Monday, June 14, 2010

The Others

Weekend before last I went to fabulous eastern Idaho (Driggs, actually) with Elizabeth to visit my “other” family. I think most of you know what I’m talking about but I’m not sure I’ve told you the whole story before. If I have, you can quit now cuz there probably ain’t anything new here. If I haven’t, well, you can still quit now and save yourself the pain of having to hear another one of my stories.


I’m adopted. I was born on October 26, 1954 in Oakland California. I lived in foster care until I was adopted by my parents, Earl and Billie Milliron, on March 21, 1955.

My parents were open about my adoption. There wasn’t much that they knew but I can’t ever remember not knowing I was adopted. I never felt odd about being adopted or that I somehow wasn’t part of my family growing up. Sure, I remember a couple of times that I got mad and thought, “I want my REAL mom!” but what kid doesn’t want to be in another family every once in a while?

I was never all that curious to find out about my birth parents but that didn’t keep me from making up a story about them. For the life of me I don’t know how this happened but I came to believe that my parents were members of a symphony orchestra who had died in an airplane crash in the ocean. They lived on an island with the other crash survivors and were frequently terrorized by a smoke monster. (Okay that last part isn’t true, but I did believe they died in a plan crash.

I believed this until, well, sometime after I was married! Sitting in an IHOP (which stands for Insert Hair On Pancake, by the way) in Boise, Idaho with my Mom and Nancy, we started talking about my adoption. I mention that I’d always believed my parents were members of a symphony orchestra who had died in an airplane crash in the ocean. My Mom looked at me and said, “Where did you ever get that idea?” Long story short, I apparently made it up.

Cut to eight years ago or so when I lived in Bend. A good friend of mine named Derek, who was also adopted, decided he wanted to track down his birth mother. He had some basic information and asked if I could help him. It was kinda fun doing Google searches and combing newspaper records for tidbits here and there. I didn’t turn up much of anything but my friend did.

One night he called me and said, “I think I’ve found my birth mother’s brother. Would you call him and let him know that if my birth mother would like to contact me, I’d love to connect with her?” So, I called the guy. He was very quiet and at the end of the conversation, thanked me for calling and hung up. Didn’t really say whether I had the right person or not and didn’t really make any promises about following up. However, less than a half hour later my friend got a call from a woman who said, “Hi Derek, this is your mother.”

Even with that experience I had no real desire to track down my birth family.

Cut to March of 2008. I’m in Bend for a meeting with a slug of U.S. Bank folks. As I walk into the meeting room I decide to check my email on my iPhone. There’s an email with a subject heading something like, “You don’t know me . . .” I open the email and read: “I am looking for a baby boy born in Oakland California in October 1954. His mother is Flora Hilman.”

I remember feeling stunned. I kept looking at the email and must have reread it ten times. I forwarded it to my kids and said “Look what I just got!” And I wrote back saying, “I was born in Oakland, California on October 26, 1954 and was adopted by Early and Billie Milliron.”

At the first break I was talking to Shawn Crawford (in the restroom, if you must know) and showed him the email. He looked at me, back at the email and then back to me again and said, “Wow! You really are a bastard!”

A couple more emails were exchanged back and forth and we kinda confirmed for each other that we were connected. The person who had sent the email turned out to be my (birth) sister, Connie. Which is pretty dang funny because I already had a (adoptive) sister named Connie!

The next night we talked on the phone for the first time. The more we talked the more certain I became that this really was my birth family and Connie filled in a lot of the gaps.

It turns out my birth mother was not a member of a symphony orchestra and (as you might guess) was not married when she gave birth to me. She was single and working in a jewelry store in Idaho Falls. The owner of the shop was married with children but the two fell into a relationship and, uh, well, apparently sex was involved in some way because, blammo! Flora got pregnant.

Some time before I was born, Flora left Idaho Falls and went to Oakland to have the baby (that’s me) and then returned. Sometime after she returned she got married (to another man – not my birth father) and had four kids: Jeff, Tom, Connie and Joe. Although Flora’s husband knew about the baby she had given up for adoption, she never mentioned it to her kids.

It wasn’t until some time after Flora passed away that one of Flora’s nieces asked Connie if she or her brothers had ever had any desire to find the boy their mother had given up for adoption. You can imagine how that would blow you away! Connie talked with her brothers and they all agreed they would like to track me down. Connie did the bulk of the legwork, including hiring some professional help. It took several months but eventually she tracked me down.

In July of 2008 I went back to eastern Idaho for a big family reunion to meet my “other” family for the first time. My daughter, Elizabeth, and son, Jeremy, went with me. It was very cool and very weird all at the same time. It was so great to meet my siblings and their spouses and kids and kids in law and grandkids and cousins and uncles and aunts. This most recent trip was a blast as well!

And, if there had been any doubt about whether or not I was related to these folks it was all swept away when you put us next to each other. There is definitely a family resemblance – especially with Jeff, the next oldest brother (after me).

There are a ton of stories I could tell you that came from that family reunion but these stand out:
  • My brother Jeff lives in a pretty dang small town - Malad, Idaho, where his wife was born and raised. My mother – my adoptive mother – was born in Malad and lived there until she was about ten years old. What are the odds?
  • One of the uncles I met is named John Alfred. John Alfred and his wife, Pat apparently offered to adopt me. They told Flora (John Alfred’s sister) that they would like to adopt her baby but she never responded. They believe Flora felt it would just be too uncomfortable to have me in the neighborhood, growing up in someone else’s home. If there is anything weirder than meeting your biological siblings, it’s meeting a couple who could have been my adoptive parents!
  • My biological mother, Flora, was married on March 18, 1955.
  • I was adopted by my parents three days later on March 21, 1955
  • Coincidentally, I was married on March 18, 1978.

One other thing I should mention. My parents, sisters and brother (the ones in my adoptive family) have been GREAT about all this. My dad has said, more than once, that he hoped I would have a chance to meet them someday.
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