Read Part I here.
The three of us were the only ones in the office, sitting in a tight, cramped conference room. There was really no way out, so if there was any malicious intent, I didn’t have much in the way of options. I had drunk some of the water, even though I told myself I never would, and I was nervous and shaking. I took a deep breath because I knew that was my only choice. I had to have faith.
Jerry turned to me and said, “Why don’t you start by telling us why you’re here.” I can’t remember exactly how I started, but I know the beginning wasn’t very coherent. I explained that I was curious about my roots and that I believed that Stuart was my birth father. I said that I had wanted to meet him, to talk to him, see what he was like, and continue to stay in touch if that was something he was amenable to.
The two of them took turns tag teaming their response. Stuart did admit that he knew Peggy, my birth mother, and indicated that he had dated her very briefly. Although this contradicted what she had told me, that they had dated for a couple of years and then saw each other on and off after that, I decided not to call him on that. To me, admitting that he knew her and that they had dated was a positive acknowledgment.
Then Jerry asked me when I was born. This was clearly staged, but I played along. I had written my birth date in my letter to Stuart and reiterated it when I spoke to Jerry on the phone. They both knew that since I was born in May 1971, that I was conceived sometime around August 1970. “I was away that summer on active duty with the National Guard.” I knew they were just throwing a red herring at me in hopes that I would just accept what they were saying and go away.
But I held strong. I said that I thought we could go back and forth all day talking about timing and semantics and asked if we could just talk about the rest. I said I was interested in his background and medical history and asked if we could talk about that. To my surprise, he agreed.
The conversation began to lighten. He told me his mother’s side was from Kiev, but that he wasn’t really sure where his father’s side was from. He gave me the names of his parents, their siblings, his maternal grandparents, and his sister. He didn’t mention his children, and I didn’t ask. I already knew from my research, and I knew that his greatest vulnerability would be his children. I didn’t want to put him in that spot in this first meeting in hopes that I might be able to build a rapport and eventually be able to meet my half siblings with his blessing.
He told me about the colon cancer and heart disease that ran in his family. I was glad to learn about that so I could at least tell my doctor at my next appointment. Jerry talked about how they used to play basketball together in Brooklyn when they were kids. Jerry had grown up in Brooklyn while Stuart was raised on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. I was happy to hear all of this information, and thought to myself, “Gee, for someone who claims he doesn’t think he’s my birth father, he’s really giving me a lot of personal information.” But I kept those thoughts to myself, of course.
When they were finished, I told them a little bit about myself and my family and I showed them a quick video of my son Justin scoring a goal in soccer. I was a proud dad. I had brought some pictures of my kids with me, and I asked if they wanted to see them. Jerry said no for both of them. I was a little bit taken aback, and then he asked Stuart to go wait in the other room. After Stuart left, Jerry said there was a lot of emotion going on and that things were going to take time. He humored me and looked at the pictures, and I asked if I could be back in touch with him again. He asked me to give it some time, but that we could touch base again. He called Stuart back in and we all said our goodbyes. He said I was a perfect gentleman and that it was a pleasure meeting me. I left feeling pretty good about how it went, all things considered, and immediately began wondering what my next step should be.