MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We have one more story for you. It's a reminder that the day still isn't all cards and roses for everybody, even if you might like to have them. We were reminded of that through a remarkable coincidence that led us to connect with a mother of two here in Washington, D.C. Her name is Cheryl Coleman. I first met her in 2007 for a story for NPR. Back then she was living at N Street Village. That's a nonprofit here in Washington that helps homeless women get back on their feet with a special focus on recovery from alcohol and drug abuse.
All of the women I met there that day had been separated from their children because of addictions.
CHERYL COLEMAN: I came hear because at age 49, I was tired. I had been to every state, two countries. And I came here in 2000 looking for my son.
MARTIN: Then as now Cheryl Coleman's personal story was dominated by her separation from her son when he was 2. She says the son was taken in the early 1980s by her then husband in the midst of a messy breakup. The separation lasted decades and she says fueled her drug use. When I asked her in 2007 what Mother's Day meant to her, this is what she said.
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COLEMAN: Mother's Day for me, it's like I don't want to see other - when I'm around other families, it's a very sad time for me. I don't feel any of that.
MARTIN: Just this week, Cheryl Coleman and I became reacquainted. She was driving from Lyft here in Washington when she picked up an NPR intern and mentioned her story from way back when. We invited her in for an update. We were hopeful for good news.
There was good news. Cheryl had been clean and sober since I saw her and had briefly become an addictions counselor herself. But all was not good.
COLEMAN: I haven't seen him in 35 years.
MARTIN: You still haven't seen him?
COLEMAN: No, but December 23 my son - I received a miracle. I got a phone call from him.
MARTIN: So you've been able to figure out where he is.
COLEMAN: I know where he is...
MARTIN: You know where he is.
COLEMAN: ...But I just - we just haven't...
MARTIN: Been able to see each other.
COLEMAN: Haven't been able to get there yet, but...
MARTIN: Does he blame you for not being in his life all these years?
COLEMAN: No, God, thank you. No, he doesn't. He remembered some things. The last picture I took of him and his brother, he remembered a few other things.
MARTIN: When we talked the last time - I don't know if you remember - I asked each of the ladies what Mother's Day means to them. And for all three of you, it was hard. It was a sense of longing and pain. And I just wanted to ask is it different now?
COLEMAN: No, I just want to be a mother and a grandmother to my 11 grandchildren. You know, I want to be present in their lives. So now this Mother's Day, I really hope though.
MARTIN: Do you feel you will get to see him one day?
COLEMAN: Oh, I'm going to see him. We're planning, it's just...
MARTIN: Haven't been able to make it work, yeah.
COLEMAN: I can't.
MARTIN: Before I let you go, Cheryl, thank you so much for speaking with us again. I know it hasn't been the easiest thing. But I am very glad to see you. I am very glad that you've kept at it. I did want to ask if you have any advice for other women or their parents who can't be or are not with their children today.
COLEMAN: For me, it took three treatments, seven years of therapy. You've just got to believe that no matter what - how hard it is that you're going to be with your kids and you're going to see your kids and be with them.
MARTIN: We made a date to check in with Cheryl Coleman on Mother's Day next year. We're hoping by then she'll get to make her vision of Mother's Day a reality.
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