Tori climbed the steps to the Children’s Aid office with her heart racing and her stomach churning – and it had nothing to with the steps. She had been asked to come down and meet with the Director. She had a feeling she knew what this was about and she honestly wasn’t sure if the excitement she was feeling was happiness or dread.
She had been adopted through the Children’s Aid Society when she was just six weeks old. It was now thirty-nine years later and the government had recently passed legislation to open up the province’s adoption records. She didn’t think that had come into effect yet though – she had been watching for the announcement. Once it came she would have to notify them that she didn’t want her birth family to be able to contact her – if that’s what she wanted. She had been thinking about it for a very long time and still wasn’t sure. On the one hand was her adoptive family – Mom, Dad, two brothers, their wives, four nephews, and two nieces. She had been raised and loved just like any other member of the family – her dad didn’t even remember she was adopted. She’d had a wonderful life and couldn’t have asked for more. On the other hand, a part of her was curious. She wondered what her birth parents looked like, who she resembled, were they together, did she have any brothers or sisters. She just wasn’t sure she was ready to find out. A part of her didn’t want to hurt her parents and have them think she didn’t love and appreciate them. Part of her was afraid of what she might find. What if they were drunks or addicts or criminals?
Blowing out a nervous breath she entered the building, raking her hand through her shoulder length brown hair to move it out of her eyes. The curls obeyed – for all of thirty seconds before one lock fell into it usual position half covering her right eye. Sighing she tucked it back behind her ear – again, and approached the reception desk.
“Hi. My name is Victoria Adams. I have an appointment with the Director.” She greeted the middle aged woman sitting at the desk.
“Yes of course. She’s expecting you. Follow me.” They walked down a hallway to a large office at the end. The door was open. The receptionist knocked and motion Tori in.
“Ah Victoria. Please come in.” The Director shook her hand and motioned her to a group of chairs surrounding a meeting table. Picking up a folder off her desk she joined her. “I’m actually not sure where to start. I’ve never had anything like this come up before.” She paused. “Are you aware of the new law unsealing adoption records?” She asked. When Tori nodded she continued. “Well it hasn’t come into effect yet, but the Province has given us more leeway in regards to health issues. I don’t know how you feel about the sharing of information between you and your birth family, but a situation has come up that I needed to make you aware of.”
Opening the file in front of her she proceeded to explain to Tori the facts as she knew them. “We’ve been contacted by your brother – well half brother, actually. Apparently his daughter is seriously ill. Her kidneys are shutting down and dialysis isn’t working as well as they had hoped. She needs a transplant. Normally this wouldn’t be a dire situation. Kidneys are one of the more often available organs, but she has a rare tissue type and her only hope is a genetic match. None of her immediate family is compatible, so they’re expanding the search.” Lifting her eyes from the file, she met Tori’s. “To include you.” She paused. “I know this is a lot for you to take in and you’ll need some time to think about it. Do you have any questions right now?”
Tori nodded. “If I agreed, what would be the procedure?” Her head was swimming, but she needed to know everything in order to make a decision.
“Well, first off would be blood and tissue typing to see if you’re a match. That can probably be done here.” The Director began.
“Here?” Tori interrupted.
“Oh, I’m sorry I guess I didn’t mention that part, did I? The surgery would be done in New York City. The family is from that area.” She explained.
“Would I have to meet them?” Tori asked.
“Not if you don’t want to. They don’t know your name at this point. And if you’re not a match, they don’t ever need to….unless you want them to.” The Director assured her.
They sat in silence for a few minutes while Tori tried to collect her thoughts. “How old is she?” She asked quietly.
“Fourteen.” Was the response.
Tori nodded. “I’ll need some time to think about this. I need to talk to my parents.”
The Director nodded. “I understand. Let me know when you’ve made a decision.”
Rising they walked to the door together. Opening it, the Director shook Tori’s hand again as they said their goodbyes. Three steps down the hallway Tori stopped and looked back.
“One more question. Which parent do we have in common?” She could guess, but she wanted to know for sure.
