Guest post by Mark Bono, who was adopted as a child.
I’m 47 years old, and I’ve gone my whole life knowing I was adopted. I grew up in a supportive family with two adoptive parents and two siblings, but every time I looked in the mirror I didn’t see the same features of the family I grew up with had. As a kid this didn’t bother me much, but later in my life something started to cultivate inside me. I realized I needed to find my biological family.
When I was 24, I opened my heart to the possibility of finding my biological family. I tried the hospital for any records of my mother, but there was no trace of her. I still wanted to find her, but after my experience I was so discouraged and distraught that I put the thought of finding her away.
During the next two decades I got married, I did what I wanted to do with my life and became successful. However, every now and then, while watching a lifetime movie about some crazy family reunion, I couldn’t help but wonder where I got my height from or my big forehead. I just felt as if something was missing.
I started wrestling with my past. I wanted to be proud of where I came from and know why I have certain mannerisms. I had no biological connection to anyone. I couldn’t help but come back to the thought of, “Why was I not loved and why was I not wanted by my biological family?” This frustration within my heart and the lack of answers had caused conflict in my life and within my relationships.
I thought maybe I’d go my whole life with my family out there and never meet them. All I knew was that my parents were from Jacksonville. I feared maybe they were dead or perhaps they are horrible people. Maybe they are poor or sick. Maybe our reunion would resemble something like a Jerry Springer show.
But then in 2013, I talked to my wife and finally decided that I wanted to find my biological identity for certain. We talked first to a private investigator who led us to resources, including the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (FARR). Hopeful, I mailed in my FARR registration and expected to maybe hear something in the next few months.
Days later I got a call back from the woman helping me with my case. She said that she found records of my mother and she’s trying to get in touch with her. In that moment I was so excited, yet it was tough not knowing what to expect next. But that afternoon, the woman from FARR called again and told me that they contacted my mother and that she was interested in talking to me.
The phone rang on my way home from work with a Jacksonville area code. I knew it had to be her. I picked up and heard my biological mother’s voice say, “Mark, this is Angela.”
That night, my mom and I talked for seven hours, only taking breaks to use the restroom. I found out that she was a nurse at the age of 69, and lives in a nice home near the beach with my aunt and she has a lot of siblings. We caught up about each other’s lives and before hanging up, I asked her what I needed to know my whole life. I asked why she gave me up.
She told me that she fell in love with my father in the mid-1960s. Six months after they started dating, she found out he was married and had a family of his own. After getting pregnant with a married man, she couldn’t bring herself to tell her family, so she decided to move in with her sister in South Florida during her pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. She said she thought it was the best decision for the child.
That weekend, my wife and I drove up to meet her and my aunt in person. Meeting on the phone was life-changing in itself, but meeting her in person was a whole different story. That missing piece was fulfilled. When I look at her, I can tell I’m her son.
To my surprise, I met my mom, my aunt and many other family members that weekend too. In just a short time, I went from having no biological family to meeting 10-12 people who looked like me, talked like me and shared my genes. Over the next few months, while back in Tampa, I kept meeting new family members though the phone. I found out that I have 10 first cousins around my age—all who are accepting of me as part of the family. It feels like I had been there all along.
Eventually, I needed to introduce my adoptive mom to my biological mom. I had to learn how to integrate both of these women in my life. I still call my adoptive mom ‘Mom’ because she was and is, and always will be the woman who raised me. I call my biological mom ‘Angelina,’ since that is how we met as grown adults.
Now, my family is bigger than ever. I know I can’t get back the time I spent in my life without my family, but I take every chance to talk and be with them that I can. My story continues as I find more family members, including my dad. I hope that I can meet my half brothers on his side one day. But until then, I will embrace all the new ties I have to my family members and the family who raised me, making as many memories with them as I can.