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How Faith, Infidelity, and Forgiveness Grew a Family Not Once, but Twice

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 10, 2024 3:00 am

How Faith, Infidelity, and Forgiveness Grew a Family Not Once, but Twice

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 10, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, in a 30-year span, a family confronts its sins twice and tells a story of role reversal and forgiveness.

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The best conversations I have with my colleagues are the ones that happen when no one is looking, when we're not 100% sure yet what to write. Hopefully having conversations like this can help you figure out your own point of view. That's kind of our job as Washington Post opinions columnist.

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No purchase necessary Boyd were prohibited by law 18 plus terms and conditions apply. See website for details. This is Lee Habib and this is our American stories and you're listening to our Mother's Day special. Up next we have the story of a truly remarkable mom. Mary Sparks is told by her son Sparky. Here's Edie hand to help tell the story. Mary Sparks exhibited strength of conviction throughout her life. But oddly enough it all started with an affair, a stolen baby and her Catholic faith. Here's her son Sparky to recount his mother's tale.

I guess the time to start this story is in 1943. My mother fell in love with a married man who was about to ship off to the war. Mary couldn't bear the idea of losing her love so she attempted to join the Women's Army Corps, a WAC for short. And when she joined the WAC she took her physical and found out she was pregnant. My grandfather, great Polish gentleman, he shipped her to Chicago to a home for unwed mothers where she worked like a dog for several months and then had my sister. My sister who always made fun of me growing up and told me I was adopted. My grandmother took the train from Terre Haute, Indiana to Chicago to pick up my mother who had just had this child. And my mother had been very weak and very, really I think they abused her from the standpoint of making her cook and clean for other people in this home. So my mother and grandmother had put my sister up for adoption. And the people were supposed to be there that afternoon to pick up my sister. But on the way to the train station neither could shake the feeling that something just wasn't right. And my mother said I can't give up this baby.

I just can't do it. And my grandmother said well your father is not going to let us come home with a baby. We have to give up this child. And my mother said do you want to give up the child? And my grandmother said no I don't want to. And my grandmother who didn't speak English very well, Polish was her first language, told the cab driver to turn around when they got to the train station. And they went back to this home, walked in the door. The people who were adopting my sister were there to pick her up. And my mother just went in, grabbed my sister and she and my grandmother ran down the steps back into the cab and fired off toward the train station.

My grandmother, as they were running out, grabbed all the paperwork she could get a hold of with both hands and held it in to her. And then they sorted it out on the train and destroyed it. But then they had Sparky's grandfather, Mary's father to deal with.

But that wouldn't be much of a problem. So then they got home to Terre Haute. My grandma just told him he was just going to have to get used to it. A year or two later, a World War II prisoner of war returned home to Indiana and began courting Mary. But she felt like she had to hide her child out of shame. There's several stories of her hiding my sister from him when he would come pick her up for a date. My grandmother and grandfather ran a boarding house.

And while that provided useful cover for a while, it only had to fail once for the gig to be up. After they got serious and they started dating, my dad came in one day unannounced and there was my sister in a playpen. And my dad said, who is this baby? And my mother started crying and said, this is my child. And my dad said, well, who's the father? And my mother said, he has gone away. My dad looked down at her and said, well, this child needs a father.

So I guess we need to get married, Mary. And that's how he proposed to mom. My sister found out all of this because this was a big secret in our family. We didn't know this story until my sister, when she was about 22, tried to get a passport. And she said, I was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. And they told her, called her back the next day and said, Miss Bauer, you were born in Chicago.

What? You were born at a home for unwed mothers. And my sister, who had tormented me all my life, told me I was adopted. And then we started finding out all this story.

I always thought that my sister was treated a little bit differently than the other kids. And both, all the brothers and sisters on the Sparks side of the family, 11 of them, and all the brothers and sisters on the Cummins, which they had Americanized from Kaminsky side of the family, kept this a secret from all his kids growing up. Nobody knew. And nobody needed to know. His parents didn't want any undue attention.

