A TGB READER STORY: The Pier, the Birds and the Moment
“At Death's Door, Shedding Light On How To Live”

Meeting My Son...Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's edition of The Alex and Ronni Show, in which we discuss the subject of today's blog post, is at the bottom of this story.

* * *

It was a whim. I've never had much interest in my ethnicity; my face pretty well tells the story so if you don't want to build a family tree – I don't - why bother.

But those DNA websites were having a sale late last year and if my mildest curiosity had not been worth $99 to me, $59 seemed reasonable. I ordered the kit.

A month later, this message appeared in an email via the DNA site. It was a shocker:

”Dear Ms. Bennett,
“It appears you and I are related in a fairly intimate way.”

“Fairly intimate way?” Talk about a gift for understatement - it was a 50 percent match: my child.

Let me back up more than half a century.

I was barely 21, just a kid, when I became pregnant in 1962. Although “the pill” had been available for a year or so, I was not using it and abortion, whatever one's moral beliefs, was illegal. When I told the baby's father, he couldn't get away from me fast enough. I never saw or heard from him again.

In addition, I knew that on just about every level, I was not at all prepared to be a mother. All that left only one option.

We were called unwed mothers in those days and there was a profound stigma attached. Suddenly, girlfriends were too busy to hang out and I certainly could not stay at my job once my condition became evident. Except for my mother, I was alone.

What I did have, however, was a warm and down-to-earth obstetrician who took good care of me and with his staff, found an adoptive family I would have chosen myself. In fact, I did – I was told a lot about them and allowed refusal rights.

One amusing story I haven't thought about for years until now, as I write this: Well into the pregnancy I woke weeping one morning, wailing that I was supposed to give birth to a baby but had a cat instead. It was one of those dreams that was as real as real.

A dream cat notwithstanding, in February 1963, I gave birth to a healthy, (human) baby boy and he went home with his adoptive family at the same time he would have with his birth mother.

TomWark400x400 Which brings me back to late last year. Tom Wark is in his mid-fifties now. He is married for the third time with a four-year-old son and lives in the Napa Valley. He is a wine expert, owner of a public and media relations company targeting the wine industry. His wine blog, Fermentation, is here.

Early this year, we exchanged some email until May when I dropped away, or so it must have seemed to Tom. Part of it was the two surgeries I underwent to stop the internal bleed that threatened my life then but that wasn't entirely it.

I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what is expected in such circumstance. I did not and don't feel motherly toward Tom but neither do I believe I should.

Motherhood – and fatherhood – have nothing to do with giving birth. They are about day-in and day-out care and loving of a child no matter what. I have no experience with that nor any of the rights attached.

So although I felt uncomfortable about dropping out of the email conversation, I wasn't sure how to pick it up again. Then, three weeks ago after reading my recent emails about the return of cancer, Tom reached out by email.

Since then, we have had two lengthy telephone conversations with more planned. Tom says that in certain photographs he can see a resemblance between us. I can't. But we have discovered other similarities.

We were both good students except for science and math mainly because neither of us were interested in those subjects. We are both more literary types. We love books and own a lot of them. In my case, they are my friends and I'm betting Tom would say that too.

Further, we share a love of time travel stories, and we've both read everything Gore Vidal ever wrote. Some personality traits seem near matches too.

Oh, and Tom noted that we each started our blogs way back in 2004, when they were a brand new media platform.

After these two long phone chats, I am most interested now in learning more about Tom and what I think I see as similar mindsets – how we tell stories, for example, and the kinds of connections we make getting from one subject to another.

Most of all, after our first conversation which lasted two hours, for several days I felt a warmth and closeness that, in my experience, doesn't show up until I've known someone for a long time. It happened again after our second conversation. I am comfortable with this man.

Plus, I really like Tom's understatement in his first email. I'm always so proud of myself when I can do that, but it's not easy to pull off – at least for me.

* * *

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.



Comments

OK, this one is a tear-jerker. Give me a minute to recompose.....

Being of the same age, friends of mine had children and many of those children have found and reconnected to them, with varying feelings and results on all sides. Your involvement and choosing well for his adoptive parents is commendable.

You are in a unique spot with the timing of this revelation, this mix and mash of your life and feelings about it. Life's trickster is on your shoulder enjoying it, I think.

My opinion is that this will offer another great "discovery" in your life. An opportunity.

How great is that.


Holy s***. If he has a gift for understatement, you have one for surprises! Enjoy--and from where I sit--it looks like there are a million ways to "feel motherly." Just look at mothers!

A gift, delivered in time. Share many beautiful moments!

And welcome aboard, Tom Wark.

WOW! Truly amazing and so cool!!

Wow. Just wow. He must feel great to have such a gifted and accomplished bio-mom. I'm glad for you both that this connection was made in time for you to examine it, to realize it, but I'm especially glad for Tom. You've given him some substance to what was, until you connected, an ephemeral part of his personal history.

Congratulations to you both!

I am astonished and thrilled for you! What you didn't mention was that now you know you will leave the world a physical legacy -- not just a child but a grandchild. So much "story" here! I have a feeling there will be another chapter.

