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Donna Sorensen

The loudspeaker was piercing my anxious anticipation. Mental pictures were flashing and crashing like neon lights gone haywire. Suddenly there was no distinction between reason or season. It was miracle time. My birth mother, whom I had just been reunited with by telephone, was about to disembark Hawaiian Airlines at the Kahului airport on a spectacularly sunny November afternoon. My heart was racing, the photographers were waiting, and as the doors swung open with that familiar clank, I strained for a glimpse of my unknown Leilani lady about to enter my life. She had nursed me, cuddled me, and lastly released me, so that opportunities in life would hopefully free me.

Now, filled with ecstasy and unimaginable joy, we were being reunited after fifty one years. With arms filled with fragrant multi-colored flower leis, I leaned forward to get a better view. My shocked spirit, my heaven drenched soul, was about to embrace its loving co-creator. What a toast and testimony to life. As I stood waiting, crying and smiling, I remembered that extraordinary phone call, placed on a lovely Maui morning in August, only four months before. It was the unfolding of packaged fate, beautifully wrapped in fluffy foo foo with a heavenly message saying I love you.

"I am a real person," my inner voice shrieked, when told there were files verifying my birth. Someone had been kind enough to carry me into the world, just to give me life, and another had chosen to lovingly support it. My God, what a blessing. My identity search had been launched and I was already on the edge of blurred or occurred, the answers pressing on the window waiting to be unveiled. The adoption agency was sending secrets of record which would smash and trash my tightly held pictures squeezed into the puzzle frame of my identity.

Was she still living? Could I locate her? My mind was wild with excitement, considering options previously ignored. Might she too have registered? This new option for biologically separated persons searching for their other half had been widely publicized.

My spirit soared, ringing my senses with mighty messages of validation as I listened to the social worker reading my adoption records. Had I truly felt all my life that I was not a real person? I could not believe my initial reaction. This astounding thought and inner revelation I would ponder for months to follow.

The instructions were simple. I had now registered and the next step was to wait. Ignoring my yearnings for more, I prayed for acceptance of whatever God's will would reveal, hoping that someone would come forward seeking to fill the same void.

To my shock and total surprise, a phone call came on another sunny morning, in September, only a month later. "Donna, this is Ray Cherosky from the Children's Home Society. Are you ready to meet your birth mother?"

I breathlessly replied, "You must be joking. Who is this really?" He patiently restated four times the reason for the call, and each time I doubted his every word. Finally after catching my breath and assuring myself this was not a dream, with my heart pounding like a jackhammer, I said "Yes."

My birth mother and I were reunited on the 23rd of September, l992. Our reunion began on the telephone, with babblings of love and gratitude falling forth through the receiver into awaiting craving. In rapid succession we spoke of all that was missed, and all that had been, and what could be for now and then. The ironies, coincidences, and details were startling.

We were reunited almost nine months to the day after the death of my adopted mother, who had passed away in the early hours on Christmas morning the year before. A birth in reverse. My birth mother and I each had little information, yet found the adoption agency and registered within two years of each other. We had heard the same Voice, at the same time, urging us to find each other, but neither had any substantial facts to help initiate that search. Divinely said and willingly led, we both reached out for one another almost simultaneously, and soon fifty one years of separation was to change to a time of celebration. Unconscious longings would finally be fulfilled.

I had been adopted by wonderful loving parents, who with utmost devotion raised me and my adopted brother, five years my junior. I grew up in Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay Area, during the 50's and 60's. Had it not been for my marriage, and two sons, the Haight-Ashbury days could have brought my early demise. Resisting peer pressure was not one of my better traits, as the need for acceptance often over shadowed my good judgement.

Growing up I had all the advantages anyone could wish for. Knowing I was adopted made me feel special, however I thought I might search one day for my birth parents, after my mom and dad were gone. Doing so while they were living would have hurt them far too deeply to justify that decision. I truly do not remember lamenting over my genetic darkness, in fact my adoption was a verbal badge of pride.

My brother, however, never once talked of his adoption, as if he simply arrived in the usual manner, and I was content with his viewpoint. When our father died on May 26, l986, we finally discussed our childhood, sharing the gratitude of having been adopted by such wonderful parents. His death transformed our relationship.

