I’ll call her Melinda. Melinda is 77 years young, the mother of two. She is your typical American grandma.
She helps arrange flowers at her Methodist church. She belongs to a bridge group. She has two very spoiled lap dogs with double first names. She has been married for over half a century.
Last month Melinda and her husband drove from Florida to California. Her Toyota traversed 2,676 miles across the American interstate system for a very important meeting.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Melinda’s story starts about 60 years ago, when she was 16 years old.
It was a different age. Kennedy was president. Gas was 31 cents per gallon. She was pretty, brunette, innocent, and aimless. She had a relationship with the son of a prominent man in town.
Melinda believed she was in love, but teenage romances between rich boys and blue-collar girls are not bound to last. Melinda was in way over her head and social rank, but too naive to know it.
When her family doctor told her she was with child, it came as devastating news. This was 1961. Rich boys did not father the children of working-class girls. And if they did, the girls were taken away and dealt with.
As I say, different times.
No sooner had her belly began to show than she was whisked out of town. A cock-and-bull story was invented to keep everyone from wondering where she had gone.
“She’s helping at a church camp,” was one rumor going around.
“She’s attending a prestigious school up north,” was another story.
“I heard she became a nun.”
“Didn’t she join the Peace Corps?”
The girl was strongly advised by adults in her life to give her child up for adoption. And by “strongly advised,” I mean she had almost no choice.
This wasn’t what she wanted to do, mind you. But she was 16 years old, so she signed the adoption papers and made the biggest decision of her life before she was even old enough to drink.
“You’re doing the right thing,” the adults assured her.
Except, it didn’t feel right. Not to her.
And so it was, the young woman went through the pain of child labor in a strange place, all alone, in secret, away from prying eyes. She was cared for in a home for unwed mothers, but it might as well have been a foriegn continent.
No sooner had her child been born, than the infant was confiscated from her arms.
“I never even got to hold my baby,” she tells me.
She caught a glimpse of her child’s gender as the nurse carried the child out of the room. But it was purely accidental, she would have never even known her child was male if she hadn’t peeked and seen.
That was a long time ago.
Last month, she received a call from an unknown number in California. The old woman was eating dinner at the time. Her husband was seated across from her.
She answered the phone.
“Hello?” she said into the phone receiver.
It was a young man on the phone. “Are you Melinda?”
“Yes. That’s me.”
“The same woman who put her son up for adoption in 1961?”
Her stomach went sour. “Yes.”
“I am your son.”
The world went silent. Her eyes became wet. Melinda nearly tested the limits of her pacemaker.
They arranged a time and a place to meet, mother and son. Melinda hung up the phone and wept for nearly a week thereafter. She admitted during our brief interview that she wasn’t sure if her tears were shed out of joy or remorse.
“Maybe both,” she said.
She and her husband chose not to fly, and instead drove across the Continental U.S.
“My husband was my cheerleader,” she said. “He just kept telling me to hang in there. He kept telling me to relax.”
When they arrived at the public park where they agreed to meet, she was trembling. Her husband held her quivering hands and whispered reassuring words to her.
Then she saw him. She knew it was him. Melinda could tell by his gait. The late middle-aged man was across the park, wearing a ball cap. He hadn’t seen her yet, but she saw him. He was tall, and lean, and, in her own words, “very handsome.”
The old woman released her husband’s hand and raced across the pavilion.
And after nearly sixty years, and old woman finally held her baby boy.
Te - January 10, 2022 8:35 am
You could have been telling my story. Even got my age right. I was older than 16, but just as naive and feckless. And, years later I was just as lucky that the need to know drove my daughter to find me. What was odd, we could be 2 peas in the same pod. Gestures, tone of voice and mannerisms were uncannily similar, as if we were twins.
Carolyn Kelley - January 10, 2022 9:50 am
Joy Jacobs - January 10, 2022 11:24 am
As the sister of an adopted brother, these stories really get to me. My brother has known his birth mother for 25 years and has a great relationship with her. She never had any more children. A couple of years ago, through DNA, he located his birth father’s family (his birth father had died of alcoholism). He’s met his half sister and they look alike.
mb - January 10, 2022 11:32 am
I hope you continue this story. I love happy endings when a mother is reunited with a child given up at birth against her wishes. I can’t imagine the emotional pain this woman has been through for 61 years.
Candace - January 10, 2022 11:38 am
I was the child who found the mother after searching for 30 years. It was good to find relatives and a history. I ended up finding much more; some of it good, some not so good.
Dale - January 10, 2022 11:50 am
You are not just a writer Sir. You are a bearer of what is good, fair and Godly and my hats off to the Sean and Jamie team
Myra - January 10, 2022 12:28 pm
57 years was how long it took before my daddy met his daughter. He had wondered over the years what had happened. If the baby was a boy or girl. Now we know and love our oldest sister. Thanks for sharing these stories of happily reunited families!
Lisa K Riley - January 10, 2022 12:36 pm
Thank you. It’s a story that fits in my own family.
Dana Everhart - January 10, 2022 12:40 pm
Sean, this is almost my story except I am the one who made the call to my birth mother. Unfortunately the story was not as moving but I did get to meet and begin to piece together my heritage. Thank you for sharing this story and the memory. Thank for continuing to give hope that for many it will be a reunion of love.
I found my father two years before he died and was allowed to be at his bedside thanks to a step brother’s kindness and understanding.
Thanks for your words. You start my day with hope
Tammy S. - January 10, 2022 1:02 pm
Barbara Culwell - January 10, 2022 1:14 pm
What a gripping story! As a adoptive mother of two lovely adult daughters I am continually reminded of the ache and beauty of adoption. A lifetime of processing so many layers to each of stories. One of my daughters has actually written a book about her story. My other daughter lives in the same city now as her birthmother and is learning a lot too. Thank you for putting words to such a tender reality for so many people!
