Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How my birth parents met

Her life:

My birth parents met through a mutual friend in June 1967, Fort Worth, Texas my birthfather graduated, business, from the U of Texas. He received a tennis scholarship but at an early age, sometime in university, he developed arthritis and it ended his tennis career. After University, he was employed by John Deere Corp. in sales.

My birthmother returned to u of Arkansas for her senior year. They corresponded via letters and phone. That fall he was transferred to Oklahoma City, OK. He invited her for the weekend of December 2, 1967 and sent her an airline ticket. It was reported that they had a wonderful weekend. It was too early to think it was “love” but she was crazy about him!

That was the last time she saw him.

A few weeks later, she received a letter. He was ending their relationship because he didn’t like the way it was heading. She believed he cared for her but was scared and “not ready” for anything serious. She remembered feeling crushed and yet very angry.

She later wrote him when she realized she was pregnant. There was some correspondence, mostly he couldn’t handle it and didn’t want the responsibility.

The last time she talked to him was August before I was born. He phoned to say he was sending her some money.

He was fair, blond, and a little taller than her, so maybe, around 6’.

She doesn’t remember anything else.

My fantasy:

I was born in 1968 so I must have been a love child. They naturally met at Wood stock which would have been an impossible conception since I was already a year old when Janis Joplin was belting out “Me and Bobby Mcgee”. But no matter they were free spirited and I was born out of love later to be given up for love to parents who wanted to love a baby they otherwise couldn’t have. I bet they secretly named me baby love.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

January 8, 1998

My adoptive parents encouraged me to answer a call that I was otherwise trying to avoid. I knew the grating ring of a creditor their tenaciousness was my daily blight. Although one stood out from all the others it sounded far more personal which troubled me to no end. Was this a new tactic to suck me in, get me to answer and then shake me down?

I completely obsessed over it and dragged my parents into my fixation of that one particular maddening phone call.

“Just answer it” their exasperation was evident.

“But what if” they cut me off.

“Answer it” their tone was final or at least the dial tone was.

And so I called.

The person who has been trying to reach me was a private investigator! I sort of slumped down in a defeated heap upon the futon sofa. I’m in more trouble that I thought! What am I going to do?

I vaguely recall the questions asked of me. They were extremely personal in nature. I began to sit up straighter and waited for confirmation of what I already knew. The search began and I didn’t even know it. She tracked me down, here I am. What is she going to do now that she found me?

“Would you like to have contact with your birthmother?” The line cracked with expectation.

“Uh sure, yeah I’d like that.” I was shaking all over the place.

“Would you like to talk with her right now? She’s here right beside me.”

"What?" The pause was deafening.

“Y-esss.” It was like saying your very first word. I sounded so unsure but I wasn’t. I was just so caught up in the moment, all my life I’ve waited and wondered and fantasized and asked why and a thousand other things and now its here our moment.

I cleared my throat and said “Yes” again, this time more firmly.

She started to speak, and stopped and started again. To this day I couldn’t even begin to tell you what she said to me. The whole thing was surreal, my mom, my birthmother is talking to me for the very first time ever.

I shook my self, what is she saying to me? I can’t do anything but focus on the sound of her voice, a sound I always imagined, a sound in which I’ve been deprived of, a sound that is now imprinted into me like no other sound ever.

She laughs when I tell her this but she sounds like breathless sex.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Measure of Love

The thing about time is we don’t know how much we have left, and while it ticks its way to the very end, life keeps leading to more life. Loved ones grieve and babies are born.

In death we stop the clock marking ones passing. In birth we record the time. The stories of our lives belong to time.

On December fifth after I tucked my self in for the night I got a phone call. My grandma passed away, her clock stopped. I couldn’t believe it although I knew it to be true; you could hear it in my father’s voice the hurt cracked and broke apart over the line as if the call would be dropped any minute.

