Heather* knew she was adopted, even before she understood what being adopted truly meant. Heather loved the couple who adopted her and they loved her back. That was all she needed to know. As Heather grew up, her mother told her it was perfectly fine and understandable if she wanted to know more about her birth mother. To Heather, there was no need. That is, until she became ill.
In her early twenties, Heather began experiencing medical issues. The doctor’s wanted to know more about her medical history so Heather went to the county to see if they had any information. She received a file stating her birth mother was nineteen years old. There was also a hand-written note from Heather’s birth mother with basic medical history including that Heather’s grandmother lost both of her legs to diabetes. The first pieces began to fall together. As an infant, Heather had been released from the hospital with her identification wristband. Her mother thought the name on the band was “Harrison.” Hearing the news, Heather’s uncle mentioned his father used to rent a house to a girl with the last name of the Harrison. He remembered the mother who lived in a neighboring state had no legs. For the first time, Heather began thinking about her birth mother and the possibility of meeting her. Heather’s uncle tracked down the number for his old tenant, Kathy Harrison, and called her. He explained his niece was put up for adoption by a Harrison and asked if Kathy had any information. Kathy hung up. If that was her birth mother she wanted nothing to do with Heather. She resigned herself to never knowing her birth mother.
A decade later Heather shared her story with a friend of the family who then said she had known Kathy Harrison personally. Another call was placed to Kathy. This time they were given more information. Yes, Kathy Harrison had given up a girl for adoption as well as a boy. Also Kathy’s sister Chris had also given up a girl for adoption. Again however, revisiting the past was too much for Kathy and she cut off communication.
The next decade of Heather’s life was focused around caretaking and loss. Her aunt who Heather considered her second mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed two years later. Two weeks after her funeral, Heather’s uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. At the end of that year, Heather’s mother-in-law was also diagnosed with cancer succumbing to it early the next year. At the end of that year, Heather’s uncle was put into an induced coma as part of the treatment for his cancer. The very next day, Heather’s husband Chris fell out of a tree and broke his ribs and backbone. He was very lucky to have survived. Two days later, Heather’s uncle passed. Sadly the next year, a few days after enjoying a wonderful Mother’s Day together, the only mother Heather ever knew, passed due to a massive heart attack. To add to her pain, the week of her mother’s funeral, she attended three other funerals. Having lost her father many years earlier, except for her husband, Heather was now alone.
The following week Heather picked up her mail. In it was the bill for her mother’s funeral, and her birth certificate.
The year before a law was passed allowing anyone adopted and born after 1946 to have access to their birth certificate. With her husband’s initiation and support, Heather had sent in for hers. Heather now knows unequivocally that her mother is Christine Harrison. Could this be the same Christine Harrison, sister of Kathy Harrison who they had contacted years before? Could it be that Heather’s uncle rented his house to Heather’s birth mother?
A month later, Heather had some friends over and told them the whole story. Her friends immediately used the internet to hunt down Kathy Harrison in the hopes of locating Heather’s birth mother. Their phone call was received with an immediate hang-up. Years ago her uncle was not able to get information and now her friends were not able to as well. Heather decided it was time for her to try. She called and left a message for Kathy. She said, “I don’t want to intrude on anyone’s life. I would just like to thank Christine for giving me such a wonderful life.” Kathy called her back agreeing to pass the message to Christine. If Christine chose not to respond, Kathy promised to send Heather some photos of her mother. That night Heather slept soundly feeling she had closure after over forty years.
Seven-thirty the next morning Heather’s phone rings. She missed the call then listened to the voicemail. “I have waited forty-five years for this. I am so happy. Call me.” Heather spoke with her birth mother for the very first time that day – and almost every day since. Christine has always felt bad about having to give up her daughter. She has always hoped her daughter would try to find her.
Heather and her birth mother meet in person a few weeks later. For Heather it is an amazing experience. She has never been around people who look and act like she does. She and her mother laughed in recognition when they realized neither of them is able to wink. To Heather, her mother is all of her favorite people rolled into one. As they spent their first day together, Heather’s birth mother proudly shows off her Lladro figurine collection. She points out a mother and child figurine telling Heather how she purchased it years ago in Spain with the hopes of one day being able to give it to her daughter.
Heather truly has a wonderful life.
*All names have been changed to respect the privacy of those involved.