It was an honor for me to help John Reitmeier, of Crookston, find his biological family. You may have read the story in the April 28 edition of the Grand Forks Herald.
Being with John and his sister, Jane Reitmeier, in Charles Town, W. Va., the weekend they met John’s biological brother, Michael Terry and family for the first time was, well, a double header privilege. It was an unforgettable weekend for everyone.
John and Jane drove to West Virginia. I flew and they picked me up at Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport.
John had made the statement, “Jane loves to drive and I love to let her.” As it turns out, Jane drove 99 percent of the 3,400 mile round trip.
“John did do all the driving one day on our way home,” Jane said. “He just got behind the wheel that day and I didn’t question it. I figured I had been fired! But the next day, I drove again.”
Jane also is from Crookston where she is an admitting clerk and switchboard operator at Riverview Hospital.
Now I realize Crookston’s rush hour traffic is quite different than D.C.’s and West Virginia’s – not nearly as many six-to-eight lanes going every which way nor does Crookston have a cloverleaf every few hundred feet. But you would have thought Jane drove on those kinds of highways every day to and from work. She was like old hat behind the wheel. John, with the help of his GPS, was a very helpful navigator.
My observation from the back seat was that pilot and navigator worked very well together although Jane says,” we had our times. I just had to keep reminding myself, this is his trip. I am just lucky he let me experience this with him. We both agreed it would have been a challenge if we wouldn’t have had a GPS.”
John and Jane took a huge basket of gifts to the Terrys, “local things,” as Jane says. In the basket were bags of American Crystal sugar, Chippers from Widman’s, Minnesota honey and a loon, mugs from the Krazy Kiln Pottery Shop, sunflower seeds from Dahlgren’s, and a candle and candle plate from the Candle Shop, all in Crookston. And, of course Grain Belt Beer.
Jane feels that John and his new found family “will have a bond for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Debby mentioned many times that weekend, ‘you are stuck with us now, you are family.’ That and the fact that John doesn’t let people out of his life very easily. I have always been envious of the way he keeps in touch with people from his past. I have lost track of many people who used to be important in my life, but John doesn’t let that happen. To have John as a friend is to have a friend for life.”
John was a few months old when he was adopted by the late Grace and Willard Reitmeier. He was 4 and remembers the day the Reitmeiers brought Jane home as their newly adopted daughter.
“In a way this makes me more anxious to search for my birth family,” Jane said. “But at the same time it makes me nervous. I think that’s because I can’t imagine finding another Michael, Debby, Meg or Meredith. I know these searches don’t always have a good ending and now the bar is set pretty darn high.”
“So, Naomi,” Jane continued. “Let me know when you are ready to start on your next challenge.”