NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A chaplain in Nashville, Tennessee, never had answers about his family's story. There were times he didn't even want to know that story.
"Never knew my real biological father, never knew my real biological mother," said TriStar Centennial Medical Center chaplain Allen Tanner. "I just heard these horrible stories about abandonment and how they didn't care about me. I had a very traumatic childhood — a lot of abuse in my childhood by an adopted family. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse. I was a runaway at 13 years old, living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in cardboard boxes for a while."
Tanner's daughter found his mom when she decided to trace her own lineage.
"She called me one night. She said, 'I think I found your mom,'" Tanner recalled.
Tanner made the decision to call that woman in Connecticut. Fifteen minutes after leaving a message, he received a call.
It was his mother, who he hadn't known for 63 years.
"Yeah, it was incredible," Tanner said. "I never thought I would."
On Thursday, Allen was joined at his Nashville home by Diana Scalise, his mother.
"I met Allen's father when I was fifteen-and-a-half maybe," said Scalise. "I ended up getting pregnant with Allen. My husband was very abusive. I was just a child. He was breaking my jaw and all kinds of things happening to me. I let my mother-in-law adopt my child. I thought he'd have a better chance of life with a family. I always thought about him, always loved him."
"To hear her say, 'I love you,' to hear her say, 'I'm proud of you,' to hear her say these things: it's surreal," said Tanner. "There is a bond between a mother and a child that is always there."
"We're here now together as a family," Scalise added. "If I could touch one person's life to be as happy as I am right now, that'd be great for me. I'm 80 years old, and I never, ever thought this would happen. I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world."
Tanner also managed to contact his father a few years ago. They were able to reconcile before his father died.
This story was originally reported by Forrest Sanders on newschannel5.com.