“I could tell because of the nose,” said 13-year-old Dakotah Zimmer of how he knew that a boy he had met by chance at the Washington pool was actually his younger brother, Isaac, who had been adopted some 10 years earlier.
Born just 13 months apart, the brothers do look a lot alike. Some even say they could pass for twins.
In fact, their striking resemblance is what started the conversation about Dakotah having a brother who was adopted.
It was earlier this summer, June. Each of the boys had been dropped off for a day of swimming at the Washington pool, where they had a chance meeting, made friends and spent the afternoon hanging out together.
When the two began bickering and fighting, a friend of Dakotah’s commented that the two were “fighting like brothers.” That off-handed remark seemed to start the group thinking. Everyone began to notice the boys’ similarities — their noses, hands, feet, the way they walked . . .
Isaac thought it was all just a crazy coincidence, but Dakotah knew it could be more. He announced that he, in fact, did have a younger brother who had been adopted years ago by a woman named Dawn.
“That’s my mom’s name,” Isaac remarked.
The story twists here, because Isaac had no idea he was adopted. His mother, Dawn Nolting, Washington, had never told him.
“I just didn’t know how to tell him,” she said. “I never knew when was the best time. I talked with experts and relatives, but never knew when I should do it.”
So Isaac came home from the pool that day with questions for her.
“He took my hand and we went back in the bedroom, sat down, and he said, ‘Mom, I have something to ask you. Am I adopted?’
“I said, ‘What makes you think that?’ and he said, ‘I think I found my brother.’ ”
Dawn was shocked and didn’t know how to react, but she told Isaac the truth — yes, she had adopted him. She also had some sad news — both of his birth parents are now passed away.
Isaac wasn’t upset that Dawn had never told him he was adopted. In fact, some things suddenly made a lot more sense to him, like the word choices Dawn had always used when talking about him as a baby.
“He had noticed that I never said, ‘When I had you . . .’, like I did when I was talking about ‘Sissy,’ my daughter,” said Dawn. “I always said, ‘When I got you . . . ’ I told him he was sent to me from heaven.”
He also was very excited to learn he had a brother.
“It was exciting and crazy,” said Isaac of how he felt learning the truth about his family.
The day after the boys had met at the pool, Dawn called Dakotah’s grandma and legal guardian, Debbi Bay, of Augusta. The two women hadn’t spoken in years, since Debbi came to Dawn’s home with her daughter (the boys’ mother) to talk about Dawn officially adopting Isaac.
He was about 18 months then.
Dawn had actually been caring for Isaac since he was just a couple of weeks old, and the adoption only made it official.
The boys’ mother had been a teen mom, not ready to care for and raise a child, said Debbi, who had stepped in to raise Dakotah when he was born.
When Isaac was born 13 months later, Debbi wasn’t able to take on caring for a second child. It seems like fate stepped in at that point.
Just a few weeks after Isaac was born, the boys’ birth parents were out to dinner at the same restaurant as Dawn and her ex-husband. The couples were friends and as they talked, the boys’ father invited Dawn to their house to see the baby.
Dawn could see how the boys’ mother, still in her teens, was struggling to care for the new baby, so she offered to take him home with her. Everyone was in agreement that it would be a good thing.
“She would call to ask how he was doing . . . and she would come visit him at my house,” Dawn recalled.
Always passionate about children, Dawn said she never hesitated at bringing Isaac home, although she was concerned how her daughter, then 12, would take to having a new baby in the house.
“I was worried she would be jealous, but she was like a mother hen to him,” said Dawn.
She laughs now thinking how she never planned on having a lot of children, but now feels like she has four (Isaac and Dakotah have a younger sister, Ashley, also being raised by Debbi).
Dawn and Debbi agreed that since the boys had found each other at the pool and were happy at the discovery, there was no reason to keep them apart any longer.
They all met at Main Park at Second and High streets in Washington, right next to the city pool where they had reconnected.
“They immediately just clicked,” said Dawn.
“They have the same hair cut, the same shoes, they like the same games . . .”
Dakotah came to Dawn’s house for a visit that turned into a weeklong stay, and Isaac went over to Debbi’s house to stay too.
Now to see them hanging out at the park together, teasing each other, one putting the other in a headlock and wrestling to the ground, you’d never know they were strangers until a couple of months ago.
“A lot of people are happy,” said Dawn, smiling. “We’re planning a big celebration at the holidays this year.
“We just celebrated Dakotah’s birthday with him for the first time . . . I’m excited about what the future holds for them, where they’ll go from here.”
Looking back to the day when she offered to bring Isaac home with her as a respite for his birth mom and everything that has happened in between, Dawn said she feels blessed.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” she commented. “People really should learn more about adoption and consider it.
“This had been a blessing.”