The day she died was the day I started reading “for one more day”, by Mitch Albom. Was it ironic or just time to start a new read? That book had lain around for two months before I bothered picking it up. I couldn’t bear to finish it. That would almost be like giving in to the ultimate good bye and I wasn’t ready to let go just yet.

She was 97; I guess it was time for her to go home. The past year her quality of living wasn’t there. My grandma had a full life. There’s no more pain and suffering. She’s in a better place. I keep telling my self these things. And still I don’t want the finality of it.

There were no initial tears; you’d have thought time stood still; I kept waiting for them to fall. When they finally came a person would have thought the world came to an end but it didn’t. Life goes on, it always will, an endless recycle bin of humanity.

I was meant to read that book; in it I uncovered a very important discovery. You really can find something truly important in an ordinary minute and with her passing I learned something I’ve been missing since the day I was born, what it means to belong.

All my life it seems I’ve skirted the nucleus of my family. I lived thirty of my years as an adopted child without hereditary connections. The past eight I’ve been blessed knowing my birthmother and the rest of my birth family. I thought if I ever got that chance I’d finally feel at peace, but I didn’t.

It’s such a strange feeling for someone who doesn’t take blood ties for granted, to finally sit next to someone they’re actually related genetically; it’s like coming home for the very first time. But there’s no history to back it up at least not one you can immediately share in. Sadly you’ve left the family room and are back outside looking in. I thought I’d feel more centered like with my girls, they’re my nucleolus, my very first link; it’s indescribable really.

The moment my grandma died I learned what it was really like to lose a close family member. She’s my grandma, she’s part of my family; I always took it for granted. I always thought I stood apart from everyone but I don’t, were all connected, adoptive and birth families at least they’re connected to me and I them. You can’t get any more unique and complicated than that now can you?

If I had one more day with my grandma I’d want that day to be Christmas when we used to all gather together before everyone started to go off to college, marry and have children.

When I was much younger she’d always wrap up boxes of Kleenex, cheap bottles of shampoo/conditioner and tubes of tooth paste. We’d hate getting them as kids, but once we went off to college we started looking forward to opening them. Heck we started requesting toilet paper.

I want another Christmas with her. I want to tower over her once more and wrap her in my arms and smell that grandma smell. I want her to know how much I appreciated her thrifty ways. I want to tell her I love her.

This year on my mantle like so many before and years to come, she will be there in spirit, for each one of those stockings she made by hand.

My first Christmas without a grandma, this thought traveled with me as the girls and I left to unite with the rest of the family. The only funeral I’ve ever attended was my great grandmas, my grandma’s mother and like me so very long ago my girls were going to their first funeral, their great grandma. I found that comforting, I wonder if my mother felt such closeness with me when her grandma passed.

I slept hard the night we arrived. My mother had to wake me up. The girls and I took our time getting ready. I suppose I was putting the inevitable off.

Before going into the Mayflower home, I swung by my grandparent’s condo, beside it lay the barren ground where their garden once flourished. In it he planted more than flowers and vegetables he put himself there where my memories run wild.

I parked the car and with a heavy heart moved forward. He’s getting over pneumonia and so he mostly stays within the home itself and not his assisted living apartment.

My feet took me only so far with each girl on either side of me. It was then I wavered. Like when my mother called at work in tears and I broke down the first time sharing her pain.

The girls heard me whisper.
“This is going to be so hard seeing him like this.”

I saw one of my cousins and her father my own father standing beside my Uncle with my grandpa in the center. The others tried to hug me but no one existed quite like my grandpa did. He pulled me to him and I cried. I kept telling him I loved him.

The room grew quiet. My toughness went soft on everyone. I kissed him on his head, a place I can now reach. He’ll always stand straight and tall to me. I had to get out of there and pull my self together.
“I’ll be back grandpa.”

And I stood out in the hall sucking in deep breathes of air. Thinking of my mother and Aunt doing my grandma’s hair, two daughters as different as night and day side by side in unity; that’s what love does.

My grandma has hair down to her waist. Divided in half and braided, each section wrapped around her head in a coronet of daughterly devotion.