“Your father.” The Director replied.
“I figured.” Tori nodded and turned away.
“What are you going to do?” Her mother asked.
They were sitting around her parents’ kitchen table. Tori had told them everything she knew and silence had reigned until her mother broke it.
Tori sighed. “I don’t know. Part of me wants to tell them to go to hell. If all they want me for is a source of body parts they’re not worth my time.”
“But…” Her mother pressed.
“But…..she’s only fourteen years old. How can I turn my back and doom her if there’s a chance I can help her?” She didn’t really expect an answer and she didn’t get one.
“Can you get tested and see if you’re a match without telling them anything or even letting them know you’re considering it?” Her ever practical father wanted to know.
She shrugged. “I guess. That’s what the Director intimated. Maybe that’s the best route to go. If I’m not a match then it’s over. If I am, well, then I’ve got a decision to make.” But she knew what that decision would be. She couldn’t let a young girl’s life end before it started if she could help her live a full one.
“Honey, if you’re not a match and you still want to think about contacting them, don’t let us stop you.” Her mother stated. “You won’t hurt our feelings. If you feel the need to learn about them, go ahead.” Her father nodded.
“Thank you. I love you both.” Tori blinked back tears. Why would she want to know about a family who had ignored her existence for thirty-nine years – possibly for legitimate reasons, but still – when she had a family who loved her right here.
“We love you too sweetie.” Her father assured her.
Reaching for the phone Tori called the Director to let her know what she’d decided.
“Ok, Victoria, I’ll make the arrangements and let you know where and when.” The Director told her.
“And no one will tell the family until I say?” Tori clarified.
“Absolutely.” She was assured.
Three weeks later the results were in. She was a match.
“Well, it looks like I’m finally going to get to go to New York City.” She joked
“I’m going with you.” Her mother informed her.
“You don’t have to do that Mom, I’ll be fine.” Tori tried to assure her. Her mother was in her mid seventies and had had both knees replaced. Walking any distance was difficult for her and Tori didn’t want put her through the hardships of traveling and a lengthy hospital stay.
“Don’t be silly. I’m not about to let my daughter go through major surgery surrounded by strangers. We don’t know what these people are like. I want to be there if you need me.” Her mother insisted.
Her father frowned. “When you put it like that, I’m going too.”
Tori sighed in defeat. Oh well, at least he’ll be able to help Mom….and keep her occupied so that maybe I’ll have some time to myself to deal with all of this.
Communication was accomplished through the Children’s Aid Society. Flight arrangements were made; hotel accommodations for her parents were taken care of, all expenses covered at the other end. Obviously there must be some money there somewhere – not that she cared about that. Her father owned his own business and they had always lived comfortably. She worked for him, had her own apartment and was doing just fine financially.
The day before she was to leave she called her friend Karin. Like her, Karin was adopted and they had had many conversations about the unsealing of the private records and whether they wanted to meet their biological families. Tori had spent long hours on the phone with Karin over her decision. Karin had no interest in meeting her birth family, but agreed with Tori that she couldn’t turn her back on the young girl.
“So you leave tomorrow.” Karin stated. “Promise me you’ll call me whenever you need to – day or night!”
“I promise.” Tori assured her. And she would. Of all the people she knew and loved, Karin was the only one who truly understood what she was going through.
“If you get there and you don’t like what you see, you can help the girl and then come back home you know. You don’t have to get to know the family. Their focus will be on the girl anyway. If you want to come home, let me know and I’ll arrange to get you transferred to a hospital here for your recovery.” Karin offered. She worked at the Ministry of Health and could indeed make her offer happen.
“Thanks, I appreciate that. I am more than a little nervous about what I’ll find when I get there.” Tori admitted. “I’ll call you when I get the lay of the land.”
“You make sure that you do.” Karin instructed. “Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you later. Good luck.”
“Thanks Karin, I’ll talk to you soon.” Tori hung up.
