Remembering the children
Pat Hunter lit a candle Christmas Eve to illuminate a 34-year-old secret she couldn’t keep stuffed inside anymore. It wanted out, regardless of her feelings.
Her son – the one she gave up for adoption in 1969 when she was 29 years old – sent her a letter last year, their first contact since she handed him to a nurse in a St. Louis, Mo., hospital, never expecting to see him again.
Her heart stopped when the Fed-Ex man handed over the envelope.
Seeking refuge from a living room full of relatives who had no inkling of the memories and emotions charging through her body, she shut her bedroom door and read.
Her son, Brian Wesley Taylor, is educated, well-adjusted and athletic. He’s a successful salesman and the proud father of three children, living in Eureka, Mo.
“I want you to know I have been given every opportunity in life,” he wrote. “I have been successful both personally, professionally and spiritually. I will leave how we proceed up to you.”
She was proud. But scared. She stuffed the letter in a drawer. The roller-coaster of emotions was just too much. She still hadn’t told a soul. Not her husband, not her two grown daughters. No one.
“The ’60s were a different time,” she said. “The thought of raising a child out of wedlock wasn’t what I wanted.”
A college-educated computer programmer, she had become pregnant after a summertime romance. She has not kept in contact with Brian’s biological father.
“There was a lot of shame involved,” she said barely breathing, slight tears clouding her eyes.
A month after receiving the letter, she found the courage to speak. Her husband, Butch, threw his arms around her and told her “it was a long time ago.” Her oldest daughter, Lucy, was confused, but happy to have a brother, a niece and two nephews.
Her youngest daughter, Mary, couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.
“She said she wasn’t surprised at all,” Hunter said, laughing. “I guess she knows me better than I thought.”
With the full support of her family, Hunter e-mailed her son and told him she needed a little time. A 34-year-old secret can take a while to dust off and unravel.
She began e-mailing two support groups for birth mothers seeking relationships with the children they gave up for adoption, “Sunflower Sisters” and “The New England Firstmothers’ Group.”
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “This stuff just bowls you over. I wanted to talk to other women who had the same experience.”
Finally, she started slow. Through e-mail she told Brian she had always wanted to know what he looked like. He wanted to know about his medical history. She asked about his family.
Months later, she realized she was ready to see him face-to face. Brian, his wife, Bo, and their children Jake, 6, Abby, 4, and Nick, 9 months, came out to Carson City for a visit.
Pictures of the reunion show an emotional but happy pair with similar features.
He has her chin and her eyes, and displays the same mannerisms when he talks.
“For some reason I always thought he would look like his father, but he looks more like me,” Hunter said.
Bo gave Hunter a picture album recording Brian’s life, from infancy to adulthood. Suddenly Hunter was part of Brian’s first soccer game, high school prom, college graduation, wedding and the birth of his first child.
Since the initial visit, Hunter and her family have traveled twice to Missouri to see Brian and his family. They just returned from the last trip a week ago.
Lucy and Brian have really hit it off, Hunter said.
They have a lot in common, including a love for skiing. He’s planning another trip to Carson City soon, before the end of the Tahoe ski season.
Hunter said she and Brian have not had any time alone to talk about their feeling surrounding the adoption.
She’d like to do that one day, she said, but there’s no rush.
“I’m very happy how it turned out,” she said. “I think I’m very lucky.”
In the meantime, Hunter keeps Brian’s picture album – complete with photos from their visits – on her kitchen table.
“I spend a lot of time just staring at him.”
In the tradition of the Sunflower Sisters and New England Firstmothers’ Group, Hunter lights a candle every Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. and keeps it burning until midnight in honor of the birth that changed her life.