I nervously dialed the number of the attorney who reached out to me on behalf of my birth father. His name was Jerry. I had rehearsed my pitch as well as my planned response to any one of a number of potential questions I thought he might ask. I hoped the conversation would at least be cordial and that he wouldn’t threaten me or say he was taking me to court for harassment or something. All I wanted to do was meet the guy. I didn’t want to cause any trouble.
A woman answered, and I asked for Jerry. She put me on hold to see if he was available, and he was. I told him my name, and he knew who I was right away. He reiterated that he had reached out on behalf of his cousin, Stuart, to whom I had been writing. He asked me to explain to him what I knew and what I wanted. I said that I believed that Stuart was my birth father, and I just wanted a chance to meet him and talk to him because I wanted to know my roots.
He then said something that made my heart sink. “I don’t think he’s the guy.” I knew differently, and I knew it was going to continue to be a battle. I said that I didn’t want to cause a disturbance and that I believed I had the right guy. All I wanted, I said, was to have a chance to meet him, talk to him, and ask him some basic questions about my background and roots. What was my heritage? What was my medical history? Basic questions that many folks take for granted that I didn’t have the answers to.
I had no idea where the conversation was going next. After some more probing, Jerry said, “I’m going to recommend to Stuart that the three of us meet in my office.” He said he’d call me in about a week with a date and time. I hung up the phone and a rush of emotions came over me. I had hope. Maybe this was an icebreaker and he wanted to see how I would conduct myself. But I also had fear. What would I do? I would be going to a strange place alone with two grown men who could potentially have malicious intentions.
I went back and forth in my thoughts over the next week, waiting for the call to find out when we would meet. I considered saying that I wanted to bring someone with me, but I didn’t want to jeopardize what I thought might be my one chance to make a positive impression. I thought if I started throwing conditions on the meeting, that he’d just say forget it, and I just couldn’t take that chance.
He called the next week. It was early August, and he said the meeting would be on August 25th at 4:30 at his office in Manhattan. I had three weeks to think about how I would approach it. Three weeks filled with anxiety. I wanted someone with me, at least for the trip. I spoke with my wife, Margaret, and she agreed to come. She would travel with me and wait in the lobby while I went in. I couldn’t stop thinking about every possible scenario. What would I say? More importantly, how would I get out of a potentially malicious situation? I didn’t know. And I began having sleepless nights leading up to the big day.