Mom finds missing son
It has all the elements of a Hollywood melodrama. A young mother sends her son to visit his father and the father never returns the boy.
She fights for many years to find him. Everyone that you would expect to help her doesn’t.
But it’s not a movie. It’s real life, and unlike the silver screen the reality is painful, not thrilling.
However, it does have a happy ending.
Last week, Virginia Owen received a phone call from her son, whom she sent to visit his father almost nine years ago and hadn’t seen since.
“It was the most wonderful thing in the whole world,” she said. “When I heard his voice I knew exactly who it was, even though he sounds like a big kid now.”
Owen and her former husband divorced in 1984 and she was granted custody of their only son, Tony.
She later remarried and moved with her three children (two were from the second marriage) to Carson City from Costa Mesa, Calif., near the end of 1990.
In May of 1991, she sent 8-year-old Tony to visit his father in Montana.
Had it been a movie, heavy music would have foreshadowed the events that were to follow. But the real world gave Owen no clue that she would not be in contact with her son again until almost nine years later.
When her former husband was late in returning their son, she called him. He told her he had decided to keep Tony.
Owen hired an attorney, but the only address she had for her ex-husband was a post office box in Montana.
She said Nevada authorities were unable to help find her son because he had not been a resident for six months.
The next contact she received was an official letter from the court in Montana telling her that her ex-husband was filing for custody.
She said the court date was set within the next two days and she could not get to Montana that quickly.
“I had two other children, ages 3 and 1,” she said. “It wasn’t like I could just pick up and chase him around.”
Owen talked to an attorney in Montana but was told she would need to pay about $1,500 for the services.
She did not have the money, so she was advised to write a letter to the court explaining her situation.
She wrote the letter. The only response she received was the official documentation that custody had been turned over to her ex-husband.
By the time she received the papers, the two had moved and she was unable to find them.
Owen contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and launched a Website to search for Tony.
He remained missing.
This was the darkest point for Owen and she suffered a nervous breakdown.
“When you don’t have your kids near you, you feel like a piece of you is missing,” she said. “I felt it every day.”
Then as unexpectedly as he disappeared, he reappeared.
“It was out of the clear blue sky,” Owen said.
Owen said her son, now 17, was looking through his father’s desk and found a phone number for Owen’s father, Tony’s grandfather.
Soon after, Owen’s phone rang. It was her father.
“He said, ‘Virginia, you better sit down, I have to tell you something,'” said Owen.
He told her that her son had called and would soon be calling her.
“We talked for two-and-a-half hours and it was wonderful,” she said. “He cried, I cried.”
Owen said that Tony told her over the phone that his father said that he did not know where Owen was living or how to get in touch with her.
“That’s not true,” she said. “I have not moved and my number is listed.”
She said she also felt sorry for the suffering her son felt.
“Here this poor kid is thinking I’m not around or that I’ve deserted him,” she said.
Now, they have to make up for lost time.
Since the initial phone call, Owen and her son have talked every night via the Internet and he e-mailed her a portrait of himself.
“He looks the same, just big,” said Owen. “He has the same little face and the same smile.”
She said they are trying to get the finances together so he can visit Carson City the third week in February.
“I can’t wait,” Owen said. “If it was up to me, I’d drive up there right now.”
She said her son has considered staying in Carson City and finishing school here. He’ll be a senior next year.
Until then, the picture he sent will hang in her office.
“Everyone here at work probably thinks I’m cuckoo,” she said.
However, co-worker Chris Golleher does not think Owen is crazy.
“She’s very happy and we’re happy for her,” Golleher said.