Hawaii captured my heart when I was fifteen years old. Two glorious vacations were spent in the Hawaiian islands before I reached the age of twenty. Each time I had experienced that magnificent sail from San Francisco to Honolulu on the illustrious Lurline. The time was picture book perfect for all who drank of the lovely balmy Aloha spirit blanketing the islands, and I vividly remember throwing flowers into the water, committing to always return, hopefully to stay one day.

My adopted mother told me the name given to me at birth was Dianne Leilani, changed by them to an equally lovely one, however it was the "Leilani" I clung to, hoping for a sign of my merging destiny with Hawaii. The romantic notion I might have been conceived in heavenly Hana enhanced my love for the islands, and so it was, in l975, after a second marriage was finalized in ceremony on Maui three years before, I moved to Maui, where I have lived with my two sons for the past twenty years.

This period of my life has been the most fulfilling, second only to my child-bearing days. I am whole, and probably never will feel rooted to the islands like my spirit desires, however my inward journey during this time, nourished by the spiritual beauty of the islands and its people, has been transformational. I eagerly await the time to replace the gifts I have received, the greatest being my time here. To say, "I was adopted and now live in Hawaii," has been ego bound pride speaking, but not once have I wished it were different. I knew fate held it all, the answers, reasons, and the decisions for why. What would be would be. If I was meant to meet my birth mother, that would be a miracle. If not, that would be fine too. I had loved my life, and whatever God had planned I hoped to meet with surrender and serenity. Now I stood waiting for recognition.

Our private yet public display of heightened emotions would soon splash across the canvas like rain on the pavement. The chatter was coming towards me. "Please be on that plane," I muttered to myself as people began passing by me.

Suddenly my mind departed. I thought I could see her emerging within the passenger carry-on crowd. Oh my God, struggling to hold back fifty one years, I started moving towards her with out-stretched yearning, plunging toward that deeply longed for mother and child reunion.

As we fell into each other's being, my miracle moment having finally arrived, the void was filled with the murmuring of "I love you, I love you" melting my heart with warm light from within. May I never lose that feeling. Amid greetings, well wishing, and cameras clicking, we managed to acknowledge our continuing disbelief, while delighting in physical similarities and any other sameness that illuminated our genetic characteristics.

"My baby, my baby," she cooed.

"Mom, I love you so much," I repeated over and over. "Thank you for giving me my life, I am so grateful."

Gushes of emotion and giddy gaiety prevailed throughout the afternoon and evening. I could not believe my birth mother was sitting in my home with me, surrounded by my new family, which included a half sister and two nieces, and my family which includes two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and three grandchildren. We all were numb. Late in the evening my new mom began to tell me the circumstances of my conception and birth. Her soft spoken words suddenly exploded my romantic notion into bits of nothingness. The revelation jolted my consciousness.

"Rape you say, I was conceived through rape," I gasped. "I didn't know or ever suspect that! My idealistic side had projected a lovely island romance."

I was fifteen years old," she went on. "Your father approached me at a family picnic on my uncle's dairy farm, asking if I would like to ride into town to pick up some cokes. He slipped something in mine, while sitting in his apartment, and the next thing I remember was waking up obviously aware something hurtful had just happened."

I was speechless. This was never my imagined version. It was another startling fact for me to ponder, however at the same time it was somehow irrelevant.

"If you want to try to locate him I will help you, but it will be painful," she said.

"Oh, I don't think so. I never saw myself having found him," I replied. "This is more than anyone could ask for, and I am content with just having found you."

It was mutually agreed the search was ended. Life, on the other hand, had something entirely different in mind.

A year passed. Our contact by phone was frequent. My mom and I turned out to be two peas in a pod. The similar facial features were obvious. Our same outgoing, rather zany sunshine type personalities were evident, adding the fact we were both artists who owned our own businesses painting on clothes. Actually this included my half sister, who also did the same thing. My signature was D.D., standing for Dianne, my birth name, and Donna, my adopted name. My birth mother's name turned out to be Dianne.

The next time we saw each other was on a television stage in Chicago. It was late February of the following year. The Beatrice Berry talk show was doing a program entitled "Children Conceived Through Rape." The producers had heard about our story and invited us to be on the show, with guests who had two equally dramatic stories to tell.

