Jannis Horwood's Adoption Story
REV. W. A. NICHOLAS SUPERINTENDENT
Searching For My SisterJannis Horwood
I will attempt to tell the story about the search for my sister.
When I was a little girl I can remember sitting for hours going through the picture box where all the family pictures were kept and asking "who is this?" I remember finding a picture of three little girls and inquiring who they were. I was told they were the daughters of some friends. I placed it back in the box and never thought more about it.
In September 1983 my mother passed away very suddenly and unexpected from an acute myocardial infarct. One Sunday afternoon my sister, Clara and I were visiting with Dad and going through some of Mom's things. I opened the sewing basket that she kept by her chair in the living room and found the picture of the little girls. Clara and I were discussing who they might be when Dad walked in the room. I held the picture up and ask Dad who the little girls belonged to. He leaned back against the door frame and looked as if he was in deep thought. I just assumed he was trying to remember the names. I was not prepared for his answer. He took a deep breath and said "that is your half sister, Pauline." I know I must have had the deer in the headlights expression because I looked at my sister and she had the same expression, I looked at Dad and said "what?" He walked over and pointed to one of the girls and said "that is Pauline." He then sat down and told us the story. Mother had Pauline before her and Dad married. She had been sexually abused by her stepfather and had became pregnant when she was about sixteen years old. She had a little girl and named her Pauline. She was later put up for adoption because of the stepfather. We were lost for words. I felt so bad for my Mother. She had gone through such a traumatic time and we knew nothing of it. She was told once the adoption went through she was to have no other contact with the baby. They and other family members had kept it private all these years. Mom was afraid we would think less of her if we knew. My heart hurt for her. We did not ask many question because it felt like we were invading her privacy. We never discussed it much among ourselves. Growing up I had often wondered why my maternal grandparents never visited us or why we never visited them. I was told it was because we lived too far away. Things were beginning to fall in place now.
After Dad passed away in 1991 I ended up with the picture box and the picture of the two little girls and Pauline. I would look at it and wonder where she was and if she was OK. I would think about a part of us being out there somewhere but where? Does she know about us? Will we ever meet? A box of letters were found during the clean up at Dad's house. It was letters Mom and Dad had written to each other after Mom had moved to Texas with Pauline. They had fallen in love and wrote how they wanted to marry and raise Pauline to be a fine young lady. Some of the letters were missing but apparently the stepfather was causing a lot of problems so for Pauline's safety it was decided she would be adopted. Pauline was placed with Rev. Nicholas at the WTCAWA in Abilene, TX. The picture of Pauline and the two little girls was sent to Mom from the WTACAWA. That was the last contact Mom had regarding Pauline
We began asking questions about Pauline form other family members and learned some. We attended a reunion with Mom's family and found out her sister had recently opened up to one of her sons about the mental, physical, sexual abuse they suffered from their stepfather. It was heart breaking. Mom had mentioned that her stepfather was mean and that he would get drunk and start shooting at them with a gun. They would have to run into the woods and hid until he either passed out or ran out of bullets.
In 1994 my sister petitioned the court in Abilene to have the records unsealed. The request was denied because "just cause was not shown" At that time the records were under strict laws regarding unsealing them. We put it away until we could figure what else to do.
From time to time I would run across the photo and continue to wonder about Pauline. Last summer I was going through some family reunion papers and came across "the photo" again.
Something was different this time. Something kept tugging at me as if to say "find Pauline, you need to find Pauline." So on June 22, 2004, I began my search. I had an advantage this time. The laws had changed making it easier, I had a computer and the Internet. I found the WTAWA site and posted a search. I had limited information to go on as most of it was in the sealed records. I wrote to the District Clerks office and was directed to the County Clerks office but did not have the information need to search for the record. In the mean tie I kept searching on the Internet. I posted a search with TxCARE and a search angel picked it up and offered to help search and I gladly accepted her offer. I filed a petition to have the adoption records unsealed. I received a letter form a deputy at the District Clerk's office stating she had been looking for something else and just happen to run across the name Pauline in some other records and it run a bell but the last names did not match. She needed more information. I called and gave her my mother's maiden name and she said "I have you records in my hand right now but they are sealed and I cannot tell you anything." She stated she had my petition and the judge just happened to be in court and she would hand deliver it to him.
Meanwhile another member had joined our search team and turned out to be very helpful in the judge's decision to unseal the records. September 14th I received the long awaited adoption records. This opened doors for us but we also ran into other closed doors, The search angel and I spent one whole day on the computer tracking down information. Finally around 6:00pm we signed off but not before the search angel posted another search with TxCARE. I was discouraged at this point and felt I was never going to find Pauline. The search angel told me not to give up. We seemed so close but yet so far. My sister told me in a phone conversation that she had ask Mom in her prayers to help me find Pauline. I knew God answered prayers and he came through once again. When I checked e-mails the next morning there it was. "Hi! I am a member of the Tx Search Angels and I believe I have found Pauline. Indeed she had. I was overjoyed to say the least. I was laughing and crying all at the same time, The e-mails just kept coming in. I was overwhelmed! I started calling brothers and sisters. They could not believe we had found her. Now we had to figure out how to contact her and let her know she had three brothers and five sisters that would like to meet her. We did not know how she would except this news. We knew it would be a big shock. One of the members of the search team offered to write a letter to her to test the waters. We were all on pins and needles and were afraid she would not want anything to do with us. On September 26th around 4pm I received a call from the search angel and she said "Well I just talked to Polly." I said "Polly who" She started laughing and said Pauline." I think I screamed and ask what she said. She said she wants to talk to you but we would see who called who first. I wasted no time dialing her number even though I was shaking and dialed the wrong number three times before I got the right one. When she answered it was the sweetest voice and one I had wanted to hear for a long time. We laughed, cried and talked for an hour. It was wonderful. A day I will never forget, She kept repeating, " Oh, I have three brothers and five sisters! I can not believe it" (she was raised as an only child)
As luck would have it Polly lived only 45 minutes from my twin brother. We all traveled to his house in the Houston area and meet Polly and her family for the fist time. What a reunion!! We were playing "Hello Dolly" but substituting Polly for Dolly when she walked through the door. We all bonded as if we had known each other all our lives. Her children told us we had breathed new life into their mother. She had lost her husband a couple of years before and was really lost without him. God knew the right time! Mom would be very proud (and Dad also) because Polly is a very fine "young" lady!
We were truly blessed to have been helped in our search by the wonderful search angels and others. We are so thankful for them.
If you are searching.........DON'T GIVE UP!!
Jannis Horwood and family