Isn't this fantastic? And quite a miracle that you and he connected after so many years.

I'm interested to hear more, not only about the genetic similarities shared by both but also how he was able to contact you. What are the chances? Did he have his DNA test from the same source? There are so many different places to contact to do this . Do you mind sharing the source where you had this DNA done?

I have thought about doing this but have had my doubts as to how accurate they are. Your test speaks well for this particular source.

So happy for you with this new window that has opened for you.

I'm betting the closure of knowing what happened to the boy you gave birth to feels very good. In the back of your mind when you did the DNA test you must have known the connection could be made and it's a wonderful gift you gave to him and his son to open that door. Knowing whose in your family tree when you don't have a clue is an important disclosure. I'm glad you and Tom have this time to compare notes and get all your questions answered.

What a surprise! I'm thrilled for you both.

I'm an adoptee myself, from the week I was born. Was outrageously fortunate to have a wonderful family. I've never had the least desire to seek out birth parents or do a DNA test. Don't want to risk upsetting the applecart.

Wow, Ronni, another reason to admire you so much; no make that two reasons. One that you made a great choice at such a young age, and two that fate has reconnected you two in a way that can bring you joy now.

Ronni, this is just mind-blowing. Your essays never fail to move and amaze me.

By the way, what are your favorite time travel stories? Have you ever written about them?

That's great! I have a son from whom I was estranged for most of his childhood and teen years, when we did reconnect we also had that very comfortable way of relating to each other. His political thinking is very different from mine but nevertheless we can discuss politics amicably and with humour. It's the similar mindset thing. You have no mother/child baggage with this man your grown son and he has matured into a thoughtful person so I hope you get to have a very nice relationship with him.

P.S. If anyone checks out Tom's blog, be sure to read the post titled, "Of Memories of Broken Glass and Mothers." Like Ronni he's a great writer and if he had been my bio-son that post would make me feel so good that he had such obvious love from and for his adopted mother. Ronni, if you write a follow up post to this one, I'd be interested to know at what age Tom found out he was adopted.

Holy cow! That's an amazing story. I can't help it. I love that something of you is out there in the world.

Ronni, I struggle to make sure I am saying what I really mean in the right way when I leave a comment, especially lately. As a result, I am often end up not commenting, but am left with so many thoughts circling around in my brain due to your thought-provoking blog and current situation. But this post left me speechless. Color me gobsmacked! As others have said, how wonderful that this reconnection was not left too late. My best to you and Tom.

I have tears in my heart here. Tom sounds like a wonderful man. How lovely you have reconnected. Maybe you can even meet? CA isnt that far is it. And I am sorry I did not respond to your post about your terminal diagnosis. I am so sorry. I read your posts but dont often comment. You are an amazing woman. Thank you for all you have given us through your blogging and films. Blessings to you.


O WOW!

Our hearts are overflowing with joy and gladness
because "RONNI-ness"
Goes On.....................

And HOW!

Wow, what a surprise from the universe! The timing -- exquisite. What a gift to Tom to have some time to get to know the amazing woman who brought him into this world. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience.

How wonderful! I’m so, so happy for you and Tom. Timing is everything ...

Ronni.......you can still surprise us!!! My goodness-I am happy for you and Tom to have a bit of time to enjoy each other. I know he is very proud of his birth mom!

Thank you so much for sharing such "private" information with your readers. I totally agree with you, that motherhood and fatherhood are about the "daily loving and care of a child, day in and day out, no matter what" and not about giving birth... I've never understood people getting so hung up on which of millions of sperm and hundreds of eggs unite...It is truly amazingly special though, that you two have had a chance to meet and connect...

Oh, wow! I am so happy for both of you to have made this connection! I do hope you will be able to get together in person! I don't know if it would be of interest to you, but there is a book, which I read some time ago, titled THE GIRLS WHO WENT AWAY. It is the stories of many girls of 'our generation' who became pregnant and gave up their babies for adoption.

What a fascinating and poignant story. In regards to being able to stay employed once your condition became evident - depending upon one’s job, or career, this was sometime the case even in the ’70’s, making it necessary for women to make choices that they would rather have not. I'm glad that times have changed.

Love the talking about the Class Reunions, just did the 50th,
This is amazing, thanks for sharing the interesting story, m

As Patty in New York said, "Color me gobsmacked." I didn't think life held any more surprises for me, but your post sure did prove me wrong.

I am in a state of awe for how you are dealing with the discovery of a wonderful son and I think that this will enrich your remaining lifetime beyond measure.

It is just miraculous that you found each other in time to discover the answers to questions that you probably weren't aware of having. It's like a beautiful last chapter to a beloved book. I am so happy for you and also for the man you gave birth to.

Perhaps Tom may be the one to carry on your legacy and incorporate his blog with yours. Your friends would appreciate that so much.

Very cool and good timing for both of you!

Congratulations to the two of you, Ronni.
If I had read a novel that told this sort of story, I would have deemed it totally unbelievable.
Doesn’t real life beat everything?
Great timing too.

