MORGANTOWN — At 70, Lynn Bennett’s life changed — but it changed for the better.
Almost by accident, some might call it fate, she and her son reconnected after 47 years.
Bennett became pregnant after college and was searching for a job as a teacher. She made the choice to place her baby up for adoption. She never viewed that baby as a negative. She always thought of Mike Smith, her son, as a gift, albeit one she couldn’t keep.
Both Smith and his biological mother used Ancestry.com for genealogy reasons. Smith never felt he needed to go searching for his biological mother because he felt blessed with the family who raised him.
His parents gave him his Ancestry.com kit to learn about his genetic heritage. He didn’t even feel he needed to, he said. His adopted father insisted.
Somewhat reluctantly, he took the test. He received his genealogy information and was happy with it.
He wasn’t looking for anything more.
Then, his DNA results showed him a woman who also took the test and had a 100 percent match to his birth mother.
“I was always allowed, supported to go find (her). I just never needed to because I had an understanding that there was a reason why I was adopted and whatever that reason was, I didn’t need to stir it back up,” said Smith.
His wife, Jackie, encouraged him to reach out to his mother. He sent an email through Ancestry anonymously, but nothing was returned. His wife wondered what else they could do.
They wrote a certified letter. If his mother got it and responded, they could communicate further; if she didn’t respond, they could move on. Jackie looked through social media and knew about Bennett, but she did not know anything about them.
“I emailed her the next morning and said, ‘Yep, it’s me,’ ” said Bennett.
Bennett accepted the letter, and she communicated with Jackie a bit, Mike said.
“I got one chance to make a phone call, or talk, and it wasn’t going to be a letter, it wasn’t going to be an email, so I picked up the phone, and we talked for about an hour, and it was simple,” he said.
Bennett said when he was born, she saw him for about 20 minutes, but when they first talked on the phone, it was like they knew each other all their lives. They planned to meet in the spring, but Mike said he didn’t want to wait that long. He came to visit in December.
“He stepped across my porch and gave me a big hug,” said Bennett.
His adopted parents, along with Bennett, surprised him on what they called his “first birthday” with his birth mother. They gave him a card with a 1 on it and a cupcake with one candle. Bennett wanted to give him something memorable that wasn’t going to collect dust. They split the cost and sent him and his family on a cruise.
Mike’s family — his wife, Jackie, his stepson, Daniel, and his two sons, Nicholas and Joseph — live in Virginia.
Bennett received an infinity ring with Mike’s birthstone as a present. She said this whole experience is nothing short of amazing. She even said she adopted his adopted parents into her own family.
The parallels between the adopted family and Bennett are almost uncanny. For example, they gave her a present — a bracelet with a charm of a tree of life. She has a tree of life in brass hanging on the wall in her living room they knew nothing about. They are both teachers, as is Bennett. Their genealogy is also similar. Jackie even said Mike looks a lot like his adopted dad.
“And the way his family accepted me, and they made me part of the family, we email back and forth, it just made it so easy,” Bennett said.
Mike said his parents probably talk to Bennett more than he does.
“The distance is probably the only challenge. Whether you fit together, the awkwardness, none of that’s there,” said Mike.
Jackie said after they told their children they found Bennett, they were excited to have another grandma. Mike said he feels blessed because he has two complete families, and most only have one.
His uncle, Doug Wiley, said there was no science to it. There was just instant connection, and they immediately clicked.
“It’s just instant bonding. I just call him my brother by another mother. He’s about 19 years younger than I, but we have a lot of the same characteristics,” Wiley said.
Wiley got the family together over the weekend to meet Mike and his family, who traveled back to Morgantown to meet everyone.
Bennett said family is important to her. She’s 70 years old, and every day that goes by, she thinks about what Mike and the kids are doing. She said the weekend they first met at her house, it was just filled with love. They plan to attend their family reunion, an 86-year tradition, and introduce Mike to the rest of the family.
“At 70 years old your life goes ‘woah.’ It’s wonderful,” said Bennett.