Over the last 15 years, Brian Wheeler has been the play by play voice for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Many have followed his struggle with weight loss, but what most did not know, is that since the death of his adopted parents in the 1980s he's wondered about the woman who gave him life.
“Maybe I was just naive, but I kept thinking, teenage girl and she had me, she had to have, you would think, naturally wondered I wonder what ever came of him," Wheeler said.
He knew he'd been born in Chicago and adopted at birth. He applied for his original birth certificate. It arrived in August.
“I looked a little closer and I saw her signature,” he said.
It was the first time he'd seen his birth mother's name, Barbara Schneider.
An adoption detective helped him find her phone number and he called.
“She got on the phone and she said hello? And I said 'is this Barbara?' And she said 'yes' and I said 'Barbara, this is Brian Wheeler.' And I paused and there was no reaction so I said 'I recently was able to view my original birth certificate and it had your name and signature on it and I have reason to believe that you're my birth mother.' And she said, 'what?'” Wheeler remembered.
He repeated it and she asked where he grew up.
“I said 'Chicago ... well, we moved to Los Angeles when I was 2-months-old. She said, 'that's what I was waiting to hear. She said well, I guess I am' and she just kind of laughed,” Wheeler said.
As they talked, he shared some details of his childhood and discovered his mother had indeed wondered about him.
“She had told me she had looked for me a few times over the years, but she was really shooting an arrow in the dark. She had no name, nothing to go by," said Wheeler.
She'd been pressured by her family to give him up. Seventeen years old was too young to have a child. But she never forgot him.
“She said we celebrated your birthday every year. We certainly wondered what happened to you but we just resigned ourselves to, we're just never going know,” Wheeler said.
Last weekend, rushing before the basketball season of travel begin, Wheeler flew to Chicago to meet his birth family, which included a sister named Bridget.
"At one point, I looked over at her, and she said, 'I’m sorry I just keep staring at you I just can’t believe this is real. I always wanted a brother'" said Wheeler.
She even baked him a cake and wrote welcome on the top.
A nephew asked for help with a homecoming necktie.
“So I tied his tie and he said 'okay, thanks Uncle Brian.' And that was the first time I’d heard that and that sounded good,” he said.
Brian Wheeler had found his birth family. And for the first time in his life told his birth mother what she meant to him as he was giving hugs goodbye.
“I went to her and I think it was first time all weekend that I said, 'I love you.' And she said 'I love you too. This has been wonderful.' And I think that kind of validated that it was all worth it."
His birth was kept a secret for 50 years. The family is just now sharing the story.
And by the way, he found his birth father too.
His birth parents, Hugh and Barbara were young lovers. But their love was real. They married a year after Brian’s birth. They’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in February of 2013.