Denise's Story, Con't.....|
A stream of tears washed the mascara from Denise Frederick's eyes at the
life-altering moment a young man stepped toward her, extending his arms.
The hug that followed could have lasted 24 years.
Frederick had been reunited with the son she had given up for adoption in February 1972, just days after his birth.
"I said, 'I can't let go yet. I've waited too long for this,' " Frederick, of Petoskey, recalled of her lasting embrace with Kevin Schmidt at his Carsonville home on September 8.
"He gave me a kiss and said "That's OK.' "
Frederick's dabbling in genealogy, combined with a bit of persistance, led her to the special find in her family tree. But the relationship that has taken seed wouldn't be what it's become without the open-arms attitude of Frederick's newfound son and the couple that adopted him.
"I never felt threatened by a birthmother, because to me, to deny her would be to deny my son," said Kevin's adoptive mother, Ruth Schmidt of Petersburg, Mich.
"And it was his right to know her."
Now 45, and the mother of four, Frederick was 20 years old when she signed away her rights to her first child at a Toledo Hospital in the days after his birth on Jan. 24, 1972.
Frederick's parents didn't want their daughter to raise a child out of wedlock. The child's father came from a family of devout Catholics who refused to let him marry a protestant woman, Frederick said.
So she spent 5 days diapering, feeding and talking to her son, who she named David Eric, and then said goodbye.
"I gave away a part of me, I gave away something that was so precious," Frederick said. But Frederick made a promise to her son that she would find him as an adult.
In the years that followed, she would write him letters but never mail them, knowing nothing would come of it.
"Every birthday, every holiday you talk about what he's doing, " Frederick said. "There's always that wonderment."
Dave and Ruth Schmidt had adopted Kevin when he was 16 days old, when the Schmidts lived in Maumee, OH.
The Schmidt's would raise a successful son - one who would become salutatorian of his high school class, graduate magna cum laude from Michigan Technological University and become a project engineer for an automotive supplier.
"My mom and dad have always been open about the fact that I was adopted," Kevin said. "They told me when I was very young and the comment was 'You have another Mother who gave birth to you but you're part of our family.'
"So I always knew I had a birth mother."
With Internet adoption links and other resources at her disposal, Frederick began her search in earnest a month after the death of her mother in April 1995.
A home page showing her family tree went on the 'Net, as the genealogy provided a catharsis in a time of grief.
"I would never, ever give up," Frederick said. "Once I had made that decision of taking the risk of finding him, no matter who he was or how he
turned out, I would never give up. "He's still my son."
Just when the search seemed to hit an impasse, a Pennsylvania woman on the 'Net suggested that Frederick seek out the agency caseworker assigned to the adoption.
Frederick called the family services agency in Ohio and established a rapport with the caseworker. She learned that the Schmidts had received non-identifying information about her.
"Around age 10, Denise had sent information to the adoption agency and they had passed that on to my mother," Kevin said. "And my mom said, "Your birth mother would like to make contact with you. If you would ever like to make contact with her, we'll do it.' "
The agency by law couldn't release the name of Kevin or his adoptive parents. And when the agency came up with the adoption files at her request, any mention of her son or the Schmidts had been blackened out.
All of the papers provided had been photocopied - except one. So with a tip from the caseworker, Frederick was able to literally read through the lines.
"She said when you get the packet of information, you'll be able to put some of the clues together and figure things out," Frederick said. "I could see the 'S' very clearly and I could make out the hump of the 'C'..."
Before long Frederick identified the father as David Schmidt. She suspected he lived in southern Michigan, suspicions the caseworker confirmed. That's where her genealogy hobby came into play.
Frederick went to her home computer and went through a listing of phone numbers on CD. There were 53 David Schmidts listed for Michigan.
She scratched off all listings north and west of Jackson and, on a gut feeling, all listings in Detroit. Then Frederick started dialing.