Gobsmacked indeed!
Serendipity that you have met your birth son in this life and in time to know that he is a good human being and that you made the right decision in 1963.
All us women of our age know of at least one woman who gave up a baby to adoption, had an abortion (legal or illegal), or became a single mom. It is part of the fabric that has woven our lives as they are now, and help form our opinion as it relates to "pro-life" (I hate that term), or pro-choice.
I admire your courage in revealing this secret that you held for so long and wonder if it formed your decision to not have another child later in your life and marriage.
You will do as you think is right for you and Tom, but I sure hope you give yourselves an opportunity to meet and hug.
Everything happens for a reason?

Well!
How amazing!

Good luck to you both! If you had taken Tom straight home from the hospital, you STILL would have felt equally uncertain about "how" to be a mother. One of the secrets of the universe is that nobody is born knowing how to be a mother, and we ALL feel scared of this staggering role when it's new. Eventually, people find a way.

Here's a way to frame it: Think that if the roles were reversed, what would YOU want from a newly acquainted birth parent in an uncertain world? Start there.

Sadly, I do think it's hard to convey today how very shame-filled, restrictive, and secret-laden an accidental pregnancy was back in our day. It's good that that world is gone, but its disappearance could make adoptees feel like they were casually discarded--virtually never the case. It's so good you'll have a chance to talk about that. It'll be life-changing for Tom.

What a cherry on top of it all! A nice son...and a grandchild, too. I hope you do get to meet and spend time together, especially for your son and grandchild. What a legacy to have.

I wonder if Tom has finally met his Dad? The coming together might be very interesting . . .

Well, dear Ronni, once again you have surprised and amazed us. When they make that movie of your life, they will have a ready-made bittersweet ending.

Y-I-K-E-S! What a surprise. He sounds like a great guy, as befits his mother (she chose his family well).

Tom has nice warm eyes ...the windows of the soul, they say ... and lots of smile lines. He looks like a good warm human being. What a pleasant surprise and what a fortuitous happening at this stage of your life.

You had to be a REALLY strong woman in the Sixties to handle this situation, but I'm not surprised at all to learn you did it. And what a lovely reward to receive now. I think Tom looks a lot like you.

So interesting and amazing. I am 72, so a bit younger than you, and went to a private Catholic girl's high school in New Jersey (actually two towns away from Soprano Land). No one knew any boys unless they belonged to a "country club," as did maybe half my class. I was a on a scholarship at that school and my family certainly wasn't in the country club league. I rode a train to the school every day with a doctor's daughter, and I always let her copy my homework, book reports (suggesting minor changes to conceal the crime), whatever -- she was for me a kind of liberation, a free spirit and a total riot. We had so much fun on those train rides! I was the nerdy shadow she put up with because we had the same daily itinerary and because I could be counted on to assist with homework (not tests). The summer after our HS graduation in 1964 she became pregnant due to a country club connection, and was sent to a Catholic "unwed mother's home" in NYC -- I would go in to visit her and we would cruise the city, the stores, the Village etc. One day we were in Bloomingdales and a woman from her country club came up to us, looked directly at her baby bump, and said: "Hello -- I heard you were on a trip to Europe."
We got out of there and laughed hysterically, because she already knew that everyone knew and that she was permanently "ruined" but she had never cared about people like that or about her parents (whom I however greatly admired, as her pediatrician father had saved my brother's life a decade earlier). I was truly attracted to her daring and defiance of others' opinions (who knows how much of that was bluster). I am recounting this because I wanted you to know that some of us kept up with our "unwed" pregnant friends.
I am so sorry for your recent diagnosis, and I continue to admire your courage and spirit.

I wonder if Tom has a dimple in his chin under that goatee? He appears thoughtful and kind in the photo.

The same thing happened to my son-in-law recently. He'd put the memory of his high school girl friends's pregnancy out of his head. It helped that she'd said it could be someone else's. He, like you, discovered a very nice, successful man with a family. He was able to introduce is family of three 20-something sons to their half brother and they all got along famously. It promises to be an ongoing "new" family situation, though they live half a continent apart..

As the first commenter suggested, this has become a common occurrence, for better or for worse.

I got all teared up when I read your story and am so happy for you to have made this connection at this critical time in your life. It's so nice to have good news from TGB !

Wow Ronni so happy for you both. How wonderful! Look how much happiness 59 dollars is bringing. Enjoy your new family 🤗❤️😀

I'm so happy for you and Tom. Often by the time an adoptee finds details of their biological parent, it is too late. How wonderful that this meeting has happened now.

Stunning news prompting massive joy and celebration. Your mouths match! No doubt about that and I would have guessed kinship just looking at his kind face without knowing he is your son. Puts THANKS into Thanksgiving just around the corner. Maybe you all can spend the holiday together w newly-found loved ones. CA coming to OR, natch. I sent the link to a much younger friend w similar youthful experiences and decisions and successful lives for all parties. We are each special and yet not that unique as I and many others often kid ourselves to our own detriment. XO

Mothers come in a variety of packages. Some have been known to give up their infants, even older children, believing this to be in the little ones best interest. They can be respected and loved for doing so . I hope the relationship you, your son and grandson develop is a very satisfying one that each of you can enjoy and treasure forever. Sending you caring thoughts for the future.

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