DNA detectives: After 53 years Dave Laycock meets his birth family

August 2018 Posted in Community, People

Left: Dave Laycock with his birth mother Loretta Meier. Right: Dave with his adopted father Don Laycock and biological niece Annie Porter. Submitted Photos

By Nancy Jennings

As owner of Renaissance Carpentry in Silverton, Dave Laycock’s business thrives on building additions, remodels and restorations. Earlier this year, the Silverton resident found himself “adding on” new family members in his personal life. Adopted as an infant, Dave, 53, located and met his biological relatives.

Adopted by Don and Edel Laycock, the family moved to Silverton in 1974 from Southern California, when Dave was nine. Along with an older brother, he enjoyed an idyllic childhood playing often in Silver Creek. But like other adoptees, he was always curious about his birthparents. Did he look like them? Were they reserved or outgoing? Tall or short?

“There have always been those lingering questions in your mind. You dream that cheerleaders and quarterbacks are your parents. Most likely that’s not the case,” he said. 

“My drive to do this was to tell my biological mother ‘thank you.’ I knew in my heart this woman was forced into a difficult decision at a young age that she would have to live with forever. I didn’t care if there was a relationship formed beyond that. It was just something I had to do,” he explained.

With the help of the internet and two different DNA-matching companies, he began a “mutual-consent search.”

“Both the parents or siblings could contact me if they wanted to.”

He first thought it may have been too late to locate his birth parents, given their advanced age at the time he started the search.

His adoptive mother, Edel, passed in 1998. He said she would have been thrilled to know he discovered and met his biological relatives. He is quick to point out his devotion to the mother who nurtured and brought him up as her own.

“Mom earned that title. She was always ‘Mom.’ She put the Band-Aids on and pulled them off. She raised me. That’s such a noble act,” he said.

While Dave’s father, Don, always supported his wish to connect with his birth family, he insisted that the reaching out be done correctly. The piece of advice he emphasized the most was not to disrupt another family – and perhaps open up old wounds. “You don’t want to just show up at someone’s door and say ‘Hey, I’m here and I demand to be in your life.’”

On March 1, Dave and his wife, Candice Gibbons, traveled to Lake Havasu, a border city between California and Arizona, and met Loretta Meier – his birth mother.

His father, Don, sent Loretta a gift with an attached card in honor of the occasion. Due to health concerns, he couldn’t travel.

“I don’t know what was written in the card, but my sister told me it got the tears rolling,” Dave said.

Loretta was finally able to tell her son face to face her reason for making that life-altering decision.

“She realized she couldn’t raise five kids, so she put me up for adoption,” he said.

“She said she can now die in peace. Countless times she had cried herself to sleep wondering what had become of me. She always worried and was curious – and never thought I’d show up. When I was born, the hospital told her she had to give me a name for the birth certificate. She chose to name me ‘David,’ which meant ‘beloved son.’ This was her way of leaving me a message saying she loved me.”

Ironically, the Laycock’s picked the same name.

“Coincidentally, Loretta had remarried a couple of years after putting me up for adoption. She gave birth to another son and named him David, after me.” The younger “David” was overjoyed to find out he had an older namesake brother to get to know after being raised with four older sisters.

“I found my niece, Annie, in January this year.” She was a match on the same “mutual-consent” option of the DNA-matching company. While on the phone with her, after answering question after question, he decided to snap a selfie and hit Send.

“The general comment throughout the family was: ‘What the heck? He looks more like Mom than all of us!’” he laughed. That got the ball rolling…

Later that day, as he was picking up his tools and ready to head home, his phone rang. It was his sister, Denise.

“So, I thought ‘OK, I’m going to have a seat here and have a little cry.’”

Once at home and after a marathon phone conversation, Dave found out he had three sisters and a brother. One sister had passed away.

“We flew down to Las Vegas for the March 1 family reunion. We met 18 people there – sisters, husbands, nieces and nephews.”

He credits his wife of 23 years with helping him navigate the emotional roller-coaster of meeting his long-lost relatives.

“She’s been spectacular. I can’t thank her enough for the support and encouragement. She went through all the anxiety along with me. She was a pillar.”

His niece, Annie Porter, 37, visited him in Silverton during the recent July 4 holiday – driving all the way from Barstow, California.

“It’s a new chapter to an old story,” she said about their finding each other and catching up. “It was surreal. I’ve known about him since I was five or six.”

Dave views the future with new family ties realistically – with no expectations.

“It’s like any relationship with any friend. It’s going to take two people to grow it. If they want to proceed, sure, I’m still game,” he said. “All I know is that I need to buy much more Christmas cards this year than I did last year,” he laughed.

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