Links to the first three parts of this story
On Tuesday, April 29, 2014 I was working at the bike shop when the email from my lawyer came through. Reading the subject line of “Birth and Adoption Records” was enough to stop me in my tracks before opening it. I walked off the sales floor to decide if I should open it right away. I knew once I opened it that I would not be useful at work for at least the rest of the day so I decided to hold off until I finished my shift. It quickly became apparent that I would be unable to focus on anything for the rest of the day even though I didn’t open it, so I went back to the warehouse again and clicked on the email.
As per your request, attached please find correspondence from Xxxx Xxxxxx enclosing copies of the following documents regarding your birth and adoption records.
1) Order (signed by Judge Clark on April 21, 2014);
2) Amended Order (signed by Judge Clark on April 23, 2014);
3) Certificate of Live Birth;
4) Petition for Adoption;
5) Notice to the Commission of Public Welfare in Adoption Proceedings;
6) Surrender of Child to Child-Placing Agency including Consent to Adoption, Waiver of Notice and Acceptance by Agency;
7) Recommendation for Adoption;
8) Report to Court;
9) Transcript of April 20, 1970 Court Hearing;
10) Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment; and
11) Judgment and Decree.
We will be sending the certified copies we received from Goodhue County Court Administration in the mail today.
Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.
Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxx, Legal Secretary
(I opened that letter for the first time six months ago, and reading it again still made my chest tight and gives me that same empty feeling in my gut. I’m light headed and a little short of breath at the moment. It’s not a full on panic attack, but I know it’s going to be challenging for a couple days after I finish writing about this. The thought of walking away and catching my breath has crossed my mind, but putting this off won’t make it any better, it will only prolong the amount of time I feel this way.)
Attached to the letter was a pdf file titled Howard_Birth and Adoption records. I was dizzy and short of breath. There were hundreds of thoughts happening at once as I clicked the file and waited what seemed like an hour for it to load on my phone. When it finally loaded I found that it contained 23 pages of material that I was told all my life I would never see. I scrolled through to find my birth certificate. Would I have a name? Was it really going to have my mothers name on it? I felt as if I was doing something wrong. That at any moment someone would catch me and I would be in some kind of trouble that would surely land me in jail. My head spun as I looked at my birth certificate for the first time. I felt nauseous. I was terrified. I was so alone at that moment even though there were people less than 20 feet away. There was nobody to call and share it with. I should be with someone right now shouldn’t I? What happens now?
I was going in more directions than I can adequately describe as I saw that I was not given a name when I was born. I was listed with no first or middle name, last name Norenberg. That sent me in even more directions. It must mean I truly was not wanted, or maybe it means I was wanted but she did not want to put a name down, or maybe she was talked out of it, or maybe a million other things. It was only a second or two for all of those things to happen. Then I saw the line for father was blank and I skipped quickly to the next line and saw my mother’s name for the first time. I was never supposed to know her name. I had been told all my life that I would never know who she was. This can’t be real. I can’t be here right now. I need to be with someone, but there is nobody to be with. I need to tell someone but I don’t know who to tell. I paced in the warehouse and tried to slow my breathing. I was completely overwhelmed. I wanted to scream and laugh and cry all at the same time, but nothing came out. I was very close to being in shock, literally. Looking back, I’m not completely certain that I wasn’t.
I went back to the sales floor. As I walked around the shop it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to work. I can’t remember who I told, or if I even told anyone what was going on at that point. They all knew what I was going through, or at least most of them did. They had all been unbelievably understanding and supportive about the swings I would have since starting the search. I walked back to Joe’s office and told him I had to leave. “You alright?” he asked. All I could do was walk over and show him my birth certificate on the screen of my phone. “I have been told all my life that I would never have this. That is my mothers name. I can’t be here right now man, I can’t even think straight.” Joe just smiled and said, “That’s cool. See, you didn’t quit and now you have what you wanted. All the hard work paid off. Good for you!”. I don’t remember what else was said at that point. I know I rambled about things for a while, but Joe just smiled and listened. He’s a good man that I am fortunate to call my friend.