"I said, 'My name is Denise Frederick and I'm looking for my son. Do you happen to have a 24-year-old adopted son?' " she said. Again and again, the answer was no.
But when David Schmidt of Petersburg picked up the phone, Frederick soon realized her search was over.
"I wan't expecting to be successful, I wasn't expecting him to say yes," Frederick said. "I didn't know if it was good or bad. But I thought, 'Oh my God, I've found him.' "
"That was a very touching moment," Dave Schmidt said.
In the background, Frederick could hear Ruth Schmidt ask, "Is it Kevin?" David Schmidt responded, "No, it's Kevin's mom."
'It took her a moment to comprehend," Frederick said. "She rushed over to the phone...she said, 'Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to raise your son.'
"There was such a bonding between Ruth and I over the phone. She said, 'I have always felt very connected to you because of Kevin.' "
The next day, Frederick and her husband, Terry, met David and Ruth Schmidt for the first time in Sandusky.
Standing in a parking lot, Frederick hugged the Schmidts and was reduced to
sobs of joy - especially when Ruth presented her with a photograph of Kevin.
"I had been trying to envision him for 24 years," Frederick said. "And here she gave me this picture of him that I could finally look at and say, 'That's my son as an adult.' It was a very emotional moment."
The Schmidts and Frederick worked out a way for her to meet Kevin in the flesh. The Schmidts drove to nearby Carsonville to break the news to Kevin, and to see whether he wanted to meet his birth mother.
The Fredericks waiting anxiously at a Big Boy in Sandusky.
"I knew Kevin would be very open to this, but I couldn't take the chance of just saying yes, " Ruth Schmidt said. "That was the only thing that I had asked, that we leave the decision entirely up to Kevin."
When Kevin sensed the Schmidts had something important to tell him, he asked 54-year-old Ruth, "Are you pregnant?" Ruth quickly set her adopted son straight.
"So I just told him, 'Kevin , there is someone here to see you and she's been waiting for 24 years to see you again," Ruth said. Kevin then knew who Ruth was talking about.
"Denise had sent an E-mail to my mom and dad and they gave me a copy of it to read," he said. "And it said something along the lines of 'I just want to meet Kevin to answer any questions he has about his heritage, his parents, his siblings, any other questions.'
"It was just too cool. I wasn't worried about it. My reaction was 'WOW' and I was like that for most of the day."
When the Schmidts returned to Sandusky, Ruth gestured an 'OK' to Frederick. She knew a reunion would happen. And she cried. Her arrival at Kevin's home brought more tears.
"I got out of the van and he came out of the back door, and we went like this, "said Frederick, stretching her arms out. "I couldn't believe that I was finally hugging him. He said, 'It is my great pleasure to finally meet you.' "
Frederick would spend the next six hours getting to know her son. They would uncover the many things they have in common - both are highly organized, both thrive on deadlines, both are Star Trek fans.
Perhaps unselfishly, Frederick never felt a yearning to make up for lost time with Kevin. "I relinquished my right for those memories when I signed the papers, " she said. "Like Ruth told me, they have created a 24-year bond that is unbreakable, and that she is so happy that I am able to start my bond with Kevin now."
"She said 'We've had him for 24 years and we are more than willing to share him.' "
The Schmidts and the Fredericks will share Kevin this weekend when they gather at Frederick's family cottage in Walloon Lake.
"I really can't say he's my son anymore," Frederick said. "He's OUR son."
Kevin, who grew up with a brother and sister, now has an extended family that includes Frederick's three other children: Tiffany, 22, and twins Ben and Danielle, 12. He has yet to meet all three.
"In all of my 24 years of being adopted, the thought of having other brothers and sisters never entered my mind," Kevin said. "And my reaction was 'Well, my family just got a lot bigger.' I think that's how everyone's approaching this - we're all one big family.
"I just happen to be the common denominator."
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This page was created 6 Jan 1998 and updated on 5 Sep 1999
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