Meeting my sister: In search of family â?? part 3
If anyone told me that I would be driving 1,500 miles one way to anywhere for any reason, I would have told them that they were nuts.
On a Friday night after Sue got off work, we decided to start heading early to the Mid West. Originally, we planned to leave Culpeper early Saturday morning and drive as far as we could. But with ramped up anticipation of finally meeting my half sister, we decided to leave Friday.
Looking at the map, I counted 10 states we would cut a swath through. We were taking the scenic route, not the toll-filled one through industrial and urbanized northern Ohio and Illinois. The majority of the trip had us on I-70 until we headed north. I may have been born in the Chicago area, but I wasnâ??t interested driving through it.
Mirrors and seat adjusted, I sat comfortably behind the wheel as we started our trek in Sueâ??s gas sipping Toyota Corolla. Thirty eight miles a gallon looked good.
As we rolled through the nationâ??s bread basket, neat rows of corn, wheat and bright green soybean fields stretched as far as the eye could see.
The lawns around the well maintained farm houses were immaculately cut.
Pockets of giant wind farms dotted the landscape, as the huge propellers slowly turned in the steady breeze.
All the while, I anxiously conjured up scenarios of meeting my sister for the first time.
The cell phone rang several times as my sister Linda called eagerly monitoring our progress.
Finally, we crossed the border into North Dakota about 5 p.m. Sunday.
We planned to meet Linda and her long-time significant other Al in the lobby of our hotel.
There she was walking down the long hallway toward Sue and me, her hand clutching Alâ??s arm.
As we got closer, she sensed my presence or Al whispered to her. She raised and extended her open arms toward me. I did likewise.
â??I am going to give you a big hug,â? I said, as my arms enveloped my newly found half sister.
â??I am so glad you wanted to,â? she whispered to me as we hugged each other tight.
Neither of us wanted that moment to end.
The joyous meeting was the culmination of decades of waiting.
Sharing a meal and making memories
Tired and hungry from the long drive, we decided to eat dinner together in the hotel restaurant. We chatted about everything having to do with â??ourâ? mother. I learned more about her, her medical condition and how she died following surgery on her leg. She was 69.
The sad part is that Linda lost â??ourâ? mother on May 1, just three weeks after her father passed away in April 1994. Had it not been for Al stepping up to take care of Linda â?? they have been a couple since 1977 â?? she said she probably would have been in a nursing home due to her blindness. After meeting Al and seeing how he looks out for Linda, there is only one word to describe him. Special.
For the next three days, Sue and I visited with Linda. We drove to the house she shares with Al in Minnesota. It is a nice house, with a bright red shingled roof, out in the middle of literally nowhere. It sits a half-mile off a paved road surrounded by lush farm fields.
Linda is a talker, providing so much information and lots pictures. We looked at the pictures and decided that I look nothing like my mother. We also determined that Linda and I look nothing alike.
So that leaves dad, whoever he may be.
While there and seeking information about my father, I wanted to visit my motherâ??s grave site. At the cemetery, we met Tom Shaffer. He knew Lindaâ??s father well and offered to help me try to find my natural father, pulling out an old high school yearbook and city directory after we came up with a name. He made some phone calls, including one to the Red River Genealogy Society.
The next stop was the Fargo library. The city directory is a wonderful research tool. However, the two years of city directories I needed, they didnâ??t have. Missing was 1946 and 1947. I had some names of people working at the dental supply company where my mother and father worked listed in 1945 and 1948 to research, but so far they havenâ??t panned out.
I also struck out at the genealogy society where I spent hours looking through information and searching the Internet.
While I was doing research, Sue was doing what she does best â?? shop. Itâ??s a woman thing.
To say that all the people we met at the library, cemetery and genealogy society were extremely helpful is an understatement.
I also stopped by the company where my mother and father worked. A long-time employee provided the name and phone number of a former employee who recently retired after 40 years. I hoped he had some information as he would have known my mother.
Unfortunately, two phone messages have not been returned.
With half the puzzle together, the search continues.
The troubling part of solving the mystery about identity of my dad remains cloaked in privacy laws. The state of Illinois doesnâ??t know. The adoption agency does, but they canâ??t release it.
As the woman at the Red River Genealogy Society said, â??It is criminal that they canâ??t tell you.â?
I agree. If the information about him is correct, if alive, he would be about 98 years old now.
In any event, I am glad we made the journey to meet Linda. We cannot recapture the last 60 years, but we can move forward and forge a different kind of bond. And from all indications, a lasting one.
Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org