By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Broken marriages and divorce turned Carey Bacon’s life upside down when she was 2 years old and again when she was 9.
Family strife ripped her from her father’s lap before she could really know something as simple as what he looked like.
When she finally found him last year, they had barely begun to know each other when he died suddenly two weeks after Father’s Day.
She expects lots of tears today over losing, then finding, and losing him again.
“My mother left him when I was about 2 and moved with me to Hawaii to go to college,” said Bacon, 37, a restaurant worker who lives in Sharon. “He flew there to get her to come back but she didn’t want to, and they ended up being divorced.”
Her mother, then Laura Davis, got homesick and left college to return to Greenville. She remarried and Michael Bacon adopted her 4-year-old daughter. The couple would also have another daughter and a son.
Bacon’s second family moved twice before settling in Sharon. She lived on Grant Street until she was 15 and later moved to Canton, Ohio, before returning to Sharon last year.
When, as a fourth-grader, she learned suddenly that she had been born with a different name, her struggle to find Joe Davis began.
“I found my baby book and it said ‘Carey Lynn Davis’ and I said, ‘Who is this? Her name is Carey, too,’ ” Bacon said. “My mother looked at me and said, ‘That’s you. Your real dad left you.’ ”
The search to find him lasted for more than 25 years while she tried to find him without success as a teenager. Her mother, who turned to drinking heavily as her second marriage fell apart, stacked obstacles in her path.
“At first, I didn’t understand,” she said of the Bacons’ divorce, “but then it sank in that my brother and sister weren’t my real brother and sister and my father really wasn’t my father. I couldn’t feel like I fit in anymore. My whole life had been a lie.”
She no longer has contact with those siblings or Bacon in Canton, nor much contact with her mother who lives in Arkansas.
When Bacon asked about her father, her mother refused to say where he was or told different stories to prevent her from finding him.
Bacon said the shocking changes in her life caused confusion, sadness and loneliness that she now thinks led to her pregnancy in high school. Laura Bacon abandoned her when she was 18.
“She said she had met a guy in Florida and she was moving there,” Bacon said. “Alexis was two months old and she threw me out.”
The two women still speak once in a while but their relationship is strained, said Bacon, who is divorced and the mother of three children, Alexis, 18, Madison, 14, and Kaden, 6.
A social network search begun several years ago paid off in October 2011 when Bacon found a Facebook page for Ann Davis, a nurse who lives in Greenville. Its photos included some of “Joe.” Among the few details her mother had provided, Bacon knew her father was a teacher and that he had married a nurse.
“I started analyzing some of the pictures,” she said. “He wore glasses, he was tall and it hit me. I kind of do look like him so I wrote a letter on Facebook asking if it would be possible to talk to him.”
It went unnoticed for four months until a reply showed up on Valentine’s Day last year.
“Ann wrote me back and said, ‘Your father would love to talk to you,’ ” Bacon said. “I screamed. I was excited. I was scared. I just thought it would never happen.”
Davis, who didn’t have a Facebook page, wrote a message for her, too.
“He said it was one of the greatest days of his life and that he would always remember it.” Bacon said. Through tears, she added, “And he signed it, ‘Love, Dad.’ ”
After several phone calls to begin getting to know each other, daughter and father and both their families met at a Hermitage restaurant.
“It was awkward at first for all of us,” Bacon said. “We were talking and we were all excited but there was a lot of silence in between because we really weren’t sure what to say to each other. The kids, of course, were fine but after looking for him for all those years. I didn’t know what to say. There were so many questions I wanted to ask.”
Bacon learned why her father, living in Greenville and knowing she was in Sharon, never contacted her.
“At first they were fighting over me. He tried to see me but my mom wouldn’t let him,” Bacon said. “When he agreed to let Michael adopt me, he thought he was doing the right thing because they were getting married and we would be a family. He thought I was OK, that I had good parents and that we were happy. He thought everything was fine. That’s why he didn’t look for me.
“He said, had he known, they would have come and taken me. They would have gotten custody of me.”
After meeting, the families began trading visits and Bacon’s younger children began staying for sleepovers with the Davises.
Kaden found a happy seat in his grandfather’s lap, talking about fishing and trains and watching cartoons together. He, Alexis and Madison loved getting to know their newly discovered aunts, Shana and Alyssa and her infant son - their cousin, Liam.
Bacon, too, quickly began feeling what has grown into a strong attachment to her suddenly larger family.
“There’s none of that ‘half’ crap going on here,” Bacon said. “They’re my sisters.”
Alyssa, answering with a dash of the sass sisters can use with each other said, “You’re ours now.”
Their happiness during today’s family gathering will be salted with tears all around, the women say, because they all would have wished for many more years as members of Joe Davis’s family.
It’s not fair,” Bacon said. “It’s not right that I only got to know him for four months and he was gone. There wasn’t enough time to get to know everything about him.”
Davis, the family discovered, left a gift behind for his eldest daughter – a photograph of her that he kept all her life in his sock drawer.
Ann found it after he died and gave it to Bacon who cried as she described the comfort the photograph brings to her.
“I was 3, so it shows that he had always thought of me. It means I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “It shows that he loved me and he cared about me.”