Lost Boy

August 20, 2008

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and she only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

She had loved his father. They had planned to marry, as soon as he divorced his wife. Nobody had believed her, but it was true. It seemed true. They’d run off together twice. They both went AWOL from the Air Force, running off into the night to be together. Her family pursued them, his wife’s family sent private detectives after them, the Air Force searched for them. They were wanted. They ran. They were found, and they ran again. He left his family for her, risked his career for her. He was happy that they were going to have a baby. They hid out in motels.

At the time, she said, I thought it was romantic. She shakes her head.

She was nineteen years old. He was nearly twice her age. When her family found her the second time, they didn’t bother to reason with her. They just took her. They took her and put her in a home for unwed mothers. She stayed there. She doesn’t know what happened to her lover. She never saw or heard from him again. She thinks that he probably went back to the Air Force, and to his wife.

I would have liked for him to know that he had a son, she said. I think that would have made him happy. She paused. Or maybe not.

When she went into labor, the nurses at the home for unwed mothers gave her some money and put her in a taxi. She arrived at the hospital alone, labored alone, gave birth alone. Gave up her child alone.

She was alone when the social worker came into her room and asked her if she knew anything about the parents who would adopt her child. It’s a private adoption, she told the worker. My doctor arranged it. The social worker nodded. But did she know that those parents were in their 60′s? That they were old? That the province would never approve it if it were a public adoption? She didn’t know. She didn’t want that. She wasn’t giving up her son to new parents, only for him to lose them in a few years. Like he was losing her, now. She wanted the best for him. That was the only way she could do this. She had to know that she was giving him a better life.

She called her doctor in. She told her that she wouldn’t do it. She wanted her son to go to a young family, to parents who had their whole lives ahead of them, to parents who had years and years and years to love him. Her doctor was furious.

I was terrified, she said. I’d never spoken up to anyone older than me, not to anyone with any authority. But I had to do it. For him.

Her baby went into foster care while adoption services sought new parents. She didn’t go to see him.

My parents went to see him, I think, she said. They never talked about it, but I’m sure they did. My mother put him in her will, and kept him there. Through revisions and revisions until the end of her life, she kept him there, always a member of the family, in her heart.

The man that she would some day marry came to her side during that time. They were friends. He held her hand, a lot. She grieved for her lost love and her lost baby, and he held her hand. He said, I’ll marry you. We can get your baby back. I will love that baby. With you. We will love that baby, together.

But it was too late.

William Frederick Hunter was adopted by a Vancouver couple. Professors at UBC, I think, she said. It was too late for me, she said. For us. Or so we thought. We didn’t know any better. We were so young. We might have been able to get him back. But we didn’t try. We didn’t know to try. We thought he was gone.

She grieved for years. Her husband held her hand. She couldn’t bear the idea of having children. Just the thought of seeing another baby in another blanket it was too much.

The grief became less acute, as time passed. One day, she realized that she could have another baby, and bear the pain. She could imagine not transposing her lost boy upon a new child. She could love again.

It took seven years, she said. Seven years before I knew that I would be okay. And then I had – then we had – you.

And I loved again.

I squeeze my own baby boy, pulling him tightly against my chest, wondering how it would feel to let him go. Even if I thought it best, for him – could I let him go? My heart screams.

I understand why she couldn’t hold him, her lost boy.

I’ve thought about him every single day of my life, she says. Every single day. Every single day I see that little baby in that blue blanket, and I wonder.

I wonder.

She pauses. I imagine that her hand trembles as she lifts her wine to her lips, but I can’t see in the dim light of the late summer evening. I’m glad that I can’t see, and that she can’t see me. Tears are streaming down my face and wetting my baby’s head.

I’ve never looked for him. I couldn’t. What if something had happened to him? What if he hated me? What if he didn’t want to know anything of me? What if he never forgave me? Her voice cracks. I couldn’t stand knowing.

We sit quietly. I reach for the wine bottle between us and fill her emptied glass.

Still, she says. Still. I’ve often wondered whether you or your sister would ever look for him.

Would you want me to?

She takes a sip of her wine. She doesn’t look at me.

Yes.

Then I will.

Thank you.

We sit.

I just want him to know how much I loved him. How much I love him still.

I know.

Thank you.

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and he’s my brother. I’m going to find him.

*********


PS: Because you are asking: he was born in July of 1963, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. William Frederick Hunter was the name given to him to at birth. One or both of his parents were – we think – professors at UBC. That’s all I know.

PPS: Those of you who are offering to help – oh god the tears – your generosity makes my heart ache – please e-mail me, if you haven’t already. And, all of you, with all of your tremendous words of support: THANK YOU. Going off to weep now.

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    { 287 comments }

    SJ August 20, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    My older sister gave up a daughter for adoption when she was barely 21. Totally alone.

