Calera woman on TV

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

A mother from Calera was recognized last Friday on the nationally televised Oprah Winfrey Show.

Gladys Steen, a mother of three and foster mother to two more, was featured on Oprah’s mother’s day special, &uot;Great Moms.&uot;

Steen didn’t know when she flew to Chicago that she was going to be the focus of the program.

&uot;I went up there thinking the show was about one thing and it ended up being about me,&uot; she said.

Her son, Michael Datcher, convinced her she was attending the show to give support from the audience while Oprah interviewed him about a book he wrote.

&uot;That was the shock of my life,&uot; Steen said just minutes before watching the show for the first time at Bob Sykes Bar B-Q in Calera.

&uot;Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been that surprised in my life.&uot;

Datcher, who now lives in Los Angeles, is the author of a book called &uot;Raising Fences,&uot;

an account of his life growing up as a black man without a father.

Michael told his mother that Oprah wanted to fly her to Chicago in case she wanted to ask her a question or two during the show about his book.

But Oprah had something else in mind.

&uot;That’s not exactly why you’re here,&uot; Winfrey said, while summoning Gladys up to the stage. &uot;We’re honoring exceptional mothers today for our annual Mother’s Day Program.&uot;

Michael’s book discusses the mother who adopted him, the child of a violent rape in Chicago in 1966.

Steen was a family friend of the 16-year-old mother and agreed to raise Michael as her own son, although it meant taking a second job.

&uot;My mother is a woman who believes that love is a verb,&uot; Datcher said on the program. &uot;What a child sees is pretty much what a child becomes. If it were not for my mother, I would probably be in jail or dead. Her example of love for me has saved my life.&uot;

Michael once confronted his mother at a young age, distraught after discovering that she was not his biological mother.

&uot;You were made in my heart, not in my stomach,&uot; Steen told him.

Steen’s other two children, her son, Elgin, and daughter, Alex, were also brought on stage.

But the surprises didn’t end there. Oprah announced she was giving Steen an all-expense-paid trip to the Miraval Resort and Spa in Tuscon, Ariz.

&uot;I was traumatized,&uot; Steen said. &uot;I didn’t know what to say.&uot;

For a week she will receive massages, facials and eat meals cooked by a talented chef.

Steen, born and raised in Columbiana, lived in Indiana, Chicago and Los Angeles before returning to Calera in 1989.

She is currently raising two foster children through Therapeutic Programs Inc., a Montgomery-based company providing therapeutic foster care.

Michael read a poem to his mother at the end of the segment.

It made her cry even when she heard it for the second time, when the show aired.

&uot;My mother exemplified for me an unbelievable amount of love,&uot; Michael said