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For 44 years, Melissa Durr wondered how she ended up with blue eyes.
“I always said I looked so much like my mother with the exception of my blue eyes,” she said.
This year, on Labor Day weekend, Durr met her father, Ovan Ray Caudill, for the first time. And, sure enough, his eyes were blue, too.
Beginning the search
Durr has always known about her father, she said, but she didn’t try to find him.
“I chose not to pursue anything,” she said. “I didn’t want to cause any turmoil or any hard feelings.”
But her husband, Eddie, got an idea while the two of them were watching an episode of “Two and a Half Men” on April 1, 2009.
Charlie, one of the main characters in the show, was Googling women from past relationships to make amends for any wrongdoings.
Eddie decided to Google Melissa’s name just to see what came up, Melissa said.
And what he found that April Fools’ Day was no joke.
Melissa’s name was the subject of a search on a website called CousinConnect.com.
“I had a half-sister looking for me,” Melissa said. “I always knew I had a half-sister and a half-brother, but I never pursued anything because I didn’t want to create any problems.
“But this was eye-opening because she was looking for me.”
Melissa and Eddie responded to the post, but never heard anything.
“We did a lot of searching, but it was a dead end,” she said.
‘Your search is over’
Melissa works in the medical field, and sometime later a patient came through her office with the same last name as her father.
“I couldn’t help thinking, ‘What if we’re related?’ ” she said.
Melissa confided the details of her situation to a coworker who then started doing some searches on Facebook.
The coworker came across a profile with a name matching that of the half-sister who had made the post on CousinConnect.com.
Melissa took her chances and sent her possible half-sister a message.
“I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ ” she said.
The two sent messages back and forth, ironing out the details like when and where Melissa was born, she said.
“I asked her if her father’s name was Ray, and she wrote back and said, ‘Your search is over,’ ” Melissa said.
Melissa exchanged telephone numbers with her half-sister, and the two of them had a two-hour-long conversation.
In a matter of minutes, Melissa’s family grew exponentially.
As it turns out, the patient who came through her office was her half-brother.
“I had always been an only child, but I found out I have seven siblings,” Melissa said.
She was able to connect with four of her siblings through Facebook, and they told her when she was ready, they would connect her with her father.
Within a couple of weeks, Melissa felt ready, and her father gave her a call.
“Which I missed,” she said. “But I called him back the next day and we had a wonderful conversation.”
‘I’ve waited so long for this’
Melissa talked to her father and planned a trip to meet him in Indiana for the first time, face-to-face on Labor Day weekend.
“We had 3 1/2 hours of travel time, so I had all that time to think about it and feel those emotions,” Melissa said.
Melissa said she and Eddie were running about an hour behind schedule when they finally approached her father’s house.
“Eddie asked me if I was ready, and I started to collect myself,” Melissa said.
However, apparently the mail had just been delivered and, not knowing they were outside, her father came out to check the mail.
“Eddie said, ‘Ready or not, here he comes,’ ” Melissa recalled.
Eddie, who Melissa describes as her rock throughout the search, got out of the car and introduced himself, while Melissa prepared to meet her father.
“I got out of the car, and I was looking down at my feet,” Melissa said. “But all I could hear was my dad saying, ‘Come here, I’ve waited so long for this. I’ve waited so long to hug you.’ ”
Filling a void
Melissa said she talks to her dad every week, and in the past few months, she has met all of her siblings.
“It’s incredible to know that I have brothers and sisters who have always known about me and who have been looking for me,” Melissa said. “For whatever reason, we were never able to connect [until now]. It’s incredible. I’ve been welcomed with open arms.
“A void has been filled in their lives and mine.”
Melissa said she is a firm believer in the adage “everything happens for a reason.”
“Like I told [my dad], at this point in our lives, there is a reason we finally met,” she said. “And I’m very thankful.”
In addition to the weekly phone calls, Melissa said she and her father have exchanged photographs, and her father sends a 10- to 12-page “chapter” of his life to her on a weekly basis.
“I call it a book,” Melissa said. “Every week I get another chapter in his life.”
Melissa’s brothers and sisters also are working to get her up-to-date with family information, she said.
“I had always wondered, what is this going to be like,” Melissa said. “But now, it’s as if I was never gone.
“Words can’t explain it, but the story itself says a lot.”
Melissa said finding her family is a gift that will last a lifetime and a sign of hope for others out there searching.
“What more could someone ask for, for Christmas?” Melissa said. “My long lost family is finally found.
“To those out there searching for lost family members, this is proof that there is hope for everyone.”
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