Ever the optimist, Ronnie Albright knew the day would come, the day when the woman who was 24 years old when she gave him up for adoption 63 years ago would call.
He just knew.
He vowed no anger, no bitterness, just love. Love him, and he would love her back.
"My adoptive parents were wonderful, and my life has been great, but it's even better now,'' said the Rock Island man, who met his birth mother, Lou DeFeyter, during a recent visit to San Jose, Calif. "I understand. She was single and got pregnant by a married man who was separated from his wife. She saw me for five minutes and had to give me up.''
That was 63 years ago.
DeFeyter and her two daughters, ages 58 and 59, began the search for the third member of their family in August. Through Internet options, they ran across Albright's 1967 class photo from Rock Island High School. After that, things fell into place.
"They knew it was me right away,'' Albright said. "Then they found my address and sent me a registered letter with all the information that connected some dots. Silly me, I waited five days to go pick up the letter.''
Through a series of emails, notes and letters, Albright and his family decided to gather at San Jose in early November. The three-day drive to California was anticipation-filled for the Jumer's Casino retiree.
"I had three days and 2,130 miles to think about meeting everyone,'' Albright said. "The first day I drove more than the last two, maybe because I was excited. I was really excited because my last travel night I was only 149 miles from San Jose.''
Any nerves that accompanied Albright along the way were gone when he reached 240 Delia St. in San Jose. A strange calmness fell over him when he arrived.
"I walked around the house a little, and then my sisters saw me,'' he said.
The big moment had arrived. Tears, joy and appreciation followed.
"It was great meeting my mom,'' Albright said. "Perfect in every way. My mom just explained everything to me. She is 87 and wanted to make sure I knew she loved me and wanted to be a family. I was in shock through most of that first meeting but settled in.''
Albright said he had adoptive parents who loved and cared for him. But he knew there was someone out there who had given him up, and he believed that decision was weighing on some woman's mind.
"I had an uncle blurt out to my adoptive mom, 'He's not yours,' when I was 17, so I had an idea, but didn't learn for sure that I was adopted until I was 33,'' Albright said. "It's OK. I'm OK. I just had a wonderful experience that added so much to my life.''
For 11 days, Albright said, a new world of family opened up for him. He said one of the 11-day trip's highlights was catching the Chicago Bears-San Francisco 49ers game with his newfound family
He gave thanks to his birth mother for sharing her secret with her two daughters, Margie and Fern, and their efforts to locate him.
"I think it completed things for all of us,'' Albright said."My mom shared a secret she'd been wanting to share for years, and I found a family that cares. I found a mom that though she couldn't care for me 63 years ago, always wanted me to know she loved me.''
More meetings are planned for spring, and Albright confirmed his family has asked him to move to San Jose.
"God has a plan, and his plan was for me to meet my family,'' Albright said. "And now we are a family. I'm a lucky man.''
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or email@example.com.