The Power of Hope
Two Years Later…
“This place is awesome!” I was so excited! Jim stood next to me as I examined the master closet. It was nearly half the size of our previous bedroom.
“It’s bigger than I remember in here!” Jim was equally excited.
We were moving into a townhouse in downtown Huntington Beach. Jim’s dad, Karl, had approached us and asked how we felt about moving into this place. He didn’t have to ask us twice. Karl owned it and had lived in it himself when Jim and Bebe were little kids. After Karl moved out, he kept it as a rental property. Now, he was offering the beach pad to us and for a very low cost. We would never have been able to afford a place like this in this location, otherwise. It was a three bedroom, 3 bath, had an attached garage, a perfectly sized patio and best of all, it had a pool. It would be so nice to have a garage and not have to search for a parking spot every time I came from work. It was just the two of us, along with our cats, so we turned one of the bedrooms into an office and the other into a catch all where all things landed that had no place. It was our junk room. The location couldn’t be more perfect; we would be able to ride our bikes to the beach and walk to restaurants and grocery stores. Karl had definitely blessed us.
Two years had passed since I began my diligent search for my brother and sister. I spent time almost every day searching. Several times I thought I had found them. I would call phone numbers off sheets of paper I purchased from people finders. I went to the public library and copied all of the matches that I could find from phone books. It was unbelievable to me that so many people in the United States had matching names, birthdates and even matching sibling names. Not knowing if Chris and Dani were still living with their birth names, I came up with several different combinations I thought their names could possibly be by mixing their maternal side with our paternal side. I never knew if I was on the right track and I was getting frustrated.
I had a few “heart to hearts” with my Dad and let him know what I was up to. If we really wanted to find my brother and sister, I had to pry. I had tons of unanswered questions; a lot of preconceived notions that may or may not have been true. I needed names, dates and locations. I needed access to public records and certificates. I knew it was going to be especially painful for my dad because, essentially, I was asking him to relive it all over again.
During all of my searching I had found a ‘Chris’ that fit all of the criteria. I even went a little kooky and stalked him a few times to see if there was any family resemblance. He lived right next to Central Park just a few miles away from our parent’s house. I drove over there several times on my lunch break hoping to get a glimpse of who I thought was my brother. Maybe I’d even be doubly lucky and my sister would be living there too! The first time I actually saw him I was 100% convinced it was ‘our’ Chris. He had dark brown hair, blue eyes and was stalky like my dad. Once I saw the similarities I made my little brother, Duane my stalker accomplice. I wanted to see if he thought this ‘Chris’ looked like one of us. He thought he did too.
That next afternoon I got enough nerve to approach him as he was sweeping his driveway. The butterflies in my stomach were somersaulting and my hands were trembling and clammy.
“Ummm, Hi, Chris?” it was more of a question than a greeting.
“Yes?” his raised eyebrows told me he was trying to figure out if he knew me or not.
“My name is Darla and I’ve been looking for my lost family members. Their names are Chris and Danielle Hill. They are my brother and sister and I think they would’ve been about your age.” I studied his face. His blue eyes were just as piercing as my Dad’s and his almost black hair was identical to Duane’s. The only difference was a large scar that went clear across his scalp, from behind his ear and up over the crown. I immediately felt concerned for him. I wondered what had happened.
“I really can’t answer your question. Not because I don’t want to help you but because I have no idea who I am.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” I was beginning to feel like a fool.
“I was abandoned when I was five or six. I’m not really sure of my age because I don’t know when my official birthday is. I used the day I was adopted as my birthday. I have a vague memory of having a sister, but I really don’t know for sure. The girl could’ve been a cousin or something.” He spoke in a monotone voice and seemed so unbothered by what he was saying.
I didn’t know what to say. I stood there and stared at him and thought of the sorrow and feelings of abandonment he must’ve experienced. Whether he was my brother or not, I knew in an instant that on some level my siblings must’ve had the same feelings. Some sadness came over me. Every child deserves to feel unconditional love, first and foremost. No child should ever experience feelings of being unloved or unwanted. I so badly wanted this to be Chris and Dani so that they could know how much they are loved and wanted.
“I’ll tell you what. Let me talk to my wife and dig up some old pictures. I’ll meet you for coffee tomorrow afternoon. That would be pretty cool if you are my sister.” He smiled, I gave him my number and we met the next afternoon. I took my sister Kim with me because 1st, I needed moral support and 2nd, she had many more memories of them than I did. She could remember specific events and dates. The three of us weren’t able to come to any conclusions but it was clear that Chris wanted to know where he came from. He was a great guy and we laughed a lot during our conversation. In the end, he agreed to meet Dad the evening after that. I hadn’t even told my dad that I had found them yet.
