Her first words to me were, “Can I help you?”
I responded, “I am Zach Trimble. You may know me as Patrick Spies…I may be your son.”
If that sounds like something you would only hear on your favorite television drama, you might be right. But for Karen Spies, this was real life.
At age 17, Spies found herself in a difficult situation. She had been sneaking out to see a boyfriend of hers and ran away with him before her parents managed to find her and bring her back home.
Shortly afterwards, Spies discovered she was pregnant. The biological father told her, “never to call him again, because he didn’t want his parents to find out,” and Spies felt utterly abandoned and alone.
Realizing that she had no way to provide a life for her son, she made the decision to give him up for adoption with the help of her parents.
Although a monumental shift had happened in her life, Spies had to start life as an adult.
She moved to Chicago to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for her undergraduate degree, and found herself back in Boulder to attend Naropa University for her M.A. in Buddhist Studies before becoming CFO for the Boulder Fringe Festival.
She eventually married, and gave birth to two more children.
Then one day, 29 years later, she heard a knock on her door. She opened it to find herself staring into her own eyes, set in an unfamiliar face.
“He told me who he was and it felt like getting hit by a truck,” Spies said. “I literally grabbed my face and fell over.”
It has been two years since that day, and Spies and Trimble have developed an amazing new relationship.
It has been hard for both of them, in different ways, but their reunion is what inspired Spies and her friend Carol Calkins to start their podcast, “Honest Talk About Choice.”
Carol Calkins is an ideal co-host of the show. A licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who has been in practice for 30 years, she specializes in working with families, preteens, and children, especially elementary and younger kids. She has helped families with a host of issues including adoption, life transitions, grief, trauma, marital issues, mental illness, and more. When she attended graduate school in Virginia, she originally wanted to work with adults, but ended up working in an internship with clients who were children. It became a life-changing experience for her and she has loved working with children ever since. She also worked in rural Wyoming before moving to Boulder where she counsels adolescents, children, families, and individuals. Her website is: http://www.calkinstherapyforchange.com/
Calkins and Spies know firsthand how difficult it can be to talk about choices surrounding unexpected pregnancy, both for the child and both biological and adoptive parents. They want to create a safe space for people to share their stories in an anonymous way, and alleviate the weight of carrying a secret.
“I get very jealous. It’s intense for me,” Spies said of meeting Trimble’s mother in Episode 6. “She brought me all these photo albums of him growing up, and it was amazing but painful. I loved seeing them but it was a reminder of all of the parts of his life I missed out on.”
Their flagship episode discusses the reunion between Trimble and Spies, and aired in March. Since then, they have recorded parts II and III about Spies, along with five other stories from a variety of guests from across the nation
The podcasts are poignant, joyful at times and heavy at others, but they are worth taking a listen. And if you are someone you know might benefit from sharing their story with Spies and Calkins — whether you live in Colorado or anywhere in the U.S. — you can contact them via their website, or their Facebook page.