Don’t Assume the Worst

Finding my birth parents.

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In 1967, Marcelle and Ken began dating. In June of 1968, Marcelle became pregnant. She did not live in an ideal environment in which to raise a child. She struggled with the decision of what she should do and what would be best for the baby she carried. She was 17 years old. She had become very attached to the baby, whom she believed was a little girl, inside her. She called her Elizabeth Victoria Charlene. If she gave her child up for adoption, she had a good idea of some of the feelings her child would feel. Marcelle had found out when she was 16 that she herself was adopted and that she had a twin.

When she was seven months along, she was able to finally make her decision: She would give the baby up for adoption. She felt that it was the only way her child could be given a good chance at life. On February 11, 1969, at 7:11 a.m., Marcelle gave birth to her child, a girl. She never saw her, never held her. That piece of her life was now a part of another family, the Parten’s. Jack and Jean Parten named that little baby Jacqueline Lynn.

That is where I come in. You see, that is my name. I go by Jackie now. I was raised in a very loving home. I was the only child they ever had. I guess that made me a little spoiled. I had a relatively normal childhood and early teen years. When I was 15, my parents decided it was best for them to live apart. My mother and I moved to another house. Not having them together seemed to make me think about my adoption more often. My father was very supportive of me searching for my birth parents. However I was quickly informed by the Records Department that I was too young. I had to be 21, so I waited for that year to come. Like so many other people though, I got distracted with life. At 21, I went into the Navy. At 23, I got married. At 24, I had my son, Jonathan. Now my adoption questions were foremost in my mind, but I was not in Florida. I was now unsure how to go about getting that information while I was out of state. After our son was born, our marriage seemed to be in trouble. We tried counseling, but it was not helpful. Jonathan was a year and a half when his father and I got a divorce.

My contract with the Navy was up on November 20, 1994. I moved back home to Kissimmee, Florida. There I secured a job, started attending college part-time, and was raising my child. Again, the curiosity and questions regarding my adoption sank to the back of my mind. On December 31, 1998, I went out on my first date with Steve, now my husband. We dated for three and a half years. During that time I had some medical problems arise. Because of those medical issues, my curiosity about my adoption was once again brought to the front of my thoughts.

Our Governor, Jeb Bush, had recently passed a law stating that if any adoptee wished to find out more information about their adoption or about their birth parents, all they had to do was contact his office. He said that he would do all that was within his power to help them find that information. So I did exactly that. On August 11, 2000, I sent his office an email with all the information I knew and requested his help. It took me until November 2001 to get a reply. However, I never gave up hope.

At this point I now had a contact– Josette P. Marquess. She was the director of the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry in conjunction with the Department of Children and Families in Tallahassee. Upon my request, she forwarded to me all non-identifying information that was contained in my records. Now I was like a bulldog after a bone. There was no way I was going to get distracted from this course again.

I heard from Mrs. Marquess several times in the next year. She helped to direct me in the steps that I had to take. I had to first petition the court to open my sealed records. Once the judge had approved that request, I HAD to be patient while Mrs. Marquess tried repetitively to contact my birth parents. During that time I was also planning my wedding. Mrs. Marquess told me that she was getting no response from either parent.

Mrs. Marquess wrote to me in March 2002 to tell me that she knew for sure that both of my biological parents were alive. She requested that I write a letter to my birth parents asking them any questions I might have. I had to send that letter to her in an unsealed envelope. She would then have to read it before she could pass it through the proper channels. I wrote and sent those letters to her on March 27. Then I had to be patient. I was told that I was not to know their names until they chose to contact me. I am not a very patient person, but I was really trying to be better at it.

On the evening of June 27, our phone rang. It was my birth father. His name is Wendell Kenneth Powell. He lives approximately one hour away from me and has lived there for the last 13 years. He had called me as soon as he had gotten my letter. We talked and cried on the phone for the next hour. He told me that he had never married. I was still an only child. I had several similarities with him. We wanted to meet, so we set up our meeting time to be at the Cracker Barrel at 6:00 p.m. on July 14th. This was going to be a busy weekend for me because my son was coming home from spending a month with his dad that Saturday. I was very excited at the thought of meeting him. However, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that SHE had not responded as he had.

On Friday night, July 12, I went to bed just like normal. However, at 12:30 a.m. I was awakened by the phone ringing. I sleepily answered the phone. The lady on the other end had to tell me two or three times that her name was Marcelle Phillips and that she was my birth mother. I was so happy to finally hear from her. She told me that she had just received my letter that day. We talked for about an hour and a half. She lives in Tacoma, WA. I felt like we were stuck in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” those two movie characters were just as far apart as we were. She told me that I had a half brother by marriage, but she had lost contact with him. I also had a half-sister and a nephew. My nephew and my son’s birthday are two days apart (and 8 years). Over the next couple of days, Marce and I talked about how and when we were going to meet. We have decided now that she is going to come down here in April to meet me, Steve (my husband), Jonathan, and my parents. Marce and I talk on the phone a great deal. We have so many similarities between us. I already feel close to her and we have not even met face-to-face yet.

Now back to my meeting with Ken, my birth father. On July 14, I met him for the first time. My husband, Steve, went with me for support. When we met, he greeted me with open arms and a gift. The gift was a red rose pin. It was very beautiful. We spent a little over three hours together. We talked about everything, each one trying to fill a 33-year-old gap. Ken made such an effort to make Steve feel comfortable and a part of the meeting. It was wonderful. Now each time I wear that rose pin, I can remember our first meeting and his loving gesture.

I feel like I have been truly blessed. Both of my birth parents understand they are adults to me and that I have a mom and dad that raised me. We are all going to try to develop a good and strong friendship. They have both greeted me with open arms in the best way they could.

I know that all Adoptee Cases do not turn out this way. I know that sometimes we search after they have already passed away. Sometimes the birth parents have moved on with their lives and don’t want to be reminded of their past. I can only tell you what happened in my case and hope that you will look to the positive. Keep in your mind that there are birth parents out there that fit each of the categories I mentioned above. However, don’t assume the worst. Give your birth parents a chance to show you which kind they are first.

Well that is my adoption story. Although it is not completely finished, I still hope you will read this story and find encouragement to help you with your own story. I learned a very important lesson through all of this: Never give up. There were many times I could have, but look what I would have missed. I am so glad that I never gave up. So if you are still searching– don’t give up, and one day you can feel glad you didn’t quit, too!

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