Her brother came into the living room with an at-home ancestry kit, claiming he wanted to know how deep his Scandinavian roots were.
He shared that he’d bought it with the neighbor, who had his own. The two had no idea what can of worms they were cracking open.
When Mary Elizabeth Keaton moved to Glendale, Missouri, she’d only wanted to live out the rest of her life in a quiet neighborhood with her loved ones.
She’d led a long life full of triumphs and mistakes equally. But one mistake that dogged her for the last forty-four years would come back to haunt her.
Mary was fifty-nine years old when she settled in Glendale with her husband Mark and her little brother Gary. Her two kids were off to college, and the house was mostly empty, especially when she was off to work.
A biology teacher in the local high school with a beautiful home and wonderful neighbors, most people who saw Mary wouldn’t know that she had a terrible secret she’d kept hidden for more than four decades.
Before Mary met Mark, she’d been in love. Or at least that’s what she thought. She was fifteen when she met the boy who stole her heart, a strapping senior she’d been infatuated with while in her sophomore year.
She loved spending time with him, seeing life as meaningless without him by her side. But soon enough, this way of thinking would land her in trouble.
Even after forty-four long years, Mary could still remember that Monday morning when she took the pregnancy test. She could remember how helpless she’d felt when she realized she was too young to raise a child.
She could still hear her boyfriend telling her he didn’t know what she was talking about. At fifteen years old, what could Mary do?
After long hours of conversation with her counselor, mom, and doctor, Mary made the heartbreaking decision to give her baby up for adoption.
Her family was struggling then, and she knew her parents couldn’t afford to take care of another child although they wanted to. Mary’s counselor offered the way forward, stating that it would be best for all the involved parties.
Mary gave up her baby to a beautiful couple who couldn’t conceive, and although it hurt, she could smile knowing her son was in better hands and with a family that would give him all he’d ever need in life.
She moved on after that, putting all the pain behind her. But even as the years would trudge on, Mary would silently remember that she’d given up her first baby – something she considered her biggest mistake in life. She had no idea what fate had in store for her.
Life in Glendale was a quiet one for Mary, well, if you didn’t include her neighbors, the Hales, in the picture. Mary’s family, namely Mark and Mary’s little brother Gary, always butted heads with the Hales.
The matters would usually be petty, like whose dog relieved itself on whose lawn and whose yard lights keep who awake at night. But one day, an issue would arise that would blow everything up.
A week into summer, Gary, who was now in his forties, was hanging out with Chris, the Hales’ dad. Their relationship was among the most fascinating things Mary had ever seen. One minute they’d be laughing and the next bickering.
But that week, Gary came into the living room with an at-home ancestry kit, claiming he wanted to know how deep his Scandinavian roots were. He shared that he’d bought the kit with Chris, who had his own. The two had no idea what can of worms they were cracking open.
Gary put his information in the DNA database, only to receive a notification that he and Chris might be first cousins. Thinking the testing kits were faulty, the two bought new ones from a different brand.
The answer came out the same, prompting them to get additional testing kits. This time, the answer was different. It sent chills down their spines and dredged-up nightmares Mary had worked so hard to keep buried.
“Gary came home that night with his eyes glossy and mouth wide open,” Mary shared. She revealed her little brother had always been the easy-going type, and seeing him this worried made her mind race.
“I couldn’t tell what had happened, but I knew it was serious,” she said. Before she could speak, Chris walked in after Gary. What they’d reveal would send her faltering back.
Gary and Chris explained what they’d been doing, and as they continued to talk, the reality of it all began taking form right before Mary’s eyes.
“The results said we were first cousins,” Gary said. “But we’ve taken more tests, sis.” Chris stepped forward, his eyes glistening with stemmed tears, “Most of the tests claim he’s my uncle, and you’re my biological mom.”
Mary fell back. The world around her was spinning, the air in her lungs thinning. She struggled to take her breaths, her mind seemingly threatening to implode on itself.
The pain she’d felt forty-four years ago while giving up her son came back with a stinging vengeance. She ate back a cry. Her eyes trailed up, locking with her little brother before straying to Chris. She gasped.
Looking at Chris put everything into perspective. For the last two years that Mary and her family lived in Glendale, she’d felt like she knew Chris or had at least met him before.
She’d spent the first few months trying to place him but ultimately gave up when it became too taxing—but staring at him now filled in the blanks. Chris was her son.
Mary sat down with her husband, brother, and neighbor that evening. She opened up about her past, remembering that Gary had been a little over a year when she gave Chris up so he didn’t remember it.
She’d expected Chris or Mark to be mad at her for her past, but they were anything but. They understood the tough decision she’d had to make and assured her that they still had time to create a lifetime of memories together.