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My Journey - The Conclusion ?

It was 2001.  I was facing another birthday and was no further along in my journey to find "her" than I had  been 6 years before.  Worse, I was facing my 40th birthday and the fact that I might break the promise I had made to myself.

But the world had changed.  Google had changed it.  The internet was now a world wide web of information available at the finger tips if one just started digging.  So dig I did and at the beginning of that summer I started over.

It wasn't long before I found a multitude of adoption search sites, on-line forums and an entire community searching for all kinds of people the world over.  It was amazing and overwhelming.  I spent hours on-line "chatting" to others searching for mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and birth moms, birth fathers, everyone with a story and everyone looking for answers.  I joined search groups, sent questions, filled out forms and thought I was making progress.  Late one night, reading posts on one site or another it suddenly occurred to me what an idiot I was.

I wasn't an adoptee searching,  I didn't need adoption files unlocked or a court to get involved,  I needed to find a person.  I already knew my birth name.  I even knew her name.   I had copied it down on a piece of paper all those years ago when I accidentally found my original birth certificate.  What I had was a missing person search and that changed everything.

I scrambled back to the computer, logged on and Googled missing person searches.  Within minutes, I had the names and email addresses for three search companies in England.  Interestingly, all three did adoption searches as well as general missing person searches.  I fired off three emails, sending each the exact same information:, my name, my birth name, my birth mother's name, the date and city I was born in.  I explained that I was searching for my birth mother and wanted to know what it would cost to do a search.  All three got back to me within a day or so with the same basic response.  Given the information I already had, this was a relatively simple search and would be billed by the hour.

By the hour.  What was I prepared to pay?  I hadn't really thought that part through.  So over the next week, I spent time trying to figure out what I was I prepared to spend.  $100?  $500?  $1000? $5000?  I really wasn't sure.  Turns out it didn't matter, while I was trying to figure it out, one of the search companies, sent me the following email:

5/7/2001 8:45:07 am Central Daylight Time  ( Still cracks me up that the time was down to the second)

Hello Caroline,

Congratulations!  Once a year,  Searchline conducts a personal search at no charge.   This year we are pleased to announce that your application has been selected for this service.

Please send us any information you already have and we will move forward.

Sincerely,

Gwen  

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and so it began.  I emailed Gwen the information I had copied down all those years ago and waited to hear back from her.

Two days letter on 5/14 the first answer surfaced.  My birth mother was still alive.  She had married but nothing more could be found.  Maybe she had divorced.  Gwen would keep searching.  Could I please give her a little time, she was moving offices,  worked with 10 National Newspapers doing  back ground research for stories as well as a couple of top journalists.  Searchline was her personal project and something she did on the side.  She would get back to me.

So I waited, and waited and waited some more.  Finally with my self imposed birthday deadline staring me in the face,  I reached back out to Gwen with an email:

 

Sunday July 22, 2001 4:53 am

Gwen,

Just a note to touch base.  Last time I heard from you was on 5/14 and at that time you had discovered my birth mother's first married name.  

I know you have been really busy moving your office and that this is something that you are trying to fit in around everything else that you do.   I really do appreciate you taking this on and all you are doing for me.  It's just that birthdays are hard and I had promised myself that by the time I was 40, I would have found her.  Lie to me if necessary, any little piece of information that shows that we are moving in the right direction would be encouraging.

Sincerely,

Caroline

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I went to bed.  Monday was a work day and I had three small children with all the activities, dinner, laundry, bedtime routines and general household duties that occur in every home on any given night across the country.  It was gone 11:oo pm when I finally logged back on to AOL,  listened to it squawk through it's access to find another email from Gwen:

7/23/01 6:25:31 am Central Daylight Time (it had been in my inbox all day)

Hello,

Good News!!  We have found her.  She remarried in June 1978.  Her name is Dee and she is living outside London.

Her phone number is 01132 xxxxxx.  Would you like me to contact her on your behalf?  There is normally a charge for this intermediary service but so long as you cover the cost of the telephone call at a later date I will do it for you.

If you want me to go ahead would you please let me have some details about yourself.  Where are you living?  Married?  Children?

Will wait to hear from you.

With best wishes

Gwen

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I couldn't believe it.  Here at last was the information I had been looking for.  I immediately responded:

Monday July 23, 2001 11:39 pm

Gwen,

Absolutely!!!!

With so much gratitude,

Caroline

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The time differences suddenly became a big deal.  It was almost midnight in the US but in England everyone was just getting up to start their day so I knew that Gwen would read my message soon.  I tried going to bed, tried getting some sleep but nothing helped.  I tried not looking, not logging on to see if there was a new message but after a few hours I gave up waiting.  The AOL dial up squawk never took so long or seemed so loud but suddenly there it was, the one word I had been longing to see in the subject line "CONTACT".

I am not sure how long I sat there, just staring at that single line of text torn between hope and fear.  I finally clicked it open:

7/24/01 3:22:42 am Central Daylight Time

Caroline,

Well - yet again - lots of news.

I have made contact with your Mum and given her quite a big shock but she was a lovely lady to talk to.

I don't know quite where to start but here goes.  He voice was shaking and I could hear her choking up.  She says she has never forgotten you and knew your 40th birthday was coming up.

Only her parents know you exist, no one else, not even her husband.  She has not had any other children, you are her only one.

Her mother is still alive and is 92 years old and very ill.  As she said, she is your grandmother.

Dee asked that I not phone the house again because she is worried that her mother will pick up the phone.  She is, however, going to contact me back in the not too distant future - probably towards the middle of August.  I do hope this is OK with you - I didn't want to push the situation any further because I didn't want to lose her.

I have a feeling that your grandmother had something to do with your adoption.  Do you get that feeling?

The other thing that quite shook me is that she says she will contact your father!  I asked her if this was her first husband and she said NO.  She said that she never married your father but she knows where he is and can contact him quite easily.

I only gave her your Christian name and said that you live in Texas.  Do you live there permanently or were you brought up in England?  I told her about your children and husband.  I wonder how it feels to become a grandmother three times over in one morning...

Well - there it is in a nutshell.  I told her I have your phone number but she said that she will contact me first.  I have also told her that she can phone me if she feels that she would like to talk to anyone.  It's all going to 'hit' her shortly - even if she doesn't think so at the moment and I would like to feel that she has someone she can reach out to.

Please, please write me back and let me know that you are OK.  I'll wait to hear from you.

With best wishes

Gwen

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I must have reread that email  a dozen times,  I had done it.  I had found her and I knew exactly what to do next. 

Dear Gwen,

Oh my god !  I don't know how to begin thanking you. I know it seems weird but I am perfectly ok if this goes no further than this last email.

I am attaching a letter I need you to get to her.  Whether she decides to respond or not is ok.  For myself,  I just need to let her know how wonderful my life is and what a gift it has been.  I appreciate all your help.  If she asks for my contact information, please feel free to share it all.  Thank you for the best birthday present ever.

With my undying gratitude,

Caroline

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I had no expectations beyond that email.  My 40th birthday was a huge celebration with no cloud, no frustration and no birth mother wondering where I was or what I was doing.  It was the best birthday ever and I could let it go.