After I pulled it together we went to his apartment looking for art work my grandma had done, he wanted it displayed at her viewing. He couldn’t find it, no one could, but I did.

Her things were taken over. The time has come; I’ll soon be with my grandma. I hope she looks as though she’s sleeping without the appearance of someone I don’t know. I’ve got a picture of us three girls. I’ll be slipping it into her gnarled fingers that once French braided my own hair.

I’m thirty-eight years old. I know this sounds impossibly silly but I always thought I’d have my grandma. She was going to live forever.

The girls and I arrived first to her viewing, I didn’t expect that. We even stopped at a coffee shop prior to going in. I wanted to do something terribly normal before greeting an unwanted visitor, death. My grandma was dead, just down the block. We walked slowly in the cold with our coffee and hot chocolate steaming trails of mourning.

We approached the building and stood there for a time. They were waiting and I was thinking. Whenever my grandma entered her home she’d call out “is anyone home?”

We came in from outside. It was warm but it didn’t feel welcoming. My grandma was inside here somewhere, I wanted to call out to her.

She wasn’t in the small room; she was in the larger room. Everyone knew my grandparents. And there she was laid out in a robin’s egg blue casket. She never looked finer. I honestly don’t remember her ever resting. I’ve never seen her asleep. She woke with the chickens and went to bed well after I did. I told my father the only time I ever saw her sleeping was in the car or slouched over her mending in front of the late night news. Whenever I’d poke her awake she’d just give me this sheepish grin.

My grandma was never much for public displays of affection; she never let her guard down. I think she would have been okay with me stroking her face; it was just me and her. I left her with a kiss on the forehead, why did I wait so long?

The necklace she wore was given to her from some parish member constructed of rolled up church bulletins my grandpa typed. Those were my grandma’s pearls. And tucked with in her hands is a picture of me and the girls.

Soon after, my grandpa entered. When he was ready we made him comfortable in an easy chair as people come to sit with him and pay their respects. It troubled me to see him sitting alone staring off at my grandma, all that family around and there he sat looking on and so I sat by his feet holding his hand. He clutched me as though he’d never let go.

We shared few words; I had trouble getting past the lump in my throat. He didn’t have near my problem and so he carried on when all I could do was sit there and listen.

Things he said to me and those who came and went.

He had a long courtship with my grandma, seven years to be exact. Part of which was spent in written correspondence.
“She always wrote about what she did, what the weather was like but never how she felt.”

He paused between reflections of grandma and asked me a very pointed question.
“How are you, are you doing okay, is everything fine at home?”
The only thing separating me from this wonderful man was the curtain of my hair. I hid behind it during most of the viewing. It is rare anyone sees me crying.

What do I tell him? This man married me and baptized both of my children. I didn’t want him to be a part of my divorce and so I lied.

I lifted my head, my hair parted; I looked him straight in the eye and lied.
“Yeah Grandpa everything is fine.”

And he looked straight though me and knew I lied.

There was nothing more to say. We squeezed each others hands and stayed that way for a very long time. I’m sorry grandpa.

He continued sharing recollections of grandma.
“She was so independent and yet completely dependant. Once she married me she never drove a car or handled any finances.”
My grandpa was a man. She let him be that man for her.

He kept stroking his pant legs right where she darned them. There was a hole in them where he fell at the bank. She was always working; she was always there for him. He was so proud to let everyone know that he didn’t own a pair of socks that weren’t darned by her.

That night at dinner I explained to my father what most don’t realize. Grandma measured her love by how much she did for another. This woman didn’t hug and kiss but devoted her life to mending ones socks. Why didn’t they know this? My grandpa did.

Tomorrow will be a long day. The service is at ten am. Her burial procession will be the longest. She’s to be buried 167 miles from here. In the middle of no where, that’s country to you and me.

May you rest in peace grandma, I love you.