Scared stiff, I walked on stage and into my mother's loving arms. We sat holding hands while relating to the audience our tale of separation and reunion. I remember my answer when asked how I felt about the circumstances of my conception. "I thanked God for my life, and for not having been aborted," I replied.

The production staff had kept us separated until we met once again on stage, which successfully created a fresh feeling of nervousness and excitement, and as the program closed it was announced we would be flown, all expenses paid, to Los Angeles for another family reunion with my mom and sister's husbands. It had been "Queen For A Day" and I was the lucky queen, gloriously basking in God's goodness and grace.

We departed Chicago late in the afternoon, landed in Los Angeles in time to dine out with all of my new found family, talked until the wee hours of the morning, and I departed on the familiar 9:00 A.M. flight from L.A. to Honolulu, to resume my responsibilities as a small retail business owner who was experiencing the pinch of economic times.

By September I was ready to do the much requested walk-through with my new mom. She desperately needed to recreate that time of pregnancy, abandonment, and birth, for much was buried in her subconscious, and this might jump start deeply covered memories which kept most of this period blank.

She had been dropped off and deposited at the front door of the Florence Crittenton Home, where she would spend the next few months lovingly being cared for, and prepared for, my birth. She only has memories of fear, loneliness, compassion, and that it must have been Christmas time because she remembers dancing around the tree singing the praises of Jesus.

Her only other memory was walking up the steps of the adoption home with me in her arms, and handing me over to a man and a woman. Just like that, I was transferred from one mother to the next, and this painful joyful act forever altered my environment, thus laying the foundation for a rich, wonderfully stable and nourishing childhood.

What unbelievable sacrifices were made on my behalf. This too, I would ponder for many months to follow. With happy but lurking unknown emotion, my birth mother and I walked through the doors of the Florence Crittenton Home, never expecting the sudden wailing outburst of my grieving spirit. I pushed open the door of the ladies room located next to the entrance, and before I could reach the safe zone, my sobbing subconscious suddenly became conscious, the new born baby taking hold releasing sobs of sadness, gripping my soul with clutches of screaming "No-No!"

I was overwhelmed with pain. My mother now held onto me as we began the walk back in time, with cameras once again clicking, recording this unbelievable event in our lives. Oblivious to much that was being said, I continued wailing and sobbing loudly, apologizing for my intense reaction, however completely unable to stop. As we approached the birthing room I became a bit hysterical. Standing by the entrance, lost in my mother's comforting arms, I was born again releasing and unleashing tortured buried feelings, the ripping, tearing and separation of mother and child.

I continued to cry out, "This doesn't feel right, no this is not right." The camera flashed, recording a babies' simulated suffering, later to be shared with anyone reading next day's news. Registration records were found in the log book dating back to l940. This too was photographed by the wonderful reporter swept along by this river of emotion. The two captured moments reflected the mood of the day. It was moving to say the least.

Once again I boarded the L.A.- Honolulu 9:00 A.M. flight back home, carrying unbelievable memories of a week filled with my painful rebirth, followed by waltzes down memory lane revisiting happy childhood haunts, where warm playful pleasurable times were repeated year after year. I had resisted this trip, which I now cherished with all my heart.

What was next to unfold was nothing short of mind blowing. My mother had mentioned during that last visit that she would help try to find my birth father, if I wanted to. Startled I said, "We had decided not to pursue the matter. What's changed?" She said the pain was gone so why not give it a try. I quickly agreed. My conception resulted from a brief encounter between two strangers, what would today be called date rape. There had been no violence nor recollection. Now somehow, we both were forgiving, having feelings of love for him because of what we were now experiencing. But I never could have imagined the phone call I was about to receive.

I had been back home only a week, when on Sunday morning the phone rang. It was my birth mother. "Sweetheart are you sitting down? I have the most incredible news. I have found your father."

My mind went blank.

Upon hearing the resounding "I found your father, I found your father" I responded with shouts of disbelief. How did it happen? This was unfathomable, fast approaching high drama, and with so much more to be revealed.

