November 1, 2023 | Opinion

The night our family answered a call of their own


Lexington, Ky. – My family’s connection to this story took place in Great Falls, Montana in 1963 at 804 7th Street South. We had a small, four-room apartment due to a housing shortage at Malmstrom Air Force Base – where our parents were stationed – just outside of town.

A young, Native American mother and her newborn daughter lived below us.

She cared for her daughter as best she could. Her daughter’s cries almost nightly were heartbreaking, and too often our mother ended up doing welfare checks on baby Norma Jean Buffalo (her birth name) and preparing much-needed baby formula.

Norma’s mother – who was full-blooded Sioux – ultimately agreed to her adoption by our own parents. By the end of legal proceedings, our family – including my new baby sister – had received orders for Torrejón Air Base outside of Madrid, Spain. Norma – or ‘Jeannie’ as we have always called her – is now 60 years old and battling leukemia, but doing very well.

I myself am approaching my fourth anniversary with a new kidney, bestowed upon me Nov. 2, 2019, at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center: Jeannie and I are now bound by more than just an adoption paper and sibling closeness.

In 2005 she began searching for, finally located, and began communicating with her birth mother in Montana. Before her biological mother died, Jeannie learned that she had had two more siblings – brothers – and was able to connect with them as well.

I still remember those cries in the night – and how my two brothers and I often took turns bringing ‘Norma’ upstairs for her baby bottle – and a second chance at life.

Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
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