Wood, a resident of Lake Charles, LA, is the owner of a company called Hot or Not Marketing, which sells “energy-conserving products,” as he describes it. I got to know Wood through his posts on “The Wall,” a forum on the popular website www.heatinghelp.com.
THE STORYWood, now 53, was a member of the British Merchant Marine. As a young man he traveled back and forth from England to Australia and New Zealand. He said he met a “wonderful girl” in Auckland, New Zealand, and, after he left for home in England, got word that she was pregnant. He made immediate plans to return to New Zealand on a one-way ticket with the shipping company he worked for.
When he got back to New Zealand, he discovered that the mother had given the baby girl up for adoption.
Wood said that he remained in New Zealand, traveling and working there for two years as an industrial electrician. He never found his daughter, but by a strange coincidence, he wound up living and working only a few blocks from where she was living with her adoptive parents.
He returned to England, haunted by the fact that he couldn’t find his daughter because the adoption records were sealed. “I’m not one of those callous people who would walk away from a responsibility,” he said, “but I just couldn’t find her. My name was not on the adoption papers.”
Wood eventually relocated to Louisiana, married, and had a child, Autumn, now five. Yet he was fighting bouts of depression and guilt over never finding his first daughter.
RESUMING THE SEARCHFinally, last August, Wood said to himself, “I’m going to do it today. I’m going to find her.”
He contacted a New Zealand television station on the Internet and described for them what happened. “This was 10 o’clock in the morning here — in the middle of the night there — and they immediately sent my message to the child services where she was born,” he said. “I went out to the store and came back two hours later. An e-mail was there saying that they had found my girl.”
Woods said that a woman at child services knew the girl, who was now 32. She said she needed more information that she would forward to his daughter, leaving it up to her if she wanted to contact Wood. “The child has the option and the control,” he said.
His daughter e-mailed Wood back the next day. Her name, he now found out, was Marieke.
“I went through every range of emotion — fear, terror, everything,” Wood said.
“She e-mailed me and told me that she had been happy all of her life and was adopted by wonderful parents. She has a college degree and works as a substance abuse counselor. She never felt any animosity toward me at any time.
“The weight lifted off my shoulders. My daughter didn’t hate me.”
Wood said the two “clicked immediately.” Marieke told him she would buy an airline ticket to the United States to visit. She had a lot of catching up to do, including bringing the news of her 2-1/2-year-old son, Benjamin — Wood’s grandchild.
THE MEETINGWood arranged for his relatives to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. The local TV station did a story on the reunion.
Marieke got to meet her father, as well as her natural grandmother, two aunts, a cousin, and her stepsister. “The two sisters bonded on sight and never left each other for four days,” Wood said.
“I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I forgot what it felt like to be happy. Everybody has baggage in their lifetimes, but this year it has been lifted from me.
“My message to anyone who has lost someone the way I lost my daughter is to not wait another second, do it now, and find them. The healing and peace and love it brings to lives is absolutely immeasurable.”
John Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 12/16/2002