I had left college in 1967, which turned out to be one of those things where I realized this is not where I’m supposed to be. I’m busy finding a place, finding work, paying bills, and living where the University of Vermont is. Which is much more appealing to some young individuals like me than the smaller hometown where mom and dad wanted me to be, especially dad. All the more reason to get away.
One evening I went to a local restaurant, and some friends from my hometown were there at school, and Candace (Candy) was with them. They asked me to stay. We had dinner, and then they drove me home. They had a full car, so she sat on my lap, and that was the beginning of the friendship.
She was a delightful, wonderful person. We did not date long. I don’t know even if dating works because she was a college freshman, so she hadn’t a lot of time. The times that we did meet were few.
I think it was in December – we met at the campus and sat down outside. I can see it exactly right where it was, on the stone bench. I explained that it was time to end it. She wasn’t prepared for that. I saw this look on her face – there was a sadness I didn’t expect. It was the first time I’d ever broken up with someone. I was just trying to be gentle.
It wasn’t until probably the following January or February that I happened to be back in my hometown. Going to a grocery store, I saw one of the folks who had been at that dinner. Knowing that she knew Candy, I said, “So, how’s Candy doing?” I got this rather unfriendly look. She says, “Haven’t you heard?” I said, “No, what?” She says, “She dropped out of school. She’s pregnant.”
The unfriendliness connected the dots for me that apparently, I was the father. I had not heard anything and had no idea. So, right away, I reached out to Candy. She was living with her single mother on the other side of the State. She confirmed that, yes, she was pregnant. I didn’t have any doubt that it must have been mine.
I drove over to see her and didn’t tell anybody. Certainly, I didn’t tell my parents. We met at her house and had a conversation. All I can remember was being nervous as hell and worried because I didn’t know what this all meant. To her credit, she was sober and straightforward. She wasn’t accusatory or angry. After that, the idea was that we would be in contact again.
That night after dinner at my parents’ home, like always, we sat in the TV room. I walked in and just stood there. I said to my father, “I’ve got something to tell you.” Long after, he admitted he knew exactly what it was. But he didn’t let on – he let me tell him the story of Candace and that she was pregnant. They were just the kind of parents you’d want because they simply said, “is there anything we can do?”
Then Candy and I had one other visit. On that second visit, her mom answered the door, and she was not terribly happy. She did most of the talking with me. When I did talk to Candy that time, I was asking, “what can I do? What can we do?” Because I couldn’t do much.
My folks could, and they were willing. They somehow got the matter into the hands of an attorney. I didn’t really know much about what was happening at that point. They took over, and they just did their thing. I said, “Whatever you need, we’ll help you any way we can.”
It was financial aid in some way, shape, or form that I had no reference to. No idea other than knowing that she was going to be having the child at the home for unwed mothers, as it was called back then – the Landon Home.
That was the last time we had a conversation. In the agreement that had been reached, I was told not to reach out to her. I don’t know if that was the attorneys talking or if that was Candy saying she didn’t want to hear from me. But she and her mother had decided they wanted to have the baby and give it up for adoption.
I knew nothing about the birth, how things had gone, or if she had a son or a daughter.
Eventually, I got married and didn’t really think about this until my wife and I gave birth to our first child. I am holding that baby was like…there. Somewhere out there, there’s another. I don’t know where and I know nothing about him or her.
I remember this when we had our second child, it’s the same thing because I was in the birthing room, and I’m seeing two children being born in my mind. It was, okay, here comes Nikki, but what about that first one? Then again with Sarah, our third. But you don’t linger on it. It’s just some triggers that bring you back to that question, that unanswered question. I had not told my first wife what had happened.
Years passed. I got divorced and often made business trips. Now I was working in Southern Vermont again and would go to that area for overnight business trips. As I was lying in the hotel room, there was a phone beside the bed, and I’d look over, and say, “Landon Home, should I call the Landon Home?” But I turned away from it and just moved on. But I’d go back for another visit.
After doing that a few times, I finally said, what’s the worst?
I told Pat, my second wife, “Here’s the story.” I understand the laws have changed a little bit. This is now the early ’90s, and people had more access to information. “I want to give the home a call because that’s the only thing I know. I know the birth mother, her name, plus I know the approximate date.” Pat was so supportive – do it right now. No question, no judgment, no anything. She was behind me one hundred percent.