With only limited information she had called the operator in the area where my father grew up, requesting to be sent a phone book from that region. The operator had kindly obliged, and my mother then said, "Could you please give me the number of anyone listed with this last name." The operator again answered the request. My mother dialed the number and to her total shock and surprise found herself talking to my father's brother, now well into his eighties, who gave her the current address and phone number of his brother, my birth father.

Good Lord in heaven above, this was more than I could comprehend. One phone call found my mother. One phone call found my father. A fateful night, and fifty three years later, they are both alive and living an hour's drive apart. It was decided that mother would write a letter inviting him to join in our celebration, knowing that at the age of eighty five this would be highly unlikely. The letter was mailed by mutual consent the following Thursday, and early Sunday morning the call came in that would change our lives.

As she picked up the phone she heard his voice, "Dianne, this is Bert." He remembered, he wanted to meet me, he lovingly responded to the invitation.

On September 28, l994 I had received the call from mom to tell me she had found dad. Less than a month later I was reunited with him, by telephone, after fifty three years. I had written to him immediately, not sure whether a phone call would have been preferable. My nervousness was comfortable with a more subtle approach. I waited for a few weeks trying to build up my nerve, when out of nowhere came the call. "Hello Donna, this is Bert, your father," he said softly yet clearly over the coconut wireless.

Oh Lordy, Lordy what a sweet moment that was. Pure spirit purring with no regard for where, when, or why. Tender exchanges between an eighty five year old man and his fifty three year old daughter, whom he has never seen, were lovingly shared back and forth.

"It's a crazy world, ain't it," he would repeat over and over again. Little did he know just how crazy this whole story would turn out to be. It was already in the "Can you Believe" category, and only half the story had been told. Nothing could have prepared me for any of this. I can only describe it as a conscious dream sequence, knowing it was really unfolding, yet feeling it was a dream, that waking numb state of mind.

I all too well had known the fearful side of the same feeling, as this could have turned out that way as well, however I was so grateful that so far it had been loving and effortlessly forgiving. Thank you God. One month later I was Los Angeles bound, to meet my aging birth father, the other half of my puzzle void, the eccentric shy side of my nature, the side I wrestled with the most. This time I was nervous in a different way. He was a man and an aging one at that. He was my conflict side, my mystery man from where my addictions grew, and I couldn't wait to meet him.

As I walked alone down the block toward where he lived, I treasured every step and every thought. "This will never come again," I said to myself. I wanted to savor every minute. As I approached the front walkway I could see him peering through the window. I smiled, he vanished, and as I approached the front door, I knew that in a split second I would be looking at my father for the very first time.

Shy sweetness twinkled as he very slowly opened the door. "I saw you coming down the street, and I knew who you were," he said softly. I was so overcome by his fragile gentleness, his willingness to see me, his slightness, and his slowness. As we gradually inched down stairs to his little converted garage room that he rented from the family who owned the home, we kept repeating, "Can you believe this?" "No, I can't - can you?"

We sat together on his bed looking at meaningful pictures he had kept over the years, and I wished so much to have known him in earlier days. His narrative of memory lane touched me deeply. I hung and clung to every tidbit, knowing this might very well be our first and last meeting. Tender, tender was the afternoon. I asked if he wished to walk outside with me to meet mom who had parked down at the corner.

The next thing I knew he and I were slowly shuffling down the street, arm in arm, gently carried along by the moment, and as I looked ahead I could see Mom walking toward us, smiling as bright as the sun and looking just as beautiful. As we came together in the middle of the deserted street, raptured in the Lord's grace, mercy, and unconditional love, I wept uncontrollably. Never in all my life could I have imagined a moment like this one. A brief shattering encounter now a healing miraculous reunion. We stood, arms wrapped around each other in our circle of love. It was our last.

Emotionally I was happily shattered. What had been my reality realm and fantasy summations were drastically dumped into the sea of oblivion. My casual thought of reunion, projected my whole life with a very detached come see come saw attitude, was now a reality of grand magnitude, touching the hearts of so many people. For two years my reunion with my birth mother was celebrated with wonderful customers from all over the world. Hanging in my store was a beautifully photographed picture of our first tearful embrace, taken at the airport by a reporter and splashed on the front page of the Maui News. My small shop would fill with emotion, day after day, as people in absolute amazement, congratulated me for this spectacular story, and shared their experiences about adoption, sometimes tearfully fleeing, filled with deep denied pain. I never realized this subject had touched so many lives, affecting individuals in so many different ways.

