Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Rick Weegman column: News Tribune sports editor recounts meeting with his birth mother

Duluth News Tribune sports editor Rick Weegman (right) and his birth mother, Diana. contributed photo

My life changed, innocently enough, when I answered the phone during a visit to my parents' suburban Twin Cities home in the spring of 1993.

The voice on the other end of the line identified herself as working for Lutheran Social Service and asked if I wanted to have contact with my birth mother.

Thinking it a case of mistaken identity, I kindly responded that she was in the other room and I could talk to her anytime I wanted.

When I told my parents of the call, neither broke down and admitted that I had been adopted 27 years earlier or even acted any differently than it it had been a wrong number.

Days later, after I had returned to my job at the Des Moines Register, my wife back in the Twin Cities called me, and with an urgency in her voice said, "Rick, you need to come home."

The urgent matter was a letter from the adoption agency saying that my birth mother was seeking to contact me. It wasn't a case of mistaken identity. I had been given up for adoption at birth and never been told.

Confronting my parents with the news, they acknowledged it was true, explaining adoption laws in the 1960s were more secretive and they had been advised to never mention it. Besides, they justified, they were protecting me since the story they were told was that I was a child born of rape and they never wanted me to feel the pain of the truth.

So I phoned the adoption agency and told them I did not want to contact my birth mother, but to tell her that I was a well-adjusted adult who grew up in a loving family.

For the next 11 years, I often thought about what she looked like, where she lived and what she did. To placate myself, I reasoned she probably was a chain-smoking, pill-popping mother of five who lived in a trailer home and waited by the mailbox for her next welfare check.

But lives change over time and that tug on the heartstrings becomes stronger.

For me, that moment came in 2004 and I have the classic rock band The Eagles to thank indirectly.

Going through a divorce and another subsequent breakup, I had no date to take to their concert when they played at the DECC that year. From my deck overlooking the Lake Superior harbor, I could see people lining up to purchase tickets to one of my favorite bands and realized I no longer had a woman in my life.

Or did I?

That moment spurred a hastily written letter to Lutheran Social Service, seeking more information on my birth mother.

Months later, on June 21, the first day of summer, a letter marked "Confidential" arrived from the adoption agency. Included was a four-page handwritten letter on yellow legal paper, dated Oct. 26, 1992, and signed by Diana.

In it, she explained a bit about herself and why she was searching for me. I learned she had been in love with my birth father but had very little contact with him after he graduated high school, and that she went on to graduate from the University of Southern California Law School and became an immigration attorney.

The letter was touching throughout, but one thing more than anything else brought a flood of tears to my eyes:

I was her only child.

There was no trailer park, no welfare checks, no mistreated children or grandchildren — those were all just stereotypical images that had no merit in truth. And there had been no rape, just a case of unrequited high school love that produced a child who could not be cared for properly under those circumstances.

The letter contained a phone number. Would it still be the same number 12 years later? Like a lovestruck teenager, several times I started dialing only to hang up before completing the call. Armed with enough courage, I finally made the call and a gentleman named Vance answered. My stepfather, perhaps? The man said Diana would be home later that evening and to call back.

When I did, I told Diana she probably should sit down and listen to what I have to say.

We haven't stopped talking since.

A few weeks later, my oldest son and I were Los Angeles-bound for the meeting of a lifetime. At that time, my mother handed me a typewritten letter detailing her time when pregnant with me. Days after turning 17, she ran away from home to avoid the embarrassment it would cause her family. Upon her return, she was sent to a home for unwed mothers, ironically in Duluth, where I was born months later.

After believing myself to be a native of the northern Twin Cities suburbs, I actually had ended up back in my birth city. You really can go home again.

I learned that she had told precious few people what she had gone through and that two dear friends of hers had done the same thing. None of them had told each other their secret, and all of them ended up finding their birth children.

It's a story worthy of Oprah or the Lifetime Channel.

And there are many more such pending relationships out there. Decisions made at a young age or at a vulnerable time in life, don't need to be the end result. Bonds between parents and their children are everlasting.

The truth is out there, and it's never too late to find it.

Rick Weegman is the sports editor of the News Tribune and can be reached at (218) 723-5302 or at rweegman@duluthnews.com