Mother finds son she gave up in 1984

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After he finished his slice of pizza and his salad, Eric Pete popped a toothpick into his mouth.

Carol Thompson gave her son, Eric Pete, up for adoption 26 years ago. They were reunited in March, just four days after Thompson began searching for him through a state agency.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Carol Thompson gave her son, Eric Pete, up for adoption 26 years ago. They were reunited in March, just four days after Thompson began searching for him through a state agency.

His mother, Carol Thompson, glanced at him sideways in the booth at Mellow Mushroom, rolled her eyes and said, "You and that toothpick."

He looked at her, twirled it around in his mouth a little bit and said, "What?"

Thompson grinned, soaking up every nuance of the 26-year-old.

"I just can't get enough of him," she said.

The routine is one of many habits and characteristics of her firstborn child that she is just now getting used to.

Thompson had given Pete up for adoption in 1984.

She found him March 24, four days after she began looking for him.

Mother's Day this year means a little more to her. Today, she will have both her children seated at her dinner table.

"I can hug them both and love them both, all in one room," she said.

Thompson was 19 and scared when she was pregnant with Pete. She quietly went about her life and tried to ignore her pregnancy, concentrating on classes at Augusta Technical College and her work at Curtis Baptist School and Burger King.

She was never sick, never sought prenatal care and never told a soul. Not even Larry Bush, the baby's father.

"I knew I was pregnant. I just blocked it out," she said. "No one ever knew."

She reasoned that until she finished her education, she felt unable to provide for a child. She also felt that being pregnant would disappoint her family. It didn't help matters that Bush was black and she was white.

"In then '80s, anything outside your race was not acceptable like it is now," she said.

Thompson finally admitted her condition to herself and to her family on the birthing table after being taken to St. Joseph Hospital (now Trinity Hospital of Augusta) to see what was wrong with her.

Shortly after the baby was born, Bush found out he was a father.

He said that he and his mother talked about rearing the baby but that Pete was placed for adoption before he could do anything about it.

It ended up being for the best, Bush said.

"I wish it could have been different," he said. "I was drinking alcohol and was on drugs."

Thompson allowed her newborn to be adopted, believing he would be reared by a comfortable, childless couple who wanted children and could give him a better life.

Her parents took her home, and everyone pretended it had never happened, Thompson said.

"I have good parents that cared a lot about me and wanted to protect me," she said. "That's what they did. They protected me."

Thompson moved on with her life. She finished college, worked as a teacher and then as a probation officer. She married Joe Thompson, and they reared their daughter, Brittany, who is now 19.

But every birthday, every Christmas, every holiday, thoughts of her firstborn were there, she said.

Meanwhile, Bush had married and now has three other children.

Through the years, he had always said he had three sons and a daughter. He said it confused everyone at first, because they knew only the three children.

"I'd say I'm waiting to meet my other son," he said.

While mother and father moved on with their lives and wondered often about the son they never knew, Pete was growing up practically under their noses.

He was adopted by a secretary at the hospital, who reared him alone. She became sick while Pete was a teen, but he can't recall the nature of her illness. She spent a couple of years in a nursing home before she died when he was 17. He took her death hard, quit his job and fell in with the wrong crowd.

"I didn't know how to react," he said.

Pete never married, but he now has four children of his own: Armani, 7, E.J., 5, Nathan, 2, and Joshua, 1.

He always knew he was adopted and always wanted to find his birth parents. Three years ago, he initiated a search by calling the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

The search would have taken three weeks, he said. He backed out because he was afraid his parents wouldn't want to see him.

"I was like, if they want to find me, they'll find me. And that's what wound up happening," he said.

For years, Thompson talked about finding him -- to her husband, to Bush and his mother, and to anyone else who would listen.

"She called me every year on his birthday," Bush said. "We always called him Zachary, because that's the name we'd given him. She always said, 'I'm going to find him.' "

She worried about interfering with her son's life, though, especially if he had a great life.

