Two days later Shawna's letter arrived in my office mail. It read, in part, as follows:
My name is Shawna. I was born May 25, 1967 to yourself and Harold... I grew up in Texas where I lived with my Grandmother, Nellie, until about age 5. She is a very kindhearted lady... She will be 91 years old in a few months.
From then until the age of 17 I lived with my father's niece, and her husband... After graduating from high school, I moved to Los Angeles to live with my father and attend college. My father died in 1989 after a terrible illness...
For whatever reason, you and my father decided to go your separate ways. He never explained why and I never asked him. In any event, that was many years ago...
I feel compelled to meet you. It would make me very, very happy. I would indeed respect your privacy and be most discreet as I do not know your situation. I do not know if your family knows about me. I certainly do not wish you any distress.
I would like to see you. It has been such a long time. You are my mother. I know you will understand.
I was very moved by this young lady's letter to her mother. It gave me even more incentive to succeed with this case.
I located the address of Shawna's grandparents within the next few days. They were still living in the Los Angeles area. I didn't want to interview them until I found out whether or not they knew about Shawna. For now I'd just drive by their house and try to take some pictures.
I got lucky. Shawna's grandfather was working outside in the yard. I shot several good photographs.
I called Shawna and told her I'd located her grandparents and had photographs to show her. She was surprised. She knew they'd be in their seventies by now and she thought they might have passed away. The next day Shawna came to my office.
"That's my Grandpa!" she whispered with a hint of a smile as she examined the photos I'd taken. "I've got his nose and ears. . . and he's tall like me!" she added as a final confirmation. The other half of her biological identity was finally taking form.
The aunt Shawna had previously contacted was very hostile when I showed up at her door a few days later. "I think it's horrible that you're helping this person find her mother after so many years have gone by!" she grumbled.
After several conflicting statements about her relationship to Shawna's mother, the aunt finally told me that she had informed the grandparents about Shawna's phone call to her a few weeks earlier. Now I knew I could contact the grandparents without exposing a "family secret."
I drove straight over to the grandparent's house. Shawna's grandmother answered the door. I introduced myself and explained why I was there. She was very cordial and didn't seem at all surprised by my visit. It was apparent that Shawna's aunt had called and informed the grandmother I was on my way.
Two cars were parked in the driveway but Shawna's grandmother said her husband wasn't home. I had a feeling he was there but he didn't want to deal with this right now.
I asked her if she knew where Doris, (her daughter) was living. "I haven't seen or heard from Doris since she was about twenty-one years old," she answered. "No one in the family has had any contact with her. I don't even know if she's still alive," she added with no sign of emotion.
During our conversation, Shawna's grandmother told me she didn't want Shawna to contact her. "l think she ought to just drop this whole thing," she advised. "Sometimes people are better off not knowing."
When Shawna and I discussed this conversation later, we had our doubts about her grandmother's sincerity. This couple had been married for over fifty years! They had five daughters, and still lived in the same house where they raised their family. It didn't seem likely that they hadn't seen or heard from one of their daughters in over 28 years!
If this was a deliberate deception, did it mean Doris was aware of our search and had instructed her parents to mislead us? Or was the grandmother acting on her own, without Doris's knowledge?
So many questions needed answering:
At this point, we could only speculate.
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