Thursday, January 21, 2010

At Last I Know Who I Really Am - Part II

Synposis of Part I - Shannon Kincaid Frazier was on a quest to find her birth mom and birth name. This article was originally printed in Family Circle in 1987. Shannon is a Hope Baby and graciously shares her story again with us.

It was another conversation with her mom - and again the subject was babies - that gave her the first sharp nudge in the ribs.

"I was coming up on 22, married now, and trying to get pregnant," Shannon says. "I asked my mom about a good obstetrician. She called an old friend, who recommended Dr. Ed Harrison. He and my dad had been classmates at medical school, and in the fall of 1959 they'd both begun their internships - Ed at Baylor University Medical Center, my dad at Parkland.

"Anyway, this friend told my mom - in an offhand kind of way - that Ed thought he delivered me. It was the first my mom had heard of it. So I made an appointment to see Dr. Harrison."

In fact, Dr. Harris had delivered her. His review of admission records confirmed it. But in spite of Shannon's pleading, he couldn't bring himself to tell her anything else.

Finally, she enlisted the help of her dad, Dr. Billy Paul Kincaid, in trying to persuade Dr. Harrision to reveal more. In November of 1985 Dr. Bill Paul passed along the only scrap of information he had been able to ferret out: "Ed says her family was from Greenville."

As Shannon says now, with a sigh, "But my dad misunderstood him. I went for months thinking Greenville. I even looked through Greenville High School annuals to see if I could find anybody I resembled. Nothing. It was a dead end.

Then in May 1986, Shannon learned that Hope Cottage had set up a program to help adopted children find their birth parents. No names, but just enough information to put her on the follow the dots trail that began with the number on her birth certificate and took her to the state archive in Austin - to Donna Gayle Parrish.

"Ordinarily, I would have been listed on my birth certificate as 'infant of' which is how most illegitimate children were registered," Shannon explains. "Then I would have known her name right away. But because she thought enough of me to give me a name, she made my search much more difficult."

All Shannon knew was that her mother was a native Texan and had turned shortly 17 shortly before Shannon was born. And so she photocopied a list of all the Parrish girl children registered in the year of her birth - there were 75 or so - winnowed them down to the 10 born between August and October and arranged them in alphabetical order: from Agnes Lee to Myrna Loy.

She called medical records at Baylor with a made-up story about needing to confirm the place of her birth. On her birthdate. To a woman named Parrish. 'Well, which Parrish?' the clerk asked. 'There's about a hundred thousand of 'em here.' "Agnes Lee?" she ventured. "No," the clerk answered. "How about Betty Jane?" "Hold on." "He slammed the phone down and walked away." Shannon says. "I thought he'd probably figured out that I didn't know my mother's name. But about five minutes later he came back on the line. 'What was that birthdate again?' I repeated it. 'Yep, he said, Betty Jane Parrish had a baby girl on her birthdate." Bingo - on her second try!

From that moment it was "as if I was shoved through doors," Shannon says. She placed a call to the county clerk in the county of her birth, who obliged with the names and Social Security numbers of Betty Jane's parents. And the county phone directory had a listing for a Parrish in Gatesville. Not Greenville, as her dad had understood Dr. Harrision to say -but- Gatesville. Now Shannon tried another subterfuge. She asked a friend to cook up a story and trace Betty Parrish for her-something about a reunion of Betty's old high school chums to give a plausible, nonthreatening reason for making inquiries about Betty.

"I was standing by the phone when she called to tell me what'd she'd learned." The friend had secured her birth mother's married name and phone number. She lived not 10 minutes from Shannon. But it was agreed that the friend would call first to soften the shock and make it easier for Betty to back away if she wanted to. They talked for a long time. Then it was Shannon's turn. "I said, 'Betty, this is Shannon,' and she said, 'Hi honey.' Her voice cracked just a bit. I loved it. I thought, This is my mother-finally. I asked when I could come by to see her and she said,'Well, I've made your wait for years, haven't I? I can't ask you to wait any longer.'"

Betty was not altogether unprepared for the moment "Shannon came storming into my life." "I knew she would find me one day," Betty says with a smail. "I would have had to know about my mother, and if my daughter had gotten any curiosity from me, I figured it ws only a matter of time. I hadn't seen her since Hope Cottage - it was against the rules, but a counselor had let me hold her for maybe 30 minutes. Yet when I opened the door to her that day, I knew I wasn't looking at a stranger."

Part III coming next week

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