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And now, the rest of the story, or more specifically, how poetry, Google, and Craigslist helped me find the family I never knew I had.

In November of last year I wrote about finding my father's obituary. It was an odd feeling to find him but to not be able to talk to him. Thanks to the Internet and Google I was able to use some of the information in the obituary to get a pretty good idea of where my aunts were living but I didn't do anything with the information. They were old and I was scared. How do you suddenly drop into someone's life and announce yourself as a relative? What if they yelled at me? So I decided to do nothing. I'm good at that.

Along came National Poetry Month and I had the idea to explore my relationship with my father through poetry so that I could finally make peace with it all and then move on. After I had posted the first few poems I was contacted by Diane Main, a local teacher, who had read my poems and been moved by my story. And it turned out that this teacher had a passion for something of her own, genealogical research. She offered to see what she could track down about my father's family.

In no time at all she located my father's half-sister living only an hour away from. She had been given up for adoption by my grandmother but had the opportunity to correspond with her mother/my grandmother, before my grandmother's death. I sent my aunt a link to some pictures I had of my parents wedding and in the set was a picture of me as a toddler taken in front of the Christmas tree at the car dealership where my mother worked. My aunt recognized the car dealership because she had grown up her entire life living right next door to the owner! My mother, when asked, remembered my aunt's parents but had no idea that their adopted daughter was related to me.

You can read more of Diane's side of her research for me here.

Each night while I worked on my poems Diane worked on my family tree. She found one Webb after another. My aunts and uncles. My great grandparents. Suddenly I was surrounded by Webbs. But most of her research went backwards, toward the older and mostly dead Webbs.

That's when I thought of those names and cities and states I read in my father's obituary. And I finally felt brave enough to try and make contact. Thanks to Google, I found the phone number for both of my aunts. I called the one that I knew my mom had met. And yes, my heart was pounding, wondering what I was going to say. I ended up just blurting out, "My name is Susan and I'm Tommy's daughter."

It was a wonderful conversation. She'd had some health issues so her memory wasn't as great as I had hoped for back when my mom and her brother were married but she never once doubted me and she told me so many stories about my father's childhood, stories that helped me make sense out of the type of person he had become. When she ran out of stories about my father I asked her about her mother, my grandmother.

She paused and then said, "Well, she loved to write poetry."

That was when I burst into tears. There is no one on my mother's side of the family that has any inclination toward writing at all so this small piece of information touched me to the core.

The next day I was still feeling pretty brave so I called my aunt Kitty, the one mentioned in this poem. And again I was greeted with open arms. She was able to tell me even more about my grandmother and she stopped every so often to call out the name of another relative. The following day I called my father's widow Ruth and she was able to fill in a few more pieces, but not much, about him.

Until I called them, none of these people knew about me.

Aunt Kitty gave me phone numbers for three people that, until I read the obituary, I never knew existed. My two half-brothers and my half-sister. I tried my sister first but the phone number didn't work. Then I tried my youngest brother. She had given me his cell phone but he had recently moved and she wasn't sure if it would still be connected. It wasn't. But for some reason I decided to put his cell phone number into Google. I'm not sure what I was hoping for but what I got was something I didn't expect, an ad from Craigslist. He was selling some furniture and it had has cell phone listed and another number that I assumed was the house phone. The ad was fairly recent and I knew what city he was in so I looked up the area code and added it to the house phone and hit the send button on the phone.

I think I gave him quite a shock when he answered the phone and I told him we were related.

We had a nice talk and then he gave me my sister's phone number so I could finally talk to her. And that was the best conversation of all. We laughed. We cried. She said, "I took a nap and I was the oldest in the family and I wake up and I have an older sister." Lori and I have been piecing together our joint history. The most surprising discovery has been that her mom knew about me all my life but us kids were all kept in the dark.

Since then I've made contact with my other's brother's wife, cousins, second cousins, and a whole lot of Webbs. My brother sent me pictures of my siblings and my father's widow and cousins have sent me pictures of my father.

Back in 2005 I wrote about a dream I had about my father and how in that dream, he gave me a gift. And now, five years later, I think I understand. It wasn't in him to be there for me but through him I now have that family connection I've been searching for all my life.

All because I wrote some poems about something that mattered to me.

Poetry can change your life. No doubt about it.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 55 comments — Leave comment )
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April 30th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
Wow. Just, wow.
April 30th, 2010 09:41 am (UTC)
That's an incredible story right there. I felt like was reading the synopsis of a novel.
April 30th, 2010 09:40 am (UTC)
Oh, I am so THRILLED for you!!! What a wonderful gift, to be able to get to know your half-sister and brothers and the family you were always curious about. I'm so glad these poems have helped you in ways you couldn't have imagined a month ago. Thank you for sharing each one.
April 30th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
Wow. (pass the Kleenex box *dabs eyes*) Wow.
April 30th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel. And remember when you said something felt different in one of the poems? That was after I had talked to both of my aunts and I found myself filtering the poem, afraid of how it might be through their eyes. And we all know that self-censoring isn't good and changes things.
April 30th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Oh Susan, what a wonderful story! And what a blessing your poetry has been; for yourself and your whole far-flung family. I have a feeling that harvest is just beginning to come in...
April 30th, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)
I am so happy for you..and for them. I'm thrilled for you. Amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
April 30th, 2010 10:38 am (UTC)
Thank you
Susan, This has been such a remarkable journey. I'm so happy for you and your family; all best as you continue to weave your new life pieces together. Thank you for allowing us in; should you choose to share this story elsewhere too, it has a message for us all.
Amy at The Poem Farm
April 30th, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
What an incredible story! Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm so glad you pursued this and that your dream came true!
April 30th, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
WOW see I can keep a secret. Yes dreams are meant to tell us things and yours was to never give up which you didn't. Yes maybe you never got to know your father but wow you have found a whole new family. Well to you anyway they were there all the time just waiting for you to find them one day and fate brought you all together.

I am a true believer in fate and destiny and you have a great gift. How can anyone but not like you. This can't be the end though I don't think I could wait a whole year to read some more of your poetry. Where else am I going to get my inspiration from. You have helped me so much. This journey has helped me so much and I am finally finding me for the first time ever. It is not really as scary as I thought it would be.

I have a bit of a way to go but you know what I think I am going to make it.

Thanks so much xxx

Anne McKenna
April 30th, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
This is an unbelievably moving story. I'm so glad I stumbled on your blog and wish you and your family (grin) all the best in the world.

April 30th, 2010 12:07 pm (UTC)
(Insert sound of jaw dropping)
WOW! Thanks so much for sharing.

- Fred (Higgins)
April 30th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
Oh. Wow. Amazing. Astonishing. And downright magical! When you told me to wait until today's post, I had no idea this was coming. Oh, Susan, I'm so happy for you! I don't know what else to say . . . except I'm really really happy for you. In a way, you get another chance...
April 30th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Candace. It's it just mind-blowing? I'm still getting used to so many wonderful relatives popping up all over the places.
April 30th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
This has been your bestest blog month ever and you have done some awesome blog posts over the years.

What a story. Now for the book . . .
April 30th, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
thanks for sharing this story
crying along with you. What an amazing journey poetry takes us on.

-- Laura @AuthorAmok
April 30th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
I am so happy for you!
I loved the poems and hope you do a book of them.
April 30th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
I need to remember not to read your posts while I'm in the office. It's a good thing I have a big box of Kleenex nearby.

I'd like to say this is a happy ending for you, but something tells me it's more of a happy beginning.

Thanks for the wonderful reminder of the power of poetry. And bravery, something I think all poets need, and something you have in spades.
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( 55 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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