“I have something to tell you,” my sister said. “Aunt Gertie had a baby and placed him for adoption.”
The news was quite a surprise, for I was in my early 20’s and had no idea that my aunt had a baby many years ago.
“I want to find him,” I said.
I didn’t have much information to turn to — I just knew that the baby was a boy and I knew the name of the hospital he was born at.
Several years ago, a group of researchers from the National Institute of Health came to my house and took blood tests of my family members. All of us were born with normal hearing and several of us lost our hearing in various ways. The researchers uncovered a very rare mitochondrial mutation — we were the third family in the world identified with this hereditary condition.
“The gene passes from females to all children,” the researchers told us.
As I pondered the gene’s path through our family tree, I realized that Aunt Gertie’s son had the gene. I started asking deaf and hard of hearing friends in the St. Louis area if they were adopted.
One evening, one of my sisters was talking to a cousin and the cousin casually mentioned that Aunt Gertie’s son had called another cousin. He was looking for his birth mother.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
Luckily, my cousin had written his name down and kept it in a drawer.
I quickly Googled his name and on impulse, I added “deaf.”
As I stared at his picture, I realized the reason my cousin kept the information a secret from us.
Brian looked exactly like my dad.
Which would make him…my half brother.
I quickly looked up his phone number and debated whether or not to call him. It was 9 p.m. on a Sunday night. I just knew I couldn’t wait another day. I dialed his number.
Brian and I spent about 30 minutes talking on the phone, both in shock and awe. He had spent years wondering about his birth family and now he was able to get the answers he was seeking.
Brian and I texted back and forth every day. We discovered we had so much in common — water skiing (he even tried to barefoot as a teen), triathlons (I had just signed up for my first one), a love for the outdoors, photography, leadership, and…food. To top it off, he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, the same college that my three kids attended.
And…Brian is deaf. Like me, he began losing his hearing in elementary school. He learned sign language at RIT. He obtained bilateral cochlear implants several years ago.
Even though Brian looked just like my father and my brothers, we wondered how we could determine the genetic connection without any doubt. My father had passed away, there was no way to confirm paternity.
We got lucky. A very kind counselor at the adoption agency went through the records and pulled out Brian’s file. He read through the file word for word. There, in the files, my aunt confirmed my father as Brian’s father.
This story has an incredible, happy ending. My mother embraced Brian as both her nephew and my father’s son. Just days before we told her the news of finding Brian, she had been thinking about her sister’s son. (We never, however, told her of our conversations with the adoption agency and the news we had confirmed.) I believe the timing was so very right — my mom was in a place where she could love him with all of her heart.
We love Brian as if he had always been with us. We’ve gotten to know his wife, daughter, and his mother. We’ve shared vacations, weekends together, and funerals. Growing up, we were a family of five siblings — and now we are six.
Karen Putz is known as The Passion Mentor. For a daily dose of passion, follow her on Instagram at The Passion Academy. For even more passion, hop over to her site: Ageless Passions. To unwrap your own passion, grab the book, Unwrapping Your Passion.