5 years ago today, my birth father passed away; one month before I lost my baby, and over 2 years before I found him.
I wish I could have met him. There are times I’m sad I didn’t get the opportunity to grow up with him and his side of the family, but I am eternally grateful I found them at all. It took nearly 20 years for me to find him.
I swear to you, I feel he must have helped guide me to find my sister so I could connect with her and the rest of his side of the family. The series of incredible luck it took for me to find her was just amazing. One right after the other in a rapid succession within hours.
My birth mother gave me two names to find him; his name and his cousin. His cousin’s name was unusual enough that I knew it would be easier to find him than Butch. Since 1995 I regularly search online for Butch and his cousin, but I was never able to turn up any results. I would call information in Hawaii looking for either of them. I had even talked with someone from a veterans group to help search for his service records. What I didn’t know was that Butch wasn’t his real name. I later learned it was a family nickname. This explained the great difficulty in locating him .
In 2011, and as it turned out, just weeks after he passed away, I did a search, like I had done so many times before, for his cousin. For the first time I got a hit. I got an actual street address for him. I wrote down the address and then stared at it for a long time.
I mean, what do you write to the cousin of your birth father, a man who never knew you existed, and it’s been over 40 years? “Uh, hey! So I’m your cousin’s unknown 41-year-old daughter and, uh, I just wanted to say hi.”
So I sat on the address.
In 2014 Chris and I were preparing for our big wedding and I was in the midst of writing out the wedding invitations. I turned the page on the notebook I was using and there was the cousin’s address… staring at me. Well, I was already in letter writing mode and I figured one more couldn’t hurt. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? They don’t respond, or it gets returned. Then I was no worse off than I already was.
I grabbed a blank card and proceed to write-up a basic letter with my origin story. I started with who I was, why I was writing, the story my birth mother gave me about the cousin and my birth father, and the various ways I can be contacted. I even told them to Google me, there’s plenty of pages and video interviews out there if they need more info.
I will admit, there was a tiny part of me that worried they’d see I was a witch and simply never bother to contact me. However, there was nothing I could do to change that fact. Fact is I’m as out of the broom closet as one can get.
About a week went by and a woman I believe was the cousin’s wife friended me on Facebook. I woke to find the notification and was in minor shock. I think I called Chris at work quite excited about it. I spent about an hour or so looking at her page, mostly scanning her friends list to see if a Butch or anyone with his last name was among the many names. At the time I didn’t find anything.
I scanned her page, saw a neat hula video, and pressed “like”. That did it! She not only unfriended me, she blocked me completely. I was incredibly devastated. This was the closest I had ever come to finding him in nearly 20 years since I found my birth mother and learned who he was and it seemed that my best connection to find him was now gone. I was beside myself and unsure what happened or what I should do next.
Fortunately, I remembered some of the names on her list, like her daughters’ names. Oddly, this was the breakthrough I needed! Within the friends lists of her daughters’ I was able to find tons of people with my father’s last name. Every profile with his last name I opened as a new tab. I had over 20 tabs open. I scanned the names and came across two women of which I thought at least one might be his wife. Later I learned I was right on the second name. I searched both of their profiles for Butch, but at the time I didn’t find anything.
I went through a lot of info, scanning for anything that might help me connect with Butch. While I was going back and forth through the profiles I kept going back to the second woman’s page and somehow I opened up a photo album I hadn’t found previously that just happened to be nothing but pics of Butch. I looked at the caption and realized I found him! To be honest I was beginning to think the info my birth mother gave me was incorrect, but there he was.
Just then my father, Ron, walked down the stairs. Coincidentally he was heading to the airport to spend the week at a family reunion. I started yelling, “I found him!” as Dad was walking toward me. I was so excited! Dad walked over, I pointed at the computer screen to show him. He was really happy for me.
The first pic was of Butch in the early 70s, not long after returning to Hawaii from the Vietnam War. More pics after that showed him in uniform in various countries.
Eventually I realized all the images were posted on the same day. Then as I read the picture comments it took a second to sink in. They were all past tense.
I then paid more attention to exactly what people were writing and realized he had indeed passed away. I missed him by just over 2 years. My heart sank. I sat there for a while crying over a man I never got to meet and who never knew I existed.
As I sat staring at one picture I read a comment from one woman, “Daddy was…” Daddy? I have a sister!
I already had her profile open among the many tabs still open. I went through her profile and discovered she ran a Hawaiian language and culture organization in Las Vegas. I opened the link to the organization’s website, but discovered there was no phone number and the link to their Facebook page was not functioning. Most of the info on the page seemed to be about 2 years out of date. I really wanted a phone number. The idea of trying to reach her by email seemed like my chances were less likely to connect with her if I didn’t have direct communication. I searched on FB directly to find the organizations page and much to my relief there was a Las Vegas phone number.
I admit, I kinda freaked out for a minute before making the call. Like the letter to the cousin, what does one say to a sibling that did not know you existed? I mean, these are weird conversations and I hadn’t yet found a Hallmark card that was suitable for this situation.
I was worried if I called her she might be defensive and possibly not believe me. I was so worried about being rejected, but I sucked it up and called her.
For a change I exposed my blocked number so she wouldn’t think I was a telemarketer. However, I got the voice mail and unfortunately, it was not in English. It was all in Hawaiian and I sat there stumped. I had no idea what it said and when the beep came I had no idea what to say, so I hung up. Fortunately, because I didn’t keep my number blocked, she called me right back. She asked if anyone called from my phone number. I said yes and told her, “this is likely to be the strangest phone call you’re ever going to get” to which she replied, “it already is.” I then explained, “if you’re who I think you are then I’m your sister”. I feared I’d hear the phone disconnect, but she was still there so I told her the story I was given from my birth mom about her time dating Butch. I gave her all the info I was given. For my sister, the info matched up. We talked for 45 minutes that day.
This all began around 11am that day and I was on the phone talking with my sister by 5pm. It was a crazy emotional rollercoaster day.
As luck would have it I was planning to be in Las Vegas the week after our wedding for a friend’s wedding. We chose to meet that Sunday for dinner. My husband sat there listening to us talk. He observed that my sister and I lead different, but very parallel lives.
I’m sad Butch isn’t here to meet me, but I’m grateful to have found his family. They’ve been just amazing. Hopefully, next year I can travel to Hawaii to meet the rest of the family.
My father and his brothers formed a band, Kona Blend. They put out two albums that can be found on YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon. This is the first song my sister introduced me to as we were driving around Las Vegas on our way to an amazing Hawaiian place for lunch. That’s my birth father, Butch, singing.
Original Release Date: April 26, 1979