The last day Fort Hall resident Richard Clauson spoke to his older brother, it was 1962 and his brother had just shoved him inside a trash can behind their grandparents’ home in Antioch, California.
Richard, the second youngest of four children, was 5 years old at the time, and his older brother of two years, Larry Carroll, had just learned of their parents’ planned divorce.
“Our parents were pretty young,” Richard said. “From what I understand they were in their early 20s when they had us four kids.”
For reasons Richard will never know for sure, his parents decided to put him and his younger brother up for adoption while splitting up the two older siblings. Larry went with the father, and their mother took custody of the oldest sibling, Leslie Carroll.
An imminent visit from child services to take Richard and the youngest brother, Ray Clauson, prompted Larry to hide Richard in the trash can before retreating to a nearby park.
From inside the can, Richard expected his brother to soon return.
Instead, 55 years passed before the siblings shared a single conversation.
Richard’s search for his lost siblings began with the help of newspaper articles archived in Antioch, where he first discovered his last name given at birth and the name of his father.
After spending three years shuffling through foster homes, Richard and Ray were adopted by a family with the last name Clauson. After assuming their last name, Richard said that he had eventually forgotten his last name given at birth.
“It just hit me one day to go down to the newspaper because I know they keep records,” Richard said. “Once I got the names, I let it go for a while and never followed through with the search.”
Though Richard had his birth name, he never had the means to connect the name to his family’s whereabouts. After many futile attempts, Richard gave up. That is, until he was unable to answer specific questions from his doctor about his family’s medical history.
What’s more, Richard simply wanted to know his heritage or family lineage.
“People always say, ‘Oh I’m Irish or English or German,’ and I never knew who I was,” Richard said. “I was just always curious about what relationship I have to the world. I think that’s something we are all curious about.”
Despite knowing who he wanted to track down and why, Richard struggled with finding out how to find his family.
But that changed when he received an email from PeopleLooker.com, a searchable, personal information provider and background check platform.
“I’m kind of a Neanderthal when it comes to computers, but I tried to track my family down online in January,” Richard said. “I received a free 30-day trial from PeopleLooker for 99 cents. So, I typed in my father’s name and it popped up deceased but it had a phone number listed out of Arizona.”
Richard called the number and spoke to the woman his father married after the divorce. From there, Richard received the phone numbers for Larry, who Richard later learned lives in Boise, and Leslie, who after remarrying has the last name Buell and lives in Indiana.
Richard’s first calls to Larry went to voicemail, remaining unreturned for the next few days.
“I thought, ‘Well maybe I’m doing something wrong,’” Richard said.
So he decided to write a letter.
“He sent me a letter, and it makes me cry every time I think about it now,” Larry said tearfully. “The letter basically said, ‘This is no joke, I’m your brother, here is my phone number and give me a call.”
When Larry received the letter, he called Richard right away.
“I got the letter, and it just blew me away,” Larry said. “My whole life’s dream has been how to find him. I’ve watched shows on TV and it’s like, yeah okay, who do I write or talk to.”
The reunion crammed 55 missing years into just hours on the phone. The brothers talked about fishing, their health and the death of their father three years prior.
“(Larry) was just ecstatic. He was crying, and I don’t know for sure, but I think there might have been a little bit of guilt for the parents being a part of their lives and not in ours,” Richard said. “But it was a good conversation.”
Just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, Richard called again the next day, he added.
A similar scenario played out with Richard’s sister. After a week of unreturned phone calls, she called Richard crying — so much so that he couldn’t understand her at first, Richard said.
“But she says, ‘This is your sister, Leslie Buell,’” Richard said. “I guess her and her husband had just gotten off a cruise in the Bahamas, which is why she didn’t get my message, but she said she cried for three days.”
The siblings talked about the parents they once shared and about the events leading up to their deaths.
“She had tried to find me before our father had passed to see if she could let us know, but she couldn’t get anywhere with it,” Richard said. “She didn’t know what our adopted name was.”
The conversation led to an exchange of addresses with which Buell sent Richard pictures of him and his parents before the divorce.
“It was pretty exciting to be able to see what my parents looked like and what I looked like as a little tyke,” Richard said.
With both his parents now deceased, Richard said he will never know why they gave the younger children up for adoption and kept the older children, albeit separated.
“The story I heard from my father’s second wife was that my mother didn’t really appreciate boys and that’s why she didn’t want us,” Richard said. “And my father, he couldn’t afford to keep us. I think it had a lot to do with finances, and I don’t really believe the story that she didn’t love us.”
He continued, “I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that someone would give birth to someone and not like them because of their sex. I believe that they did it with our best interests at heart. I try not to think bad thoughts about it, I mean, of course I wondered if I got thrown away, but everybody who’s human would, too, wouldn’t they?”
A four-hour trip keeps Richard from his brother, but finances are tight with both men on disability after Richard injured his neck and back, and Larry suffered two strokes in the last year.
To try and secure funds for a face-to-face reunion, Richard started a GoFundMe campaign, accessible by visiting gofundme.com/mpayq-adopted.
“He is four hours away, and I can’t even put my arm around him yet,” Larry said. “Let me get a lottery ticket and I’ll be there.”
Despite growing up without his siblings and biological parents, Richard said he holds no hard feelings for his family and is humbled to finally be reunited.
“It’s all water under the bridge,” Richard said. “I came out alright, I’m alive and I’m excited about hooking up with them for a visit. We’re all just happy to be in touch again.”