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It was time to meet Charlie – my birth father.  I had no clue what to expect.

We were to meet at a restaurant – my (then) husband, myself, Charlie and his wife. 

It was – awkward. 

I didn’t really know what to expect, so I expected nothing.  My birth mother, I could sympathize with – my birth father – well, was just that.  Someone who I shared genes with.  I knew nothing of him, except that he was tall.  And that he had disappointed Jeanne. 

I couldn’t exactly fault him for that.  Unexpected pregnancies happen.  It’s the women (or teenager) left to deal with the consequences.  Which Jean did to the best of her ability.  They were both young.  Stuff happens.

He was nice, and he was pleasant – he seemed to feel awkward as well (as I believe the picture shows!)  We made small-talk.  I apparently had a half-sister and a half-brother who knew nothing about me.  Charlie wanted to keep it that way.  He told me about them – where they were at in their lives, and that was about it. 

He also shared medical information with me – and that was important.  I realized that I would need to get genetic testing done if I wanted to have a baby myself one day (which I did).  What he told me that day stayed with me, and played in the back of my mind for years.

So, we spent about an hour together.  We took a few uncomfortable looking pictures, and we said our goodbyes.

I wouldn’t speak to Charlie again for 18 years.

Charlie & Me - Hmm - Awkward?!

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Jeanne was left with no alternative but to tell her mother. I don’t know much about that conversation, but I do know Jeanne was “sent away”. From Michigan to St. Joseph’s in Scranton, PA. The “home for unwed mothers”.

We drove to St. Joseph’s together and sat and talked. It looks so institutional there.

She described a desolate place filled with unhappy girls and strict nuns. You could go out for a walk – if you were “good”. Being good meant that you sucked it up and didn’t CRY or show emotion. Very Christian place. So, you’d cry at night after the lights went out, and hoped that you weren’t caught “being bad”.

Jeanne begged her mother to get out of there. She couldn’t come home, but her mother agreed to come to Scranton. They got an apartment together in Clarks Summit. This is where she waited out the rest of her pregnancy.

In the meantime, she held out hope that my birth father would somehow come to her rescue – you know – “do the right thing”. I believe his parents were supportive of her, and I imagine, but am not sure, that they would have encouraged him to step up. She told me they were extremely nice people. So, she held her breath, and waited.

I was born on September 15th.

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We got all settled in at the house. We talked a lot that first night, and she brought a photo album for me – of Jeanne as a child and growing up, her parents, her family, and her son and daughter – my half-brother and sister. Our plan for the next day was to take a ride around Scranton, and talk some more.

We drove to St. Joseph’s and sat outside awhile. I could tell it was hard for Jeanne to relive this. Her story was an incredibly difficult one.

Jeanne was raised in a very strict Catholic family. Very disciplined. She was happy to go off to college and start living her life. She dated someone who would be the first person she would sleep with – my birth father. It was Christmas night (there’s that Christmas thing again!), and they went on a date and had a few drinks.

What happened that night changed everything – forever.

When she realized she was pregnant, her fear must have been unbearable. HOW would she ever approach her super-religious mother with this news? She told her older brother her dilemma, and they decided the best approach would be to tell their father – he would likely be the more understanding of the two, and would help her break the news to her mother.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Just as she was going to tell him – he died a sudden death – heart attack.

Oh. My. God.

She was left with terrible grief, and a terrifying secret and only one person to turn to – her mother.

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Although mildly curious, the thought of truly searching didn’t hit me until I was in my 20’s. At about 25, I decided that I’d like to know my medical history, and perhaps even find out if I looked like anyone out there in the world. The funny thing is, I’ve always been told that I looked like my mom – and sounded like her – we always got a chuckle out of that.

So, Mom and I went to St. Joseph’s to see what we could find. Pennsylvania is a sealed-records state, so we really hit a roadblock. A prim-and-proper sort came out to greet us, and handed me two pieces of paper – one for my birthmother and one for my birthfather. It had their ages, height, hair and eye color. Oh, and their religion too. Big whoop.

They were so adamant about “identifying information” that they wouldn’t even tell me if my birthparents were from “east of the Mississippi, or west of the Mississippi”.

Something about that just made me mad. Here I was, an adult, and I was with my mom, and the person behind the desk held information that was important to me – and I couldn’t get it! It made me more determined to find out.

I had limited information from my parents. They believed that my birthmother was from California. I knew she was of French descent, and my birthfather of German. I knew where I was baptized. So, I decided to start there.

It was amazingly simple- I just called the church with some cockamamie story about losing my baptism certificate. They GAVE me my birthmother’s name – Desormeaux. Success!! I THOUGHT with  such an unsual name that I’d locate her in no time!

I looked up every Desormeaux in California – (this was before the internet) – and I called them.  It wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.  Not one of the 6 listed Desormeaux was who I was looking for – but one of them suggested I try NEW ORLEANS since Desormeaux was a French name.  Okay – well guess what – Desormeaux is to the French what Jones is to the United States! LOL  So, I called a few – and one of THEM suggested I try CANADA!  Okay, I could see this wasn’t going anywhere, since it wouldn’t be possible to call thousands of people all over the US and Canada named Desormeaux. 

I gave up at this point.  And it was okay.  It just wasn’t the right time yet.

One important note – St. Joe’s told me that I could leave a letter in my file – stating that in the event either of my birthparents decided to seek ME out – I gave St. Joe’s my permission to release my personal information to them. 

And that’s what I did.

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