That night she slept at the funeral home and I at a hotel. Tomorrow morning during church services where we’ll all congregate to honor her she’ll be carried in and she’ll say.
“Is anyone home?”
Because that’s how grandma entered her home, but today for the first time we won’t answer, God will.

After morning coffee my girls and I walked across the street to the church. This time we weren’t fist, my grandpa was already there. I kissed him good morning and promptly found my seat. Awhile later I was informed as a family we were to walk in together.

Anyone who doesn’t know me doesn’t need to. I know who I am and why I’m here. I don’t need to broadcast it. No, I and my girls are staying put. When all is said and done I’ll get up and leave with my family just like I did every Sunday with my grandma when my grandpa announced the benediction. He’d stop by our pew and together we’d follow my grandpa out and greet the congregation. Today is no different. I’ve never been one for appearances.

The family processional began, my sister slipped in beside me, she just arrived that morning. We fell into each others arms and sobbed.

The service commenced. I hung off of every word said. The pastor tried to do my grandma justice, but the person being described wasn’t the woman I lived with for four years, it just wasn’t. She only spoke of her surface layer the part everyone is meant to see something barely scratched.

At this point the congregation was invited to speak and share a story or two of my grandma. My heart pounded and sound roared in my ears and before I knew it I was in front of the podium shaking with emotion.

It was hard to speak around my heart, with it stuck up in my throat, chocking on sorrow.

I don’t know how I managed it only that I had something to say.

“I’m privileged to know my grandma in a way my cousins and siblings could never know her.”

“And I stand before you today just as stubborn, and independent and private a person as she ever was.”

“I made my grandma cry at least once a week. She was stubborn, I was adamant. She wanted to do for me and I wanted to do for my self.”

“The woman you knew isn’t the woman I know. The woman I knew watched Days of our lives every day of hers.”

“My grandpa pinched her fanny every time she walked by and you’d hear her chastising him for it.”

“If it was fabric my grandma ironed it. My jeans could walk to school without me. My undies never had an impure thought; my grandma straightened them out every chance she got. And it was a wonder my socks had any shape to them, they always seemed two dimensional to me.”

“I never saw my grandma lying down till now.”

“I’d catch her napping in front of the TV or in the car. But she never did that, sleep that is or so she said.”

“I never knew what holiday it would be when we sat down to eat. She saved every napkin that graced our table that could be used again.”

“I have memories of her combing her hair out. She never used rubber bands to secure the end of her braids. She always saved the hair from her comb and used them instead.”

“I think the more outrageous I was the more it freed a laugh from her.”

“Cooking was a science. It was like chemistry and if I wasn’t going to be bothered to follow the directions precisely than I had no business in her kitchen. I’m here to tell you I’ve a recipe written by her, a favorite of mine. It calls for a quarter cup of butter with a comment from her > but I don’t use it < Uh, huh. My grandpa would say “there is a right way and a wrong way and then there was of course your grandma’s way.”

It took me a year to figure her out.

The only way my grandma could show and say that she loved me was by the measure of what she could do for me. And once I understood this certain truth I became less adamant and more tolerant. In doing this I showed her how much I accepted and loved her.

I’ve never cried so much and so long in all my life. Where do the tears come from?

I lost more than a grandma today, I lost a mother too.

It was hard coming here to say my final good bye, harder still to leave my grandpa all alone but it was time for us to go.

Before the girls and I hit the road we stopped in to say good bye to my grandpa. He was fast asleep in his bed, yesterday had taken its toll. I didn’t want to disturb him but my Uncle insisted I wake him because it would mean a lot to him. Just as I leaned over to touch him he turned toward me but could barely keep his eyes opened.

My uncle’s eyes watered up and he tried pulling me in but I’m over being touched. I need my space. And the last thing I want my grandpa seeing is me, leaving in tears.

I told him I loved him and I left.

And I left without the tears.

Later after I made it home safely my mother called me, she kept talking about my eulogy. I never planned on going up there. She didn’t know how I got through it; she knew she could have never done what I did. We were in tears once again.

