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Benton woman finally finds familyBY BECKY MALKOVICH, The Southern
BENTON — Patti Norris knows not all endings are happy, but she had hoped for something more than the just barely bearable ending she got.
The painful end to an almost life-long search for her biological mother came when Norris, 57, of Benton discovered she was 18 years too late for the reunion she had envisioned.
“I cried. I guess I lost it,” she said of her July 30 visit to her mother’s grave in Henderson, Ky. “But there is a closure there. I can visit her grave and I know, finally, where she is at.”
Norris was just a toddler when her life turned topsy-turvy.
Norris’ mother walked out of her life, taking her two half siblings with her. She left Norris and her three siblings at home in Paducah, Ky., with their biological father.
“My understanding is that they had a fight and she took off. My half sister, Joyce, said she remembers seeing us standing at the door in diapers, crying,” Norris said.
She learned that her mother had disappeared just a few weeks after leaving her, dropping her half siblings with their grandparents, and didn’t resurface until 1970.
Norris and her brother were then adopted by a Macedonia couple, who, she said, paid $1,000 for the two children.
“A thousand dollars total. Like a buy-one, get-one free special at Wal-Mart,” she said. “I can only say I paid for my raising.”
Although she often wondered about her mother and father, it wasn’t until 1970, when she was 19, that she was provided with the information she needed to help her track them down. The woman who raised her gave her a copy of the court records pertaining to her adoption.
“She told me I was old enough then to find my parents if I wanted to,” she said. “She passed away the next month.”
Still, it wasn’t until 1973 that she began to look in earnest. “But at that point, I wasn’t really interested in finding my mother,” she said.
She was able to locate her biological father’s family in 1982 when a Paducah newspaper did a story on her search.
“He sent me money to come for a visit. I asked him why he gave us up and he told me what I later found out was a lie. So I really didn’t get any answers from him,” Norris said.
She decided to look for her mother.
“At first, I didn’t want to find her, but when I became a mother, I had to. I wanted to know how any woman could abandon her children,” Norris said.
Enter her son and daughter-in-law, Douglas and Andrea Hogan of Ellis Grove.
“I wanted to find my family, so they got on ancestry.com and found a cousin. She sent me a picture of my mother on June 28, 2008. It was the first picture I ever saw of my mom and I cried like a baby,” she said. “There’s a side of you that really wants your mother to love you. I wanted to understand how she could give us up.”
She learned that her mother, Stella Yates, had died in 1990.
“She took her secrets to the grave with her. There are so many things I don’t know and now never will. She didn’t tell anyone anything. When I saw her grave, there was anger and confusion, because there are no answers,” she said.
However, she said, reuniting with her half sister, Joyce Smith of Henderson, Ky., was a blessing.
“They talk two or three times a day,” Norris’ husband, Kenny, said.
Norris said she has learned some things about her mother, but not why she left.
Her newfound family members took her to visit her mother’s grave July 30.
“It was good to be around people who knew her. They told me I look a lot like her with my dark hair. I have her photo album and there’s a picture of her in here that made Kenny say, ‘I’ve heard that look,’” she said, with a laugh.
Norris said she wishes she could have gotten to know her mother.
“People need to know about their biological families, for health reasons if nothing else,” she said. “Even though I wasn’t raised by her, they tell me I have a lot of her traits, but one trait I didn’t share with her was that I put my kids first, always. When they were young, I cleaned houses five days a week. I wish I knew why she didn’t do the same.”