By Dave Andrusko
How could anyone read this arresting headline—“Mom reunites with biological child 77 years later”—and not read on? Well, me, for two days, proving once again that to download and save (thinking you will get to it immediately) almost never works.
But a short delay does nothing to diminish the power and the attractiveness and the beauty of Minka Disbrow’s uplifting story.
Her story begins in horror—raped as a young girl in 1928—and ends with the beauty of an absolutely unexpected reunion in 2006 with the child she had reluctantly given up for adoption. I will offer a brief overview of Amy Taxin’s terrific story because you definitely will want to read it for yourself.
“At 17, she gave birth to a blond-haired baby with a deep dimple in her chin and named her Betty Jane,” Taxin writes. “In her heart, Disbrow longed to keep her. But her head and her mother told her she couldn’t bring an infant back to the farm. A pastor and his wife were looking to adopt a child. She hoped they could give Betty Jane the home she couldn’t. ‘I loved that baby so much. I wanted what was best,’ Disbrow said.”
Disbrow never met the couple nor knew their names but she sent many letters to the adoption agency which faithful replied with updates until they eventually lost touch with her after a change in management. Disbrow married, led a very productive life (she had two additional children) but always thought about Betty Jane on her birthday, May 22.
“Five years ago, Disbrow [who is now 100] prayed she might get the chance to see her,” Taxin writes. Through a seemingly improbable series of events, she received a phone call on July 2, 2006, from a man asking if she’d like to speak with Betty Jane.
Her name was now Ruth Lee.
“She had been raised by a Norwegian pastor and his wife and had gone on to marry and have six children including the Alabama man, a teacher and astronaut Mark Lee, a veteran of four space flights who has circled the world 517 times,” Taxin explains. “She worked for nearly 20 years at Walmart — and especially enjoyed tending to the garden area. Lee knew she was adopted her whole life, and grew up a happy child.”
The remainder of the story fills in many details of their lives and the happy reunions since. The story’s ending is pitch-perfect:
“’It has been such a surreal, amazing experience that I still think sometimes that I will wake up and it will just be a beautiful dream,’ the 82-year-old Lee said.
“Disbrow’s daughter Dianna Huhn, 65, of Portland, Ore., said the reunion has filled a void for her mother — one that for many years, the sharp, stylish woman with sparkling blue eyes kept a deep, dark secret.
“’I have never seen my mother as happy,’ said Huhn.”