I sat on the letter I received from my birth mother, Peggy. It was still sinking in. I had found her, and she was interested in meeting me. It’s hard to describe the waves of emotions that passed through me as I contemplated making that first phone call. I was ready. No, I wasn’t. Maybe I’ll do it later this evening. Maybe tomorrow. What would I say? What would she say?
Finally, I found a time. I started dialing. I hung up. I dialed again and heard the first ring. Too late to hang up now! There was an answer. It was a man’s voice. “May I please speak with Peggy?” I asked. “Who’s calling?” he replied. “It’s Tom Andriola.” He knew right away who I was, and seemed to be anticipating my call. “She’s not home right now, but I’ll tell her you called.” We spoke for a little while longer and then said good-bye.
I was disappointed she wasn’t there when I called. I had conjured up all my energy to make the call, and now I would have to wait. But it wasn’t long before the phone rang and Peggy was on the other end. So many years had gone by, and I didn’t really know what to say. Neither did she. But we spoke for a while anyway, and made arrangements to have Sunday Brunch together on September 7th, the day after her niece’s wedding in Saratoga Springs.
My wife, Margaret, and I drove up to the Gideon Putnam on the morning of the 7th for the big meeting. Peggy was going to be there with her husband, Ray, so Margaret and I were going to go together, as well. We arrived and made our way to the entrance. We saw a man and a woman waiting there as we approached. Oh my God. It was my birth mother!
I asked the woman if she was Peggy, and she said yes. I said that I was Tom, and we hugged. We introduced each other to our spouses, and then went inside to sit down. Nobody seemed to know where to start with the conversation, but we managed, and decided to go for a walk when we were finished. Peggy and I sat down together on a bench, and Margaret and Ray left us to talk.
She told me a little more about the circumstances of the time. Some of her siblings never even knew she had been pregnant! One of her sisters had been the one to open my letter when it first arrived, and she never even knew her sister had had a baby! Wow! I never even contemplated a scenario like that! Times were just so different in 1971, and that’s kind of the way it was then.
Peggy showed me pictures of her family, and then she came to one she had saved of me. I had the identical picture that my mom had given me. How wild! She showed me a yearbook picture of my birth father and told me a little bit about him. At that time, I didn’t have much interest in knowing much more than the basics about him. The impression I had was that he didn’t act responsibly, and I just couldn’t deal with the emotions that came along with that. Those sentiments would change over time, but my feelings were pretty raw then.
I asked Peggy if she had any other children, and she said no. Wow! That was another piece of information I wasn’t expecting. I had always assumed that my birth mother, whoever she was, would have gone on to have a family and that I had some half siblings out there somewhere. I’m not sure why I thought that, but I did. She told me she had been married to someone else for many years, and then divorced. She and Ray were both divorcees, and they didn’t have any children together.
For me, the day was an emotional roller coaster, and I was completely drained when I got home. I had met my birth mother, learned a lot about my biological roots, and needed time to process everything. We had agreed to stay in touch, to meet again. I wasn’t sure exactly when it would be, but the door was now open. I was no longer fantasizing about who my birth mother was and what the circumstances surrounding my birth were. This was real, and there was no turning back.