Born in circumstances of abject poverty in a country halfway around the world, Dennis Castle lost his mother the day he was born. Much of the next 32 years would be consumed by the search for his father. That search ended three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago Saturday I received an email from a woman I’d never heard of before. It asked, cryptically, if I was the “Brogan” who served aboard the submarine USS Grayback from 1972 – 1976. If I was, would I please call her immediately as it was a matter of some urgency. Her phone number was included.
Well, of course, my name is Brogan and I did serve aboard the Grayback during those years, but that information is easily discovered by anyone with an Internet connection – my life isn’t lived quietly in the closet – so I did not call her back but instead wrote back to ask what her interest in me was.
The woman’s name was Amanda (oddly enough the same name as my youngest daughter), and she said that her husband, Dennis had been told by the woman that raised him that his father’s name was Brogan. Thus began a tale that would occupy every waking moment for all of us for the next couple of weeks.
At first we parried – hesitating to give away too much personal information. I had no memory of an encounter that would lead to a son. I suggested a DNA test. Soon, our wariness waned, and the story – and the apparent truth of if – began to emerge. Dennis’ mother had worked in a bar in the Philippines during the time that I was there. While working there, she met a US sailor and became pregnant. Dennis was born nine months after an extended stay I had had in the city of his birth. Her closest friend was Anna (in another odd coincidence, this is also my mother’s name). Anna was with his mother the day Dennis was born. With no one else to look after him, Anna took in Dennis and raised him as her own. Later, she too met a US sailor, married him and emigrated to the United States bringing Dennis with her.
As Dennis grew older he became more and more curious about his parents, especially about the father whom he’d never met. He plied his step-mother for information: Who was he? What did he do? What did he look like? She told him all that she knew:
His name was either David or Dennis Brogan, he was from a northern suburb of Denver Colorado, he was on the US Navy boxing team, he was quite young and he was very blond. Oh yes, he loved pistachio nuts.
Well, of course, this was fantastical for me. All of those things were true. We exchanged many photographs, we spoke at length on the phone. I shared the photographs of Dennis and his four daughters (my grandchildren!) with my mother and my spouse. My family and I could see my father’s eyes and my facial structure in his face. He and Amanda saw his same direct look, his same smile and his same penchant for silliness in me.
His long search was over. He had found the person he knew to be his father. Finally, after all these years, he felt that he belonged. We both cried as we spoke on the phone. He called me “Mom.” I had a son.
The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming. How much more proof did we need?
In a blow that still has us all reeling, the DNA evidence returned a negative result. Dennis has, once again, lost his parent. And I, too, am heart-broken.