Saturday, March 8, 2014


L-R: Carol (DePrato) Lacopo, Helen (Timmons) Miller Strukel,
Dianne (Strukel) Moore, and Sandra (Miller) Canen,
Elkhart, Indiana; November 1982

Waiting through a full day, a sleepless night, and another full day to meet her new family nearly drove my mother insane. I am sure there must have been a million things racing around in her head that I was hardly privy to. When that evening finally came, my mother and brothers piled into the car to make that short drive to Elkhart. Being late in November, the daylight hours had long since passed, and it was dark and quiet with a chill in the air. Beyond general murmuring, I don't think anyone knew what to say. This wasn't exactly a routine trip to K-Mart. The tension was thick, and my mother was visibly shaking. As we started on our brief journey, the anxiety was lessened by the car radio blurting out Jackson Browne on the Top 40 radio station:

"I heard her talkin' with her friend when she though nobody else was around.
She said she's got to be somebody's baby; she must be somebody's baby.
'Cause when the cars and the signs and the street lights light up the town,
She's got to be somebody's baby;
She must be somebody's baby;
She's got to be somebody's baby..."

That generated a lot of nervous laughter, but the mood was still obviously one of eager anticipation, excitement, fear and anxiety. But since this is really not my story to tell, I will let my mother take over from here.

"I was terrified and shaking like a leaf. I didn't know what I would do if my mother and sisters looked at me and didn't like what they saw. I didn't know what on earth I was going to say to them. I just had no idea what I might be walking into. My legs would barely hold me up as I walked to the front door to meet them. And suddenly there they were. The first two people I saw were what I assumed to be my mother and sister. My mother hugged me, and I looked at my sister and said, "Are you Sandy?" She said, "No, I'm your younger sister Dianne." That sentence nearly made me pass out. I had wanted a sister all my life and here was my full-blooded sister standing in front of me." 

"After the initial shock of meeting both of them, they took me into the living room, and it was full of people. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. There was my sister Dianne's husband and her two children, my half-sister Sandy and her husband and daughter, and my uncle - my dad's brother. I knew that someone was talking and introducing people to me, but wasn't comprehending anything. All I could hear was my heart beating in my head. I was led to the couch, and we all started talking at once. They had albums full of family pictures. My new niece, Lisa, had drawn me a picture. My sister and I were comparing noses, trying to decide whose was bigger, and we were all laughing. It was so easy. It was like a family reunion. I felt like I belonged... like I had been gone for a while, and now I came back home."

"We were all talking and having a good time when I heard my mother say, "Carol, your brothers are on the phone and want to talk to you." Then I nearly came unglued. Not only did she tell the family members present, but she had also called her two sons in Oregon and told them already. What do I say to them? What were they going to say to me? I was getting scared all over again. They were so kind to me and told me they couldn't wait to meet me, and I was so happy."

"I couldn't take my eyes off my mother. The first thing that went through my mind was, "I hope I look like her when I am her age." Little did I know then that was a premonition. I don't see it as much as the rest of the family, but they all swear I look like her."

"I think that's what really struck me when I first saw my family. I had spent my childhood and especially my teenage years looking in the mirror and wondering who I looked like. I didn't look like anyone in my adoptive family. They all had dark complexions, black hair and brown eyes. I was born with bright blue eyes and platinum blond hair. As I got older, my hair turned brown, but I still couldn't pass as one of them. I'd just stare in the mirror and say, "Who do you belong to?" I wanted to find them so badly, but I knew that I probably never would - until I gave birth to a genealogist!"

"Everyone was glad I was there. I don't think I've ever been that happy except for the days that I gave birth to my children. I had found my family, and they had opened their arms and taken me in. This was nothing I was prepared for. I went home that night ecstatically happy and overwhelmed. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. I was also a little afraid that they might not want to see me again, but that never happened. We've been a family ever since that day, and for that I am grateful."

But what about Frank Strukel? What about her father? Where was he? As my mother said, "I don't remember if my mother told me on the telephone the day before about my father, or if I just found out when I was there...."


  1. Michael, I am so glad your mother is willing and able to share some of her experience here -- and that you have the sensitivity to facilitate it.

    Thanks for this series of elemental posts.

  2. Beautiful writing runs in the family. Thank you for sharing your amazing story.

  3. Wow! That's quite a story. I read everything. Have you considered publishing a book? You should. You're a really good writer. You know just how much to tell without giving too much and leaving your reader wanting more. Not bad for young man of 15. I suspect you're a great vet too. Thanks for sharing this. All the best.