I don’t know the first time my mom told me. I’m not even sure if it was her that said the words, “You have a brother, and he was put up for adoption when he was born.” I don’t know if I was sitting, standing, playing, or watching TV. I couldn’t tell you how old I was when I found out. I’m not sure if I asked questions, or if I just kept on with whatever it was I was doing that day. None of that matters. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I had a brother… out there… somewhere. Over the years, I asked my mom about him, what had happened and other little things. She would never get into much detail. I’m sure bringing it up made her uncomfortable. Having to re-live something as mentally traumatic as giving up your own child – I can only assume would bring up feelings she wished to keep suppressed.
I would ask my aunts about it. They only had bits of information as well. They gave me more insight on my mom’s choices. That was helpful for me. But Life goes on. As did mine. When I was 23, I found out that adoption records that were previously closed were now open and accessible. I can’t remember why I didn’t apply at the time to get my brothers information. But I didn’t. I can remember looking at the paperwork, who can file, who can receive information; but I didn’t apply.
I did, however, put my name on an adoption website. Giving them what little information I had on my brother – my mom’s name, his date of birth and the hospital where he was born. My ultimate wish was that he too would fill out the information he had and we would be matched through that site. Nothing came of it.
Over the next couple years I would think about him from time to time, but had since forgotten about the adoption disclosure registry. Nothing was coming from the adoption website I was registered with, but I would contact them each time I moved or if my phone number changed. Just in case there was a match.
Then my mom got sick. Really sick. Within 2 years of falling ill, she passed away. In the second year of her battle, I remembered about the adoption disclosure registry. I went online and printed off the paperwork needed for siblings to get information. I also printed off the paperwork for a birth parent to get information about the adoptee. I called my mom, and asked her about all the information that the registry wanted of me. Her name, birth date, where she was born, etc. She gave me everything I needed, and I sent it away. Hopeful.
A few weeks later, I got my package in the mail. As a birth sibling, I was not entitled to identifying information. So I was back at square one.
I called my mom: have you filled out the paperwork yet to find him? She hadn’t. I let it go, and life again went on. In March of 2014, I called her again one day. I told her I had printed off the paperwork again and would fill it out on her behalf and send it away. She gave me all the answers to the questions the document was asking for. Then I forged her signature and sent it all away. She died 4 days later.
In April, my step dad called and said that the package had come in the mail. I asked him to open it and let me know what was inside. As he skimmed, he saw and told me that all the identifying information had been blacked out. Surely this was a mistake I thought. Adoption disclosures were now open. These black lines on a sheet of paper were now the only thing standing in the middle of me and my brother.
In the months to follow, I never went to get the paperwork from him. What was the point? I figured that it was the same information that I had received. I looked into why we did not get identifying information. Since my brother’s adoption was done through the Children’s Aid society, most information was not legally obtainable.
As far as I was concerned, I was nowhere closer to finding him now as I was the day I found out I had a brother. Then around Christmas of that same year, my step dad came over for supper and brought me the paperwork. I skimmed it, and put it aside. Black magic marker lines were plain as day. Taunting me. About a week later, my aunt came over. She was going to take the paperwork to a friend who worked with CAS to see if her friend could do anything with the case file.
As she was looking at the paperwork, she said, “Did you not see this?” As I looked closer, there it was – clear as day. On the adoption finalization form, signed by a judge, it read from herein out the child shall be known as ‘JMH’
I jumped out of my chair. I had a name. Not the name my mom had given him; which we always assumed was changed; but his legal name. In this day in age, what was the first thing I did – I went onto Facebook. I must have messaged about 60 people with his name. It was exhausting. And I angrily shake my finger at Facebook and their “other” folder. I never received one response from any of those people. I can only assume months will go by before they open that “other” folder. And stare at their message thinking, “the girl writing that must be a nutbag.”
As far as stalking goes, I decided that I am pretty good at it. I put an ad on Kijiji, and then updated the adoption website with this new information. I then contacted a private investigator. I had lots of information. His name, date of birth, his birth mother’s name and his birth registration number. Surely this is all she would need to find him. And she did. Very quickly, I may add. Once she confirmed she had found him, she told me she would give me the information for $1000. And then I sat down. At that exact moment, I did not have that kind of money that I could just hand over to someone. I told her I would get back to her in a couple weeks once I was able to secure the funds.
Then I got frustrated. If it was that easy to find someone, it shouldn’t cost that much money. I went online and started Googling. How to find someone that was adopted for free. It was worth a shot. I soon came upon a group of people called adoption angels. These are a group of people who – out of the kindness of their hearts – help you look for someone who was adopted. It was worth a shot, I thought.
I emailed one person. The email bounced back as undeliverable. I tried another person. No bounce back. In fact, this person, Colleen, got back to me within 10 minutes. “Of course I can help you. Give me the information you have.” That was on a Friday. Over the weekend, she would email me and ask me some questions. “Do you know if he was Jewish?” “Do you know if he had any more siblings?” “I think I’m onto something, I will let you know….” Then finally, that Sunday morning – January 11th 2015 – she emailed me with what I had been waiting to hear for such a long time. “I’ve found him. I am talking to his wife right now.”
That’s all it took. I was crying. So hard that my daughter thought I hurt myself. I’m glad no one else was in the room with me because I must have looked like a crazy lady. Crying, laughing, and probably not making any sense at all.
Colleen let me know that he was willing to give me his email address so I could contact him. Once I got it, I sat down, and thought about what I wanted to say. I really wanted to scream, laugh, cry, go outside and tell the first person I saw what was happening… but I sat there, and could not think of a single thing to say to him.
Eventually I got in a paragraph or two. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, so I kept it short, hit send… and waited. His reply took what seemed like 2 hours to get to me. It was probably less than 10 minutes. I can say that the feeling I got in my stomach, the second I hit refresh and saw he had replied; is one of the best and scariest feelings I have ever had in my life.
His email was nice. He was overwhelmed. He asked lots of questions that I can only assume are the ones most people who are adopted would like to know. I replied, and then he replied, and so on.
I will say that I was extremely nervous of a few things. Would he want to have contact with me and my siblings and our families? Would he be upset that I contacted him? I very soon realised that neither of those were the case. He was open and willing to at least hear me out and why I wanted to find him and what my life has been like. He in turn reciprocated and told me all about his life, his parents, and his family. I will forever be grateful to him that he made the decision to let me in.
‘J’ and I very soon realised that we are two peas in a pod. We get along extremely well and have many things in common. We share some interesting traits that can only be explained as odd for people who have never met or spent any time together before in their lives. We have so many similarities, it’s amazing. We share the same twisted sense of humour and like many of the same things. We also disagree on many things. As all siblings do.
Besides the fact that he lives across the world from me, we have become very close. Not one single day has gone by that we haven’t spoken since the first email was sent. We started by learning about each other, asking as many questions as possible. Now I can only assume that we talk as if we’ve been brother and sister our whole lives.
This summer will be the first time we meet. I am happy, anxious, nervous, excited and petrified all at the same time. My whole life I’ve known that I had a big brother out there… Somewhere… and now that he is a part of my life, I feel a sense of calmness. Like a part of me was missing, and got put back into place. It’s the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever experienced.
– Coral Ashley