I’ve always known I was adopted. My mum and dad never kept that from me, and because of that I never felt different from any of the other kids.
My dad died in 1985 and it hit me very hard. But not as hard as my mum. She rallied and became a very strong and independent lady. She was slightly disabled after having polio as a young woman, then from breaking her leg very badly, twice, in successive years. The breaks in her leg were roughly in the same place and were accrued while doing the same task! She never complained.
I moved away but never for one nanosecond forgot them. We spoke on the phone almost every day. Whenever I was in town or near their home, I dropped in! We also did all the usual family things like honor birthdays, celebrate Christmas, etc. Well why not? We were a family.
After my dad died, I used to go to see Mum every week and do some shopping. Then I’d stay over and sit with her for the evening. One particular evening we were watching TV and for no apparent reason she turned to me and said, “I think you should try and find your Mother.” As you can imagine, I was quite stunned! But we talked about it and that’s where my search began!
I had no idea where to start, but my mum did tell me the name of my birth mother.
I was born James Michael Edis! She also put me in touch with an organization called NORCAP, who help adoptees trace their birth mothers. Because of my age, I had to go for counseling to make certain I knew what I was doing and to prepare for the possibility of rejection. This allowed me to apply for my original birth certificate. Because I knew my name at birth and my birth date I was able to find my birth record very easily. This saved me months of searching, thanks to Mum!
Of course, this record gave me the name and birth date of my birth mother. My mum had also told me that my adoption had been arranged through Buckinghamshire County Council. I contacted them and they arranged to have all the documents relating to my adoption available. I copied everything!
From there I followed the guidance of NORCAP and went through hundreds and hundreds of marriage records looking for a marriage of my mother -– JEAN EDIS. I found three marriages of a Jean Edis, all with the same birthday! The council records told me that Jean was a nurse and was stationed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. One of the marriages I found was Jean Edis to Robert Mathis, an American army man.
The records also gave me the name of my birth father, who was also in the RAF.
After searching through thousands of records in Oxford library and seemingly getting nowhere, I returned to the marriage of Jean to Robert Mathis. Working on the assumption that my birth father was in uniform, my birth mother was a nurse, and that Robert Mathis was also in uniform, I ran with this and contacted the Veterans Department in Philadelphia.
My mum died in 1993. It was a hard time for me but my best friend got me through it. My search was put on hold for a year.
I wrote to the Veterans Department again and told them what I was doing. To my amazement they replied with a letter stating:
If you wish to contact Mr. Mathis, please write a short letter containing no form of contact whatsoever. Put it in an unmarked envelope and if it meets all our criteria, we will forward it.
The feeling I had when I read that letter was unbelievable. But it could still end in disappointment.
I sent the letter and waited.
OnFebruary 13th, 1995, I had a first date with the lady who is now the love of my life and my wife. The second date was on Friday,February 17th. We went out again and on return I checked my telephone answering machine and heard the following:
Michael, my name is Pat Mathis. My mother is Jean Edis. My number is ……….. Please give me a call.
I seem to remember my knees giving way! We played the message over and over again. I contacted my friend at NORCAP and she told me to take a deep breath! Then she gave me a series of “control” questions in order to make sure this was the right contact.
OnFebruary 19th, at 6pm (to allow for time difference), I called the number left for me by Pat Mathis.
I won’t go into the conversation but I couldn’t get a word in, let alone ask my “control”questions! So I interrupted and asked Pat if her mother’s birthday was …….. It all went quiet and I thought I had ruined everything.
Pat came back on the line and told me she was my half sister! I know now that during the pause she had turned to her dad and said, “This guys says he’s my brother.” Her dad, Robert Mathis, said, “YES, HE IS!”
And I guess the rest is history.
Unfortunately, I never got to meet Jean. She died in 1993. I’ve always considered that losing two mothers in the same year was very careless!
In September 1995, we flew to Houston to meet my sister! I also got to meet one of my brothers who flew in from Los Angeles. I have another brother in Philadelphia. We all had another brother who sadly died in 2000 from cancer. I did get to meet him in January of that year.
From being an only child in England, I now have brothers, a sister, nephews and nieces, and now a great-nephew and great-niece. We are in regular contact and I have been over many times.
The highlight, however, was in 2000 when my lady (Lyndy) and I got married and my sister flew to England for the wedding.