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Greenfield man meets his birth mother for first time

Mother-son reunion does more than merely answer questions

Barbara Osterman hugs son, Glen Denlinger of Greenfield, for the first time as they meet at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee on Jan. 14. Osterman, who resides in Texas, had given Denlinger up for adoption in 1972.

Barbara Osterman hugs son, Glen Denlinger of Greenfield, for the first time as they meet at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee on Jan. 14. Osterman, who resides in Texas, had given Denlinger up for adoption in 1972. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Jan. 21, 2014

Greenfield — At Mitchell International Airport, Glen Denlinger nervously waited, clutching a bouquet of flowers in one hand and the hand of his wife, Kelly, with the other.

The Greenfield couple both strained to glimpse the mother that Glen had never seen in all of his 42 years. He was only a day old when is mother, Barbara Osterman, herself only 18 at the time, gave him up for adoption. She was flying in from Texas today.

Always wondering what his birth mother was like, Glen had sought her out. They had spoken on the phone and exchanged photos, but now they would meet on Jan. 14, the day before Glen's birthday.

To say that he and Kelly were nervous and excited is an understatement.

"You're rubbing the skin off my hand," Kelly kidded him, as passengers from two flights filed endlessly past the anxious couple.

When those from a second plane emerged, they spotted mom right away from way down the airport concourse.

"That looks like the one picture," Kelly exclaimed.

Osterman was beaming and crying all at once, and the moment was electric when she stepped into the arms of her son.

The two embraced for a long, long time. His mother stroked his cheek and looked lovingly into his eyes. Then she embraced Kelly while Glen, an ex-Marine, wiped away a tear.

"My smile probably won't come off for days," Osterman said. "The tears have been coming for days."

Eternal wondering

This was a moment she thought would never come.

"I thought this would be a fairy tale," she said.

Down through the years, Barbara had wondered aloud to her sisters whether her tiny son had grown into a strong, kind man.

"I wanted him to go to a good home and be loved and taken care of because I was so unsettled in my life," she said. "It's not that I didn't want him."

"I never thought that," Glen put in quickly.

But the question had always nagged him — why was he put up for adoption? Finally, that nagging voice has been silenced.

"I totally understand," he said, realizing the answer to another relevant question: Why not give a baby a chance in wonderful family that can't have children. That is indeed what happened to him, said Glen.

Glen has an older brother and sister also adopted by his parents. Neither are interested in finding their birth parents.

Glen's adoptive parents are still getting used to Glen's search for his roots.

"But I told them, 'You are my parents, you'll always be my parents and you made me what I am today,'" Glen said.

It was a desire for the medical history of his birth parents that drove him probably more than a any other question, Glen said.

He has two children, ages 11 and 13, and he wants them to be aware of any health risks so they can be careful, especially as they get older, he said.

Indeed, a common but serious medical condition that runs in families did turn up in his family history, Glen discovered.

He also learned that he is the only child his mother ever had. Osterman and her husband never had children, and she is now a widow. She is planning to move back to Wisconsin where she and nine brothers and sisters grew up on a farm near Kewaunee.

Process of finding out

Many years ago, Glen tried to find is birth mother, but his was a closed adoption, so no information was given. Since then, Wisconsin has considerably loosened such rules, factoring in the importance of revealing family medical histories.

The search procedure is now simple. Glen and Kelly contacted the state Department of Children and Families, supplying his birth date and the name of the hospital in Madison where he was born, plus $40 fee.

The department found Glen's mother living in a community about 50 miles south of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico.

The state representative sent Glen's request for medical information to her and left it up to Osterman as to whether she wanted actual contact with her son. She did and phone numbers were exchanged.

"It took four months, but it was pretty simple," said Kelly, who wants others to know that they too can connect with their birth parents.

Although Glen tried several times to phone his mother, it was Osterman who got through first. She acknowledged that she had to work up her courage to make that call. She had her hand on the phone a couple of times before she could go ahead and dial.

When Glen answered, she said simply, "This is Barbara."

An astonished Glen responded, "You're Mom?"

That's all it took and the floodgates of conversation burst wide open. Mother and son seem to always have a lot to say, Glen said with a laugh.

Kelly sensed immediately that the link between mother and son had never broken over 42 years. They seemed to have a connection right away, she said.

Since that first time, mother and son spoke many times on the phone but meeting in person was big. They could hardly sleep the night before.

"I got up at 3 o'clock this morning," mom said.

"I got up at 2:35," her surprised son chimed in.

The reunion was to continue last week with Glen meeting his nine aunts and uncles and their families in the Green Bay area.

"I guess I look a lot like the men in the family," Glen said, judging by the photos of his grandfather and two uncles.

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