It was around three o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, May 14, 2018, the day after Mother’s Day in 2018. I was in my office when I received a call from a young woman asking if I was Linda O’Donnell. I confirmed that I was. She told me this was a very personal call and she could call me at home later if I preferred. I said, “No, I’m good.”
She told me her name was Kelly and she was calling about Daniel William O’Donnell. I said, “Gee, I do not remember my dad having a brother named Daniel,” then continued with saying my Dad was one of eight children who was born and raised in Ozone Park, New York.
Kelly, I believe, stopped me, then added, “and Timothy William O’Donnell.”
I gasped (and I am sure my heart stopped for a moment), then I started to cry. This was the call I had always hoped for. This was about the identical twin boys I placed for adoption when I was a teenager. I was stunned, yet with a racing heart asked all about my boys. Of course, they were not boys anymore, but 52-year-old men! My sons!
I was finally getting answers to all the wondering I had done over the years. I had a closed adoption, so I knew absolutely nothing about what had become of my sons. I was starting at square one. What did they look like? Where did they live? Kelly sent me to Danny’s Facebook page, and I could not stop looking at his photos, so anxious to take him in. This was my son!
This was a dream come true and so long overdue. I used to daydream over the years that my doorbell would ring, and my sons would be standing there. The then-popular song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” always gave me comfort. They had each other, they would be fine.
After speaking with Kelly for quite some time, we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to talk again in a day or two. But, before ending our conversation I asked Kelly if she was related to me in any way, and she said: “Yes, I’m your granddaughter, and you have two great-grandsons”. Oh my, how much joy can one person be given in just one phone call?
Kelly told me her dad was babysitting her little boys and she was anxious to get home to tell him she found me! I immediately texted my friend, Diane. Other than my ex-husband, she was the only person in the world who knew my secret. My text to Diane read, “I just got THE call.” Diane knew! She called me immediately. We just reveled in my news. It meant so much to me to have someone to share this with— someone who understood the importance of this amazing event.
Danny’s search for me began in the spring of 2016. He had called the New York Foundling Hospital. He and his brother, Timmy, always knew they were adopted and were told this was the agency that handled their adoption. After proving who he was, Danny was told the agency’s policy was to redact all identifying information from the paperwork, but that if he looked closely he would find what he needed. He received a twelve-page history in August 2016. It included a detailed report of my appearance, my circumstances at the time of their birth, the fact that their dad was in prison when they were born, and lots of medical information. And, yes, there was one place in the report where Danny was referred to as Daniel William O’Donnell. This was a huge clue, but it sent him off on a tangent because he assumed O’Donnell was his father’s name.
Danny followed up with a DNA test, but that did not provide the information he needed. He was not making much progress in finding me, so he enlisted Kelly to begin a computer search. Kelly stayed up late many nights to learn how to find me. She also took a DNA test. Then she joined a Facebook adoptee group and eventually found a “search angel” who told her O’Donnell was more than likely her dad’s mother’s name, and not his father’s. This changed the course of the search.
After more exploring, the “search angel” found my name. That was when Kelly began hunting for me on Facebook and found quite a few Linda O’Donnell’s. She went through each of them and saw such a strong resemblance between my teenage photo and her dad that she was almost certain I was his mom. The “search angel” told her not to get her hopes up. This was the day before Mother’s Day, and Kelly decided not to tell her dad until she spoke with me. Fortunately, Kelly made that memorable call. The search was now complete!
Kelly and I spoke a few more times. I gave her the name of the boys’ birth father to see if he could be found. I told her I always believed in my heart that I would hear from my sons. I decided I did not want to meet Danny over the phone. I wanted to see him!
So, on May 23, 2018, I got to meet my son, Danny. I thought it best for us to meet at the senior center where I worked, after hours. I do not think I can describe the mounting excitement I felt while I waited for him. When I heard the door open, I took a deep breath and walked out to meet my son. There he stood with a beautiful flowering plant and we just looked at each other. Then we hugged. We spent four solid hours together just talking, laughing, and getting emotional. There was not even one moment of discomfort. It was like we never missed a day of knowing each other. It was pure joy!
He told me he and Timmy always knew they were adopted. They knew I was young and did not have any family support. So, they never felt abandoned, and they never resented or hated me for what I had done. Danny said he always felt a deep connection with me. He believed I was still alive and that he would find me.
We just kept looking at each other. I thought he was so handsome. He thought I was beautiful inside and out. We compared handwriting, our strong points, and favorite TV shows (One of which was Homicide Hunter, and both of us quoted Joe Kenda at the same time: “If you kill, I will find you!”). We discovered we were both optimists and nature lovers, with the same sense of humor and love for the same salad dressing. And we both especially love having a Carvel cake for our birthdays! We had never lived more than 12 miles apart in all the 52 years!
