Jerry Nelson

Jerry Nelson

Michael read and reread the email. Its writer, a woman named Tammi, said that she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest but was born in Michael’s hometown of Pipestone, Minnesota. Tammi explained that she was given up for adoption at birth. She also said that she might be Michael’s biological sister.

Michael was skeptical. But Tammi had persuasive evidence that she had obtained from the adoption agency, including the ages of Michael’s aunts and uncles at the time of her birth. When Michael viewed Tammi’s Facebook profile, he was struck by the strong resemblance between her and his sister Kayla.

And then there was this: some years ago, Michael’s parents revealed that he has a sister who was born before they were wed and was given up for adoption. Could Tammi really be Michael’s sister? And what should do with this information?

Helmer and Karen operated a small dairy farm at Kenyon, Minnesota. Unable to have children, they adopted two sons, one in 1969 and another in 1971. But Helmer and Karen longed for a daughter to complete their family. In 1977, they were given the opportunity to adopt a newborn girl named Tammi.

After her initial email, Tammi and Michael continued to communicate. Michael became convinced that Tammi was indeed his sister and a full sibling to his younger brother and sister.

Michael kept the news about Tammi under wraps. This was no small feat, as he works daily with his father, Greg, at their family’s welding shop.

One day Tammi emailed Michael that she and her family would be in Minneapolis for a weekend visit with a friend. Could Michael and his wife and kids come to the Twin Cities for a casual lunch?

“I don’t want to miss this opportunity,” replied Michael. “But at this point, I feel I have to tell the rest of the family.”

“We never forgot about Tammi,” said Greg. “Sandy and I often thought about her, especially on her birthday. We might be at the mall and see a girl about the right age and ask, could that be our daughter? We wondered how her life turned out. We hoped that she was happy.”

When Michael told his family about Tammi and the proposed lunch meeting, Greg’s instant reaction was, “I don’t want to wait to meet her! Tell them to come to our house for Sunday dinner.”

That Sunday would be Father’s Day.

Tammi is an airline pilot. During her 19 years in the Air Force, she has flown gigantic C-17 cargo jets into combat zones. But the upcoming meeting with her biological family was giving her palpitations.

“I knew from kindergarten on that I was adopted,” she said. “I always wanted to know about my biological parents. I was shocked and overwhelmed to realize that I was finally going to meet them. All sorts of thoughts raced through my head. It was truly a moment I had been dreaming about my entire life. Was this really happening? What will I say when I meet all five of these strangers to whom I am closely related? What if we have nothing in common? What if we just sit there and stare at each other in awkward silence? But there was no turning back now.”

During the time leading up to Sunday, Tammi and Greg relieved some of the pressure by texting each other.

“I was tickled to learn that Greg and I share the same sense of humor,” Tammi said.

On Father’s Day, on the sundrenched driveway of Greg and Sandy’s home, Tammi hugged her two brothers and her sister for the very first time. And for the first time in 41 years, she looked, through tears, into the eyes of her biological parents.

“After five minutes it was like we’d known her forever,” said Greg. “She fit in like a piece of a puzzle.”

A few weeks later, Tammi had a layover in Minneapolis. Greg and Sandy and their family drove up and took in a Twins game with Tammi.

“After the game we went back to the hotel and sat and talked with Tammi until 2:00 a.m.,” said Greg. “This whole thing has been so emotional. We are overjoyed to meet Tammi and are very happy to know that she’s had a good life.”

On their way home, Greg and Sandy stopped at Helmer’s home. Helmer, who has been a widower since 2004, insisted that they stay for breakfast. They did, and passed the morning chatting pleasantly about life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Before they left Kenyon, Greg and Sandy visited the cemetery. They stood beside Karen’s grave and thanked her for doing such a wondrous job of raising their daughter.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.

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