Steven Nelson was told every year on his birthday by his mother, "I know that there's somebody else thinking about you right now."
Whether this is true or not, Nelson is determined to find out.
On Aug. 4, 1957, Nelson was born in Red Wing. On the adoption papers and birth certificate, the surname reads Johnson. Nelson has paid hundreds of dollars in hopes of finding more than that, but has only uncovered a description of what his birth mother and father might look like.
"There has always been something inside me that's driven me to look," Nelson said. "Curiosity kills the cat."
Both parents wanted to ensure a closed adoption 59 years ago, meaning the records and biological information would be kept sealed. Sometimes in closed-adoptions, names are not revealed on the birth certificate either.
Now living in Omaha, Neb., the Red Wing native has three daughters and two granddaughters. Given the circumstances, Nelson says, his biological parents made the right decision at age 16. If he had the chance, he would tell them just that.
"I landed in a good family," Nelson said. "Just because I was adopted doesn't mean it's for forever."
With little information to go off of, the search has involved repeated frustrations over 35 years of looking. Originally, the hunt started with a promise. Nelson told his mother that he would not start looking for his family until she had died.
"My adopted mother encouraged me to look after she was gone," Nelson said, "She goes, 'You never know, you might have a whole 'nother family out there.'"
Now that both adopted parents have died, the hunt continues. The quest to find answers is not just for his sake.
"It's my daughter's (relationship) too, they would like to know their medical history and more about my family," he said. "I'm kind of passing my void downstream to my daughters and grandsons."
While he has researched ways to have another party try to contact his biological family, Nelson rests assured that if it's meant to be, it will happen without a middleman.
His cousin and sister, both adopted, have found answers to their family histories.
"It's kind of weird that all these people who have been adopted know where they come from and I never got that chance," Nelson said. "Who you are is always passed on, you're always defined by who made you. You're also defined by who raises you. There's always, always that curiosity."
With the inkling that his adopted mother may have known the answers to his biological family, he wants to continue the search in honor of her and his father.
For those in a similar position, Nelson encourages to keep looking for answers. It will take a long time, he said, but never give up.
"Explore every avenue you can. I would love to meet them and say, 'Hey, thank you for doing what you did. I love you for that,'" he said. "If they're out there and want to meet me, here I am. If they don't want to meet me, they don't have to respond."
Anyone with information regarding his birth parents are welcome to call him at 801-717-5461.