August 12, 2008
Pair meet and wonder: Could we be twins?
James Face and Gloria Becerra both have dark wavy hair, bad vision and the same way of fiddling with their fingers when they are stressed.
"She does it exactly like me," Face said.
They also have something else in common. Both were abandoned as babies on the same day in 1968 in nearby Central Valley towns.
Now they wonder if they have a connection deeper than their similar birth stories.
Becerra was abandoned on a lonely road in Oakdale. Face was found hours later in a Manteca parking lot 25 miles away, covered in ant bites.
At the time, no one made any connection between the two; no one wondered if they could be related even though the story of the two abandoned infants made the front pages of local newspapers.
They were adopted by separate families. Face grew up in West Sacramento and now works for Kaiser Permanente. Becerra was raised in Roseville and manages two medical practices in the Sacramento area.
Three weeks ago, they met for the first time – and there was an immediate connection, as if they had known each other for years.
Since then, they keep returning to the same question: What are the odds of two women giving birth and abandoning their babies on the same day?
"That's what we keep asking ourselves: What are the odds?" said Face. The two sit side by side on the living room couch in Face's West Sacramento home. "And we realize that the chances of that happening are pretty high."
An e-mail changes everything
Face had heard the story of his abandonment many times. Growing up, it had been difficult to deal with. He got into fights. He was suspended from school. He went through what he calls a "wild phase."
Face never knew another baby had been abandoned that day. Neither did his adoptive parents.
He first learned about the other baby a few weeks go. Vicki Craddock, his girlfriend, called to say a woman was looking for him on Craigslist. A couple of days later, there was a second posting, which Craddock answered.
She messaged: "Why do you want to see James?"
The e-mail reply stunned her: "I think I might be his sister."
Becerra always knew the story of her birth. She grew up in a loving family, "the best you can imagine," she said. Becerra had no intention of looking for her birth mother until she was asked about her medical history during her last pregnancy.
"That was the biggest reason, for my children," said Becerra, a mother of three. Knowing when and where she had been abandoned, she began to research her birth. Her work eventually led to an Oct. 2, 1968, article about two abandoned babies in the newspaper then called the Modesto Bee and News-Herald.
"I decided I had to look for the other baby," said Becerra.
With the help of online adoption resources, she learned about James Face. She wanted to contact him but agonized before posting it online. "What if he didn't even know he was adopted?" she worried.
Their first meeting
The two met with their families at a Roseville park and later went for pizza. They talked for seven hours. Both are single parents (Face has four children). They both have astigmatism. They have the same infectious laugh and quick tempers. What are the odds?
When it was time to go, they didn't want to leave each other. The two discussed getting a DNA test – and may still have one. But they say they believe there is a such a strong bond that they have to be twins.
Friends and family have welcomed the two into their lives. Becerra's adoptive father cried when he first met Face, and her mother calls him "mijo," Spanish for "my son." Both Face and Becerra's parents said they would have adopted the other if they had known.
Face's loved ones think of Becerra as his sister.
"He is so happy. I have never seen him this way, and for that reason I love her," said Craddock. "I hope for their sake they are related, but it doesn't matter because they share this wonderful connection."
Becerra's cousin, Yvonne McLain, said the family has welcomed Face and "it is what it is. I would think it was a really strange coincidence if they weren't related."
Neither Face nor Becerra expressed an interest in looking for their birth mother. "What would I say to a woman who left me to die?" said Face.
Mystery went unsolved
The Manteca police investigated the case in 1968, but those records are no longer available, said Rex Osborn, a department spokesman.
Forty years ago, Manteca was a small town, notes Osborn. He wonders if the birth mother may have been traveling through the area. If someone from there was pregnant one day and not the next, "it would have been the talk of the town," he said.
Osborn said it's unlikely there were two birth mothers.
"I've been at this 28 years and I've never heard of two women having children and abandoning them on the same day in such a small area," the police spokesman said.
Face and Becerra say meeting their birth mother would have been too emotionally trying. Right now, they are still learning about each other.
Last week, Becerra visited Face's West Sacramento home for the first time. When she arrived, she teased him about the directions. He scolded her for not calling over the weekend.
Later, he asked if it was OK if he called her "my sister."
"But only if you're all right with it," he quickly added.
Becerra teared up and nodded. "It's OK."
Face said later he is not a spiritual man. He has not been to church for years. But now that he's met Becerra, he's having a change of heart.
"I have to believe that someone brought us together, right?" asked Face. "I feel so lucky."