Wednesday, October 13, 2021

52 Years in 11 Days: A Son, Facing Death, Finds His Father

 Three weeks before he died, Sam Anthony, 52, mailed his last wishes to a man he had never met.He was dying, he wrote in a letter postmarked Aug. 2, of an aggressive cancer in his mouth and throat that he had been struggling with since 2005.

 The New York Times


 He enclosed a copy of a college alumni magazine article about his high-ranking job at the National Archives and Records Administration. He was writing, he explained, because the two men shared ancestors, a fact he had learned from DNA matches and public records.

He had recently learned that his biological father’s name was Craig Nelso

“I am wondering,” Anthony wrote, “if you are that Craig.”

In Green Valley, Arizona, on Aug. 9, Anthony’s letter found its way into the hands of a 78-year-old retired airline worker.

Nelson’s first thought, holding the envelope and seeing the return address, was that he did not know anybody in Falls Church, Virginia. Then he read the contents.

And started to tremble.

It had been decades since Nelson had given up hope of finding the biological son he fathered near the end of his military service as an Army medic at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“Fifty-two years, that’s a long time to try to carry around a memory,” Nelson said. “Especially when you didn’t have a memory to begin with.”

All he had ever known of the baby was what the mother told Nelson in a brief, long-distance phone call in 1969: It was a healthy birth, and she had already given him up for adoption.

Now, in neatly typed, single-spaced, Times New Roman paragraphs, that cipher of a son — that emptiness — was speaking to him in a man’s voice. A dying man’s voice.

Anthony wrote that he realized “this letter may come as a shock to you, and I do not wish to upset anyone’s life.”

“My hope is to view photographs and to learn of my family medical history,” he gently pleaded. “I am open to contact with biological relatives but do not want to intrude.”

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