On a Sunday night, I sat in front of my computer and stared at the screen for a long time.
The name glowed off the screen. In the next minute, the search for a cousin who was adopted at birth was about to come to an end. All I had to do was type his name into Google and I would be connected to a cousin I had wondered about for years.
Back in 1963, my Aunt Gertie had a baby out of wedlock. I didn’t learn of this until I was a young adult. Over the years, I tried to locate my cousin by consulting with an adoption search agency and posting on some forums–but I had so little information to work with.
A few years ago, a group of researchers from the National Institute of Health studied my family’s unusual pattern of hearing loss through five generations. They discovered a mitochondrial mutation that passed from females to children. After the study was completed, I realized that my Aunt Gertie had passed the gene to her son.
I thought about the cousin “out there” and wondered what his life was like. Was his hearing still intact? Was he deaf? Hard of hearing?
With a few keystrokes in Google, I was about to find out.
The website that popped up made me smile in amazement–Brian was deaf! He was a Volunteer Ambassador with Cochlear, a company that provided cochlear implants. He also graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, the same college that my kids were currently attending.
I looked at the time; it was 9 p.m.–on a Sunday night. Should I call him? Or wait until the next day at a more reasonable hour?
I couldn’t contain my excitement. I picked up the phone and dialed. Brian’s wife, Diana, answered. For one brief moment, I didn’t know what to say or how to start, but the words came tumbling out. A few minutes later, I was talking to Brian.
The whole conversation was surreal. There was an instant connection between us–crafted both by genetics and the bond of being deaf. It was a feeling unlike anything I had ever experienced before, a sense of familiarity despite being strangers,
Over the next couple of days, Brian and I emailed, texted, and FaceTimed. I learned about his family and the wonderful childhood he had. We discovered experiences, talents, and activities that were uncannily similar.
We connected on so many different levels. It was as if I knew him all along. We both enjoy writing–and Brian majored in Journalism. We discovered the Deaf community and sign language during our college years. We both love sarcastic wit. We both love, love John Denver music.
Brian is a triathlete and during one of our conversations he asked me, “Do you do triathlons?” My mouth fell open. I had signed up for my first triathlon the day before.
The best part? He loves water skiing. As a teen, beat himself up trying to learn how to barefoot water ski. Do you know how freaking rare it is to find people who barefoot water ski? And here I have a cousin who loves the water!
But it gets even better.
Brian spent years wondering about his birth parents. What were they like? Who was he connected to? He connected briefly with a cousin by phone a few years ago and learned his mother passed away in 1976. His birth father was listed as unknown.
Then Brian learned of a stunning discovery: a co-worker was also his cousin–and they lived in the same town! All these years, he was working with someone from his biological family!
I’m still in awe and amazement at the unfolding of this journey. What a gift it is to be able to bond 50 years later. I can’t wait for the day our paths cross in person. Soon.
Brian and I met in Florida along with my mom, sis, his wife, and daughter. We spent a wonderful evening together getting to know each other more. He’s truly family.
Karen Putz is an author, speaker, and Passion Mentor who helps others unwrap their passions at any age. For fun, she walks on water with the assistance of a rope, boat, and driver. Connect with Karen via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and her website: Ageless Passions.