When they arrived in New York, they found a car and driver waiting for them. Her parents insisted on going to the hospital with her to help her get settled. Their driver assured them that he was at their beck and call and would wait until they were ready to go to the hotel.
The medical staff at the hospital were expecting them and treated her like a VIP. She had a large private room with windows that over looked water. Tori didn’t know the area well enough to know what she was looking at, but it was a peaceful view.
After hanging her clothes up in the tiny closet, she set her books, her purse and her I-Pod in the drawer of the bedside table. She had just sat down on the bed when a nurse bustled in to begin the pre-op tests. The surgery was to take place the next day.
Returning to her room after a round of x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, and God only knew what other tests she found her parents sitting there waiting for her.
“How was it?” Her mother inquired.
“Well, I’m pretty sure the doctors now know me inside and out – literally.” She quipped. “Nothing hurt, it was just some blood work and a bunch of scans.” She assured them.
“They got your T.V. hooked up.” Her father commented as he surfed the channels.
“That’s good.” Tori smiled. Her father really didn’t like hospitals. That made it mean that much more to her that he was here.
They were talking about getting something for a late lunch - Tori was getting jello and water – when there was a knock on the door a slender man with glasses walked in. He looked at Tori and froze, his eyes widening as if in shock. She looked at him for a moment, wondering if they had given her some kind of drug or something without her knowing it. She had to be seeing things.
“Obie?” She asked hesitantly.
“Holy shit.” He choked out, stunned to be looking into a pair of very familiar blue eyes. Then he realized she knew who he was and groaned. “You’re a fan aren’t you?”
“Tori? Do you know this man?” Her mother asked confused.
“I know who he his, but no, I don’t know him.” Tori replied. Seeing her mother’s confused look she explained. “He works for and is friends with Bon Jovi.”
“Oh, him.” Her mother rolled her eyes.
“Not him, Mom, them.” Tori corrected in exasperation. The two of them had been over this many times. Tori had been a fan for years. Her mother preferred Frank Sinatra. “Although I guess in this case, it’s both.”
“You are Victoria Adams?” Obie asked. He was pretty sure, but he didn’t want to make a mistake – not about something this important.
“Yes, but call me Tori.” She introduced her parents, then unable to wait any longer asked. “Is it your daughter then Obie?”
“What? Oh ,no, no, it’s not.” He replied. “I just came down to see you… I mean to see that you’re getting settled in.”
She waited, but he didn’t say anymore. “Do I get to know who it is?” She was getting a little annoyed.
He’d seen that annoyed look many times, but not from a feminine face. It was a little eerie. “Ah, I’m sure someone will be down to see you soon.” He hedged.
“So, in other words, you were sent down to check me out and report back whether or not I’m worthy of knowing who they are.” She bit out. “That’s just wonderful. Well, Mr. O’Brien, you can tell them this from me. If it wasn’t for that young girl – whoever she is – I would be out of here and they could take their precious anonymity and shove it! I’ve lived quite well without them for thirty-nine years, I can continue to do that for another thirty-nine!”
Same temperament too! Obie noted. “That’s not it at all. There’s just security that has to be considered and…aw hell…that just makes it sound worse. Look, we just had to make sure that you weren’t some serial killer drug addict.”
Tori had to smile at that, especially since she had been concerned about the same thing. “Ok, I can understand that. Are you satisfied that I’m not a security risk?”
Obie smiled back. “Oh I think it’s safe to say you won’t attack them – at least not physically. Verbally, however…..they’re on their own.”
After Obie left, Tori and her parents chatted and waited to see who, if anyone came through the door next. Tori tried not to speculate, even to herself, but she wasn’t totally surprised when she saw the dark haired woman standing in the doorway a little while later.
“Dorothea?” She asked, just to be sure.
The woman nodded and stepped into the room. “Yes, and you must be Tori. Obie wasn’t kidding.”
Tori frowned. “Kidding about what?”
“How much you look like him.” Came the reply.
This is what Tori had been afraid of from the minute Obie had appeared. “Is this for Stephanie then?” She asked gently.
