December 28, 2009
Man meets family at 46
Adopted California man tracks down biological brothers for holiday reunion
By ERIN MILLS
The East Oregonian
Don Carroll has been spending his holidays in the usual way, eating and playing games with his family in Hermiston. But this year is a bit different - Carroll just met his family a week ago.
After a successful search for his biological family through WARM, the Washington Adoption Reunion Movement, Carroll hopped a plane Monday from California to meet two full brothers, a half brother, two half sisters and assorted nephews, nieces and other relatives.
Carroll always knew he was adopted, he said, but he decided to seek out his biological family several months after his mother died. His father had died years earlier, and he has not seen his sister, who also was adopted, for several years.
"I was both excited and nervous," he said of meeting his brothers, Richard and Rob Meeks, at the Pasco airport. "Really, it was the culmination of a life-long dream... it was just - big grin."
Once they saw each each other, there was no doubt: the brothers all have the same height and athletic build, the same gray-green eyes, the same easy-going sense of humor.
"I felt a little for him, because we didn't want to overwhelm him," Rob said. "But, immediately, from shaking hands, we were able to start joking and hanging out."
Meeting their long-lost brother was a surprise, but not wholly unexpected for the Meeks brothers. Their mother, Sherryle, had spoken of her oldest son and attempted to find him. She registered with several national organizations that connect adopted children with their birth parents. In her memoirs, she described Don's birth in a home for unwed mothers in Spokane, Wash., 46 years ago, when she was 16 years old.
"In mid-May, I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy, my firstborn," she wrote. "I loved him and I wanted him and somehow hoped a miracle would provide a way for me to keep this wonderful child and provide for him a home and family which he so deserved."
Carroll said one of the reasons he wanted to seek out his family was to reassure his mother he had had a happy childhood with good parents. Sherryle, though, died of cancer last year.
It was Jim Meeks, Sherryle's second husband, who heard first from Carroll's WARM caseworker. With photos of a young Don in hand, which bore an uncanny resemblance to Richard and Rob's childhood photos, he called them up and said, "You boys need to come over to the house."
"He showed us these photos and I said, 'Oh, that's me - no, that's Rob - no, who is that?'" Richard remembered. "When he told us my first feeling was kind of, well, it's about time."
Richard wondered whether Don would resemble the family in any way besides looks - after all, he said, a different family raised Don in a different lifestyle.
"But, in this case, he just fits," Richard said.
The brothers even have similar jobs. Don is a fireman, Michael is a police officer in Stayton and Rob helps run a training academy for corrections officers for the Oregon Youth Authority. Richard is the odd man out: He works for Pendleton Grain Growers.
All the brothers have the same slightly perverse sense of humor, said Carmen Robbins, Richard's fiance.
"When Don flew into Pasco, Richard and Rob called him and said, 'We're in Seattle, where are you?'...They were just yanking his chain," she said.
The Meeks brothers said they have plans to visit Carroll in California this summer, maybe sooner.
"What's really cool is to have him here during the holidays," said Greg McKeever, Sherryle's brother. "It's a present you can't buy."
"It's been great," Carroll said. "I think I hit the jackpot."