Finding Dad

To My Blog Post Readers,

Seven years ago on this day — December 5th — my wife, Patrice, lost her father. But the real story is how she found him just a year before.  She has given me permission to share that story.

Finding Dad

Some stories warm the soul.  This is one of them.

Have a hanky ready.

Born in Rome, Italy, to American teenage parents, Patrice was given up for adoption at a time when out-of-wedlock births carried a stigma of disgrace. Adopted by an Irish-American couple, she traveled the world with her new parents, learning many languages along the way. Her singing voice had been discovered as a child, and she sang in choirs and cantered at churches from New York to Paris.

Her childhood was anything but ordinary, but she loved her adoptive parents and developed an interest in their genealogy at an early age. Maybe it was her Irish family’s heritage that stirred her ancestral curiosity, or perhaps it was a deep yearning, not yet acknowledged, to find her own birth family history.  Regardless, a fascination with family bloodlines had been ignited. 

Years later, married and with two small children of her own, she found her birth mother. Patrice learned that her teenage birth parents had never married but had gone their separate ways. Her birth mother was unwilling to share further details about her birth father. And so it was she never knew, met, or had any knowledge of him until a fateful day in 2014.

Patrice’s passion for genealogy had been rekindled by the start of a new business known as Ancestry.com. This company soon fueled a national interest in finding one’s family roots. Filling out your family tree had become a national obsession.  And Patrice’s knowledge and experience made her an effective ancestral detective! She volunteered to help ancestry.com and became a consultant to individuals who needed help getting started. When ancestry.com initiated its female DNA program, they asked employees and volunteers to help get their database started.  Patrice gladly submitted a DNA sample.  And so it was that these events all led up to a life-changing phone call in 2014.

At the time, Patrice was 53 with two grown children and working as a paralegal in an Augusta, Georgia, law firm. Surprised at a phone call from the staff at ancestry.com in Utah, she listened with growing anticipation to the words she was hearing. Though ancestry.com‘s budding DNA database only had a few thousand participants, a close familial match had remarkably been made between Patrice’s DNA and another genealogist near Dallas, Texas. The staff member emphasized again, “A very close match,” and then asked, “Would you like the contact information for this Texas lady named Barb?” With trembling hands, Patrice wrote the phone number down.

Arriving home from work, Patrice pondered her next move. She could not help but wonder — who was this Barb? How would this call be received? 

Scared, excited, nervous — how do you explain the emotions one has at the possibility of discovering a family one had never known? How do you explain the fear at the prospect of rejection? Dialing that phone number was an act of courage as much as one of curiosity. Fear almost forced her to hang up. The possibility of finding answers to life-long questions kept her dialing.

Who would answer the phone?

A lady’s soft voice answered. “Hello?” Patrice responded with a hello and hoped her fearful trepidation didn’t taint her voice.  She introduced herself, explaining the ancestry.com connection, and wondered if the two of them might be related. A momentary silence on the other end signaled a connection had been made. The following words were laced with more emotion than can be described in words alone. “Patrice, I am your Aunt Barb, and we have been looking for you for over fifty years.”

Fortunately, Patrice was already sitting down. Her heart rate increased. 

We?  Barb said, “we.”

Speechless, Patrice searched for words.  Her excitement unleashed emotions pent up for decades. An aunt?  Had she found her paternal family line? Yet, she was still unprepared for the words that followed. “Patrice, your father is sitting here next to me. Would you like to talk to him?

Oh my.  Fifty-three years in the making, an unexpected reunion had just occurred thanks to a surprising DNA match. Tears of joy ruined her make-up, but Patrice didn’t care.  How a conversation continued after such a reunion, neither party could explain. How do you catch up on a lifetime of memories in a single phone call? You can’t.

A trip was planned, and a face-to-face reunion soon occurred. Something she never thought would happen was about to transpire.  Ironically, it was Patrice’s fascination with genealogy and her willingness to help others discover their family histories that resulted in her finding her own.

You can’t make this stuff up. Reality always writes the best stories.

Some months later, her father, Bob, came for an extended stay. They spent a year — one solitary year — catching up on a lifetime before Bob passed away. Their reunion may have only lasted a year, but it was filled with blessings. 

Her soul had been cleansed of the lifelong doubts and fears that some adopted children carry.

She knew she had been wanted.  She knew she had been loved.

And she discovered three younger brothers and a sister who awaited her embrace.

She was no longer an only child.

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2

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  1. Katy Hall

    Yep, I cried. Gave me goosebumps. How wonderful!❤️

    Like

  2. Ron Pate

    Beautiful story. Give my thanks to Patrice for sharing. Made me tear up.

    Merry Christmas.

    Like

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