Chapter 11: Out of the Darkness: A Son Emerges from the Shadows

Rudy Owens’ memoir on the American adoption experience

© 2017 Rudy Owens.  All rights reserved.

The two months after I found my birth mother opened new doors and relationships that would evolve in the years to come. They also revealed bitter truths about my status as an illegitimately born child that I naively ignored until I confronted them head on. In less than eight weeks I met both sides of my biological families who had been unknown to me my entire life. Those encounters left crisp and painful memories, as if they happened yesterday.

Events unfolded quickly. During these months, I would receive family visitors and embark on another flight, to another city, where my kin called home. When I arrived at the doorstep of one of two people who brought me into this world, my birth father, I did not hesitate to knock. To an observer even familiar with my story, my actions might have appeared naïve or foolhardy. To me, they represented the only logical outcome and right thing to do. To this day, I have no regrets about my decisions made in the spring of 1989.

A few days after I returned from Detroit, I received a call from an older man with a gravelly voice. He told me his name—a French literary one that I had never heard of. He was my grandfather. He and his wife, natives of upper Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, were thrilled that I had come out of the shadows and back into the light. They wanted to meet me. They were going to buy tickets and fly out to Seattle in late May 1989. First, however, my birth mother would fly out to see me earlier that month. It was the only time she ever travelled to where I lived. It also marked the most honest and open time we communicated with each other.

Her trip lasted three days. We visited Seattle’s tourist destinations, making the most of our time. We went up the Space Needle. We rode a ferry to Bainbridge Island, across the Puget Sound. We continued to get to know each other. She gave me some older family photos that showed her and her extended family—our family—over time.

Both of us were still getting used to something entirely new, and for which there was no script. The person you are sharing dinner with, at a nice waterfront restaurant overlooking Elliott Bay, is also someone who looks uncannily like you. Yet you still know nothing about them. You have little in common because you have not shared a life together. You just have fragments and a desire to make things work out.

My birth mother may have been more like me than I had originally guessed. She was guarded about her secrets. She never shared any new information about my birth origins. The only tale that I recall from her trip concerned her seeking legal counsel. She told me she found one of the few women attorneys in the Detroit area to represent her in a paternity case against my birth father. She told me she eventually let that go. I do not know if that was true.

I do know my birth father was already courting another woman at the time. She became his bride. The two were married in Detroit in December 1964. He had moved very fast from bedding a woman in the summer of 1964, to breaking off whatever relationship they had, to denying paternity when confronted by my birth mother and her father, to finding a new romance. And all of this happened while he was doing a busy dental residency.

Return to Chapter 10: Flying to Detroit

Read More: Chapter 12: After the Discovery: Figuring out a New Identity