Legend tells of a man who wasn't quite who he appeared to be - and he wasn't who he appeared to be for a very long time. If we probe this mystery, some of the details unfold as follows:

  • Mystery Man spent several decades under the mistaken impression that he knew who he was and where he came from.
  • It wasn't until Mystery Man reached the ripened age of 53 that a close family member accidentally discovered Mystery Man had been adopted at birth . . . but he was never told. By the time of this shocking discovery his adoptive parents were long dead. Questions could not be asked. Answers would be more difficult to find.
  • To his extreme surprise, everyone in his family (except the discoverer) knew of the adoption but never broached the subject. Also, almost all of his childhood playmates knew of the adoption but never once mentioned it in his presence. None of them were being secretive - they all thought Mystery Man knew of the adoption and assumed that if he had wanted to talk about it he would have. He never did. They never did.
  • All of his girlfriends through the years, save one, knew of his adoption but never once spoke of it. Same reason.
  • After spending a year on his own investigation (with very limited success) he hired a Court-approved investigator. The investigator immediately recognized that, many years earlier, she had worked with the adoptive father of Mystery Man. Just a low-probability coincidence.
  • The investigator found Mystery Man's biological mother living within just a few miles of Mystery Man. It turned out he had three half sisters and one step sister, none of whom knew of his existence but all of whom accepted the news warmly.
  • His biological mother had actually lived in the same small town as Mystery Man for 10 years when Mystery Man was in his 40s. Their paths probably crossed at the grocery store, unbeknownst to either.
  • After learning the full names of his biological mother and father Mystery Man realized that he had already seen their names. Oddly, he had seen their names as he conducted research into his adoptive family during his initial investigation, when he knew close to nothing of the adoption details. This was at a time when the County of his birth had provided him with non-identifying information about his biological parents. This limited information included their first names, no last names. As a part of his investigation he checked 1930 census data on his adoptive parents (since those were the only full names he had.) The reason he recognized his biological parents' names was because, in another bizarre coincidence, the last name of the 1930 census taker for his adoptive father's family was the same as his biological mother's rather unusual last name. Also, both the first and last names of the 1930 census taker for his adoptive mother's family were the same as his biological father's first and last names. So, when Mystery Man had made copies of that 1930 census data, early in his investigation, he actually (in an odd way) had in his possession the first and last names of both of his birth parents . . . and didn't know it. He wouldn't know about the peculiar decades-spanning coincidence until many months later when he finally learned his biological parents' full names from his investigator.
  • His unmarried biological mother had gotten pregnant at the age of 17 and traveled coast to coast by bus to stay with her older sister until the birth. A retired opera singer had given Mystery Man's mother a job, took a liking to her, and recommended an obstetrician. Meanwhile, his adoptive parents had experienced a miscarriage the year before and were mistakenly told they couldn't have children. Their doctor (a G.P.) was the brother of the obstetrician - the two doctors shared an office. The brothers talked. One brother had an unwed mother; the other brother had a couple looking to adopt. The doctor brothers brokered the adoption.
  • Mystery Man was adopted out of the hospital. His biological mother never saw him, wasn't even told if the baby was a boy or a girl - consistent with the practice of the time.
  • He was named after his adoptive grandfather. It happened to be the same first name as that of his biological father - whose name was unknown to his adoptive parents. One more coincidence.
  • His biological father was never told of the pregnancy and never discovered it.
  • Years after Mystery Man learned the identity of his biological parents he traveled to the opposite coast of the United States in search of information concerning his biological father. Up to that point all Mystery Man really had was a name. The investigation was fruitful. He uncovered the family history of his father and found that his father had died a couple of decades earlier at the age of 60. He located his father's grave and when Mystery Man stood over the grave of his father Mystery Man just happened to be about the same age his father had been when he died.
  • Finally, Mystery Man developed a close relationship with his biological mother until she died 8 years after he met her. By coincidence he ended up being the one holding her hand when she died.

Of course, all of this nonsense has the overall far-fetched characteristics of an implausible and poorly conceived (if you'll pardon the expression) work of fiction . . . except for one thing: Mystery Man is me. And it all happened.

Tom Hopkins


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