This year, shortly before Pete's birthday on March 20, she felt a strong desire to find her son. She contacted the Georgia Department of Human Resources through ga-adoptionreunion.com and discovered that Pete had looked for her three years ago.

A representative from the department tried the phone number it had on file for him, but it was no longer his number. She called back later and told Thompson she had found Pete on Facebook, and she set up a time for the mother and son to talk by phone.

The call took place March 24.

"I was sitting at my desk, and I work at a probation office. All of my probation officer friends were standing around my desk like I was waiting on the lottery," she said. "Honey, when that phone rang, everybody was crying."

Even Pete, who was standing in a portable toilet while he talked with her because telephone calls are forbidden at his work.

"When I talked to him for the first time, I said, 'Eric?' and he said, 'Yeah?' and I said, 'This is your mom.' He said 'Hey, Mom.' And then we just started talking," Thompson said.

Pete said they talked for about 20 minutes and decided to meet that evening at Thompson's church, Hillcrest Baptist.

"It felt like a dream," Pete said. "I thought it would happen one day, but I still couldn't believe it."

A few days later, he met his father.

"I called him," Pete said. "He started crying. He was like, 'I've been waiting for this day.' "

Thompson and Pete visited Bush and his wife, Beverly, at Bush's home, and the father and son have spoken almost daily since.

"When I did see him, oh, wow," Bush said. "That took me for a loop. I'm still flipping out about it."

On Easter Sunday, Pete went to church with Thompson and her family.

Afterward, they gathered at the Thompson house for Easter dinner, along with Pete's children, Bush and his wife, and Thompson's mother, grandmother, siblings and their families.

Pete was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of family members.

Most of the faces around the Thompson table were white, an unsettling situation at first for Pete and Bush.

"I was scared of what people might say," Pete said. "Nobody said nothing. Everybody showed love. With the family I was raised by, I didn't really have a big family. It felt good. I felt loved."

They also celebrated Pete's birthday, which had been about two weeks before.

"I got to have his first birthday cake that I've never gotten to do before," Thompson said. "His favorite is chocolate, so I had baked the nicest, most chocolatest cake you can make."

She also made him his first Easter basket as her son, along with one for each of her grandchildren.

As mother, son and father spend time together (Pete sees each of them several times a week), they began to realize that their paths have nearly crossed many times over the years.

Thompson and Pete lived less than two miles apart while Pete was growing up. He and his adoptive mother lived on Henry Circle, and Thompson lived on Rocky Creek Road, both of which are off Wheeless Road on opposite sides of Deans Bridge Road.

Had Thompson taught kindergarten at Wheeless Road Elementary School for one more year, she would have known him. Her son enrolled the fall after she left.

Bush, who lived in Burke County near where Pete now lives, said they know a lot of the same people but never met each other.

"Everybody says he's a wonderful guy," Bush said.

For now, this new family is taking things day by day.

"He has his life, and I have mine. I'd like for it to be closer, but I've lost 26 years," Thompson said as tears filled her eyes. "All I can do is go forward now."

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littlemissunshine
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littlemissunshine 05/09/10 - 02:16 am
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This a great story. Had me

This a great story. Had me almost crying! I'm so happy for them though I don't know them!

JohnQPublic
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JohnQPublic 05/09/10 - 08:11 am
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Wonderful story!

Wonderful story! Congratulations! Never lose each other again!

Harrisburg Homeowner
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Harrisburg Homeowner 05/10/10 - 07:30 am
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What a wonderful story!

What a wonderful story! Thanks, Lisa Kaylor, for finding and writing this story! Thank you, Augusta Chronicle, for seeing how newsworthy this story was and printing it on the front page of Your Faith. What a blessing to read on Mother's Day!

As for Carol, Larry, and Pete, you may have lost the first 26 years but you've gained the rest of your lives together! Pete has gained the most: a large loving family. May God continue to bless you all!

pgapeach2
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pgapeach2 05/10/10 - 07:08 pm
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This is a wonderful story. I

This is a wonderful story. I worked with Ms. Pete from 1989 to 1992 and I remember Eric.

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