- Posted January 28, 2011 by
San Francisco, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Finding a long-lost parent, sibling
Finding a long-lost parent, sibling
Reunion with my Birth Mother after 31 years apart
I always knew that I was adopted. My adopted parents were very open with me about this before I really understood these kinds of things. My parents told me some of the basic facts that they know from the adoption agency - that my birth Mom was a college student in Michigan and was not married when she became pregnant.
Being an adoptee, I often wondered about my background, ethnic origins and also if somewhere out there, a woman also wondered what happened to the child she gave up so many years ago. Unlike some adoptees who become transfixed by needing to find out more, I felt mostly content in knowing that the parents who raised me were loving and provided me with me a wonderful place to grow up an helped me (despite me being a hand full during my teens) to succeed in life by inspiring me to go to college and start my own business after getting my degree.
In July 1997, I was returning home to Los Angeles from a trade show in Chicago. I ended up taking an early flight but my baggage was on the next one due to the last minute change. My plan was to run home to my apartment in Marina Del Rey, shower, change, return to the airport (only 10 minutes away) and pick up the luggage and then go to my office which was also about 10 minutes from the airport. As I came to the door of my apartment, I heard the phone ringing (back when we had land lines). As I rushed to unlock the door (it always takes longer when you are in a hurry) I ran to the phone, picked it up and was greeted by a women who asked if this was Kurt Sonderegger. I said it was almost hesitantly as I used to get a lot of sales calls. The caller then said “ my name is Jarrett Kroll, is this a good time for you?” I told her yes and knew right away that this was something big but wasn’t sure what it might be. Was it a women from my past telling me that she was pregnant or had a baby? Because of my luggage situation I responded by saying “ not really, but I’ll give you 5 minutes”. To this Jarrett said “ I think we’ll need a bit more than that but here it goes... On May 11th, 1966, in Providence Rhode Island a baby boy was born at 4:12 am weighing 8 lbs 11oz, does this make any sense to you?”
I knew immediately who this was and what it meant. My knees got a little weak and I sat on the edge of the couch and said “woa”. Jarrett responded “yeah, woa”. I told Jarrett about my airport luggage predicament and asked her for her number so that I could call her as soon as i got to my office after I picked up the luggage. I called her about an hour later and we spoke for hours. It was an amazing conversation as we each filled each other in on some of our life events and a little about who we are. At the end of the long conversation we promised to send one another photos and I told Jarrett I would make a trip out to see her in Manhattan where she was living.
Jarrett’s story is similar to many young women living in the pre Roe v Wade era. She was a college student at the University of Michigan and took a job as a councilor at a Summer camp on the Upper Peninsula. While there, she met a boy named Phillip and they fell in love. By the end of the Summer she learned that she was pregnant. They weren’t going to get married and when Jarrett told her mother, her mom pulled her out of college with a cover story that Jarrett was going to Europe. In reality, Jarrett signed on with an adoption agency in Rhode Island and when she started to show, she moved to a single mothers lodging at the adoption agency where they gave her room and boarding plus a fake wedding ring to help keep people from finding out the truth. In Jarrett’s eyes, this was her mother’s doing and she never really forgave her for making her give up her child.
Jarrett told me that after I was born, she begged the nurse to see/hold me. This is usually not allowed as they try to prevent any bonding between mother and child. The nurse broke with protocol and allowed Jarrett to hold me for 5 minutes. Jarrett told me that at that moment, she decided that she would find me one day.
Jarrett ended up finishing college and was married a couple of years later. She and her husband ended up going to Europe and started their own business called Floating through Europe which was a hotel experience on house boats that floated down the Rhine and other big rivers in Europe. The business did very well and Jarrett had a child, my half brother named Charlie. Jarrett’s marriage did not work out some years later and she moved to New York and spent the rest of her life there. Her search for me began some 15 years before she found me. She was obsessed and became very frustrated at the lack of information provided by the adoption agencies. She joined birth parents support groups and lobbied for birth parents and adoptee rights. Eventually Jarrett hired a private investigator but after 3 years, he produced nothing. Jarrett ended up hiring a super Private Investigator and paid a ton of money (she never told me how much) and he was able to locate me and everything abotu me within a week. She had been calling me apartment for 3 days straight until that moment when I returned from Chicago and answered the phone.
Jarrett and I saw each other often and I welcomed her into my life. I did have to draw some boundaries as I explained to her “I have a difficult enough time being a good son to one mom, so I don’t think I have room for two”. But I did welcome her as a friend and also was happy to get to know my ½ brother Charlie.
Some 10 years after our reunion, Jarrett was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I went to see her right away while she was still healthy enough to get around. We spent 4 wonderful days together and then I returned to San Francisco. In late January, Jarrett took a turn for the worse. I flew back to New York and after Charlie called me to tell me that she didn’t have very long, went straight to her apartment from the airport. I spent about 10 minutes with her that night alone. She was not consious but I know she could hear me anyway. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to have me and then later for finding me. Jarrett died a few hours later that night.
I am still close with Charlie and am forever grateful for Jarrett for helping me get a better understanding about my crazy self.
I also met my birth father and the encouragement of Jarrett about 6 years ago, but that’s a whole other story.