After shouting out, “This is CRAZY!!!!” several more times, I took a quick shower and shaved. I drove around town following the directions he had given me. Eventually, I found myself parked at the end of a front walk with a mailbox indicating I had found the right house. I got out and stood at the curb looking up the front walk that led to the front door. I felt frozen there. It seemed every emotion I had ever felt in my life was now coursing through me at once. I was nervous…excited…afraid…I was everything. I couldn’t bring myself to take the first step. I just had a feeling that this was not going to go as I had planned. I felt my control over the situation slipping through my hands. I forced myself to walk to the door. I stood there thinking to myself, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. You could get in your car and just lay rubber up the street on your way out of town and forget that it ever went this far.” But before I could turn around, the door opened. A very beautiful woman smiled and introduced herself as John’s wife. She invited me in and for just a few seconds I didn’t move. She reached out and took my arm and pulled me right next to her and leaned over to whisper in my ear. Her voice barely spoke, it’s as if she breathed the words … “He knows.” Immediately, my legs felt as if they had just failed and all my emotions had collapsed onto the floor. I stood there crying in front of a woman I didn’t even know. I turned and sat on the front steps of their house and just held my head in my hands. I didn’t know what to do. My plan was shot. I was completely unprepared for this. Maybe I should of considered the possibility of this happening, but I didn’t. And now I found myself ripped from my comfort zone and thrown into a situation I now had no control over. It was important to me from the beginning that, although I had no control over where my search took me, I would still have control of the pace at which it progressed. I now had control of neither.
John’s wife sat next to me and put her arm around me and told me, “You know, I have been with John for 23 years. He is the kind of guy who doesn’t show his emotions often. I often find myself having a hard time figuring out how he feels about things because of this. In those 23 years I have never seen him cry…..not once…until tonight. When he hung up the phone with you, he shouted at the top of his lungs…. ““IT’S HIM!! IT’S HIM!!”” And he immediately sat down on the steps just inside the front door and he cried. He actually cried in front of me.”
She went on to tell me that when he came back from Vietnam, Sarah called him one day and asked him to meet her. They got together and she informed him that she had become pregnant with his child and hadn’t found out until just after he left out of country. She felt a lot of guilt and explained to him how she felt all alone and that it seemed as if she didn’t have any choice but to put it up for adoption. John told her, “I want to see my son!” She cried as she informed him that he couldn’t. They weren’t allowed to search for me. The only way he was ever going to meet me was if I decided to search for them once I had turned the legal age of 18. And even then, It may not happen if I chose not to do so. I was now 22. She told me, “John kept track on calendars in his office of how old you were. Each year on your birthday, he would sit in his office and wouldn’t come out. He just counted off the years by placing x’s on each day until your 18th birthday finally arrived. On that day, he got dressed up and spent the day sitting in front of the big picture window in the living room watching each car as it drove by. That was the longest day of our marriage. And when we went to bed that night, I thought he would cry but he didn’t. He just laid there awake. It was like that for the next few years. Even months after your 18th birthday, I would notice changes in him. He would be mowing the yard and he would see a car coming and he would stop pushing the mower and stand there and watch it round the corner. Then start mowing again.”
She went on to tell me, “About a year ago, he finally just accepted that it simply wasn’t in God’s plan. This day would probably never come regardless of how much he wanted it to. So he stopped fighting it. He just started to move on. And now it’s 4 ½ years later and you called wanting info on Sarah. He knew immediately it was you. He’s in the shower right now. He’s been in there for a half hour. He wanted this for so long but I guess he never knew what he would say if you actually showed up. So I suppose he is in there wasting water just as nervous as you are. You two might as well figure out a way to get past that and just move on to something more meaningful. I guarantee you he loved you every day he never knew you.”
And so I sat down at their kitchen table and Sarah poured me a cup of coffee. Then I heard the water shut off down the hall. A few minutes later into the kitchen walked my father. He looked like an older version of me. He sat down at the table and said, “Hi.” His wife looked at us and she said to him, “You took a 30 minute shower and all you came up with was HI?” He said, “I wasn’t sure how else to start this conversation. I’ve been waiting to have it for 22 years. I really gave up hope.” You could see the emotion in his face as he rubbed his eyes to try to keep that first tear from falling. He reached across the table and took my hand and looked me in the eyes. ,”You’re finally here.” And that’s when the tears started…for both of us.
