Red Light. Green Light. And Sometimes it Stays Yellow for a Long Time.

“I look for a sign. Where to go next. You never know when you’ll get one. Even the most faithless among us are waiting to be proven wrong.”
― Jillian Lauren, Pretty

I know what’s happening.  I’m emotional.  Scared.  Afraid of what might happen next.  Or maybe I’m afraid that nothing will happen next.

Sometimes I just go full steam ahead.  Everything makes sense and things happen.  Not always good things.  Even when good things do happen in this crazy search, it can be scary.

I do realize that it’s all emotional on my part.  I have enough raw data and information (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) to power through and get the answers that I think I need.  What if I upset people?  Maybe I don’t need the answers. Or maybe if I just keep telling myself I don’t need the answers I can move forward and get the answers and not be affected by the consequences.

No way.  I know that I am fully attached to the outcome of this whole thing.  After my second attempt at contacting Margaret some 25 years ago, my desire to reconnect with my biological family had somewhat faded.  I’m sure it’s because of her letters and the impact her words had on my delicate psyche. But why did I choose to be so affected?

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t know why I got a bug up my ass in 2013 to reignite my search. Because I turned 50?  Maybe. Emotionally, it’s an all-consuming project.  It’s been difficult to accomplish stuff on my normal day-to-day to-do list.  One day I am motivated by my progress and new connections and the next I am frustrated by a relative’s mere stranger’s reaction and attitude and the emotional doors being slammed in my face.

So sometimes I see a yellow “caution” light in my mind. I have to take time out to process things. Sometimes I have to press “pause.”  That’s why there are some long pauses in this blog. I apologize for that.  But it’s all happening right now.  It’s affecting me right now.

I did hear from my bio dad.  He responded within a few days of receiving my message via 23andMe.

Jackson Summer, a Father wrote:  

What is very strange about this is that I am from the same town as Margaret and although not exactly 50 years ago the love of my life was named Marian Michaels.  We met in school. I was 16 and she was 14. To make a long story short we were together for 8 years at which time the relationship broke up because of my drug use. Because I loved her so much, I went away and straightened myself out. Unfortunately, I had destroyed the trust between us and we went our separate ways. I eventually married and had a daughter and Marian married and had a son and a daughter. Years later, my wife passed away due to cancer. Marian’s husband had died one year earlier.

Today Marian and I are best of friends and often visit one another.

Laureen, your inquiry has piqued my interest. There are so many coincidences in our stories. I would enjoy geting to know you.

My very best to you,

Jackson Summer

So that was a little odd.  My bio mom is Margaret Michaels. The love of his life was Marian Michaels.  Is this some other weird piece of an even more twisted and fucked up puzzle? It didn’t make sense.  So I gave him more details.  I paraphrased all of the information from the non-identifying data I had received from the wonderful Mr. Witt (I eventually gave him a copy of the paperwork with all of the details). Now he would know that I knew that he had been arrested with Margaret.  It also gave him a bit of back-story about his relationship with Margaret. It’s what I knew. My truth, right?  He couldn’t deny it. The part about “going away to straighten himself out” made sense to me–that had to be the time he served in prison. Had to be . . . right?  Plus, what about the DNA?  I know Margaret is my bio mom. And the DNA is solid confirmation (to most of the logical world) that Jackson is my bio dad. His next response:

Hello again,

One of the reasons I am as open to helping you find your dad is that my father died when I was 6 and although I was raised by my mother, she never gave me much information about his family. I very much understand what is like to not know about those who brought you into the world. There are so many coincidences about all this–to say nothing about the genetic match!

The problem for me right now is that I have no memory of being with anyone other than Marian Michaels during this time. I have written to her about this and asked her if she remembers any of the names you wrote about. I have not heard back yet. Also, I majored in Art and English, and although I helped teach a evening class at the city college, that lasted less than a month. I do not even remember if I took any classes at the  local junior college.  I was and still am an artist and I was well known for the jewelry and metal work I did. I used to sell my work at the beach every weekend.  I think most people who knew me then would have connected me with art and the craft of jewelry making. The description in the paperwork you provided simply does not describe me back then.  The area where I lived was very different then…..many artists, writers and creative minds.

