WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It’s no secret Dan Barrett was adopted.
"They gave me this amazing life," Dan says of his adoptive parents. "I have a younger brother through another adoption, as well.”
Now, he lives in Winston-Salem with his wife, Marybeth and two sons of his own, Mac and Cal. But his puzzle always had a missing piece. For 50 years, he never knew who his parents were. That all changed when he decided to do something about it a few months ago.
He sent his DNA to ancestry.com, where results showed he had about 300 potential relatives. He reached out to one on a Wednesday night in January. The next day, that relative got back to him, saying his birth parents were alive, together and wanted to talk.. By Friday, the phone was ringing.
"We were just in shock," Marybeth explains. "We had our hands over our faces. I’ve been hoping that this would happen for a long time.”
They learned, Dan’s parents, Kathy and Scott, were freshmen in college when they had him. At that point in their lives, they knew they could not give a baby the life they wanted to give him so they put him up for adoption.
A few years later, they got married and had 3 daughters.
"One of the things I asked my birth mom, Kathy, as she tells me this, is I asked how the sisters were doing," Dan tells. "And the first thing she said was 'Well, they found out about you an hour ago. You’ve been a secret for 50 years.'”
But if you saw them talking now, you'd never know Dan was ever a secret. They all talk regularly on the phone.
"For years and years I waited for my front door to have this little knock, knock, knock at it," Kathy explains over FaceTime. "Always wondered what he was going to look like."
The Sunday after that first phone call in January, they found out.
Dan and his family in North Carolina packed up the car and drove to Cleveland, right near Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his biological family has been living.
And with all the intrigue and excitement, there was an added rush to meet sooner, rather than later. Dan’s biological father, Scott, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
"My dad who raised me really pushed me," Dan says. "He said to me over the phone, 'You need to go meet that man and make some memories for him and for yourself.'"
So that’s what they’ve done. Dan and his family have been up to visit twice and his parents, his sisters, Lisa, Adrian and Lindsay, and all his new nieces and nephews all came down to Winston-Salem for a big cookout.
"There was never any awkwardness, never any weirdness," Marybeth says. "It just clicked from the beginning."
Dan’s adoptive parents and his “bio” parents have clicked, too, even planning a vacation together, without the kids.
"it’s selfless, for all of them," Marybeth tells. "I can’t talk about it without crying."
So for this story, that for so long, never had a beginning, there’s a promise to write new chapters.
Merging two families who lived separate lives, realizing they were never strangers at heart.