connecting flight to Grand Junction. Roger had plans to take Lucy to dinner to celebrate her
Mother’s Day, too!
One morning I awoke and realized I no longer felt depressed or anxious or unhappy. I no longer had holes in my soul.