It has been a long time and you have piqued my curiosity to no end. There is so much coincidence in time place and of course the genetic info.

My Best,

I’m happy that he’s open and honest and willing to “help me find my dad.”

The First Pieces of the Puzzle

Sealed records?

Sealed records?

I returned home from the U.K. in the summer of 1986.  I still needed a few more units for graduation, so enrolled once again at my hometown campus.   I found an office job on campus and set to work.  I had done all the research I could do on my end–my parents had given me the “adoption papers” that they had saved all these years that bore my mother’s last name.  Funny . . . I kept hearing over and over about “sealed records,” however, no one mentions that the adoptive parents have copies of the court filings. At least mine did.  I had the first piece of the puzzle: “In the Matter of the Adoption of Baby Girl Michaels.”

This was 1986.  No one owned a personal computer.  “Research” meant a lot of legwork and a lot of phone calls.  I knew I had a right to receive “non-identifying” information from my file stored with the San Bernardino County Welfare Services.  I also knew that the State of California had a mutual consent registry.  A mutual consent registry is a method many states use to arrange the consents that are required for release of identifying information. A mutual consent registry is a means for individuals directly involved in adoptions to indicate their willingness or unwillingness to have their identifying information disclosed. In California, the registry requires consent of at least one birth parent and an adopted person over the age of 18 in order to release identifying information. Consent is given by filing an executed affidavit with the appropriate authority (in my case, the County of San Bernardino) consenting to the release of personal information.

The mutual consent registry still exists in California and in many other states.  With the advancement of technology and the evolution of the internet and its plethora of ever-growing information and databases, we’ve also seen a growing number of private registries, many of which have proven to be successful tools for adoptees and birth parents.  Some charge a fee to register, some do not.

My only option back in 1986, however, was the California mutual consent registry.  I thought I should at least sign a consent and have it on file, on the off chance my birth family is looking for me, right? I called the County Department of Social Services. I spoke to a very nice gentleman named Bill Witt.  I made an appointment to meet with him and to fill out and sign the Waiver for the adoption records.

Waiver - Signed, sealed, delivered.

Waiver – Signed, sealed, delivered.

I don’t really remember everything Mr. Witt and I spoke about on the phone.  I do remember that he asked me to bring a recent photograph of myself so that he would have it on file in case he had contact with my birth mother. I went to the County Social Services Department to meet with Mr. Witt.  I signed the Waiver. I gave him the photo. Then he handed me an official-looking envelope and told me he’d be in touch.  Huh?  He’d be in touch for what?  Surely he wasn’t going to search out my birth mother.  Why would he do that? In fact, the language of the Waiver confirmed, the signing of this waiver does not necessarily insure that a contact can be arranged  . . . the law prohibits the Department or agency from soliciting, directly or indirectly, the execution of . . . a waiver.   I just figured I’d sign the Waiver and it would get thrown in my super-secret “file” somewhere in the basement of the Social Services Department until (or even if) my birth mother decided to sign a Waiver herself. Which I wasn’t expecting to happen. Ever.

I walked back to my car in a daze, grasping the envelope.  Once sitting in the car, I took a deep breath and opened it. Mr. Witt had apparently read my super-secret file. The envelope contained every bit of non-identifying information–in painstaking detail–beautifully written on three pages of County Adoption Service official letterhead.  I was stunned.  Not just by the information he provided, but just the fact that he had gone to the trouble to tell me this story in such beautiful detail.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t even ask for the non-identifying information–I thought that what I already had was better than any non-identifying information he could give me.  I had her last name on the adoption papers.  I was wrong.

I read the story.  Over and over.  Sordid as it was, it was a beautiful story.  It was MY story.  At the bottom of page 3, Mr. Witt wrote: “Laureen, I have begun to search for your birth family . The trail, however, is 23 years old so it may take some time.  I’ll keep you abreast of my progress.”

He was actually going to help me.  Go figure.