My heart is bouncing off my rib cage as the phone rings.
Yesterday, I sent four certified letters to four siblings. In my search for my birth family, I found the four siblings I have been looking for for the past 21 years. I had confirmed my birth mother’s name and the names of my three brothers and one sister. The addresses I had for the brothers were wrong and their letters were on their way back to me. The letter for my sister was still alive. My sister was not home when her letter was delivered so a card was left by the postal carrier letting her know they had my letter for her.
In the search for their addresses I also came across phone numbers for each sibling. After thinking about it for most of Sunday, I decided to go in to my office with my wife and make the calls.
The letters were much safer. If they didn’t want to respond to the letters they could just not respond. The phone call is very scary. I risk the chance of having to hear someone say, “leave us alone,” or “don’t call us again.” This response would be devastating.
My desire to finally get an answer outweighed my fear of the ultimate rejection and I picked up the phone. The first number was a wrong number, so was the second, third and fourth. It took me hours to summon the courage to dial the four numbers and they were all wrong. Relief and frustration met in the middle of my chest.
There was a phone number I had for several days that I had decided I would not use. I had the phone number of my birth mother’s husband. The man that went with my birth mother to turn me over to the state when they found out I was biracial and obviously not his child. His was the number I ignored because he had every right to hang up on me. His reception I thought would be cold at best.
Again, my desire to get some kind of resolution squashed the growing fear I had. At my desk, I picked up the phone and I dialed his number. My heart was beating so quickly I can hardly breathe. I took in a big deep breath trying to slow down my heart so I could breathe. The phone rang once and then twice and the ringing stopped. A woman on the other end of the line said hello.
No turning back now. I asked for him. “Just a minute,” was her response.
My heart was a thundering mess and it was stealing all my oxygen. I swallowed two deep breaths and hoped I could talk when he came to the phone.
“Hi, my name is Kevin Hofmann and I have been looking for my birth mother and my investigation has led me to you. It appears your wife is my birth mother. Do you know anything about that?”
My question was met with silence and it felt like my pounding heart had suddenly stopped.
“Would you happen to be of another race?” He respectfully asked.
Relief flows through my veins. He is talking and not hanging up. He did not deny it.
“Yes, I am biracial; black and white.” I quickly responded. The conversation needed to keep going I told myself.
“Ohhhhh yeah, I remember that.” He acknowledged me in those five words. My presence was not denied as I expected.
“She had this stretch…” His voiced and that path of the conversation dies out.
“She went to a party and got knocked up by a black fellow.” In his honest reply, I was thankful. There was someone who knew something about me.
Pushing the conversation forward, I resolved to digest this later. I needed him to stay on the phone and tell me what he knew.
“Do you happen to know who my birth father is?” I quickly asked, trying to fill up the silence after his answer.
“No, No, I don’t.” Immediately, I saw the familiar view of another road block. As I was trying to think of another question to ask he continued.
“She used to hang around a gal and if anyone would know it would be her. She was with my wife at that party. I can’t think of her name. What is that gal’s name? I am sure once I hung up the phone I will remember her name. Why don’t you give me your number and if I think of anything I will call you.”
Again in his honest reply, I was thankful. He owes me nothing and I am sure this was a painful experience for him but he was helping me. He told me to give my number to his wife. (It appears he has remarried.) The woman who answered the phone got back on the phone to take my number.
I explain the conversation I just had with her husband and tell her I am looking for my birth father. Her voice is filled with compassion when she responds.
“Oh I understand. If I were you I would want to know too. The person who would know about this more than anyone would be his daughter. She has been wondering what ever happened to you.”
This stranger has said what I have waited 42 years to hear. Casually, she told me my sister has been wondering about me. The sister I was convinced knew nothing about me was wondering about me. The fact that the step mother knew that my sister was thinking about me meant someone was talking about me. Someone cared.
Before that one sentence, I was sure I was the dirty secret no one knew about.
The kind woman took my number and assured me she would pass it on to my sister and she would have her call me.
I asked her to thank her husband for me. I thanked her and let her know I was fortunate to have been adopted by a great family and things turned out great. She told me she was relieved to hear that everything worked out for me.
We ended the call. I put down the phone and the adrenaline in my body immediately left. My wife and I looked at each other and were amazed at the call that took place. (I had put the speaker phone on so my wife could the conversation.) We were excited about the connection we made and the possibility that my sister would be calling soon.
I stood up to walk out of the office and my legs struggled to support me. My body was exhausted.
The next day, while I was home alone my phone rang. I answered it and on the other end I heard, “This is your sister. I’ve been looking for you for the last 15 years.”
The conversation flowed easily as we both tried to get as much information out of the other as we could. I learned she has a step son who lives ten minutes from me. On Thursday, a day of thanks, my sister is coming to see me on her way to her step son’s house.