Dorothea’s eyes filled with tears, but she nodded. “Yes.” She paused to gain control of her voice which had cracked. “I can’t thank you enough for doing this.”
“Tori?” Her mother didn’t really want to interrupt, but she didn’t like the way her daughter suddenly went pale, then flushed. “Are you okay?”
Tori glanced at her mother, then back at Dorothea. “Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. What you’re telling me is that Jon Bon Jovi is my biological half-brother?”
Dorothea nodded. “Welcome to the family, sis.”
“Oh God.” Tori groaned, closed her eyes and laid her head on the pillow.
“Tori! Are you all right? What’s wrong?” Her mother asked alarmed.
“I’m fine Mom, just shocked.” After all, how did you tell your mother that for the last twenty-odd years you’ve had lustful thoughts and fantasies about your half-brother?! She introduced Dorothea to her parents. Then another thought occurred to her.
“And Carol?” She didn’t even know how to ask the question.
But Dorothea understood. “She knows, and has for quite some time apparently. It was a bit of a surprise for the boys though. I’m sure they will explain it all to you. Well, I’d better get back. I just wanted to meet you and make sure you were settling in okay. We’re two doors down if you need anything.”
“Thanks.” Tori replied automatically.
Dorothea turned in the doorway. “No Tori. Thank you.”
Tori felt completely overwhelmed. She needed time to process everything. She needed to call Karin, but she wasn’t comfortable talking about this in front of her parents. Thankfully they decided they should go get settled at the hotel. Calling the driver to meet them at the front door of the hospital, they said goodnight.
“We’ll see you tomorrow when you get out of surgery.” Her mother promised.
“Try to get some sleep tonight.” Her father instructed, kissing her forehead.
Tori nodded. “I’ll see you both tomorrow.” When she was sure they were gone she picked up the phone.
“Karin, you are not going to believe this!” She exclaimed when her friend answered the phone. She quickly related everything that had happened.
“Get out! You’re telling me that Jon Bon Jovi is your brother?!” Karin was stunned. She wasn’t as big a fan as Tori, but she certainly knew who they were, and even had an album or two in her collection. Which made her think. “Does it make you feel sick?
“Half-brother, but yeah. I can’t wrap my mind around it though. I think this is going to take some time to sink in.” Tori said. “And yes I feel a little nauseous.”
“Ok, time for the serious stuff. You haven’t met him or the rest of the family yet. I’m assuming now that you want to – I would.” Karin stated.
“I do, but the situation is not at all like I envisioned it growing up. I always figured that my parents were teenagers, and I was the result of young lust and stupidity. Instead, I’m the product of an affair. Not only were they not teenagers – at least my father wasn’t – he was married with two children already. Then he stayed with his wife and had another child. How am I supposed to greet his wife? ‘Hi I’m the living proof that your husband cheated on you’?” Tori said dryly.
Karin chuckled. “No, but you don’t know the situation, then or now. You said that she’s known about you for some time. Maybe she’s forgiven him and accepted your existence. I’d play it by ear and follow her lead.”
“Knowing about me and coming face to face with me are two different things.” Tori pointed out. “But maybe you’re right. Besides she may not even come to see me. No one else has since Dorothea left. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow. Maybe you’d better have that transport on standby. I may have to make quick exit.”
“Why? Do you think they’re going to run you out of town once they get what they want from you?” Karin asked, confused.
“Well, they are Italians from Jersey!” Tori quipped.
Karin laughed. “Get some sleep smart ass.” She sobered. “Good luck tomorrow and call me once you feel up to it and let me know how everything goes.”
“Will do and….thanks. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. ‘Nite.” Tori replied.
“”Nite Miss Bongiovi!” Karin joked.
Tori was still chuckling after she hung up the phone and tried to get comfortable in the hospital bed. She was afraid that between her nervousness about the surgery and everything she’d learned that day she wouldn’t be able to sleep. She even debated asking the nurse for a sleeping pill, but surprisingly, she fell asleep quite quickly.