Tod Pohlmann had always known he was adopted, but it wasn’t until he began his own family that he got serious about finding his birth mother.
Although his adoption records were sealed, Pohlmann, who manages the Starbucks on Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton, knew his mother’s date of birth and her first and middle name.
In fact, over the years he’d tried a few times to find this mystery woman, including a trip to Florida to visit what he believed was his mother’s high school. “The school secretary was very helpful,” Pohlmann said, explaining that she let him look through yearbooks for a girl named Virginia. “When I couldn’t find her, the secretary guessed my mom was a military brat and went to school on the nearby base.”
In his late twenties Pohlmann tried again, visiting a three-storey house on Post Street in San Francisco where he knew his mother had lived in the 1960s. The house was owned by a woman who rented out the second and third floors. “She was so nice to me,” Pohlmann said. “She said she remembered my mom as a tall redhead, but I’m not sure she really remembered her.”
Pohlmann was born in 1967 after his mother had traveled across the country with her cousin and her cousin’s boyfriend to be part of the San Francisco scene. “My dad was in the Navy,” he said. “I was a USO baby.”
Growing up in Milpitas with kind adoptive parents, Pohlmann never felt desperate about finding his birth mother. Still, once married and ready to have a child, he wanted to learn where he’d come from.
So in 1999, with assistance from a search consultant, Pohlmann got the phone number of a woman who matched the facts he knew. Taking a deep breath, he dialed.
“The phone rang a few times and a woman answered,” Pohlmann said. “I told her I was doing genealogical research and had a few questions.”
As the woman confirmed her birth day, year, and place of birth, she paused and asked for his name again. When he told her, her voice cracked.
"When I said she might know what this call was about, she asked for a moment and put the phone down,” he said.
“When she came back she was crying. We talked for more than two hours.”
Pohlmann said his mother, who goes by Vickie, felt a lot of guilt and apologized for giving him up for adoption. He assured her that his parents, who passed away in the early 1990s, had been wonderful and that he had a good life.
Within weeks of the call, Vickie was on a plane to California to meet her son. The meeting was emotional, and today Pohlmann’s10-year-old daughter Kiley has a grandmother she might otherwise never have met.
Asked if he would advise adopted children to seek out their birth parents, Pohlmann hesitated, then said he would. “But you never know if you’re going to find the Rockefellers or people who’ll want to move in with you the next day,” he said. “You need to realize the commitment you’re about to make.”
Next for Pohlmann is whether to find his biological father. With the internet these days, it shouldn’t be difficult. Family members are uncertain, and Pohlmann, who is undecided, wonders whether he'll take this next step.