I made the call that week. The staff person who talked to me was wonderful. I told her who I was, who the birth mother was, and when the date was. She said, “Let me check and get back to you.” And she did! She didn’t take long to look it up in the records.
When she called back, she first said, “I think you’ll be glad you called.” There was so much messaging going on in those few words that were all positive. She tells me, “You have a daughter. Her name is Kate, and she lives in Massachusetts.” Of course, we were living eight miles from Massachusetts! She says, “I can’t tell you where she works or what she does. That’s all I can tell you.”
“She [Kate] has also reached out and sent a letter saying that if my birth parents come forward, you pass my name along.” She explains, “Here’s how it works. You write her a letter, but send it to me.” What’s funny is that I didn’t realize that she would be vetting the language. So, I just wrote this letter, giving too much information. I learned later that you couldn’t have your last name, or where you live, as they’re editing that information. Because the process is, she looks at it, takes the identification out, and sends it off to Kate.
Kate writes back, and then I get it from them. After about three letters back and forth, the woman at the Landon, our case worker, says, “You two were something meant for each other.” Her name is Kate [last name], and here’s where she lives.
I finally got to begin my own correspondence with my daughter. It turned out she was near Boston, about two and a half hours away. It didn’t take long for us to say, “where do you want to meet?”
We met at a park, and she had her two kids there as well. It was just a wonderful introduction! The kids were wonderful, and they were still young. One sat on my lap, and we were sitting on the grass, just talking away. Kate explained who raised her.
It didn’t take long to set up a gathering where we met her adoptive parents, and they were both wonderful. Initially, her adoptive mother didn’t take lightly this idea of me coming into the scene. Kate admitted that “Mom is not happy about this.”
But she relented. Once we had that meeting, it was fine. Pat and she were both travelers and activists back in the day, et cetera, and they bonded. I got the story from their perspective, a little bit of what it was like for them.
But again, you couldn’t have probably asked for better parents, adoptive or birth, because they were just loving and did the right things.
All this culminated in filling in this gap. I think the only thing left is I tried to find Candace. I found her stepbrother, who lived in New England. I wrote to him, and we spoke on the phone.
He explained that Candace had subsequently gotten married, a very short marriage, which broke up. In Vermont, she apparently didn’t have the support of her family. So, it was just her, a single mom at that point. He indicated that she was having a rough time of it. She didn’t finish college. But he didn’t know where she was other than she had dropped out from the family in terms of communications. He told me she does have a brother who lives in Denver and gave me his name.
I wrote him explaining very briefly, “I’d love to find her if you know.” He never answered. I think I sent one more letter just in case and got no response.
Kate has also tried to reach her and received no reply. It’s that same lingering notion that I’d love to know that she’s okay, more than anything. I mean, just to tell her about Kate, obviously, but part of me wants to know if she’s okay. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, but that would be the one thing I’d love to do.
Going back to that day we broke up. I take onus for it because it was me saying, “I need to see somebody more”, basically, that was what I was saying. It needed to be more voluminous in terms of our time together.
But there was something else that day – this speaks to who she is and blows me away. That day we met – it was that cold day in December, and she was just sitting beside me with a sad look on her face. She hands me these two things saying, “They’re for your fog lights.” Now you have to imagine something. I’m driving a 1960 Dodge Dart. Back in those days, I wanted to put fog lights on. Back then, fog lights were lights that you drill a hole in your bumper and you mount them. For some reason, that caught her attention, unbeknownst to me, while she was studying.
Now, what female freshman has foam padding, Naugahyde fabric, a sewing machine, or whatever? She hand-made these covers, black Naugahyde covers that had inside foam padding. So that if a stone hit, it would not break the light. They were round, sewn beautifully, slid over, and you’d tie them in place. I’m thinking to myself, the time, the wherewithal, the skill, the incentive, that one thing was such a gesture. It was so special.
And, if I felt terrible before because it was me breaking it up, the guilt was – I don’t know. These memories just stay. They’re glued; they’re riveted to your body and your mind. That’s an indication of the kind of person she was.