The "wayward friend / family member gets reunited with their loved ones" is the stuff of sappy novels and Lifetime original movies, but it does happen in real life. It's just that in the real world, well, those reunions may come with a few additional plot twists. For instance ...
7A Man Discovers His Long-Lost Dad ... Is Charles Manson
The only thing rock musician Matthew Roberts knew about his early life was that he was born in Chicago in 1968, put up for adoption by parents who either couldn't take care of him or didn't want to because they somehow knew he'd grow up to be a rock musician. He had an average middle-class upbringing, but was never able to shake that lingering mystery about who his birth parents were. So in 1999, Roberts contacted an adoption search organization for details, and they gave him the name of his real mother. Yay! This can only have a happy ending, dammit!
Stewart Cook / Daily Mail
Because there's nothing a child wants more than to reconnect with his Family.
So Roberts initially corresponded with his biological mother through letters, and eventually discovered that she had more than a few cats running around in her skull. But the real shock came when he was finally able to chip a big enough hole through her insane ramblings to get some information about the identity of his father.
She told him that his real dad was one of four men whom she'd had sex with at an orgy in 1967, which is already a less-than-romantic story. But when she saw a photograph of Roberts, she knew instantly which one it was: an aspiring musician named Charles Manson. You may have heard of him.
Roberts was horrified, but for some insane reason, he decided that blood was thicker than water and started writing letters to Manson in prison. Manson, who once answered an interview question with "wolf kabob roth vanich gefrannis boojapoochaboojujube," was understandably difficult to talk to. But Roberts got enough information from history's most notorious murderer to suggest that what his mom had told him was true.
Tierney Gearon/Details Magazine
Though all he had to do was look in the fucking mirror even once.
If there's a silver lining, it's that the DNA evidence is inconclusive. Roberts has been unable to get a paternity test with Charlie himself, but a DNA test against another of Manson's relatives has shed doubt on him being related to the Beatles' biggest fan. Still, the possibility can only benefit Roberts' music career.
6A "Missing Child" Returns To His Parents, Is Actually An Impostor
When young Nicholas Barclay vanished from a basketball game near his house, his parents had to prepare themselves for the possibility that they might never see their son again. But they never completely gave up hope. Three years later, that hope was rewarded when their son turned up alive and well in Spain. The family was so grateful to hear their son's voice and put an end to their nightmare that they booked a ticket for him on the first plane home ... which was the precise moment everything went wrong.
You see, hope and grief are powerful emotions; so much so that Barclay's parents didn't take a particularly close look at the man who got off the plane claiming to be their son. For example, they apparently didn't think much of the fact that their formerly white, blue-eyed son now had olive skin and brown eyes. Or that he now had a French accent. Or that he was clearly in his mid-20s when he should have been 16. After all, years of trauma can dramatically change a person -- up to and including their race and speed of passage through spacetime, it seems.
The Barclays happily moved "Nicholas" into their son's old bedroom and even enrolled him in a local school, which he attended for five months until the media caught wind of the story and started nosing around.
Eventually, people started asking the questions that the Barclays were too afraid to, and the story quickly fell apart. "Nicholas" was a somewhat-notorious 23-year-old con artist named Frederic Bourdin, and he had pulled this exact stunt before. Bourdin made a living out of pretending to be an escaped kidnapping victim, although this was the first time he managed to successfully assume the identity of a person who truly existed.
Maybe if he didn't dress like a Brat Pack villain two decades after everyone else stopped, he'd have more success.
The story was made into a documentary called The Imposter, which Bourdin reportedly refused to watch because it "makes him out to be a liar." We cannot argue with his assessment.