Monday, May 18, 2015

Anniversary

In early April 1998, I found myself standing in front of the mailbox. I was sending in a registration form to the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR). My search had officially started.

Just a couple of weeks later, my husband and I were enjoying some post-work, homemade margaritas on a Friday night at our house. Happy hour had officially begun and the weekend lay ahead in all of its no-work-required glory. I was three quarters of the way through my second margarita when the phone rang. It was around 8 p.m. in the evening.

The caller identified herself as a volunteer with ISRR, confirmed that I was the person she was trying to reach and asked if I had a few moments to talk. She explained that they had received my registration form and believed there was a match. Your father, she told me, had registered six years earlier.

She told me to grab a pen and some paper. Despite my tequila-induced haze, I managed to write down everything she told me. My father’s name. My paternal grandparents’ names. Where they had lived. It was so surreal and such an out-of-mind experience that I didn’t know what was the margaritas and what was simply the reality of the phone call.

My search was over. I had a natural father. And he had been looking for me.

I asked the woman what happened next. She told me that they would send him a letter and once they heard back, they would put us in touch with each other. I said “that’s it?” and she responded “yes, that’s it.” As I laid the phone back down in its cradle, my stomach started doing flip flops. I walked into the other room where my husband was watching television and sipping his margarita. He asked who had called and I told him.


Two weeks went by and I had yet to hear back from the wonderful folks at ISRR. So I decided to call and check in. A letter had been sent to my father at his most recent address which was an APO. Thanks to my Army soldier brother-in-law, I knew this meant that my father was in the military and that he was overseas. I also knew that if he was out in the field, it could take a while for that letter to reach him.

It took another week. On the afternoon of May 18, 1998, the woman from ISRR called me at my office. She had just spoken with my Army Major father. He was stationed in Panama, had to attend a function with foreign dignitaries that evening and wanted to call me afterward. The woman said if this was okay by me, than her work there was done.

That night I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. How do you pass the time while waiting for the most important moment of your life to occur? I ended up sitting in silence on my living room sofa staring at the phone which sat on the coffee table.

The phone rang just after 10 p.m. and I heard my father’s voice for the first time. His speech was strong and loud, just like mine. We had the same laugh. He was so happy that I had a New York accent. We stayed on the phone for three hours during which time he shared that I was his only child by birth.

The similarities between us were nothing short of astounding. My father had been an English major in college. While in school, he worked in New York City laying out newspaper pages. He found himself unable to complete his college requirements after losing me. So he enlisted in the Army. In 1998, he was overseeing the television and radio stations for members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Central America.

During my undergraduate years, I majored in communications with a focus on journalism and served as the layout director of my campus newspaper. At the time my father and I found each other, I was working as a public relations representative for a nonprofit organization. Before that, I had worked as a newspaper reporter, an advertising account manager and a marketing copywriter.

Like father, like daughter.

I didn’t want hang up the phone that night. I was afraid that if I did, it would all be over. Or a dream. Or some cosmic joke.

It was none of those things.

Happy May 18th, Dad.


Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first. www.juliegmstromberg.com

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