The Enduring Power of Family

April 30, 1993

Every journalist wishes he or she had a dime each time someone asked: "Why do newspaper people always focus on the negative? Why don't you ever write any nice stories?"

Well, we do. All the time, as a matter of fact (though the nice articles usually end up forgotten amid the crime and scandal). This week, The Sun's Anne Arundel County bureau stumbled across a story that is more than just a pleasant read. The story of Andrew Fleischmann is at once an affirmation of the power of family, a testament to how love can endure, a commentary on life's ironies.

Mr. Fleischmann is the 67-year-old Pasadena man who was united recently with five siblings and four half-brothers and sisters he never knew he had. They've all been living within a few miles of each other; now they wonder how they could have been so near, and yet so far.

The reunion would not have occurred but for Mr. Fleischmann's older siblings, whose feelings for their lost brother survived the course of 60 long years. They knew what he did not -- that, after their mother died and while he was a baby, his father gave him up for adoption to a trusted co-worker at the General Chemical Co. in South Baltimore. They never forgot him. Over the years they shared tidbits of gossip and the occasional newspaper clipping about him, but eventually lost track. They began searching in earnest last year, finally locating him through the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Last Oct. 10 -- Mr. Fleischmann's 67th birthday -- one of his half-brothers called. "He said, 'I think you're my brother,' " Mr. Fleischmann remembers. When they met at the Riviera Beach McDonald's the next day, all doubts were erased.

Some adoption stories have a dark side. Those who go in search of lost family may find themselves an unwelcome reminder of the past. Or they may open a Pandora's box of confused emotions.

That did not happen here. For Mr. Fleischmann, who grew up an only child, finding his siblings has been an unexpected bonus in what has been a happy life. He suffers no resentment toward the father who, left with eight children, gave some of them up to family and friends. "He did a very humane thing," he says. Nor have his feelings changed toward the Pasadena couple who raised him; "they will always be my Mom and Dad."

And so the story ends happily, even as it has just begun.

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