    The daughter she gave up in the mid80′s turned 21 on July 27, 08. We are trying to find her.

    I wish you luck. This story hits home to my heart like no other.

    Blessings and Best Wishes.

    Rachael August 20, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    This is the most beautiful, touching post I’ve read lately. I can’t imagine living with that in your life – I’m so glad your Mom got to have you and your sister to love. I hope that you are able to find your brother, and that it gives some peace to your Mom and to you. What an amazing and heartbreaking story.

    Mrs. T August 20, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Beautiful.

    I wish you all kinds of luck and admire the bravery that your mother has shown and most definitely passed on to you.

    Sam August 20, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I am a first/birth mother and reading your post I cried my eyes out. Good luck with your search.

    Bri August 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    This must have been so hard to write…bravo for your bravery and obvious love for your mom. I wish the two of you all the luck in your search and only wish there was something I could do.

    American in Norway August 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Wow… what a great post… I am saying a prayer for you all… I hope you find him

    Jerri Ann August 20, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Wow, amazing story! Thanks for sharing!

    Katrina August 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I don’t know what I can do to help, but will if you need an extra set of hands at the keyboard. I feel for your mommy and for you. Seriously, I’ll google or email or call if you need more bodies helping.

    Katrina
    klfrye@earthlink.net

    Jezer August 20, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Oh honey, you and your family are just extraordinary. Prayers and good wishes from me for you.

    cjanelo August 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Oh Catherine, what a beautifully written story. I wish you all the luck in finding him.

    madgetastic August 20, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, your Mom. My heart aches for her.

    Best of luck in your search!

    Tracey August 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I shared this with a friend of mine. She found her birth mom using Adoption Reunion Registry. They both
    live in the Vancouver area.

    Good luck!

    Michele August 20, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    I found one sister. Another sister and a brother are still missing. And a father. I think I’ve reconciled to that now. But it took me searching to find parts of me to realize that I’m whole anyway. My best of luck to you on your search, my dear, that it may be fruitful, and put your mother’s mind, at least a little, to rest.

    Little Monkies August 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    My brother was adopted and my mother always told my brother time and again how much his birth mother loved him. Although she’d never met her, I think she wanted him to know what a supreme sacrifice his mom made for our family.

    I hope your brothers adoptive parents let him know how much your mom loved him. I can’t imagine that myself.

    Her Bad Mother August 20, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Anonymous/Maria – e-mail me (herbadmother@gmail.com) if you’re still reading.

    Sara August 20, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    I was adopted.

    I just wrote on my own blog a bit ago about it.

    I said I’d probably never find my birth mother. I’ve got a good adopted family.

    But the main reason is fear. What if she doesn’t want to know me? What if she doesn’t care? What if she’s gone and I’ll never know her.

    I know your mothers fears reversed.

    Tell her, if you can, that I love her for loving him.

    b*babbler August 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Wow Catherine – I really have no words.

    It’s a beautiful, sad, tragic story. I hope that you are successful in your search…

    ((hugs))

    Meg August 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I can’t even read the other comments because of the tears in my eyes.

    Beautiful and heartbreaking, all at the same time. I really hope you find him.

    THopgood August 20, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Wow

    Just….wow….

    I will be anxiously awaiting updates on your search and praying for a happy ending (for all parties involved).

    motherbumper August 20, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I am so f’ing proud to call you my friend it makes my heart explode. How you put it out there, with such beauty, grace, and gentle power just blows my mind. I love you and I know when you find him, he is going to be so proud that you are his sister.

    J from Ireland August 20, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Oh my God, that is just heartbreaking. I sincerly hope you find your brother and he knows how loved he is. His grandmother including him in her will, aw, that is lovely. Best of luck in your search.

    Cathy August 20, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    You make my heart ache — with sadness for a lost little boy and with the beauty of your words.

    Bless you. And bless her.

    laurie August 20, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Amazing. This is a powerful post. I do wish you the best of luck i finding him and that this story has a great ending. I hope that this is just the beginning of this story, too – that we will continue to hear more if / when you find out more and if you are willing to share.

    Miguelina. August 20, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Your mother is so lucky to have you, a fighter, as her daughter. I believe you when you say you will find him.

    Beautifully written. I’m crying, just like everybody else.

    Mom101 August 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I just let out a gasp. A real one.

    Oh Catherine. Oh oh oh.

    Front Porch Legacy August 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your mother’s story and her love for her lost boy. Somewhere out there is my husband’s birth mother. He thinks of her all the time. We’ve tried to find her, but we have only a few details. She was an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia and his birth father was a law student there also. I think they would be proud to know that their son is a brilliant lawyer today!
    If we should ever find her, we will sincerely thank her for her selfless act of love. My sweet husband loves her no matter what and no matter where she may be; and he thanks her for giving him a beautiful life. I think her for giving me a loving husband who I can build a beautiful life with.
    I pray that you will have a joyous reunion some day soon. God bless your sweet mother.

