The quest to discover the identity of my birth parents had consumed three long years. The journey had been emotionally exhausting—but highly rewarding. Finding them was the highlight of my life. I was much happier and contented knowing my true identity, cultural heritage, and thankful for the positive connections I had made with my birth family. The mystery of my origin was solved; I was comforted knowing the reasons why my life’s trajectory had been so significantly altered. It was time to relax and pursue other life goals. As my husband and I soaked in the world’s largest hot springs pool under a quiet starlit sky, I whispered in his ear through the warm vapors, “There is just one more thing I want to know. Who are William and Priscilla Engelmann? Their names appear on my baptismal certificate. Yet, I have no idea who they are.” My words hung in the foggy mist of the cold night air. “Just help me with this one little thing,” I demurely pleaded with a coy smile that I knew he couldn’t resist…
I scanned telephone books from across the country and began cold-calling every person named Engelmann to inquire if they knew anyone named William or Priscilla—no luck. My long distance telephone bills had grown as large as our monthly car payment. After several months had passed, I finally gave up and sat down to watch the evening news. I noticed the name of the anchorman was Engelmann. I called the station immediately to ask if he knew William. “Sure! He is my brother. He used to live in Wisconsin but he lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife Priscilla. Would you like his telephone number?”
Was it was fate or good luck? I dialed the number. Priscilla picked up the receiver. Without preparation or forethought, I peppered her with a stream of questions. “Hi! Priscilla? Did you ever live in Milwaukee? Are you Catholic? Were you ever a foster parent? Did you ever baptize a child named Judith Ann? This is Judy.” The response I received was beyond anticipation. “You must be our missing foster child Judy. You were one year old when they took you from us. We were always hoping we could see you again some day.” “How about tomorrow?” “Okay!”
I hung up the telephone and ordered my husband to pack an overnight bag. We jumped into the car, took turns sleeping, and drove straight through the night to Tucson, Arizona, arriving on a Saturday morning. The heartfelt welcome I received was beyond anything I ever imagined. There were tears and hugs and much reminiscing about my early childhood—we had three decades of catching up to do. The experience was priceless. They made me feel like a celebrity. It was amazing to meet the “foster family” that had opened their hearts and home to a wee baby urgently in need of natal care so many years ago. They were a loving couple with four very sweet daughters. The girls had treated me as their sister; pushing me in a baby stroller, dressing, feeding, playing, reading to me every day for the first year of my life. Priscilla presented me with a baby book filled with baby pictures and photographs I had never seen, as well as, my hospital baby bracelet, and several childhood mementos. I was overwhelmed with emotion when my foster sister Barbara said; “I carried this picture of you in my wallet for thirty years, always hoping that I might see you again someday.” I hugged her and expressed my joy with tears. Speaking for everyone, Priscilla said, “The separation from you was very traumatic for all of us. It was the only time the girls ever saw their father cry. He even hired a detective to try to find you. We had applied to adopt you, but they said we already had four girls of our own. We thought of you as a member of our own family, and in honor of your memory, we set an empty place setting at the table and prayed for you every Christmas. We are so glad you found us again.”
The warm response I received raised my spirits and enlightened my faith in humanity. It was the loveliest reunion any foster child could ever receive. We have remained friends until this day. Thank you William and Priscilla, and foster parents everywhere in the world, who strive to enhance the lives of innocent children and make the world a better and safer place. Without their kind generosity and unselfish efforts there would be far more trouble in the world.
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