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Posted: 6/27/2011
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

If your family is anything like mine, you understand that sometimes the truth is retold so many times that it turns into a tall tale. I have heard so many stories about my father growing up, that depending who I talk to, he is painted as either a kind-hearted, warm, likeable guy, or a deadbeat druggie who ditched me. I don't want to be naive, but I also don't want to believe the negative stories if they are meant to dissuade me from striking out on my own and finding the truth.

I know my father's name is Ernest Paul Riddle. I have not seen or heard from him since I was about a year old, or so I'm told. I don't really know if he even knows I exist, and it sounds like he may have reason to doubt my parentage. Nevertheless, he's the only father figure I have grown up knowing, and I really need to hear his side of the story once and for all. I have been looking for my dad for about 15 years but I keep running into dead ends. If he's still alive, he would be about 55 today. He was last seen in Hawaii, he was born in West Virginia, and he was in the marines when I was born. He married my mom in Nevada before I was born. His mother's name is Emma.

When I started this search I honestly had no idea If these details are enough to find a person in the first place. I didn't have his social security number or his date of birth, and I had no idea if he had remarried and had other children. I assumed he moved on with his life and never looked back, though I hoped that was because he didn't know about me, and not because he didn't care. I am a grown woman now with children of my own. I don't want anything from him except answers, and maybe let my kids have a grandfather if he wants to be one.

Every time I thought about searching, it seemed there were a hundred reasons NOT to. I was petrified that the search would turn out badly, that he would be dead, or just tell me he's gone this long without being a part of my life, why bring up old ghosts now? After doing all the research and figuring out how much it would cost to search, I also worried about the money and whether I would be able to pay my rent or buy tires for my car, or a hundred other things that come up unexpectedly in this economy. Luckily I have great friends and family members who encouraged me to take a risk. After all, they said, you'll never know until you try.

I first contacted SQA on April 6, 2011. Just over a month later, on May 12, 2011 my researcher Julie called with incredible news. She asked me to grab and pen and told me to write down my father's address and phone number. She had just gotten off the phone with him and said, "he acknowledged being married to your mom and didn't ask me any questions other than for your phone number. He said he would be calling you." She also gave me a physical description and I learned that my dad is 5'11", 176 pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes. When I hung up the phone, my mind started racing. Great, I knew he would be calling me, but was he talking 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 months, or 10 years? Was I honestly supposed to sit by the phone and just wait for him to call? And when he did call me, would he be calling to blow me off, or explain why he's been AWOL all my life?

Luckily, I didn't have to wait long. He called me the next day and we spoke for the first time. I think I expected him to be gushy and warm and "oh, I'm so glad you finally found me!" At least I hoped he would be. In reality the first conversation was a little bit awkward, and it felt very much like meeting a stranger for the first time. I guess it should, right? I mean, we may share the same DNA, but who I am as a person is based on way more than just genes.

Over all, I would say the reunion was a success. We didn't spend much time talking about what went wrong or why he left, which is fine with me. Instead we talked about our lives now. I learned that I have two half-siblings and a step-mom. I told him about his beautiful grandchildren and emailed him pictures of them. We are looking forward to meeting in person sometime over the next few months or so. We are going to take it slow and see where it leads.

I'm glad to finally have the answers I was looking for and I realize for the first time that the truth is always somewhere in the middle between the two sides of the story. I've also learned that you don't get to pick your family, but you just have to make the most of what you've got. I'm excited to do that and I'm grateful to SQA for putting me in touch with my dad so we can start this journey together, one step at a time. It was worth every penny, fax, phone call, and tear shed along the way, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

(Written by Mica Burton on Brianne's behalf.)

Client ID# 276671
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