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Originally published Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Man's journey to find birth mom ends — at work

For years, Steve Flaig, a delivery-truck driver at a Lowe's store here, had searched for his birth mother. He found her working the cash...

Newhouse News Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For years, Steve Flaig, a delivery-truck driver at a Lowe's store here, had searched for his birth mother.

He found her working the cash register at the front of the store.

For several months, he and Christine Tallady had known each other casually as co-workers. Last Friday, they met for the first time as mother and son.

"I have a complete family now, all my kids," said Tallady, who has two younger children. "It's a perfect time of year. It's the best Christmas present ever."

For Flaig, it was the reunion he had dreamed of for much of his 22 years. He had always known he was adopted, and his parents, Pat and Lois Flaig, who raised him since his birth, supported his decision to search for his birth mother.

It was a tough decision for Tallady, unmarried at the time, to give him up when he was born on Oct. 5, 1985, but "I wasn't ready to be a mother."

She left the adoption record open, figuring her son might want to contact her someday, and she often thought of him, particularly on his birthday. But life went on. She got married and had two more children.

Four years ago, when Flaig turned 18, he asked D.A. Blodgett for Children, the agency that arranged his adoption, for his background information. A couple of months later, it came, and included his birth mother's name.

He searched the Internet for her address and came up empty. In October, around the time he turned 22, he looked at the paperwork from D.A. Blodgett and realized he had been spelling his mother's surname incorrectly as "Talladay." He typed "Tallady" into a search engine and came up with an address less than a mile from the Lowe's store.

He mentioned it to his boss, and she said, "You mean Chris Tallady, who works here?"

Flaig was stunned.

"I was like, there's no possible way," he said. "It's just such a bizarre situation."

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He had been working at Lowe's for two years. She was hired in April as head cashier.

Over the past two months, "I would walk by her, look at her from a distance, not knowing how to approach her," Flaig said. "You don't come stocked with information on how to deal with this."

It would seem tactless to walk up and say, "Hi, I'm Steve, your son." What if she rejected him?

Last week, on his day off, Flaig happened to be driving past the D.A. Blodgett offices. He decided to stop in and tell them of his find. An employee volunteered to call Tallady.

Tallady, 45, was surprised to get the call at Lowe's. How did the D.A. Blodgett people know where she worked?

"The first thing that crossed my mind is something was wrong with him," she said.

"And then she said, 'Christine, he works with you,' " Tallady recalled. "It was a shock. I started crying. I figured he would call me sometime, but not like this."

She sobbed a lot that day, tears of joy. Flaig called her later that day, and last Friday the two, who until then had occasionally said "hi" as co-workers do, met at the Cheers Good Time Saloon near the store. They hugged, sat and talked for 2 ½ hours.

This week, they hugged again in the store where both were working the day shift. They know their paths must have crossed many times. Both graduated from Northview schools. Both attended St. Jude's Catholic Church.

And, Tallady said, "We both hate olives, both love roller coasters."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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