It seems almost impossible that you could be separated from someone for 77 years, and then all of a sudden, with a single lucky phone call, they could be back in your life. But that's exactly what happened to Minka Disbrow.
It all began in 1928, when Disbrow, who had a tough childhood growing up on a farm in South Dakota, was just 16. One day, Disbrow and a friend were walking when they were attacked and raped by three men. The girls didn't know what to do about the incident, so Disbrow says, they went back home and said nothing. As time wore on, she noticed her body was changing, but she didn't understand what was happening—because she'd been told that babies were delivered by storks. Her parents sent her away to a home for pregnant girls, and when she was 17, the baby was born. Part of her wanted to keep the baby, who she named Betty Jane, but her parents told her she had to give her up for adoption. So Betty Jane was given to a pastor and his wife, and that was the last Disbrow saw of the baby.
After letting Betty Jane go, Disbrow moved on her with her life—sort of. She married and had two more children and led a busy life. But she always wondered what had become of the baby she'd had when she was young. For a time, she wrote letters to the adoption agency to get updates on her, until the agency's management changed and she lost track of her.
In 2006, when Disbrow was 94-years-old, she prayed on Betty Jane's birthday that she might see her before she died. Then a few months later, out of the blue, her phone rang. It was a man from Alabama who called and, after confirming her identity, asked if she would like to speak to Betty Jane, who was now known as Ruth Lee. It turned out the man, Brian Lee, was Ruth's son, who'd tracked down Minka after his mother—who was now 77—started having health problems and wanted to know more about her family health history.
As Minka talked with Ruth on the phone, she learned that she'd had a happy childhood being raised by a Norwegian pastor and his wife. She'd married and had six children. One of the children, Mark Lee, is an astronaut who's flown four space flights! Disbrow said she was shocked to learn that someone with her humble beginnings could have such successful grandkids.
The Lees made arrangements to come and meet Minka Disbrow at her home in California. During their reunion, the mother and daughter discovered their hands looked alike and that they had similar taste in clothes. They caught up on everything they'd missed, and Disbrow said, "It was just like we had never parted, like you were with the family all your life." Lee, who is now 82, said this about finally getting to know her birth mother: "It has been such a surreal, amazing experience that I still think sometimes that I will wake up and it will just be a beautiful dream."
The amazing story of their reunion is just being told outside of the family, but since they first met five years ago they've made a point of getting their families together as often as they can. They're all planning to get together this spring to celebrate a big milestone that Minka Disbrow just passed: her 100th birthday. There's certainly plenty for Disbrow to celebrate. Her daughter from her marriage, Diana Huhn, says that since Ruth Lee has come into their lives, "I have never seen my mother as happy."