Even though I felt confident that I could "handle" meeting Frank—that my happiness or sense of identity did not hinge on what he thought of me—I still saw some value in protecting my heart a little. So as we arranged to meet, I set some ground rules. First, we would meet at a neutral location. Frank and Janet had volunteered to come to our house, but that was a little too… personal for me. Instead, we chose a restaurant in Amish country, which somehow seemed like the perfect place. It was a warm, friendly environment, where there would be lots of food to fill any voids in conversation. J It was also far enough from either of our homes so that it felt… safe. I don't mean physically safe—that was never a concern for me—I just wanted to meet him somewhere that was not part of my normal life. Somewhere that I wouldn't run into other people I knew, somewhere that I wouldn't associate with him every time I drove by (if things went badly). Does that make sense at all?
Anyway, second on my list were the kids: They wouldn't be there. This was actually for multiple reasons. Not only was I protecting a little bit of my heart and privacy, it's also quite difficult to have any type of prolonged conversation with a 1-year-old and almost-2-year-old hanging around. Frank and Janet were very understanding about this, and we set a date and time for the four of us to sit down together for lunch.
Even now I'm shaking my head in disbelief. It is somewhat surreal to go from this… theory of being adopted and having a biological father out there, to basically going on a double-date with him and his wife… who just happens to be the woman who helped me to locate him in the first place… and also a woman with whom I had developed some sort of strange family bond over the past several years. How had it come to this?
And then the day came. On May 24, 2008, Jon and I dropped the kids off at my parents' house, then headed south to meet my biological father. Wow. (And no, I didn't remember the date—I had to look it up on my calendar.) On the way down, they called for some reason or another—maybe to check and see how close we were, I can't quite remember—but it went to my voicemail. I checked the message, and it was just so odd to hear Janet's voice after so many years of exchanging e-mails. Then I called back to answer whatever question they had asked… and Frank answered. It was the first time I had ever heard his voice, either. And it was so weird that our first conversation would be something like, "Yeah, we'll be there in about 15 minutes……….. Oh, you're in line? OK, we'll see you there." Not anything of significance.
By the time we pulled into the parking lot, my façade of confidence was gone. I was shaking like a leaf.