“It meant an awful lot to him” she said.

I know it meant an awful lot to her.

It is strange. I’ve not felt the need for church, felt comfortable inside on in a very long time. It just hit me how right it felt at my grandma’s service. I’m not sure what that means other than it was like coming home. She was there and he was there. To me God doesn’t exist just in church. I feel his presence in nature more than anything else. But for me I have always recognized God through my grandpa and where he is God is. It makes me wonder will I lose God when I lose my grandpa.

A month later inside my mail box tucked between trivial matters was a letter from my grandpa. He used to write such long letters, letters I never seemed to have much time for, nothing more than a brief perusal at best. I hurt just writing this painful truth.

His script is still legible although his penmanship illustrates an unsteady hand. It was much shorter by a page and a half.

I remember a time when I first noticed my father’s initial aging. Today I’ve noticed my grandpa’s advancement.

My grandma never worked after she married my grandfather with the exception of a few years when he served his country in World war two, she had to make ends meet.

In 1935 she purchased a $1,000 life insurance policy. My grandpa just received the check in the amount of $6, 722.00; he kicked in the rest in order to gift seven grandchildren each a thousand dollars in loving memory from our grandma, and blessings and love from our grandpa.

He scratched out her name on the check. That makes me wonder why. In fact it bothers me. She never once signed a check or withdrew funds, why was her name even on them to begin with. Her name might as well stay on there. I want it to.

I still say grandma and grandpa. I can’t think of him without her.

This summer I hope to drive up for a long weekend with my girls. Maybe I’ll go up during fair time. We used to win ribbons together.

He found an apartment, with a window looking out across the street at his old place so he can watch his garden grow; I hope they tend it well. If they do they’ll be tending more than vegetables and flowers, they’ll be caring for an old man and his memories.

I’ve since finished my book and tucked away between these pages is a kiss of pink from her burial bouquet. A rose as soft as her forehead where my lips last touched goodbye. The bulletin from her service “Celebration of the life” of a woman I love, my grandma and last but not least a cherished picture of her with an accounting of her life.

In loving memory; fondly your granddaughter,

Sunday, March 4, 2007

My legacy

Legacy Of An Adopted Child

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember
The other you call mother.

Two different lives,
Shaped to make yours one.
One became your guiding star
The other became your sun.

The first gave you life,
The second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need to love.
And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent
The other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions.
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your fist smile.
The other dried your tears.

One gave you up,
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child
And was lead straight to you.

And now you ask me through
Your tears,
The age-old question through the years:
Heredity or environment-which are
You the product of?
Neither, my darling, neither-
Just two different kinds of love.


I remember finding this poem as a Jr. High school student in some beat up teen magazine. Something torn and saved, I’d pull it out from time to time. I didn’t need to read it, I had it memorized but it was a way to be closer to my birthmother and thankful to the mother who had her hands full raising me.

There were times though when I’d rage and hate and want to wipe my self from the earth, I was hormonal.

“Why am I here?”
“Why was I given up?”
“Who am I really?”
“I’ll die one day before she knows me and she’ll be sorry.”

I wanted to shred that poem so many times and show my self just how much I didn’t care. But I did and I saved it and when my birthmother found me it was one of the first things I ever gave her.

Mothers, I am one too

My mothers both adoptive and birth, what will they think?

These writings if they become pages in a book what a wonder that would be. At the very least my daughters will both know me the way I wished to know my birthmother the way I wanted to understand my adoptive mother.

White Confetti

I’m young and bored in church. Poking through my mother’s purse holds more interest. She’s got everything imaginable in there. What I remember most is the loose Kleenex, white confetti of years gone by. They weren’t used but they smelled of her as though at one point she kept them next to her skin.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

College Bound

At age 18 my adoptive mother made me a promise. She would help me find my birthmother. At the time the way I figured it, I was going to college; I had a life to live, not a life to find. My birth mother had her reasons, I’ve lived with them unknowingly my whole life and I guess I could just go on that way.