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The Question That Changed My Life

posted by Dan Smith on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In May of 2013 I was talking to a friend of mine, Ali, when she asked me if I was a member of Adoption Network Cleveland. With that question my journey started. Five days later I found myself sitting in my car about to walk into a monthly General Support and Discussion Meeting in Rocky River. I had no idea what to expect and was having a lot of anxiety about walking into a room full of people I had never met.

As a firefighter I will tell you that I am more comfortable walking into a burning building than I was walking into that first meeting. As I sat in the meeting the nervousness was replaced with questions and a lot of emotion. On the way out Linda Bellini handed me her business card. Once in the quiet space of my car my mind was flooded with emotion and all I could do was sit and cry.

Growing up, my adoptive parents didn’t hide the fact that I was adopted. Anytime I had a question they would do their best to answer it. Like most adoptees I was always curious about who my birthmother was and who I looked like. When I asked about my adoption they would tell me that my adoption records were sealed and that I couldn’t get any information. I had just assumed that since my records were sealed, searching would be an exercise in futility.

Through Adoption Network Cleveland, I learned I could search without my original birth certifcate, but I was still nervous. I figured if I just went one step at a time I could always slow the process down or stop it all together. So with Linda’s help I looked for and received my non-identifying information from my adoption agency. For the first time I was looking at the beginning of my story. That was the time I really found out just how helpful the monthly support groups are. With this information came questions and emotions I really never knew I had; with every meeting I attended, I got answers and support.

The more information I found, the more personal the story became. When the work was done I was sitting looking at the name “Donna.” I was excited, nervous and for the first time scared. Before this time I had disconnected myself from all of the information, as if I was reading a book about someone else. I knew all that was left to do was to reach out to Donna. My emotions were pulling me in several directions. It started to become too much so I decided to take a break and give myself some time. During this time it was so helpful to be able to call Linda and go to a few more meetings and ask questions.

After watching the documentary film For the Life of Me by Jean Strauss, which was about middle-aged and elderly adoptees seeking their heritage, I knew I had to try for a reunion. With the help of Linda I put a letter together and mailed it. After only two days I received a phone call. When I answered the phone I had no idea who was on the other side. “Are you Dan?” Then I heard the three words that would change my life forever: “It’s your mother.” We talked for two hours that day. By the end of our conversation we had decided that we would meet two weeks later in mid-December.

When our eyes met, we just stood there and hugged one another as if we were afraid to let go, like we would lose each other again. We spent the day going through pictures, comparing notes about one another and asking and answering a million questions. How do you fit 45 years into a day? Several times I had to apologize for staring at her. I found myself looking for me in her facial features. I met her husband Frank who is is so understanding of the whole situation and I couldn’t thank him enough. Since our first meeting Donna has come up to Cleveland and introduced me to her family and I introduced her to mine. Now, we talk on the phone a couple times a week.
I believe I would have never had my reunion if it wasn’t for Ali’s simple question that changed my life.

I was once told “Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.” That couldn’t be more true since I have found Adoption Network Cleveland.

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