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Published Sunday November 22nd, 2009 at 6:07am

Jay Olson-Goude

Meeting my new family
11/21/09 at 9:52am
The back story

For those who haven't heard any of the details of my adoption search story, here's a recap. I have always known that I was adopted as an infant, but I never really had any interest in knowing about my biological parents. Turning 50 has a way of making one think about one's life: I had read about a book called "The Girls Who Went Away," but I'd never gotten around to reading it until right after my birthday in Feb. After reading the book, my whole thinking about where I came from was changed. I put my name on the California Adoption Registry as a start.

Within hours, I was contacted by a "Search Angel," Judy Scheinbein from San Diego. She said that she'd be happy to help me find my bio-parents. An hour later, she sent me a list of names of all the males born in SD county on my birthday. My adopted name was on that list, along with my birth name. Up until that time, it had never occurred to me that I was ever given another name at birth. The 37 names on that list were quickly narrowed down to 5 who didn't show up on later databases - meaning either the names had changed or the child had died.

I had Judy go ahead and get the rest of the information, and when she received the name info, the names she received seemed familiar to her. She looked in her records and found that nine years earlier (to the day) my biological sister had put her name on the registry, looking for her bio family. It turns out that I was the last of four children born to Anne and Charles Roper. They raised the first two of their children, but felt they could not afford to raise any more than that, so my sister Peggy was adopted out at 9 days old, and I was adopted out two years later when I was born. We have an older sister Debra who lives in Vista CA and an older brother Robert who lives in Sacramento. Anne and Charles were divorced once Debra finished HS. Anne lives in Escondido, where I was born, and Charles lives in Carlsbad.

For 35 years, Peggy, who now lives outside of Houston TX, had a reoccurring nightmare about an evil genie who was trying to steal her little brother (whom she had no idea existed.) After getting in contact with Peggy, I posted a bunch of pictures of myself through the years in a gallery for her on my website. The face from those baby pictures was the face from her nightmare.

Off to Texas

So, after communicating via phone, email and facebook, it was time to finally meet in person. Jennifer and I left on Wednesday evening and arrived in Houston late that night. Peggy was working on Thursday, so we were going to do some sightseeing until she was home from work. After visiting Old Town Spring and Mercer Arboretum, we decided to go down to Pearland, where she lives, and await her call there.

We were at a Mexican restaurant having Patron margaritas to steel our nerves when the call came. We were about five minutes from Peggy's house and found it easily. I was a bundle of nerves walking up to the front door. We were met there by Peggy's daughter Michelle (my new niece!) who was quickly followed by Peggy herself and two year-old Maddie. After a round of hugs, I felt at ease, and knew that we had done the right thing by coming. Peggy made a great shrimp etouffee dish and salad for dinner. We got to know each other better over dinner, and shortly thereafter Michelle's husband Joel arrived. After Michelle and Joel and Maddie left for home, we continued chatting for a while, but we were all so emotionally drained that we decided that it was time to go to sleep.

Unbelievably, I did sleep - something I hadn't done much of in the days leading up to the trip. Peggy had a bedroom freshly painted and spruced up for us. It was still kind of hard to believe that we, basically strangers, had come so far, and were being shown such hospitality. While Peggy and I don't share much history, it was pretty obvious that we share some genes. Being in the presence of a blood relative for the first time in my life was an amazing experience.

Friday, both Peggy and Michelle took the day off of work, and after breakfast we all left for Galveston. We had a beautiful day out there. Except for lunch, ("Waiter, what's this sow bug doing in my jambalaya? "The backstroke.") the day was nearly perfect. To their credit, the restaurant handled the whole thing perfectly and the rest of the food was terrific - Fish Tales!
We ended the day walking around the historic city cemetery. When we returned home, Peggy's friend Tom brought us dinner and we had another great evening of getting to know one another.

Saturday we didn't have much planned. Jennifer, Peggy, Michell, Maddie and I went out for breakfast and the drove out to Brazos Bend State Park. We took a walk around the lake there, keeping an eye out for the alligators that we could hear in the grasses along the shore. We did see one swimming in one of the lakes. We headed home in the afternoon, and then went out for Tex-Mex later in the evening. After we returned from dinner, Peggy brought out all the stuff she has received from Anne and Deb over the past nine years. I can't express how much it meant to me to read those letters and learn more about where I came from.

Sunday morning was spent doing more talking while Peggy and Jennifer prepared some things for that afternoon's Thanksgiving dinner at Joel and Michelle's house. We went over there late in the morning. We got to meet Bailey, their sweet young Labrador. Tom came over and we all enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving dinner, and all agreed that we have even more to be thankful for this year. Jennifer and Peggy and I went back to Peggy's to get packed for the trip home on Monday. Before we went to bed, Peggy showed us some of her amazing quilting work. We needed to change our flight so I could get back for a business trip over in Wisconsin, so tearful goodbyes were said on Sunday night. We were out the door at 4:30 am and on our way to the airport for the end of the most amazing trip I've ever taken.

I love my 'new' family as much as I love my 'old' family, and I look forward to sharing the rest of our lives. Thank you Peggy, Michelle, Joel, Maddie, Bailey and especially Jennifer.