When Mirasol Espinesen was 8, she sneaked into her parents’ bedroom to steal a glance at the tiny baby boy they brought home from the military hospital in Twentynine Palms. She was old enough to know this was her brother, but within days he was gone – taken by a family friend.
Her mother rarely spoke of the event. Her father took it to his grave.
Shortly after Alaska Airlines Flight 3478 landed at Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 9:49 a.m. Monday, Espinesen, now 42, saw her baby brother a second time.
Jorick Soriano, 33, hugged Espinesen and their middle sibling, 36-year-old Kirk Patience, for the first time in his life while the trio stood in between the arrival gate exit and the main terminal’s first giant sequoia tree display.
After tearfully embracing his siblings, Soriano moved on to Patience’s wife, Nicole, and 4-year-old daughter, Ariadne.
The hugs came with few words. Although tied by blood, Soriano is essentially a stranger to Patience and his family. Patience, who was only 2 at the time Soriano was taken away and adopted, didn’t know his brother existed until Espinesen found him. Soriano and Espinesen are a little more familiar – they’ve exchanged calls and emails for about two years.
The resemblance was clear. Soriano is slightly tanner – possibly from living his entire life in the coastal city of Oceanside – but the siblings share the same body type.
They exchanged some pleasantries. It was Soriano’s first time flying alone. It’s much warmer in Fresno than in San Diego, where he departed from.
Finally, Espinesen got down to it: “What do you want to do?”
“I have no idea,” Soriano said, “what do we do in Fresno?”
“Let’s eat,” said Patience, the Fresno resident in the group. Espinesen and their mother live in Tennessee.
Soriano nodded. “Yeah, let’s do that.”
I wanted to hold him (Soriano) so bad, but was told to leave him alone. The next day, some people took him, and my mama was crying so hard and stayed in the bedroom for a very long time.
Although the family attributes the reunion to fate, the siblings put in considerable work. Both Espinesen and Soriano began searching for one another on their 18th birthdays. The eldest sibling searched written records for Anthony Patience – Soriano’s birth name. She kept the search to herself. Her middle brother didn’t remember the baby, and she even began to doubt his existence.
“As time passed, I was beginning to think that it was a figment of my imagination,” Espinesen said.
Technology notched a major assist.
About 10 years ago, Soriano placed the following ad on Adoption Registry Connect’s website: “I was born July 12, 1982 in a military hospital in Twentynine Palms. From what clues I’ve been able to gather, my birth father’s last name was Patience. I was adopted through a family friend, my current father’s sister Cindy. All I seek is some kind of closure, as my entire life all I’ve been wondering is how my birth family has been doing and if they would like to connect in any way.”
Espinesen’s partner found the post in 2014. She reached out to him.
“I was ecstatic at the time,” Espinesen said. “I was going out of my mind waiting for his answer. When I finally heard his voice, I just knew – with no questions asked – that he was my brother.”
The pair exchanged pictures, calls and emails. It was Soriano’s first response through the website – a wait of around eight years.
“He’s a spitting image of my mom,” Espinesen said.
Espinesen told her mother when she found Soriano, which caused her mother to break down into tears. She did not want to participate in the reunion and has never spoken to Soriano.
“She has a bad heart,” Espinesen said, referring to the emotional challenge. “It’ll have to be on her time.”
Espinesen was never given a reason for the adoption when she pressed her mother. She suspects financial strains made a third child unfeasible.
I know it was painful for her because she absolutely loves children. I believe at that point in time, they couldn’t afford another child.
Mirasol Espinesen, on her mother’s decision to give her brother up for adoption
Soriano was given to family friends, Cindy and Jay Wilson, before being adopted by Cindy’s brother, Ricardo Soriano, and his wife, Jocelyn. Both he and Espinesen said he was raised in a happy, loving family.
He has spent his entire life in Oceanside and currently works at a Walmart.
His elder siblings both served in the military.
Espinesen served four years of active duty in the U.S. Army. After being wounded in Somalia, she served an additional four years as an inactive soldier. She currently works for Willis Towers Watson, a national insurance brokerage and financial adviser.
Patience served in the U.S. Navy and as a medic in a Marine Corps unit in Iraq. He is currently in between jobs as a phlebotomist.
Soriano and Espinesen will stay with Patience for the week. As they exited the airport, a slightly overwhelmed Soriano tried to explain his feelings.
“I was nervous coming off of the plane,” he said. “Now – I feel warm, hungry and mostly happy.”