The following article appeared in the Mother's Day 2001 Edition of The Chicago Sun Times...
50 Years to Mother's Day
A Chicago woman is joyously reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption so long ago
By Kate N. Grossman
Sun Times Staff Reporter
For several nights leading up to the reunion, Ruth Miller, a slight 81-year-old with warm hazel eyes and glorious, high cheekbones, lay in bed wondering.
What would the baby daughter she gave up look like now, 50 years later? And did she really give her baby the chance for a better life?
Miller, who gave up her two children—a 2-year-old girl and a newborn boy—in the late 1940s after her husband abandoned her, couldn't put the questions to rest.
"I felt like I did the right thing," said Miller, who grew up in an orphanage and has no family of her own. "I couldn't give them a good life."
But her confidence was fleeting. Her tears began to well.
"I didn't think I'd get this way," Miller said, sinking into a plush couch in the parlor of a Lake View hotel Thursday evening. "So many years of not having anyone, you get accustomed to being alone."
She caught her breath. She let out a big sigh, smiled and said, "I never did think I would meet them."
Thursday night, in a reunion more than 50 years coming, in walked her daughter, Cathy Henderson, now 55, fresh from a flight from Washington state. Mother and daughter shared their first embrace in decades.
"Oh, God love her," Miller exclaimed as she and Henderson wiped tears from their matching hazel eyes. "This is like a dream."
Mother and daughter stood face-to-face. The hugging wouldn't quit.
"I brought pictures of my whole life so we can catch up," said Henderson, a pert redhead with a hearty laugh and a warm, gracious manner.
Miller couldn't keep the emotions bottled up any longer.
"A family! A family!" Miller cried, waving her hands up and down like an excited schoolgirl. "Oh, I got a wonderful family!"
The two settled in side-by-side on the couch and began catching up on a lifetime apart.
Her friends had warned her not to expect too much, said Henderson, who grew up in Streamwood.
"I ignored that," said Henderson, a mother of three and grandmother of three. "A lot of people, once they're reunited, either have bitterness or feelings they can't handle."
"I was thinking about meeting a neat lady and filling her void."
• • •
It was a few days before Thanksgiving when Henderson got the phone call. With one simple sentence, the voice on the line turned her world inside out.
"She said my mother was alive and looking for me," Henderson recalled.
When Henderson was adopted, she was told that her biological mother had died while giving birth to a third child.
Now, hearing this news, Henderson said, "I was speechless. Everything just kind of stopped. The next second wasn't happening."
Over the next few days, Henderson poured over her baby pictures, comparing them with photos sent by Melisha Mitchell, who runs through the White Oak Foundation a Chicago non-profit organization that helps reunite adoptees and their parents. Using legal records and birth records from the Internet, Mitchell tracked down Henderson and her brother, Greg Bean, who lives in Arizona.
Bean, who cares for the ailing mother who raised him, isn't interested in a meeting while the only parents he ever knew are still alive. But he sent photos and talked with Henderson on the phone. Those two are planning to meet.
At first, Henderson had trouble digesting the news. But, once it began to fall into place, she was eager to learn about her past. "I grew up in a very loving family—my mom always said I was chosen," Henderson said over her parents, who passed away a few years ago. "But," she added, "there was always a void. You get down at times—you want to know what your roots are, what your family is."
Before the reunion, Henderson and Miller had spoken several times. Henderson says she finally began to understand her mother's choice.
Miller, married and living in Oklahoma, was pregnant when her husband, who was in the service, went overseas during World War II. After he failed to return her letters or contact her, Miller, originally from Chicago, moved home. Miller was told he went AWOL.
With no relatives to turn to, Miller supported her children as a waitress, but struggled to keep her family afloat.
"If I gave them up, I figured they'd have a nice home," said Miller, who lives alone in Lake View. "Every mother feels the same way. You want your children to have good fortune and a good life.
"The loss never went away," said Miller, who has chronic leukemia that is now in remission. "I just don't cry as much."
Henderson admires what Miller did and hopes other adopted children can learn from her experience. "She made a loving choice," Henderson said. "I don't know if I could do that. It must have been torture for her.
"All these years, she's had it in her heart that she'd see her kids again. This is a dream come true for Ruth."
• • •
For fifty years, Miller carried several yellowing black-and-white pictures of her children in her pocket.
Thursday night, she was finally able to see what happened to the precious blonde, caught by the camera clinging to a doll. "I thought I had no one, and now all of a sudden I have a family," said Miller, who could not stop beaming. "I found the future. That's what counts."
Henderson plans to stay until Tuesday, sharing her first Mother's Day with Miller. Henderson says they've made few plans.
"Why would we want to go any place? We have years of yakking to do…We are just starting to fill in the pieces.
"We'll get all caught up and then move forward."