– by Caitlin Barnebee
When I was eleven years old, my mother sat me down and said “Caitlin, I have some news.” She proceeded to tell me that the man I thought was my father, biologically was not, and my five siblings therefore, were only half siblings. Her husband’s name was written on my birth certificate and, when I was born, I was told that he said, “Well I suppose you got your Amer-Asian baby after-all.” He accepted me as his own and no one in the family knew, except his sister. I was not of Irish decent like my siblings, but actually part Japanese. To an eleven year old all of this, of course, came as a shock and I didn’t know how to process the information. She gave me his name and told me he was in a band, one of her favorite bands, and they had had a small laison in April of 1984. She couldn’t find a single picture of him.
When I was fourteen years old, we got the internet. My mother was remarried and we had moved clear across the country. I did a quick search of the band name and his name, and nothing. Netscape and the internet seemed to not be all that it was cracked out to be. I quickly moved on to chat rooms and put the whole thing out of my mind once more.
When I was seventeen, my mother’s husband decided he wanted to officially adopt me as his child. They wrote a letter to my father (i.e. the man on my birth certificate) to which he completely refused to give up his parental rights, because to him, I was his daughter. There’s something to be said about that kind of loyalty, but I was caught in the middle of this battle and didn’t know what to say. To avoid the hassle any further, when I turned eighteen, I legally changed my last name to my stepfather’s to keep feelings from being hurt on both sides. It made me recall my biological father’s last name, Hooker, and made me thankful I didn’t have it.
Fast-forward through the years, my passion for music was endless. I imagined my biological father’s band being some sort of rock thing, because it fit in with all of my mother’s tastes, but could never find any information about the band, the man, or the music. Until I found Rock’N’Roll Heaven, an awesome record store just outside of the downtown area of Orlando, FL. It was one of my absolute favorite places in the city, though I didn’t go there much. There was a guy that worked there everyone called “The Wiz” because he had an uncanny ability to know everything about any music or musician whether they were local, domestic or international. I had never tested his abilities but had heard him speak to other people and the astonishment they expressed whenever he shocked them.
It was 2010, my dear friend was visiting Orlando for the first time and I wanted to show off my favorite places. She was telling me about her flight and talking about wanting to smoke the entire time, but instead she chewed on snuff tobacco. Subconsciously, this triggered something. We walked into the record store, and low and behold, The Wiz was working. I walked straight up to him and said, “So I have a question. I’m looking for some music by a band in the late 70s, early 80s by the name “Snuff,” because apparently, one of the guys in the band is supposed to be my dad. Know of them?”
“Snuff is the name? Out of Virginia, right?”
“Yeah!” I astonished.
“I don’t have any of their stuff right now, but I know we’ve had them before. You say the guy in the band is your dad?” He asked.
“Yeah, I’ve never been able to find anything about the band or the guy, I wanted to know what kind of music they played. I’ve never even seen a photo of him before.”
He puzzled for a moment and said, “Let me look something up.”
Some how, some way, The Wiz found a website about the band, that then led to a radio host that posted an interview with Snuff, and the most recent communications with the violin player.
“Violin!?? What kind of band were they?”
“They were some kind of folk band, music was so weird, but so good back then.” He continued, “I’ve found this stuff here, and the radio guy says he knows him, so your best bet would be to contact him and then see if he can put you in contact with him.”
“Wow! I can’t believe you found stuff, I’ve never been able to find anything.”
“We have magic sources. Oh wait, let me look up one more thing.” He searched in the vastness of the internet when he exclaimed, “I found a photo!”
“Oh my gosh!” We looked, and it was while he was playing, his hair swirling around in a black mass, you couldn’t see his face except one feature, his eyebrows. “Holy crap! Those are my eyebrows!!” My heart was racing, my hands were sweating. I’ve never seen anyone in my whole life that looked like me, not to mention that shared the same feature I did. It seemed so small, but it was the most terrifying thing to face unexpectedly. I think I didn’t actually expect to find anything because of the lack of success I had had previously on my own.
Then, out of nowhere, “He has a website!! He’s some sort of Smoke artist, graphic design or something! Oh man! He has his address on here! And his phone number!! We can call him right now!!!” The Wiz was just as excited as I was, and I was so grateful to him for helping me out so immensely.
I wrote the information down. My mind was blown, how on EARTH did this man know so much!? They called him The Wiz for a good reason, I thought. Ultimately, it all worked out. I told my sister about him, she called, and he answered the phone. Turns out he knew about me and had been looking for me for twenty-six years. We eventually connected on the phone, through email, through facebook and I flew to Manhattan to meet him, and his wife. They, unfortunately, had had no other children due to infertility issues, but one day my new step-mother said to me, “We’ve been waiting for you our whole lives.”
I look identical to him and it’s the best feeling in the world. We share the same mannerisms and the same hobbies and interests. I also have an Aunt and a Grandmother that are just as wonderful as you could imagine. I found the rest of my entire family because of a record store. A record store that cared about their guests. A record store that hired a guy that cared about music.