I had all my life tried to think of myself as my adopted parent's natural child. There were strong similarities between myself and my parents because the adoption agency tried to closely match our characteristics, mine being closer to my father and my brother favoring my mother. However mid life brought a yearning to know why I looked the way I did, having felt my personality was greatly affected by my environment, but not my physical features. Those were from someone and somewhere else.

My first moment of knowing that I was adopted left me with the feeling of always having known. A beautiful little book, which I still can visualize, was read to me by my parents. It was the simple story about a loving couple adopting a child. The book had tremendous impact. It made the initial announcement first of all, and secondly gave me the feeling of being the most desired star in the heavens. The couple waited endlessly for this baby girl, while numerous inspections were made to determine the status of their qualifications, making sure the environment was well suited to receive a child.

The book's story indirectly told me how much I was loved from all directions, making me feel proud and special for having been adopted. Thank you Mom and Dad for that wonderful beginning.

As a teenager I remember mom, on occasion, asking if I ever thought about finding my birth parents. I always emphatically said "No" and found myself reassuring her it was okay that I was adopted, and that I had no desire or thoughts of that nature. (A therapist years later said that is where I developed my pattern of rescuing.) Mom would then proceed to tell me what little she knew, all of which was on a tiny little scrap of paper. It read Birth Weight 7lbs 7oz..... Birth Time 8:10 p.m..... Doctor's Name..... F. College - Norwegian..... M. 1 1/2 HS- Ger dc. little Indian.....F. Tall - slender brown eyes and light brown hair.....M. 5'1"- well built, nice features, blue eyes and dark brown hair.

This information, in my adopted mother's hand writing was the only piece of probability, the only clues to my physical persona. She would relate to me a story of a pregnant young girl, who reluctantly gave me up for adoption because the father would not marry her. She stressed how difficult this decision was for my birth mother, and yet I sometimes thought she was making up this story. Secretly I treasured mom's need for reassurance, for it was during these times I heard words which soothed denied yearnings for that lost connection.

Years later I would finally admit out loud to myself, "Yes, I just wanted to open the door and see where my physical traits came from, thank them for my life, and then close the door forever more." Was that likely? Of course not, that would never happen.

The passing of my father definitely changed the relationship between my adopted brother and myself, bringing out admissions of feelings which strengthened and renewed our love and friendship for one another. He too, has now registered and received information about his birth mother, however to date there has been no reunion. The passing of my mother made way for my sudden decision to launch my search, looking for anything that might revive in any way, the days of long ago.

After mom's death I had taken a short but poignant vacation to Alaska. It was there I grieved over the loss of both my parents. Released to chase my "Illusive Butterfly," I was free to begin to look for my beginnings, knowing I really had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I thought if I had a chance of finding anyone I needed to get started, as I was now fifty one and who knows what that meant. Nobody was going to wheel me into a nursing home with at least not having given this a try.

Adoption records were now available by mutual consent. Support groups were springing up around the country, and numerous networking agencies were offering assistance. Knowing how my mom and dad conducted their family business meant they probably used the same agency for both adoptions, so I decided to contact my only unsure possible source, the Children's Home Society, and of course it was this contact that proved to be my hope for some clues or bit of news.

Bingo... first call and I had reached the adoption agency who had the records of my legal exchange dating back to the year l94l. I knew that with this call, my inner identity search could be validated, even slightly, or the road would end and I would have to take a different route.

Bingo... my birth mother and I were reunited transatlantically almost nine months to the day after the death of my adopted mom. The first sound of her voice, the rush and gush of our first conversation, the never wanting to say good bye again, remains forever etched in my mental log book under the category titled "Moments of Ecstasy." With my new mom, came a wonderful sense of belonging, a mother daughter friendship as smooth as cream and butter. I also had a wonderful new sister and two delightful nieces.