The drive home was a blur. The two people that had been at the top of the list for me to call about this were now people that I could not talk to. They had both left me over the past year when I needed them most, and now there seemed like nobody left to share this with, nobody to support me through what was going on inside and what was about to happen. My dad was supportive of me searching but I was not about to lay this on him. My son had his own issues to deal with and this was not something I could talk about with him for a verity of reasons. One of those being the belief that you do not lean on your children for support, you support them and let them lean on you. That alone was enough to keep me from talking to Rhiannon about it that day. So I just drove home in a daze and tried to calm down.
Riding my bicycle is one of very few healthy ways that I deal with things. I can count on one hand the times that I was not able to clear my head after an hour on my bike, and still have fingers left. I needed to go for a ride. I was not delusional enough to think that it would clear my head completely or remove the anxiety, but it just might slow things down enough for me to make it through the night without causing wreckage. If I rode until my legs were burning, heart pounding through my chest, and lungs feeling like they would explode, the effects might last a couple hours after I stopped. It was worth a shot.
Dad was up to his usual afternoon activities of laughing at the TV and tormenting the cat. There was nothing unusual about me changing into cycling gear and leaving on a ride without talking first, so he had no indication of what was going on. I was on two wheels within 20 minutes walking through the door. My attempt at slowly warming up for 10 minutes failed miserably and I was pushing a big gear at a high cadence within five minutes. I settled in quickly even though my mind was racing with too many thoughts to get a handle on. I watched my heart rate jump to 95% of max, tried to focus on my breathing, and listen to the wind. I’d let go of one thought only to have it replaced by five more fighting for attention. How long will it take me to find her? What if she really can’t communicate because of Alzheimer’s? Will her family try to keep me from seeing her? What will I say to the people that have been taking care of her? What if LSS was lying about everything and she says she doesn’t want anything to do with me? What if she says she’s been waiting for me to find her? What if…. the questions just kept coming. I could not outrun them. I could not ride hard enough to even slow them down. I maxed my heart rate for the final three miles and had rubber legs and a light head when I hung the bike at home. Once I was back inside I made a purple smoothie and took an hour to stretch before ordering food and taking a shower. I would get everything ready for the next day at work and refuel my body before I started looking for my mother.
I grabbed my laptop, a bottle of water, and sat in my recliner. All I had was my mother’s name and address at the time I was born. Lutheran Social Services had at least as much and probably more information when they were trying to find her the previous year and it took them four months to find her. They have access to databases that I am not able to access. The social workers that do these searches have no other job with the company. It is the only thing they do and it took them four months. Within two hours of searching on my own I found the care facility where my mother was staying and had the phone number to call and get more information the next day. I checked and double checked to make sure everything was correct, and it was. I’ll find out tomorrow if LSS was lying to me. Maybe the nurse they spoke to was lying to protect my mother from having to talk to me. Maybe they never even spoke to anyone there. I would find out the next next day. I had gone as far as I could without making a call and it was too late in the evening to be calling a care facility. What took LSS four months I accomplished in two hours. I kept searching to see what else I could find out about my mother. One hour later I found her obituary from January 2014.
This has to be a mistake! The social worker told me she would check in every couple weeks to see if there were any changes and contact me if there were! She specifically said she would contact me if my mother died! This can’t be real! I checked over and over again. Hoping that I found someone else, but the paper trail left no doubt. It was my mother. She was dead. I would never see her face to face. I would never hear her voice. I would never know the answers to questions I have had all my life. My mother was dead. I missed her by just a few months. LSS lied to me. I was alone, with my dad in the next room. There was nobody I felt I could talk to. I stared at the obituary on my screen. I had three aunts and an uncle. I had two brothers and a sister. I had all their names. I stared at the pictures of my mother. One of them looks like a senior picture. I wondered if I was in that one. I sent messages and friend requests to my aunts and uncle, but not to my siblings since I had no idea if they knew I existed.
I stayed up for a while hoping somehow I would find a way that this wasn’t real. I remember the feeling well. I had felt it before in 2007 when my mom died. I felt it again because it happened again. My mother died, and I wasn’t there. When I woke up the next morning I found out that a friend of mine died while running the previous day. He was younger than me and just dropped. Over the next few days everyone completely understood why I was upset about Greg’s death, but most could not get why I was sad about the death of my mother that I can’t recall seeing face to face.