And more than that, his father wanted his sister, Sharon, to have a loving home full of love, conviction, and grit. An amazing love story. And again, share your stories with us, family stories, faith stories, any old kind of story that has this kind of grit and love. It's real, folks. And we only tell real life stories here.

No daisies and no rainbows. Life's tough. But how you deal with these circumstances, we can learn from stories like these. Mary Sparks' story continues after these messages. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do this show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

Go to and give. The best conversations I have with my colleagues are the ones that happen when no one is looking, when we're not 100% sure yet what to write. Hopefully having conversations like this can help you figure out your own point of view. That's kind of our job as Washington Post opinions columnist. I'm Charles Lane, deputy opinion editor. And I'm Amanda Ripley, a contributing columnist. We're going to bring you into these conversations on a new podcast called Impromptu.

Follow Impromptu now, wherever you listen. Save 30% on super comfortable machine washable and great looking underwear that's perfect for periods and light bladder leaks. Choose from a variety of colors, styles and sizes from extra small to 4XL. You can even match your leak proof underwear with an incredibly supportive and comfortable NYX wireless bra. Don't miss this chance to stock up on your NYX favorites or try something new. It only happens once a year at That's for the NYX anniversary sale. Hurry, the sale ends on Monday, May 13th. Go to

That's This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. We all carry around different stressors in our lives, big ones and small ones.

If we keep them bottled up, boy, that can be a real problem. Therapy is a safe space to get things off your chest, to figure out how to work through whatever is weighing you down. I know people who've profoundly benefited from therapy, learning everything from coping skills to setting boundaries in their life. You don't have to have experienced major trauma to benefit from therapy. If you're thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It's entirely online.

It's safe. It's designed to be convenient, flexible and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist and switch therapists anytime for no additional charge. Get it off your chest with BetterHelp. Visit slash OAS today to get 10% off your first month. That's slash OAS. slash OAS. And we're back with our Mother's Day special in the story of Mary Sparks. When we last left off, Mary's boyfriend just found out that her daughter, born out of wedlock, didn't have a father. And he proposed on the spot and raised the daughter as his own. Now we bring you the rest of Mary's story of faith and family told by her son Sparky.

Here's Edie Han to help out. The Sparks family had no shortage of children, seven to be exact. And as good Catholics should expect that, Mary and Jesse did their best to raise their kids well with faith and family at the heart of all they did. But in 1973, that all would be put to the test. I was a student at the University of Alabama. It was on a Thursday morning in the spring. I get a call from my mother. And my mother said, I need you home. And I said, well, OK. Spring break is in a couple of months and I'm planning on coming home to the farm. And she said, no, I need you home today. I said, what's going on? Is that OK?

Your father's fine. And I need you home. And I said, Mama, I've got a test tomorrow Friday. I said, I've got a test. She said, tell your professor that you've got a family emergency and you need to come home. I need you to be with me for a few days. Are you sick?

No. And dad's OK. Yeah. What's the what will I tell him? The emergency is I'm sure if you just tell him there's a family emergency, he'll let you take your test next week.

I had the toughest professor on just about on campus teaching music history. Dr. Nicolosi, I I knew I was dead that afternoon, went to see him. And I said, I have a family emergency. I'll be glad to take the test right now. But my mother has asked for me to be home in Indiana and I've got to leave. And he said, you just take the test next week and don't worry about it.

If this is for your mother and it's a family emergency. Then you need to go. I was sure that that man did not have a heart up until that point. But I became convinced that maybe he was OK. Got in my car, drove through the night. You know, I was in shock the whole thing when I got in the car. I mean, I was so relieved when I got there to see all my brothers were OK because I knew something happened to somebody and she just wasn't telling me. I mean, I was pretty sure I was coming up there for a funeral of some kind.

