Do you believe in fate. I used to believe strongly that everything happened for a reason. Then some really unexplainable things happened and I kind of fell off the bandwagon. But I still wonder about fate. Never more than now though.
I met Maxine Clark, CEO of Build a Bear Workshop last month at the Disney Social Media Moms conference. We really connected about children. (Big surprise). I then had the great fortune to converse with her by email when I returned home. She and I were bandying about an idea for me to work with her and her husband on a project that they have going in their home town of St. Louis , Missouri. the are working to help young people be healthier. You know that subject is near and dear to my heart. Maxine wanted to know if St Louis was on my radar. I told her that I don’t currently have St Louis on my tour schedule. So we agreed to keep talking till we found the right time to get me there.
The very next day I got a Facebook message…from my sister. No, not the two I have known my whole life, my birth father’s youngest daughter,…my sister. You see, I am adopted. I have known that I was adopted for as long as I have known my name. But this information was an out of the blue smack in the head. My… sister was messaging me because her.. (our) father had passed away the Saturday before, and she wanted me to know about it.( I had to sit down because my head started to spin.)
My parents were always very open with me about the fact that I was adopted. In fact they also were instrumental in my seeking out my birth parents when I became an adult. I actually found my birth mother, or I should say the State of Wisconsin found her through their adoption search program) in 1993. We met at my parent s house in Milwaukee. She coming from Canada by way of Madison, and me coming from Chicago, (but that’s a story for a different post). My parents were even more excited than I was. They were brimming with questions. The first and most important to them was. “who was my birth father?”. My birth mother’s response was, “Greg Johnson.” My parents both took in an audible breath of surprise. Although at this point I was the one most surprised… by their reaction. My father then said, “Greg ‘Grape Juice’ Johnson” was my child’s father.” Grape Juice? What is he talking about? My mother giggled, (well more like cackled), and exclaimed, “We saw him play football in Madison!” Ok, hold the phone. First of all, my mother went to a football game! (Separate point of surprise.) What are my two normally calm and coherent parents babbling about? I was lost. Well, apparently my birth father was quite the star at The University of Wisconsin Madison. He ran track and played football. Because of the popularity of OJ he was nicknamed Grape Juice (insert old joke about how we all look alike right here). Many people thought he was on a sure path to win the Heisman trophy during his college time. He was also on the road to the Olympics with his lightning speeds in track. Sports Illustrated even profiled him in 1969. (But that’s another post. THREE and counting!)
Anyway, back to my story. I took the birth father information, filed it away, and went about my life. I got married, I did the Showboat National tour, I bought a condo, I got pregnant, I met Al Gore, ( he and his wife were actually some of the first people I told the day I found out I was pregnant-yet another post I need to write-ahh!), and so forth. Now it was the Summer of 1997. That‘s when the idea of meeting my birth father finally took hold. I was expecting my first child and he needed information. You see, as an adopted person doctors’ appointments aren’t as long as for the rest of you naturalized children. Why? Because we don’t have to spend all of that time giving a medical history. The doctor says, “Did your father’s side of the family have any major diseased or ailments?” I say, “I’m adopted.” End of conversation. It’s very time efficient, but not very life efficient. As we progress further and further with medicine and the understanding of prevention based on family medical history, being efficient could actually cost me. So, I decided to find my birth father and hopefully add pieces to the puzzle that is my history in order to give a brighter future to my children. It was a good . But plans don’t always work out.
I found my birth father quite easily actually through an internet search company. For $150 they gave me his last known address. God bless the web. Long story short we connected and started talking by phone a bit. Conversations were short and light. Nothing really mind blowing. We talked about meeting in person, but I was playing Dussie Mae in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at The Goodman at the time and couldn’t get away. Then at the end of the Summer something happened. My birth father showed up at my door. Well, actually he called first from the airport, in Chicago. My head spun. I had just gotten off of a red eye from California myself, my morning sickness had kicked in while I was away, and I was feeling awful. But now I had a birth father on the way to my home. So what do I do? I call my parents of course! I called them in Milwaukee and told them what was happening. They hung up, got in the car and immediately came to Chicago, (because that’s the kind of parents they are). We all sat in my living room and talked. But something wasn’t right. Something was actually very off. My birth father wasn’t making complete sense with his stories. First he was a security guard and an hour later he was an FBI agent. I called his wife and asked her what was going on. She was evasive, but also a little scared I think. Alzheimer’s wasn’t a common word in my life in 1997, but I had a cursory notion of it. And what I was seeing in my birth father was everything I had known it to be at that time. My birth father, at 47 years of age, was in the throws of dementia. Not exactly the medical history I was hoping for. Well, my parents got him back to the airport and home to his wife. I never spoke to or saw him again.
I went about becoming a mother, leaving my hopes for an understanding of my past in the past. That is until I opened my facbook messages last week. Now the past is becoming my present and potentially my children’s future. I have come to find out that I have not one, but three other sisters, and a brother. Plus six uncles, (one deceased), one aunt and cousins, nieces and nephews galore. And, here’s the kicker, most of them live in…drum roll please… St Louis, Missouri. Oh yeah, St Louis.
Well, Maxine Clark, I guess St Louis is on my radar now.
To be continued….
(I always wanted to say that)
Miss Lori can be found SMILING On with Miss Lori on Babble.com in addition to MissLori.TV. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter , Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.