Carmen - January 10, 2022 1:22 pm
Sean, such a fantastic story. That was really special. Thank you for sharing your gift, writing stories, with us.
Jan - January 10, 2022 1:25 pm
Thank you Sean for this beautiful story that played out in so many lives in those years. I remember them well!
Mary Anne Brannon - January 10, 2022 1:31 pm
I was adopted at birth. No regrets , except that when I found my mother, she wouldn’t acknowledge me. When I was 72, my half sister found me because someone knew the circumstances and shared. Only…that was after my biological mother died. Love this story, Sean.
Linda Lewis - January 10, 2022 1:41 pm
This is such a beautiful story. I love it. Thank you for writing it.
Matt - January 10, 2022 1:45 pm
So…. Where is the rest? We need all of it. What happened next?
Paul McCutchen - January 10, 2022 1:56 pm
Heart touching story and a good way to start a week.
Shelton A. - January 10, 2022 2:04 pm
A beautiful story that has a happy ending! It makes you thankful for the power of love, persistence, and forgiveness. Melinda’s boy could have had so many negative feelings about his birth-mom, but if he did, he worked through them, and love won out. I am very happy for them both and pray they have a relationship that lasts for many years to come. Thanks for sharing this…it’s the kind of story that lifts you up. Love wins!
Don Gardner Jr. - January 10, 2022 2:41 pm
Sean, your story telling reminds me that this world is so much bigger than ourselves. No matter what we have been through, we learn so much from the stories of others. Thank you for sharing your story and the story of others with your audience. I’m grateful that I’m part of that audience.
Tom - January 10, 2022 2:53 pm
Got me on the old pump with that one and made my eyes leak. Everyone should get to meet their mother – ain’t nothing like a mother.
HT - January 10, 2022 3:32 pm
The book, The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler, needs to be mentioned here. A painful reality for far too many women & their children.
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 10, 2022 4:16 pm
Damn leaky eyes dripping all over my phone. I wish them all the years they have left full of happiness, joy, discovery and unconditional love.
DAVID A WILSON - January 10, 2022 4:26 pm
All I can type is ‘great writing’!!!
H. J. Patterson - January 10, 2022 5:06 pm
And this story would have never of happened if the birth and adoption hadn’t taken place. The alternative to this situation kills hope as well. A life is a life and you never know what comes out of one.
suzi - January 10, 2022 6:15 pm
So many stories, thank you “Melinda” and Sean for sharing 🤗
Texas Grandma - January 10, 2022 6:39 pm
I remember those days very well! The greatest fear any girl had was that she might get pregnant! The only “birth control” measures out there at the time were very unreliable and kept secret from anyone who wasn’t married. This fear caused some of us to marry early, and that was usually a big mistake! But for the girls who got “caught”, it was a terrible thing. First, she had to drop out of school. God forbid a pregnant girl should be walking around in the hallways! And then, to be whisked away out of town to some relative’s house or a home for unwed mothers was humiliating enough, but the labor of childbirth on a still-growing body was traumatic. The worst was having that baby taken away without even the chance to hold it, look into that precious face and memorize it, knowing she would never see her child again! God bless those girls who went through that lifelong nightmare. Thank you, Sean, for once again sharing your incredible and rare gift of writing.
Karen Holderman - January 10, 2022 6:39 pm
I a glad this story had a happy ending.
MAM - January 10, 2022 6:55 pm
My eyes often drip while reading your heart-warming stories. I love the happy endings that bring joyful tears! Thanks, Sean, for your wonderful writing and story-telling skills.
suzlcahill - January 10, 2022 7:09 pm
Thank you for sharing this. I needed something positive for this Monday.
Patricia Gibson - January 10, 2022 9:19 pm
Linda Moon - January 10, 2022 10:10 pm
This Linda (me) still loves being the mother of two. My babies grew up to be fabulous and wonderful grown-up people. I can imagine how hard it must have been for Melinda to give up her baby, but…what a way for her story to end! Our children are never too old to be hugged by Mamas, and I’m so very happy that Melinda got to hold her boy.
Mary Carol Krebs - January 10, 2022 10:19 pm
Jennie Stultz - January 10, 2022 10:54 pm
This story takes my breath away. This is the story of so many young girls in the 60’s. It’s beautiful, Sean.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 11, 2022 12:18 am
Sue Bell - January 11, 2022 1:21 am
I am an adoptee. I’ve been lucky enough to know part of my birth family & my “story”, but my birth mother died before I could find her. This made me weep.
Melanie - January 11, 2022 2:33 am
I sure hope she got him to get the tarnation out of California and move to Florida.
Karen Snyder - January 11, 2022 2:36 am
Stacey Wallace - January 11, 2022 3:00 am
Bless her heart. Thanks, Sean.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 11, 2022 4:53 am
Such a sweet ending to a sad story. I am so glad that doesn’t happen as much today as it did back then.
Sue Sellers - January 11, 2022 7:09 pm
We learned about a young lady who wanted to give up her baby to someone she knew something about so at three days old outside a hospital waiting area she gave him one last squeeze n crying handed him to me. I said”God bless you” and we parted ways! Many years later my son met her . She is a good person but I think he thinks he might hurt me if he has a relationship with her which it would not . My husband has passed n I think he is beginning to feel the need to find his father. I pray he does. As an adoptive child I think he will always have questions about his ancestors, why things happened the way they did. I have found it is never cut n dried. I don’t know what it feels like to b adopted but I know there are many things in my son’s mind that are unanswered.
Dianne - January 21, 2022 1:10 am
Well, here I sit in a puddle of tears. Thank you, Sean, for sharing this wonderful and healing story for this woman and her son.