CLOSING THE CIRCLE
Adopted as an infant Jerald Rogers, now a young father himself, senses the phantom presence of his unknown birth parents, and a growing interest in finding them.
He sets off on his search with no idea how many dormant, long-buried memories will be resurrected, how many lives will be impacted, and how many questions will be raised.
How would his adoptive parents react? Tom and Karen have been ‘Dad and Mom’ for as long as Jerald can remember. Will they resent his interest in knowing his birth parents?
And finally, what of those unknown birth parents, who parted ways before he was born? What would be their response....to the son who has never been part of their lives....and the possibility of meeting each other after all those years?
George Casey was off to college. A new start in a new world. A chance to be the man he thought he could be.........but had always been afraid to let others see.
Yet, when that moment arrived, the opportunity to put his resolve to the test......could he be that bold? What if she laughed at him?
TANNER, OR (Sept. 1992)
So what was it that triggered that surprising hint of interest….the tantalizing realization that he wanted to know more about her? It was a quiet September morning in 1992. George Casey was sitting alone in the Student Lounge studying his Chemistry notes, when he was distracted by a burst of laughter at the next table.
He looked up to see the three of them, strangers to him, sharing a light-hearted moment. With no hint of intention his casual glance settled on her ….her eyes, her unguarded smile and unrestrained laughter. A moment later, to his surprise, she seemed to be returning his gaze. Though he had no idea what she might be thinking, in that brief instant he sensed an unexpected connection.
There was something about that first impression, so natural and unpretentious, that had him wanting to know more. That in turn would lead to a most unlikely, at least for the timid young man he was, course of action.
A few minutes later, on his way to class, he spotted one of the girl’s table mates in the hallway….the mousey Hispanic one, who spoke with a hard-to-understand accent.
“Would you tell me her name?” he asked timidly as he tugged on her arm. “The girl you were sitting with in the lounge. The one with the blonde pony-tail. You know her don’t you?”
“You mean Erin? In the orange sweater? Of course I know her.”
“Yeah, that’s the one. So, what’s her name?”
“Who wants to know? And why should I tell you?”
With a shy, eye-rolling grin George allowed his frustration to be seen. It was not a natural thing for him, asking about such a classy, out-of-his-league girl. Still, he wanted to know. “Come on, girl. I just want............”
“I’m Juanita, not Girl.”
“Yeah. Okay. Look Juanita, I’m George…. George Casey. I’m new here. It’s just my second day of classes. I saw your friend in the lounge and thought maybe I’d like to meet her. You know, introduce myself….if she doesn’t already have a guy. That’s the way it worked in high school. I’m guessing it’s that way here at Tanner C. C.”
He paused, looking into the girl’s face for some sign that he had calmed her doubts. “Now, will you just tell me her name. I promise if she runs me off, I won’t cause a fuss.”
“You promise.” Juanita repeated. Apparently his quiet nod was enough to convince her. “Okay. It’s Erin….Erin Woodman. She and I had a lot of classes together at Tanner Southside High.”
“Just so you know,” George offered, “I went to North End High. I was sure I’d never seen her before. Now I know why. We were living in different worlds, on opposite sides of town. Anyway, thanks for your help.”
It was not such an unusual thing, the unsubtle hint of intimidation George was sensing during his first few days in the new, more grown-up universe of Tanner Community College. After all, as his cousin Chuck had suggested, he was stepping out of high school into a new, very different world.
If George, the oldest child and only son of insular, sixty-something parents, had a mentor in the course of those often confusing adolescent years it would have been Chuck Wilson, his father’s nephew.
In George’s young eyes his cousin, a sophomore at nearby Oregon State University, was worldly, wise, and experienced in ways he could only dream of being. Among Chuck’s most memorable bits of wisdom, delivered shortly after George graduated from North End High and was looking forward to his first term at the local community college, was his insistence that high school and college were altogether different experiences.
“Trust me,” Chuck had urged. “You will absolutely love the chance to start over again. That’s what college does, you know. You’ll be showing up with a totally clean slate. Except for a few former classmates from North End, no one there will know a thing about the ‘old’ you.
“It’s your chance to step up and be the guy you’ve always thought you could be….but were afraid to let others see. Once you realize that, you can be bolder than you’ve ever been. Just let yourself be the new George Casey. It will be great. You’ll see.”
About then his world-wise cousin must have noticed George’s doubting frown. “Come on, Georgie boy,” Chuck urged. “You went to school with the same bunch of kids for years and years. At least lot of them.
“And every one of them had their own opinion of George Casey, didn’t they? Odds are along the way you picked up a few labels, ones you could never shake. It’s like those labels became a part of you. Right?”
Now, revisiting their back-porch conversation, George recalled again how sound Chuck’s logic seemed to have been. From the first grade, in class, in sports, in any sort of social situation, he had watched from the sidelines, playing the quiet, unassuming role his classmates had come to accept as the real George.
Now, almost before he realized it, there he was mentally rehearsing an introduction to that Woodman girl, hoping against hope she had never heard the so-called truth about the North End high-schooler he had been. That bold possibility might, of course, be a stretch, but it seemed worth a try.
But when, and where? Whatever his strategy for capturing Erin Woodman’s attention, the situation called for something more than a casual, spur-of-the-moment approach. The odds of having a second chance to create the proper first impression were slim. In that case, he needed to take his time and think it through.
At least that was George’s plan.......until after his last class that afternoon, he started out to the bus stop. He paused a moment at the end of the hallway for a drink from the wall-mounted fountain. Then, straightening up, he turned and walked smack-dab into that vaguely familiar orange sweatshirt.