“Hallo, I’m looking for Gary Stewart,” a heavily German- accented voice said in perfect English.
Gripping the handset, I said, “This is Gary speaking.”
“This is Guenevere. What’s this about you being my brother?” I could tell she was smiling by the sound of her voice, and I let go of the breath I had been holding.
Our conversation lasted forty minutes. Guenevere asked why I thought we were brother and sister. I explained that I had been adopted and what Armstrong had told me.
Guenevere told me that she had a baby, Karl, who was two, and her second child was due in March. She explained that she had moved from the address where I had sent the letter because she and her husband needed a larger home for their growing family. She had not received the e-mails because she had not been to her office.
My heart soared. She had not been ignoring me.
I told her about my family, both families, and repeated the information I had sent her in the letters.
“Can you tell me about our father?” I asked.
“I didn’t know our father,” she said. “He abandoned us when I was a baby.”
Her words shot through me. Van had done the same thing to my siblings that he had done to me. I knew well the sadness she must have experienced when she learned that.
“So is our father’s criminal past the reason why you devoted your life to helping those like our father seek asylum?” I asked, my voice full of empathy.
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“What do you mean, ‘our father’s criminal past’?” Guenevere said, the tone of her voice no longer cheerful.
I knew I had just misstepped. “I just assumed, if you worked for the asylum board, that our father might have been running from something in the U.S.”
“My career has nothing to do with my father,” Guenevere said coldly. “It’s just what I went to university for, that’s all.”
As we said our good-byes and exchanged contact information, I knew I had stuck my foot in my mouth. I hoped I had not done too much damage, but the Guenevere who said good-bye was not the friendly Guenevere who had greeted me.