I told him about his sisters, who were only 17 and 18 years younger. He told me all about Kelly and her boys. He also told me Timmy was in the hospital at the time, and he did not think it was a good time to tell Timmy he found me.
Danny decided he wanted to do a “Mommy and Me” get together weekly, so we could get to know each other. We exchanged phone numbers and emails and planned to meet the very next week. What a sweetheart he was!
I must say that meeting absolved me from all the guilt and shame I had carried all those years. It opened my world…. I was free of my secret and just wanted to share my story with everyone I knew. What an amazing gift I had received! I finally told my daughters about my sons. It was emotional, but they both said they would really like to meet their new family members. I was immensely relieved!
I began watching Long Lost Family, which really helped me understand the role of adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents. I always cry during these shows. There are emotions I have hidden for so many years, and these shows allow me to get in touch with all those feelings.
I eventually sent in my own DNA test, just to confirm what we already knew…we are mother and son! I also learned that the timeline I had in my head was incorrect, once I saw a copy of the paperwork Danny got from the New York Foundling Hospital. I thought they were placed for adoption when they were 18 months old. In fact, they were only 12 months old.
We learned that the twins’ father died when he was 56 years old… I was surprised he even lived to that age with his heroin addiction. He lived quite a notorious life and spent 33 of those 56 years in prison!
After knowing each other for just a few short weeks, Danny and I were telling “our story” to everyone we knew. Every time we shared our story, folks got teary-eyed. They were so happy for us. I am now so open about my “big secret.” I find it such a tremendous relief to be able to talk and even brag about my story that was once taboo.
I kept asking Danny about Timmy. For a while Danny told me Timmy was not ready to share me yet. Timmy felt it wasn’t right for him to meet me until their adopted mother knew about me. So, Danny told her about finding me. Even after that though, Timmy made no move to reach out. I suppose he feels he has gotten this far in life without me, so there is no point in meeting now. I do not know. It does hurt that I have never even spoken to him, but I sincerely hope someday I get to meet him.
I wrote to the boys’ adoptive mom and praised her for the wonderful job she had done with the boys, especially considering their adoptive dad died when the boys were only 12 years old.
I got to meet Kelly on June 27th, 2018. It was all so natural; she is such a love. I kept thanking her for the big part she played in finding me. I am really enjoying the wonderful relationship I have with Kelly!
Danny and my youngest daughter, Meredith, met on June 30, 2018. They hit it off right away. We went to the pool in my complex, and I asked to check Danny’s feet. I told him I was always told as a little girl that I had “O’Donnell feet.” So, I wanted to see if he did as well. Danny and I not only have identical feet, but also identical ankles and calves! Much to his dismay, I took a photo of our feet side by side and framed it to display with all my other photos.
Danny met his sister, Alison, on July 27, 2018, along with her son, Harry, Danny’s nephew. They live in Georgia, so we do not get to see them often, but Alison and Danny can spend hours at a time talking on the phone.
On July 28, 2018, my grandson Harry who was age 3, and my great-grandsons Lucas age 2 and Ethan age 5, got to play together for the first time. I had to have been the proudest of grandmothers on that day!
Danny and I live only 5 miles apart. We see each other often, usually going out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. We both love antiques, and he has helped me lug a few real treasures to my home. I enjoy getting his calls and text messages. One of the things he does that makes me giggle with delight is when he phones me and starts with, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”
Although it was complicated, we all managed to be together for parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This extension of our family brought more happiness into my life than I ever thought possible.
For Danny’s 53rd birthday, I bought him 53 birthday cards. Beginning at one year old, I got little boy cards, then teenage and finally adult cards. When he was seventeen, I told him he had a sister, at eighteen I told him he had another sister. Then there was his 21st birthday and all the way up through adulthood, and the return addresses were even from where I was actually living when he was certain ages. I mailed them in groups of ten, and Danny’s mailman thought he had a secret admirer who was stalking him!
I had so much fun making up for that lost time. Danny was so touched with this that he hung all 53 cards up on his wall, and they are still there today. This was kind of a testament that I had been a part of his life all those years, at least in thought.
I have always displayed my greeting cards from my daughters on racks in my bedroom. I just hated to hide these beautiful sentiments. I have had to add two new racks for all the cards I now receive from my son and my granddaughter. It is with heartfelt gratitude that I view this show of love daily. My heart is full!
There is so much more dimension to my life now after the extending of my family. I am so proud to be this new family’s matriarch. Writing for Adoption.com has been a catharsis for me. Putting my memories in order through these articles is like taking books off a shelf one by one, dusting them off, and then replacing them to shine proudly on their shelves for all the world to see.