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‘A lifetime to catch up on’

Dennis Blackwell should have arrived in Bermuda yesterday. It was expected to be a joyous occasion, an opportunity to finally meet his birth family after a 20-year search.

Thanks to Covid-19, he is instead at home in Indiana; his trip delayed until September.

To say that he felt down because he had to reschedule, would be an understatement.

“Disappointed is not the word,” he said of the forced postponement. “It was the hardest decision I had ever had to make, but one that, because of safety considerations, had to be made. Hopefully, September will bring the joy and closure I have been searching for.”

From a young age, Mr Blackwell knew he was adopted.

His long search for his birth parents ended with the discovery that he was the son of the late singer, Hubert Smith Jr, and a Bermudian woman who put him up for adoption in New York and has no interest in meeting him now.

“I have always wanted to know who I was,” the 58-year-old said. “I have always wondered why I was put up for adoption. Therefore it was a driving force for me to search out for my real family. As a kid, I was distracted with growing up with a great family, so it was not until I got into my teen years that the new urge to find the real me resurfaced.”

He started asking questions around the age of 13.

Eventually he learnt that his birth mother travelled to New York from Bermuda while pregnant, “gave birth to me and left as soon as she could”.

“A few years ago a nephew of mine, who had friends who lived in Bermuda, did some inquiring for me and found out about my mother and sister. That was the beginning.”

Mr Blackwell went on Facebook for help, messaging Bermudians with his “true last name” and asking if they knew his family. Eventually, someone said yes.

“One thing led to another and before you knew it I found my sister on Facebook and sent her a message,” he said. “She did not answer me for a long time and then, one day, she opened up the message and said she was shocked. She never knew she had siblings, so she was totally shocked.”

He and his sister then learnt that they had a brother who had also been put up for adoption. So far they haven't been able to find him.

“My mother, sister and a great deal of my family reside in Bermuda,” said Mr Blackwell who is married, with three daughters. “When my family found out [about me], of course they were shocked ... Sadly, my mother wants no part of me finding her.

“She has said she wants no part of this and refuses to speak or even think of meeting me when I come there.

“The rest of my family is excited about meeting me and cannot wait for September to get here.”

Although he's planning to travel here by himself, he is grateful that his US family supports all that he is doing.

“I strongly feel this is something I should do alone at first,” he said. “Me and my family have a lot of emotions to go through so, though I could use the support of my wife, I must do this alone for the first meeting.

“At first, my adoptive sister was upset, because she thought I would forget them — which was far from the truth.

“At the end of the day, she's my sister, adoptive or not. Since she realised I would never forget my adoptive family, she fully supports my quest.”

Meeting his Bermudian sister in person will be the high point of the trip for Mr Blackwell, who had heard of the island before, but never visited.

“I am beyond excited, but scared as well. I cannot wait to meet them, but I am scared of how they will take me. It will be a scary plane ride, but one I have to take. Both me and my sister are excited and for both of us this is a ‘must got to do' thing. We have a lifetime to catch up on.

“When I get there all I can focus on is my time with my sister. As I said, we have so much to catch up on. I also plan on meeting as many family members as I can and taking in all that Bermuda has to offer.”

Seeking joy and closure: Dennis Blackwell spending time with his daughter (Photograph supplied)

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Published June 22, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 22, 2020 at 9:31 am)

‘A lifetime to catch up on’

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