Thursday, October 9, 2014

CHAPTER 4: GENEALOGY NINJA


     I spent the remainder of my Cruise Ship contract (four months) in heightened anticipation of  the "next step". I had plenty of down time to imagine where Lynette and Malcolm might be now.  I had no expectations that they might still be together.  There were no fantasies about the two of them pining away for their lost little girl.  I always just knew that I was probably an unplanned pregnancy and my mother ultimately made the choice to have someone else raise me.  I never consciously had abandonment issues and whatever issues I may have had with my adoptive parents (and I did), I never blamed the woman who had relinquished her rights to me.  Deep down in my heart, I knew that she had acted out of love.  I had no idea what I would say once I found her- but I've always wanted her to know that I understand and validate the choice she made. I've been told that I had an unusually evolved take on it- even as a small child.  I seemed to have the clarity to realize that "abandonment" is done selfishly and out of malice.  She obviously had taken the steps to be sure that I was going to be taken care of. 

     I tried out my "name" in various forms.  Katrina Ellen Priest.  Katie Priest.  Kat.  I had already given the green light for the Agency (Copelen St) to contact my birth parents, explain to them that I was reaching out, and try to set up a reunion of sorts.  I had been told, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to take this step without the guidance and expertise of their organization.  I don't know if this was a law, but judging by the way they relayed this "rule" I just assumed that it was. 

     I finished my contract in February of 1989.  No sooner had I crossed the threshold of my parents Huntington Beach home that I rushed to my pile of mail that had accumulated for the past six months.  My parents knew that I was going through this process, so I figured if there had been something that looked "official" they would have given me a "heads up". I wasn't surprised that there was nothing there, nor any phone messages.  That's OK, I'll just give them a call.  I waited until the time in Australia would be "business hours" and dialed the number.  I asked for Mandy Bloom, my case worker.  Mandy got on the line and very patiently explained that they were in the process of making contact by mail, and that these things take time.  It may be a few more weeks before I hear anything.  OK, what had they been doing for the past four months??  I've never been one to have patience.  I'm sure I was not the only adoptee that they were helping.  I was disappointed, but encouraged that I would hear something soon.

     Two months later, after still no word, I decided that I had been plenty patient. To not, at least, have been given an update gave me more than enough license to just check in.   To my utter chagrin, I was informed that Mandy no longer worked there and that her case load was in the process of being doled out to other counsellors.  Ugh.  You've got to be kidding me.  The lady on the other end of the line made an attempt to bolster my spirits by telling me that a letter had been sent to my fathers last address, but it had been returned.  I would just have to be patient and wait…..longer.
From the way that she had told me about the returned letter, it sounded as if that was all they were willing to do as far as finding my father.  If he refused to respond or the letter was returned unopened then that was all the Copelen St Centre was obligated to do.  If my mother also refused- game over.

     That was not alright with me.  As far as I knew, my case was at the bottom of someones work pile and would possibly never be given the attention that it required.  Then it hit me.  As was (and is) my way, I needed to take things into my own hands.  I had more than enough information to, at the very least, begin researching.  Nobody was more motivated than me.


     Allow me to remind you that, as it was 1989, there was no internet, no google, heck, we didn't even own a computer (not that I would have known how to turn one on).  All I had was my parents trusty touchtone phone and a nice lady called an "operator" who would connect me to the "information operator" for the small suburb of Mt. Macedon.  Like most australians, particularly women, the operator was soft spoken, professional and friendly.  The pleasant evenness of her voice didn't faulter as I explained to her that I needed the number of every "Priest" listed in the Macedon area- starting with the 'L's.  

     Melbourne, Australia, is 18 hours ahead of Los Angeles.  As it was approximately 5.00  in the afternoon my time, that would make it approximately 11.00 am there.  So, figuring that I had nothing to lose (except the cost of possibly several international phone calls) I took a deep breath, put my confident big girl voice on, and started dialing.  I honestly can't recall how long it took- but seriously- possibly the 2nd or 3rd I connected with a lovely lady.  Here's a demi-transcript of our conversation.

"Hello, I'm sorry to bother you.  I'm looking for a Lynette Priest."
"There's nobody here named Lynette.  Priest is my husbands name."
"Oh, he wouldn't by chance have a relative named Lynette?"
"No, sorry.  You know what though, I went to High School with a girl named Lynette Priest."
"Really?  How old are you?"
"45"
"This was in the Macedon area?"
"Yes"
"Was she quite tall?"
"I suppose so.  I haven't seen her in at least 25 years."

Then.

"Look, you're calling from so far away, why don't I call around town for you and see if I can find anything out.  You can call me back in 24 hours."
"Seriously?  That would be so kind.  Thank you so much."

     So, this complete stranger offered to do this extraordinary thing for me- no questions asked.  Maybe it's something in my phone manner.  I think I was so taken aback by this stroke of kindness that I suspended my phone calls for the next twenty four hours.  In truth, the whole thing was probably a lot scarier than I would care to admit and it seemed like as good a reason as any to take a break.  I didn't really think anything would come from it, but, what I can only describe as "seat of your pants guerilla investigating" is not for the faint of heart and should be done in small doses.