What a relief it was to find out that wasn't the case. And yet there was still that burning question that even Sparky's siblings were asking. Why are you home?

I said, I don't know. Mama wants me home. What's going on? She said, well, daddy, the last two nights, daddy slept in the barn. What is going on?

We don't know. So we had this big breakfast. My mother had this huge plate of bacon and eggs and ham. And she said, here, take this out to the barn for your father. And I said, why is he sleeping out in the barn? Are you two getting divorced? She said, we're Catholic.

We don't get divorced. Take this out to your father. I said, OK, I'm headed out to the barn. Hey, daddy said, I thought you might be coming home. I said, what's going on? He said, I'm sure your mother will tell you when she's ready for you to know. Little did Sparky know that he wasn't just going to find out what was going on, but also the depth of his mother's convictions and the lengths that she would go to in order to follow through with them.

So after breakfast and clean up, everybody's out doing their chores. And mother said, come with me. We've got to go somewhere. We got in the car. I said, please tell me what's going on. She said, your father's had an affair with this young lady.

And he's gotten her pregnant. I need to talk her into giving us this baby so I can raise it right. So get in the car.

Let's go. She said, I just don't want you to say anything. So we drove to this lady's house.

Young lady is a small town. I knew her. And we got to her house, her apartment, and she answered the door. She said, what do you want? My mother said, I'm Mary Sparks. You've been having an affair with my husband.

I understand you're pregnant. She said, yes, I am. And I want to talk to you, please.

May we come in? She said, this is my son Sparky. She said, I know him. I said, well, we went in, we sat down and she said, so here's the deal. She said, I will pay for all your expenses. She said, I'll give you three thousand dollars today. When the child is born, I'll give you five thousand dollars.

When the child is born and you sign the paper for us to adopt him. She said, how do you know it's going to be a boy? She said, we're Sparks. That's all we have. She said, I'll raise him right.

If you ever want to be in his life, you can be. And she said, I know you probably don't feel too good about what you've done, but I'm not worried about that. She said, that's for God to decide.

Judge, not me. She said, will you pay my rent? She said, yes, I'll pay all your expenses.

Pay your hospital bills. I'll pay everything. And when the child is born and we adopt and I know you're OK, then it ends.

And we will take the child to raise and I'll raise it as my my own child. She said, all right. She said, have you got the money now? She said, of course.

I got it right here in my purse. And I said, I've got the paperwork. We signed it.

We went by the attorney's office, had him notarize it. That's the way my brother Jake came into the world. He knew he was adopted from day one. All my brothers did. But we also knew that we would treat him just like any other brother. And we did.

Once again, the Sparks family, in the face of infidelity, was given a gift and due to their faith, took a child in and accepted it without question as their own. Years later, I went to play golf with my dad. I said, I got to ask you, did you and mom resume relations with each other?

He said, of course. He said it took two or three months, but your mother was tough as nails. But she always said that God would judge me and wasn't her place to judge me. And we were married. I was her husband. She was my wife.

That's just the way it was. There was a moment in time that I forgave your mother. And years later, she forgave me. Thanks to Edie Han for the work there. And thanks for Sparky. What a remarkable story. And Mary Sparks, what a remarkable woman. And great job on the production, Robbie.

Just a beautiful job. And by the way, our lives are all messy. But if this is any testimony to what a true Christian walk looks like, this is it. And it's forgiveness, folks. And it's hard to do, but it's what obedient people of faith do.

I'll raise him right. Mary Sparks said to this poor young girl. By the way, this is a different day. This is a different day.

And to do this kind of thing and to not worry about the social opprobrium, what people were gossiping about or talking about. And the relationship got healed. The wife forgave. He forgave himself.

And of course, their God forgave both of them. Mary Sparks's story, another Mother's Day story. Our Mother's Day special continues here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now, I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-10 04:20:14 / 2024-05-10 04:28:15 / 8

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