I took Dad over there, convinced we had just solved the biggest mystery on earth. I introduced the two of them, they were both nervous. Dad had brought a school picture of Chris to see if there was a match. We compared them to the only picture the ‘new’ Chris had and it was very apparent that it wasn’t the same little boy. It suddenly went silent and the disappointment hung like a heavy black rain cloud.
After we left Chris’s home that night, Dad and I sat in the park and talked about what had just happened.
“I’m sorry, Dad.” I was near tears. “I really thought it was him this time. I mean, I really, really believed it was him; his eyes, his hair, everything!”
I felt an overpowering flood of guilt for dragging my dad here for nothing. Talk about an emotional letdown. Never mind I’d been asking him tons of hard questions and I know it’s painful for Dad to answer them. I’ve been opening all of these old wounds that never really healed. Every time I thought I found them, and it wasn’t them, was like an avalanche of discouragement.
With tears in his eyes he said, “Thank you for what you’ve been doing. It isn’t your fault it wasn’t Chris.” He was sad.
“I guess I just need to know if you really want me continue with the search, Dad. I know this is hard. I have no idea what your thoughts and feelings are on this. I have no idea what I’m doing or if I’m chasing something that will never become a reality. If you want me to stop searching, I will. If you want me to continue, I will. I need to hear you tell me what you want.” I took a huge deep breath.
“I want, more than anything in the world, to find my kids. I know that if God wants us to be reunited, we will be. I put this situation in God’s hands a long time ago. If my kids don’t want to have anything to do with me, my heart will be crushed. I’ve never stopped wanting them or praying they will come home. They’re the reason that we never moved houses or changed our phone number in 25 years! I believe they’ll come back. If nothing else, I pray that I can have just five minutes. Five minutes to let them know my heart and how much I love and have missed them.” He was crying now. This conversation marked the third time I’ve seen my dad cry. Again, it was for the pain of his kids.
“Then I promise you Dad, I will find them, dead or alive, and you will get your five minutes.” Even if he only got to have five minutes with them it would be five minutes longer than I would ever get with Machaela. I’d give my right arm to have five more minutes with her.
He smiled at me through his tears. I’m not really sure if he believed I’d ever find them. I do think he believed that if it was God’s will, he’d definitely be seeing them again. The question was, is this God’s will?
Dad never talked about his feelings. Every once in a while he’d tell us a little about his childhood and my grandparent’s food truck. I knew very little about my Dad’s young adult life other than he went to Vietnam. That topic was taboo. All I knew about his experience there was that he came home with shrapnel fragments embedded in his body and was never able to sit with his back to a door again. Us kids were never allowed to scare him because, if we did, he may reflexively come back swinging.
By now, the desire to find them was burning like midnight oil twenty four hours a day. Some would say it was really good for me others thought it was a little unhealthy. Non the less, I always found myself in our office scouring documents and faces. In the beginning of the search I had used 800-US-search. I had seen the commercial so many times and it was always the same. The young beautiful girl would be running with open arms into the arms of the long lost beautiful family member. They would meet, embrace each other and tears of happiness would be streaming down their cheeks.
I wanted that. I wanted that so bad.
I wanted that for my Dad and I wanted it for our entire family. That visualization was repeated in my mind several times a day, except that I had replaced the faces in the commercial with my dad’s and sister’s. Sometimes I’d mix it up and daydream that Dad was running into the arms of Chris or I was running into the arms of Dani. I had no idea what either of them looked like as an adult but had spent hours comparing my childhood pictures with theirs. I knew they both had the same vibrant blue eyes just like my dad and Duane. We all had the same dark brown hair. We had similar shaped faces and the same hair line. I wondered if Dani was taller than my 4’11 height and if she was married or had kids. I wondered if Chris was a hunter and outdoorsman like Dad and Duane. I wondered a lot.
Once I realized US search wasn’t panning out to match the jovial commercials, I started to write letters to talk show hosts and asked them for help. There were never any responses. I looked into hiring a private investigator. After months of working with him, and still no Chris or Dani, he told me that they were probably dead, in jail, or living with a completely different alias. At this point, I quit telling people when I thought I had a hot lead. It always resulted in bad news.
What do I do now? This is what these people do for a living. If they couldn’t find them how would I? I was becoming extremely discouraged. Jim finally put his foot down and said I needed to take a break from the search for a while. Maybe taking a few months off would give me fresh eyes and the timing would be perfect. Who knows, maybe he was right. I was tired of running my head into a brick wall anyhow. I promised to take a break but not to give up.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to suceed is always to try just one more time.”
“By perseverance the snail reached the arch.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon