Mondays Will Never Be The Same
By Brian Wheeler
As a lover of music, I pay attention to great lyrics in songs. And there’s one subject that’s rarely, if ever, discussed in positive terms…Mondays! The Boomtown Rats had a famous song in fact that was quite simply titled, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” In the Mamas and Papas big hit, “Monday, Monday,” there’s a line that says, “Monday, Monday…can’t trust that day.” And let’s face it, if we were all asked to vote for our least favorite day of the week, Mondays would win in a landslide!
But I now have a far better appreciation for Mondays than I ever did previously and that’s because on Monday, September 17th, 2012, I got a chance to speak to my birth parents for the first time ever!
I’ve shared most of my personal life with all of you throughout my years in Oregon. I haven’t been shy about it because the nature of my wonderful position with the Trail Blazers puts me in the public eye and I’ve never seen any good reason to do anything but embrace that. In general, I don’t really think of myself as being any more important than anyone else and I don’t believe I’m exciting enough that I should tweet or put on Facebook every time I have a thought or decide to go to a social event around town. I still question why anyone would want my autograph and I’ve always had a far easier time of heaping praise on others than having extra attention placed on myself.
That being said, I sensed from the beginning that a lot of folks were rooting for a positive outcome for me during this search for my birth parents. For those who don’t know, I was adopted at birth by a wonderful set of parents that passed away a long time ago… my father when I was a freshman in high school and my mother when I was a sophomore in college. All I ever knew about my birth mother was that she was a teenage girl whose own mother wouldn’t let her keep me because she felt I wouldn’t be properly taken care of. My adopted parents couldn’t have kids naturally as the mother I always knew wasn’t able to bear children. So they were looking to adopt and I became their one and only child. Illinois, where I was born, only became an open adoption state last Fall so I sent away for my original birth certificate in May. The adoption records office was pretty backed up with requests so I didn’t actually receive my birth certificate until about two months ago. And then when I viewed my authentic birth certificate for the first time, I thought I was only going to have the chance to get to know my birth mother. Her name was on the birth certificate, but that of my birth father was legally withheld.
I enlisted the help of a private investigator in Long Beach, CA, and she moved very quickly and was able to identify eight possibilities for my birth mother within the first week or so of taking my case. A week later, she told me she was 100 percent sure who my birth mother was and 95 percent certain she was still alive. And then finally this past Monday, the investigator provided me with her full report which had the name of my birth mother as well as that of her husband, their address in Rockford, Illinois and information about two daughters they had within three years of my being born. I noticed both daughters had the same last name as my mother’s husband, which gave me room to think of another possibility that I kept to myself as I decided when to call my mother for the first time.
See, the investigator’s opinion is that the birth child should always be the one to call his or her birth mother, rather than a third party of any sort. The theory being if the mother does any hemming and hawing it will be more difficult to do so when talking to the birth child. So I knew I had to initiate the call to my birth mom and after receiving the full info on her and her whereabouts I figured there was no time like the present and decided to take the plunge on Monday afternoon.
On my first attempt I got a voice mail on their home answering machine. But it was her voice and she identified herself and her husband in the message. Figured I probably shouldn’t leave a message like, “Hey Mom, this is your long lost son…give me a shout when you get a chance!” so I just hung up and decided to try again later. Two hours went by and I picked up the phone again. This time, her husband answered. I had been coached by the investigator in that case to say when asked who was calling, “I’m Brian Wheeler and my mom and she were friends in the past.” He told me to hang on and the next voice I heard was that of my mom, Barbara. She said hello and I told her, “Barbara, my name is Brian Wheeler. I recently saw my original birth certificate for the first time. Your name and your signature were on it and so I’m pretty sure you’re my birth mother.” The words came out much easier than I thought they might. For some reason, I was very confident and calm. Maybe I was naïve, but I really believed this was going to be a positive experience and though I had been cautioned that things might not turn out as nice as I was hoping, I was still confident. My mother asked me to repeat what I said, clearly a bit taken aback, which was only natural. After I did she asked me a few questions to confirm details of my birth and where I grew up and once I answered those she said, “I guess I am your birth mother!” We laughed a bit and then went on to have a casual, easy going and friendly hour-long conversation.