    Mandi August 20, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I realize my comment will be redundant in reading all of these comments… but WOW. You are an amazing writer, first of all. And your story is just… Wow. The ONLY reason I am not bawling (cause I was on the verge the whole time) is because my own kiddos were trying to climb on me as I was reading. I wish you great success in finding him, I can only begin to imagine the many emotions that are coursing through you right now.

    Shelli August 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    I am SO SO SO SO grateful that the birth mother that chose us to raise her child is STILL a positive, loving presence in our daughter’s life.

    Your painful story simply affirms that for me.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Tracey August 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Good luck, Catherine. My heart goes out to your mother and your family…

    Fairly Odd Mother August 20, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I think I held my breath as I read that entire post. To know you have a brother now . . .after all those years. My heart hurts for your mother, and for you. I hope you find him.

    arse poetica August 20, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    My God, the sacrifices we make. I am heartbroken and crying and hoping to God that you find William.

    Cynthia Samuels August 20, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    What an amazing story, beautifully told (of course.) I need to say this: the relationship you have with your mother is a spectacular gift. Amid this sad story, I as a daughter couldn’t keep my mind off the fact that you and your mother were sharing it. Such a beautiful thing.
    I am so glad you have embarked on this quest — if any of my reporting background can help please let me know.
    You are a remarkable writer, a remarkable woman, and a stunning mom and daughter. I am proud to know you.

    Maggie, Dammit August 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    I have a sister, just like this brother. I wrote about her, but not nearly so eloquently.

    When they took the baby away from my mom, she couldn’t bear to see her, either. My mom locked herself in the salvation army home for unwed mothers closet and painted until they were gone. She crafted a lakeside scene, birch trees and sunlight.

    22 years later they were reunited. That painting hangs in my sister’s house today.

    I wish for you the same sort of peace.

    Meagan Francis August 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I so hope you find him. This story has me bawling.

    Liz August 20, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this, I am at the beginning of the process of adopting and I don’t ever want to forget what another woman had to go through in order for me to become a mother. Good luck in your search for your brother.

    caramama August 20, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Oh, Catherine! I’m crying for your mother, your brother, you, everything. How hard that must have been for her. How this must be so hard for you.

    You are doing a wonderful thing looking for him. I wish you the best of luck finding him. I hear that private investigators can be really good at this. My best wishes to you and your family!

    nomotherearth August 20, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Just look at the strength you have at your disposal here. With everyone’s help, you’ll find him. I can feel it.

    Good luck! If I can help in any way, I’m here.

    laurie August 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    he would want to know everything of you, I’m sure. What a gift of a sister you would be. All wishes for all the luck in the world sent your way.

    (Catherine, you are such a beautifully truthful writer. This is such a rare thing and this is why it means so much to me to read your words.)

    Anonymous August 20, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Wow. Just wow and good luck

    mothergoosemouse August 20, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Oh, C. Literally shaking with tears.

    You and your mother. Such brave women, such pillars of strength.

    I hope you find your brother.

    Don Mills Diva August 20, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Speechless Catherine, just speechless.

    I hope you find him.

    Kelley August 20, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I wasn’t going to say this. I wasn’t going to comment. But. My family had a similar tale, one day I may blog about it. He was found. The whole family rejoiced. He broke my Aunties heart.

    Sometimes people cannot live up to the dream.

    Good luck my lovely and I pray that you find him and all is wonderful.

    Mimi aka pz5wjj August 20, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    I know I’m like comment number 1,000, but I have to.

    Wow! I hope you find him. And I hope he’s led a happy life.

    Fantastic post.

    Velma August 20, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Oh, how I hope for a resolution to this story for all of your sakes! A loved one just had an adoption fall through, and it has been a topic on my mind all week. Good luck.

    Her Bad Mother August 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Kelley – thank you for saying that. It’s reality. It’s on my mind.

    GIRL'S GONE CHILD August 20, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Wow. Just… Wow. Sending you St. Anothonyesque thoughts. Love.

    Mrs. Schmitty August 20, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    What a beautiful post that has completely pulled at my heart! I wish I knew how to help you. I do hope you find your brother. My thoughts are with you!

    amanda August 20, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Ditto on the wow. That really touched me. All the very best of luck in finding him.

    carrie August 20, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Even if all I have to offer is a bed and a glass of wine just outside of Seattle, I will.

    You do what you gotta do Catherine, I am amazed and yet – not surprised at all. You go – you go get him.

    GeekMommy August 20, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Amazing post.

    I hope you find your brother soon – just to tell him how much he is loved by his other family…

    And in the meantime, I hope that this story gives hope to many an adoptee who is wondering if he was conceived in love and would be welcomed by his birth family.

    I will wish you all the success in the world!!! ((((((((((((((hug))))))))))))))))))

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