He cried as he told me,”I couldn’t find you. They wouldn’t let me. I never even had a say in how it all happened. I don’t blame her for making the decision to give you up. But I never would of wanted to wait this long to see you.” I smiled and said,” I don’t blame her either. I mean she was just a girl in college and you were in Vietnam.” I told him you don’t have to worry about whether it was the right decision or not when it comes to the life I was given after she said goodbye. I had a great upbringing. My parents are awesome. But I am sorry for what you went through not being able to see me. I wouldn’t of wanted that either if I would of known you wanted to see me and didn’t have any say in the matter.”
I told him I served in the army too and that I had just returned from Operation Desert Storm. He asked what my MOS was and I told him I was an EOD Specialist. His mouth fell open and he looked at his wife. She said,” So was John.” I couldn’t believe it. “Seriously? A 55Delta?” “Yes”, he said. He asked me to tell him more about myself. I told him I liked sports in high school. I wrestled and played football. John asked, ”What weight and what position?” I told him I wrestled at 138 and played defensive back. He said, ”So did I. Both!” I told him I loved the outdoors and loved to fish and hunt. He went on to tell me how he was a rancher, fishing and hunting guide.” He asked if I ever fished any tournaments. I told him I fished in the Governors cup 2 years ago when I was home on leave. He also fished that tournament. In fact we finished two places apart in the top ten. This means I stood almost directly in line behind him as they announced the results. I tried to recall if perhaps we had spoken that day and not known who each other really were. And on we went comparing our pasts. We both got average grades and we both were told by our teachers we could of done better if only we had tried harder. We shared a good laugh over that one. We sat there talking all night long. Soon the sun was rising and we hadn’t even realized it was midnight yet.
I spent the next day with him and we hooked up his boat and went fishing. It was cold out but neither of us cared. We were going fishing, no one was stopping us. A father and son, out in the boat for the first time. We had a lot of time to make up. Each month following that, I would come over to his town for two or three days and we would fish, hunt and do things together. After a few visits, Christmas was near and he asked me to come visit over the Holidays.
I drove there in the snow with a gift I had gotten just for him. It was a really nice fishing rod. He had over fifty of them hanging in his shop, but none of them were from his son. I was excited that this would be out first Christmas together. John had two brothers and they would both be there with their families. Both were living out of state so it was a big deal to have the family all together. I hadn’t met John’s mother yet, my grandmother. John hadn’t told her about him ever having a son. I was the family secret. I drove to John’s house and along with his wife and I, he drove to his mother’s house grinning the whole way. We went through the garage and as we were about to go inside he asked, “Would you mind waiting out here until I come get you?” I agreed. I could hear what was being said inside the house as I leaned my ear against the door. John’s youngest brother and his brother’s wife had just had a baby. They were passing it around and taking turns oohing and aahhhing over it. After a few minutes, John said, “I have a lil something of my own to show you.” He opened the garage door and I walked in. He said, “I would like to introduce to all of you my son, Jeff.” My grandmother almost had a heart attack learning she was my grandmother and leapt out of her chair. She yelled, “John!!!, I always knew there was something going on!!!. I just knew you had a son out there somewhere! I just had a feeling. I thought someone told me that Sarah was pregnant after you left for the Army and I was afraid maybe she had had an abortion but I didn’t know.” John went on to explain how he had met me, and how he had waited for that day.
The following day I drove home. Every time John and I get together now, it seems kind of different. I don’t look at him and see “my dad”. Maybe this is because my adopted father will always be my dad in my eyes. But I look at John more as a best friend. Someone who I can always count on to tell me like it is. Someone who is willing to do anything for you like a father would. But since I didn’t have any experience growing up with him and seeing him in that role, It is hard to see him in that light now. I know he considers me a blessing in his life and an answer to prayer. And although he wasn’t that to me immediately, I now see him as the same.