And if that’s all that had happened it would have been very special, but at some point, I asked her if she had any idea where my birth father was. She chuckled and said, “Well, very soon I’ll be celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary with him…he’s my husband!” And I said that I thought that might be the case. She asked why and this was what I was hinting at earlier in this article. I noticed the births of their two daughters were shortly after mine and since they had the last name of her husband I thought there might be a chance that he could be my dad too. And sure enough, he was! He got on the phone with her and said hello and stayed on for a while, but mostly listened to the conversation Barbara and I were having.
She told me she had tried to look for me via some online search options on more than a few occasions, but she never knew my name or the name of my adopted parents. Back then, she said there was a great fear that she would perhaps change her mind about giving me up for adoption and possibly want me for herself. She said that was never a consideration, but just in case, my adopted parents did not reveal anything about themselves. So it was very much a longshot that my birth mother was ever going to find me. I really sensed she was happy to know I had turned out okay and that I had a happy life. She also wanted me to know that I was loved and that being given up for adoption in no way changed that. I told her I knew that and assured her I’ve never had a second of any day of my life where I was in any way angry about what happened, and I didn’t fault her in the least for the decision she made.
Her life was not without some challenges. Sadly, one of her two daughters passed away three years ago in her sleep on New Year’s Day. Barbara said she was the picture of health and they’re still not sure what happened to her. Her other daughter, though, is living and very healthy with a husband and two sons. So I not only have found a mother and a father, but a sister and nephews as well!
If I could have scripted how this entire pursuit would end up, I’m not sure I could have written a happier ending. And it really isn’t an ending I hope. We left things open for what I believe will be a meeting in Illinois, probably before the season gets started in earnest. And I’m sure there’ll be a few phone calls before that happens. I figured I’d give them a few days to digest everything we’ve already talked about. Barbara told me at one point that she was probably still in shock as she was speaking. I tried to reassure her that I thought she was doing very well, especially on a phone call that she didn’t know was coming, and maybe wasn’t sure would ever take place.
Everything has happened so fast, but I feel blessed that I’m getting the chance to know my birth parents. They’ll never replace Doris and Don Wheeler, the fine folks who raised me and made countless sacrifices to give me a fabulous childhood and foundation for the life I’m leading today, but they don’t really have to replace anyone. Barbara and Hugh can be who they are and I’m sure that will be enough. Whether I ever call them “Mom” and “Dad” is inconsequential. They are. And I’m sure though I was very calm and collected in my initial phone call with them on Monday, I’m guessing I’ll be much more emotional if as expected, I have the chance to meet them in person sometime soon.
Thanks to all of you that have sent along your best wishes, prayers and good thoughts. In so many ways, the outstanding people in the Blazers’ community, vast as it is, are my family too and I’m very happy to be able to share this story with you. And if any of you are in a similar position wondering whether you should seek out your birth parents, I can only give you two words of advice, DO IT! It’s worth the time and effort. I can’t promise the ending will be as pleasant as I was fortunate to have, but I still think filling in the blanks of your life’s puzzle brings knowledge, closure in some respects, and maybe even some wonderful new people to call your own.
This journey is really just beginning for me. I’ll continue to keep you posted on how it goes. My never boring life just got even more exciting. Don’t know what I did to deserve that, but I’m thankful it has.
Speaking of songs, my all-time favorite is Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got a Name.” So many great lines. How about, “Like the fool I am and I’ll always be… I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream. They can change their minds, but they can’t change me. I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream.” And the chorus which features the line, “Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway. Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by.”
Well, at this rate, life won’t be passing me by anytime soon, not when a dream like finding the identities of my birth parents comes becomes a reality. Maybe someday, I’ll script my own life song. It’ll probably be called, “Lucky Penny.” I used to find a bunch of those on the streets when I’d go walking as a kid and chances are somewhere in one of the verses, I might even be the first composer to say something good about Mondays!