Finding Bette and Brothers
A bit more difficult…
My newly discovered Aunt Nona (Kuhn) lived on Kingston a few houses up the street from her brother-in-law Lloyd Kuhn and his family. Lloyd was another of Harold Kuhn “the Dad’s” older brothers. That was near Outer Drive and Carlyle in Dearborn. The neighborhood was in my growing up wheelhouse where I had Hart cousins living nearby. When we first talked Nona said she might know where to look for my Bette Mom even though she had lost touch over recent years.
Sure enough several weeks later, another surprising call from Nona. She called to tell me she had located Bette my birth mother. She was living with her Husband Al in Farmington Hills which would be near where my cousin Danny had lived. It is no telling how many times, during the intervening years, our paths may have crossed. Even my newly found Uncle Lloyd I learned, worked all of his life at Kelsey Hayes Wheel where my Dad had been a lifetime employee as well.
There was a problem. Nona relayed that although Bette was excited that I had surfaced none of her family knew I existed… at least not yet. She now planned to tell them, but she knew regarding her husband, it would be difficult. And, as it turned out, it was harder than she thought it would be. I told Nona to let her know I didn’t want to cause her any problems and was just satisfied that she knew I was OK.
So, in the summer of 1986, left to the devices that curiosity is capable of generating, Nona and Bette Mom planned a secret meeting for us at Nona’s house in Dearborn, on Kingston Street, between Dartmouth and Colgate. We agreed to meet just as soon as I could arrange a trip to Detroit from my home in California. I don’t recall the exact date but it had to be between mid-July and late August.
I was excited and nervous of course when I arrived at Nona’s on the appointed day. Bette Mom hadn’t yet arrived and we waited. Aunt Nona filled me in with a little background on Bette’s life. There was a brief marriage to Harold in July of 1940 (Bette was then eighteen), I was born in December of the same year. Their divorce was final on December 2nd of 1941, just 5 days before Pearl Harbor and two weeks before my first Birthday. I don’t think they ever lived together.
Bette remarried a few years later and had two sons, David and Greg, in 1945 and 1947 respectively. Her married name was Scherer. Her husband, a law enforcement officer I was told, died of a heart attack when in his late thirties and she was then left to raise the boys on her own. Some years later she remarried again to Al Campbell, it was he she was worried about telling of my existence, and together they added another son Skip. So, I had three brothers in all… or so I thought? Nona then told me that Bette’s oldest son David had recently died, in the same manner as his father of a heart attack, and at about the same age… both very young. In Nona’s words, “She lost one son and now has gained one back.” It was then Nona mentioned that Bette would bring me a real surprise.
The Eyes have it…
I was standing by the door when Bette walked in, feeling uncomfortable to some degree, how could you not when for the first time meeting up with the person that was responsible for your being. I guess it wasn’t officially the first time, but for sure I wasn’t conscious of any of our previous engagements. It was a while ago after all.
I recall when first looking into her eyes immediately feeling this disarming warmth about them. I was, I soon realized, looking into my own eyes. I had inherited all of the physical characteristics of her brown eyes and I’m sure she became immediately aware as well. It would be hard not to notice. We stared at each other awkwardly for what seemed like an uncomfortable length of time and then sat down at Nona’s kitchen table and exchanged some of our life stories. There were indeed some parallels, which included periods in my own life that I am not proud of. I believe we arrived at a mutual understanding, and a certain respect, that all would be well between us. We agreed to stay in touch in the hope that her family would soon be welcoming of my existence.
Before leaving she said to me, “I have brought you something Ronnie.” She then went out to her car and retrieved a little ball of tissue paper tied loosely with a gold ribbon and handed it to me saying, “These belong to you.” I unwrapped the little package and in it found a little pair of bronzed baby shoes. Bette then told me the story of her having placed them on a pedestal that sat above her fireplace in every house she lived in, and how her son David always thought they were his. And, when asked, she always told the boys that one day she would tell them who they belonged to.
My birth mother was born Elizabeth Anderson on April 1st 1921 and grew up in Garden City, Michigan. She died on February 18, 1989. It was only a couple of years that I knew her. We did in the end enjoy our families getting together with her husband Al and his extended family. He turned out to be very welcoming to my barging in on his world and I enjoyed his company. My brothers, all three of them, have since passed away as well. During one of our family meetings, Bette pulled me aside to tell me that Harold had been the love of her life, which must have been a hard thing for her to confess. Especially so, since it was obvious to me, she loved her then family greatly. Having learned that little tidbit about her as a young girl, helped me understand what pain she must have felt during 1940 and 1941, when she had no moral or financial support for the situation she found herself in.