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Published Saturday February 27th, 2010 at 2:42pm

Original Article by Sue Shipman

Prior to several decades ago, a young woman becoming a single motherwas a scary and bad thing. Society frowned on such women, who typicallyleft home for several months to have their babies and give them up foradoption. Women were told, "Don't ever think about this again; no onewill ever know about it, and it is over."

Sue Shipman recently reunited with her birth family after being given up for adoption where she was seven days old.

But the advisers telling these young women that had no idea theInternet was in the future, and would have the power to divulgeinformation ... secret or not.

My parents never tried to keep the fact of my adoption from me. As ateenager, my feelings were, "If my birth mother didn't want me, whyshould I want to find her?" The chances then of finding a birth parentwas very unlikely at best.

Then something changed in my thinking. I decided I wanted to findher. I knew I was adopted from the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth, soI joined an Internet chat group of Gladney adoptees and mothers who hadgiven up their children there.

About 12 years ago, a chat group member asked me for my birthcertificate number. She knew how to decode the number, and from thatinformation she was able to narrow down the field of possibilities. Shecalled my birth mother, thinking perhaps she had found her birthgrandmother, whom she was seeking. When told no, she asked my mother ifa June 10 birthday meant anything to her. At that point, my mothersimply said, "Oh, honey."

A few minutes after this encounter, I received a phone call givingme my mother's name -- Deveda Watson -- and her phone number. Igathered up my courage and called Deveda. We had a very strained talk,since I don't think either of us knew what to say or how to act. Devedatold me she was afraid her children would hate her because she had meout of wedlock. She made me promise I wouldn't try to contact herchildren and I didn't -- for 12 years. I did send her a few letters andMother's Day cards.

Then through a string of events, a miracle happened. A week beforeThanksgiving 2009, my voicemail had the following message waiting: "Hi,this is Barbara Watson and I think you are my big sister." Wow, it ishard to explain how I felt at that time ... shock, excitement,apprehension!

I called Barbara back and we had a long talk. Immediately we bonded,and I felt like I had known her my entire life. Barbara told me thatour brother, Roy, had been diagnosed earlier with cancer and wanted togo home to live with her parents Deveda and Edker. Barbara moved hometo help care for him. After Roy's death in September, Barbara wascleaning up Deveda's office and found letters I had sent. In theletters were my address and phone number.

Barbara said she told Edker she had found the letters and he toldher she was never meant to find them. She then told them both she wasgoing to call me because I was her sister.

We started planning a "reunion," and then I called my husband, whowas thrilled. When I called Stacy, my eldest daughter, I told her,"Your Aunt Barbara called." Stacy thought I meant my husband's sister,Barbara. I said, "No, my sister Barbara." I then told Stacy we wereplanning to meet Barbara while I was staying with her in January.

Barbara had told me Deveda didn't know whether she wanted to meet meor not. Barbara said she would keep talking with Deveda and see whatshe could do. She also told me that Deveda met Edker just after I wasborn, and when they were married he said he wanted to go get me and hewould adopt me. However, I was already gone. I was just seven days oldwhen adopted.

During the Christmas season, I received another call from Barbara.She told me she had my Christmas present. I told her that she waspresent enough for me. Then she said this was even better -- did I wantto meet my mother? After the shock wore off, I said yes. Immediatelyafter I hung up, I called my husband and told him I was going to meetmy mother. He was thrilled.

I then called my daughter Stacy and told her that she would be meeting her grandmother, and her response was, "Wow."

Barbara and I had many more chats after that. I asked if Jeannie, myother sister, would be in Graham, Texas, when we got there, and shetold me Jeannie wouldn't be able to make it.

Between that time and the day I left for Louisiana, I foundBarbara's children on Facebook and she and I had many nice chats. Ialso found Jeannie on Facebook, and so was able to see lots of theirfamily pictures prior to our visit.

Barbara's daughter Jackie invited us to her house near Ft. Worth,Texas, for a Tuesday night, and we had a nice surprise when we arrived.Jackie's sister, Christy, her brother Slim and his wife Casey, and alltheir kids were there. We had a great barbeque dinner and a nice longchat. Christy said it was spooky how much I looked like her grandmotherand Slim said that when I hugged him it was just like hugging hisgrandmother Deveda.

From the time we arrived at Jackie's, everyone was so accepting andglad to meet us. We all had a lot in common, and I finally feel like Ifit in somewhere. I felt like I belonged with this family. It is also ablessing to know the family history of problems such as restless legsyndrome, allergies and such.

The next morning, Slim and Casey came by to lead us to Graham, wherewe were to meet Barbara. They took us to IHOP for breakfast. Barbarakept calling to say, "Hurry."

We finally arrived in Graham at the Holiday Inn Express. Barbaracame out to the parking lot with another lady. She told me it wasJeannie, and I said, "I know." After all, I had seen her picture onFacebook. But it was a great surprise to get to see her. Best of allwas to be able to hug my sisters after all the years.

We checked in and then went up to the suite. When I opened the doorI was in for a big surprise. The room was filled with family --including Deveda and Edker. I had been apprehensive about this momentfrom the beginning and unsure how to act around Deveda, but when I sawher, all I could think of was to hug her. It felt right. We had a nicechat, and then all went to the Veale Cemetery to see where some of thefamily is buried. On the way to the cemetery, I told Stacy I was unsurewhat to call Deveda. Stacy suggested I call Barbara and ask her.Barbara told me everyone called her Mama.

After taking pictures of the tombstones, and family pictures too, wewent to a restaurant called Mi Familia in Graham. The name of therestaurant just seemed appropriate for this gathering, at which 19 ofus met for dinner.

As we were leaving, I asked Edker if I could call him "Daddy" and he said I could -- that I was one of his daughters.

The next day, we all went to lunch in Throckmorton, Texas, and thenon to the cemetery where my brother is buried. We also saw andphotographed more of the Wesley family plots.

We visited a third cemetery to see where my grandfather and hissecond wife are buried. Then a group of us went to Deveda and Edker'shome. Deveda was tired and trying to get to her chair, so I helped her.She said thanks and I told her, "I have to take care of my Mama." Shelooked at me with a puzzled expression and then beamed. From that timeon she was "Mama."

We sat around their living room looking at old family pictures andhearing stories about my siblings' childhood. I turned on a digitalrecorder I had with me -- and just in time. Barbara came across apicture of my uncle, Adrian, who was a singer and songwriter. She askedMama if she remembered the song Adrian used to sing to the kids andMama sang it. She then recited a poem he had written. I was luckyenough to it recorded, so I will always have my Mama's voice.

I sat next to Mama and we held hands. We took lots of familypictures and she and I are all smiles in them. We are both happy tofinally be together. Then the time came to go back to the hotel, andMama and I were crying. I gave her and Daddy big hugs and told them Iwould see them again soon. Mama said to not be a stranger and Ipromised her it wouldn't be another 63 years. I started missing her theminute I got into Jeannie's car and left for the hotel.

After another tearful goodbye in the hotel parking lot Fridaymorning, Stacy and I had breakfast with my sisters and then had toleave for Houston so I could catch my flight home on Saturday.

When I returned home, I uploaded photos and found a goodone of Mama and Daddy, my sisters, and me. That one is now thewallpaper on my laptop and I look at it every day wishing I were backin Texas with them -- my family.