In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fifth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.  

By La Tonya Owens

Now forty-six years old, I still remember being twelve, when my drunk mother told me, “You have a brother.”

Today I’m the mother of six children and the grandmother of five. My first child was born when I was at the tender age of sixteen, yet I still can’t imagine making the choice to give away even one of my babies.

But my mother made that decision when I was three years old. Mom says she did it for me…I refuse to take the blame for her selfishness. She made that choice without once considering how this would mentally affect ME . . . her firstborn, her pride and joy!

I spent most of my early life being lonely, although I had a brother out there. I could only imagine what his skin complexion must be or the color of his eyes. I often found myself looking into the eyes of strangers, wondering if each one could be him. I don’t know him, but I deeply love him and miss his presence. As a child, I am powerless.

Years pass by and life goes on, until I became of age.

All the questions I had held onto, I began to ask of our grandmother, mother and father, to no avail. Somehow I felt that he would seek us out, wanting answers just as I did.

I began to search the Internet for months, looking for information on hospitals and agencies that dealt with adoption in the 60’s. I was able to narrow down the options but could never get definite answers.

I came across a few sites for adoptees and family members to post information in the case that someone is searching for them. I took all that I knew and things I had speculated, posted and my search had come to an end. I had exhausted all my options.

Eight years have gone by. I gave up hope on my little brother and I ever coming into contact with one another.

It is April 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm. I’m on Facebook and a message pops up on my phone. It reads:

Hi Latonya, my name is David Butts.  I know we don’t know each other, but I’m researching my family history and think we may be related.  I’m wondering if March 1972 holds any significance for you.  If so, it holds a very special significance for me too.  I’d love to be in communication with you if you would like to message me back. 

Hope to hear back from you.  David.

I AM ABSOLUTELY FLOORED! I want to believe . . . but I can’t.  It has been so long. But my prayers were answered! IT’S MY BABY BROTHER!

With every word that we text, the years just flow. My children come running in the room trying to find out what is wrong. I want to tell them, but the tears that have built up over the years rush out all at once.

He sends me a picture of his birth certificate. I could actually see the birth certificate of my brother. I first notice that his birth name has been changed from Ricardo and that my birth was also recorded on the bottom right corner, along with a separate birth I wasn’t aware of; that child did not survive. His birthday really stands out to me. He was born on March 20th and my birth date is March 19th.

David and I messaged till almost 6 pm. Even though all the questions and emotions were clearly apparent between us, I don’t believe I was ready to actually here his voice.  Messaging was just safe.

Later that evening, my brother called me. He sounded so very compassionate and very well educated. I no longer had to imagine how he was feeling. I could hear the cracking in his voice. It made me want to comfort my little brother, to tell him that he doesn’t have to live without me anymore. I’m here now and no one can separate us again. I don’t think of him as a now 40+ year-old man. In my mind, he was still my little brother that I had lost.

I couldn’t help but think of our other brother and our parents. As much as I wanted to keep David all to myself, I couldn’t do to our younger brother what our mother had done to me. I couldn’t keep him from knowing David. They deserved to know each. other.

I texted our younger brother (twenty-two years old) and told him that I had something very important to share with him and I didn’t want anyone else there, except our mom.

Mom had denied ever telling me about David for all these years. Now I have proof. I’m going there ready for a mental battle, armed with a picture and a certificate copy. I needed Mom to face this secret that she has held on to for dear life.

We sat at the kitchen table and I informed them that a family member had contacted me.  I pulled my phone out and asked her if she knew who the picture (David) looked like.

I was prepared to show her the birth certificate. But as soon as she saw the picture, she said, “That’s my son, THANK YOU JESUS..IT’S OVER. God, I know you only left me here for this! Thank you Jesus, I can lay down in peace!”

I swear it seemed that I saw the burden lift off her shoulders as she prayed. I felt sincere compassion for this woman that I had had no forgiveness for. I got David on the phone; she had waited long enough to hear her son’s voice.

Our youngest brother just sat there . . . emotionless, attempting to process what had just happened.

One week later, my brother David came to my home.

I walked in the room where he was standing, and it all seemed so surreal. We held each other; I didn’t wanna let him go. I had imagined this moment most of my life.

Today, I know where he is, and I can contact him, but I still miss him. I miss the life that we could have shared, the memories that were stolen from me. I miss his first date, his first graduation. Our lives are so very different from the other now. To this day, I have so many unresolved resentments towards our parents for having the right to choose for HIM and me, how separate our lives would be.

I love him dearly . . . but I still miss him.

La Tonya Owens of Cleveland, Ohio is a forty-six-year-old mother of six, a photographer, and small business owner. She welcomed her 6th grandchild just one week before meeting her forty-three-year-old brother.

La Tonya’s brother David also wrote an essay for this year’s series. Read it here.

Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by award-winning author Carrie GoldmanFollow Carrie’s work on Twitter and Facebook

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