Beyond Bingo... my birth father and I were reunited transatlantically almost exactly two years after mom's and mine. To think an eighty five year old man remembered, what I will never be quite sure, and rejoiced in my arrival, was just beyond my pea brain comprehension. To hear him respond with "I Love You too," overwhelmed me. As it turned out, he had owned a restaurant for twenty years in the heart of San Francisco's financial district, and I had passed by many times, possibly stopping to eat meals prepared by him, never knowing his presence was inside. My adopted father held an impressive position two blocks down, and he too may have eaten in my birth father's eatery.

Double Bingo... With dad came another wonderful half sister and two delightful nieces. Now both sides were sculpted exactly the same. (A niece on each side has since given birth, and not knowing each other, both named their new baby boys Nicolas.) There had been a half brother, whom I very much physically resembled, who was murdered in l968 in the San Francisco Bay area region by Charles Manson or someone close to him. He had taken money dad had given him for college enrollment, and applied it in the wrong direction. Drugs and Charles Manson's movement removed my brother from this world with a gun shot to the head. I too was living in the Bay Area, wishing to break out of my more traditional role of mother and housewife, but knowing the allure across the Bay could be my death warrant. My half brother and I must also have had many similar emotional traits.

Dad was introduced to mom at a barbecue in the spring of l940, she just having come from Missouri with her mother, mother's boyfriend, and a younger sister. He had, in his early twenties, left Minnesota, his parents and six brothers and sisters, in search of greater opportunities. Mom was a fifteen year old virgin, and he a flirtatious thirty three year old handsome man looking for some action.

When mom's mother learned of this unwarranted action, he was arrested, charged, and then released, so says he and the official records. My mother was put in the Florence Crittenton Home, now celebrating its100th anniversary, where she, left on her own, waited for my arrival. The only other time she saw him was after my birth. He was still working in the area and mom approached him for financial help, telling him there had been a baby girl born, whom she had sent to San Francisco, never imagining that is where I would eventually grow up and spend the first thirty years of my life. That was the last they saw of each other until the fateful rapture, on that lovely lazy Southern California afternoon, with the sweet smell of fall in the air and the soulful silent sounds of three hearts beating as one.

I had closed my shop six months before meeting dad. Blessed for ten years with a successful self-supporting owner operated small business, where I could express myself artistically and chat with marvelous interesting people from all over the world, vacationing and feasting on the magnificent beauty of "Paradise," had been a dream come true. However, economic times were getting more difficult and I wanted to stay home and reflect and reflect and reflect.

This time the celebration was private, as opposed to before, my pondering healing period spent in seclusion with a large number of animals I had suddenly acquired, emitting unconditional love at every turn. Combined with extreme elation was the feeling of having run into a brick wall.

I began picking up the pieces, one by one, matching my own inner conclusions with the appropriate parent, deducing where this and that came from, redesigning and filling half the void with genetic input that fit and found its place with precision positioning. The other half was already filled with the environmental life experiences that had molded my being into who I was today. I remember a sociology professor in his lecture, stating he theorized our make-up was fifty per cent genetic and fifty per cent environment. With gratitude galore, and agreeing with the same professor, I acknowledged my puzzle complete.

During this entire four year period, as they always had in the past, my children, who live nearby, eagerly and generously supported my quest, graciously entering into the festivities with gusto and great charm. They welcomed with open arms all of my new family, total strangers to them, and I will always be eternally grateful for their participation. They made it so easy for me. Thank you to my children.

I have realized that the feeling of not being a real person came from the fact that fifty percent of me I could not see, and the other half needed that, to be free. It will take the rest of my life to thank God for this incredible gift. My life long spiritual journey has been fortified with faith and reassurance, that in my humble opinion, there is a God, a personal God who has a planned destiny for me, and the real meaning of life's events lies in the interaction between He and I. I love God above all else, and that reciprocated love has sustained me before, sustains me now, and may it continue to sustain me forever more.

Today my birth mother often visits my birth father, who lives comfortably in a rest home nearby, after having several small strokes soon after our reunion. With a bag of cookies and a little radio she sits quietly beside him, singing songs of yesterday. Angels must be dancing overhead. Gently leaning closer she whispers, "We made a baby together," and he always replies "It's a small world, ain't it?"

Thank you God.

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