The Life She Never Lived

This week I received a wedding picture; my parent’s wedding picture.

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I’m so thankful for my cousin who finds these treasures for me. I’d love suggestions on how to thank the woman who gives you back your family. She insists I owe her nothing, but it surely doesn’t feel that way.

Speaking of feelings.

I know, I should have warned you this was turning into an adoption blog. I promise to go back to my mildly irreverent talking about whatever catches my eye, soon-ish.

Now, on to important matters, this week’s inner dialogue. I have to talk about this somewhere. How about with my captive audience? Hey, that’s a good idea! They have to listen, and if I don’t want to hear their opinions I can just shut off comments. It’s a win, win. Okay, it’s a win for me. 

Something that has surprised me, no one in my house really cares about all of this, not even a little bit. I mean, I’m used to being ignored, but that’s because I’m usually just being mom. This, this shit is going down in real life! I’m talking about my parents, a brother, a niece, a metric ton of information, and they’re all like, (looking over my shoulder) Is that your brother? Cool, can I borrow a 20?

Sigh.

Yes, as a matter of fact, you should be glad you aren’t my brother. I can hear you out there breathing a collective sigh of relief that I’m not going to try to corner you and talk about it, either. It’s gotten so bad, this week I put myself on a strict training program. I call it, LEAVE THE POOR MAN ALONE FOR A MINUTE. I failed miserably, every single day. I messaged him last night at 1:45 A.M..

What’s that?

Impul-say Con-ter-ol, is that French or something?

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, feelings.

So, this picture was exciting to see. I can hold it in my hand. I texted a copy to my brother ( see, a legitimate reason to message him) and asked if he’d ever seen it. No, he hadn’t. Cool!

Then suddenly, from some previously undiscovered cranny deep inside me, erupted this behemoth of bitterness and unfettered animosity. She was not happy. I had to stop messaging, drive to the store for Macadamia Nut Chocolate Coconut cookies, take a long bath followed by a longer tear filled shower before I could present myself in public as a human again. Even then I didn’t chance it. I just went to bed, exhausted.

The next morning I felt like I’d had five too many Fireball n’ Coke’s. What the hell, people, this is supposed to be the good part!?

There are things that rational me knows. The behemoth doesn’t give a shit about that. She wanted to grow up in California with an annoying little brother. One annoying little brother. She doesn’t care that the wedding picture would never have happened if she’d stayed in California. Neither their apparent happiness nor knowledge of how their life would play out, placate her. She wants to hear their voices saying her name, bury her face against their shoulders. She wants to know that comforting smell. She could not care less that there’s a brother (I do, I care!). She wants a mother.

After I’ve fed the behemoth cookies and water has put out most of the fire, she goes back to her corner. She leaves the door open, though, so she can see what I’m doing. I go about my business, no one knows she’s there. Yes, I’m going to have to take her somewhere and let her talk out her side of the story. I will. I’ll let her cry and rage about the live she never lived.

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Some things I never thought about

You’ll notice the awareness that there are countless thoughts I have yet to give my attention to.

These are just what have come up in the last seven days.

In no particular order……excepting the pecking my personal Hei-Hei has given them.

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He was looking for me.

I was better off, however unhappy, where I was.

My heart would never have survived her.

Finally making contact is far more emotional than you ever imagined.

Genetic similarities are not bullshit.

Connecting with your roots can cause multiple daily existential crises.

He’s going to tease you about it like any little brother.

You’re going to cry, a lot. Get used to it.

You might have a real desire to do physical damage to the woman you’ve thought about every day for your entire life.

He took the bullet I dodged.

He struggled, feeling we were kept apart.

You’re going to cry, a lot.

He did so many hard things, all on his own.

He was looking for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Happiness, aka My Place in Hell

I remember the first time I thought I might be headed to Hell. I was a teenager. It was a Monday night and my siblings and I were all gathered around the dinner table for the interminable family night lesson. Mom was teaching about what life in heaven would be like if we would follow God’s laws and the added tenets of our religion, oh, and show our parents the proper respect. She’d already outlined what Heaven was like, paved in gold, filled with mansions, colors we couldn’t imagine, people in white clothes. Looking around the table at all my siblings in their various stages of apathy, I realized there was a large population of elementary age students that owed us a debt of gratitude. We were all that stood between our mom and an actual classroom.

“Will there be family night in Heaven?” My younger sister asked.

Mom smiled at her, “Every night is family night, in Heaven.”

Her enthusiasm at this idea was the final straw.

“Oh, fu……….dge!” I muttered into my arm.

Mom shot me a silencing glare, and my brother piped up, “I can’t wait, mom!”

When she turned back to her scriptures, he smiled over at me, that self-satisfied, that’s how it’s done, grin. I certainly wanted no part of Heaven if he was going to be there.

It would be many years before I admitted to myself that I was indeed, going to Hell. I was living in Pittsburgh with my young family. Going to church every Sunday was becoming a hardship. Listening to the constant sermons on doing more than we thought could, bringing the gospel to our friends, and the little ways we should be showing our discipleship everyday, was inexorably burying me in sandstorm of missed opportunities to serve. My best friends were not interested in my church, my church wasn’t interested in anyone not interested in them. I didn’t want to spend my time trying to convert people, I wanted to have fun. I’m a grasshopper in a church filled with ants, more interested in fiddling than gathering food for winter.

Then the realization, I actually am going to Hell.

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It took a couple more years, a move to the frozen tundra of North Dakota, and a good friend telling me she was building me a place in Hell, right next to hers, for me to feel the relief. It’s alright, I’m going to Hell. All my favorite people will be there! The prospect of living next door to a person who currently lives in another country, well, that filled me with such excitement. I could live on a street of people who adore me. People who like me just the way I am. Fellow Grasshoppers! Think of how skinny we’ll all be from the winters of fasting! Our evenings spent laughing and singing naughty songs, dancing when the mood takes us.

What would be missing?

Judging. That would be missing. Shame. What purpose would that serve? Guilt. No more should-a, could-a, would-a. At one point I thought my kids would be missing, that is until my oldest turned 18. Pretty sure he’ll be there with me, but he’ll have to build his own damn house.

The words that sealed the deal.

“I’m not very religious.” He said.

“That’s okay, Jesus will forgive you.” I promised.

“F— him, he lets babies and puppies die.”

“Never mind, you’re going to hell.” I sigh.

“Hold my hand?”

Damn it! How does he do that?

“I’ll save you a seat……. on my lap.”

I can almost see his smile. Gotta run, there’s a seat waiting for me.

 

 

 

 

Life’s Little Moments

I wasn’t expecting much from this spring break. A few days off work, hanging out at home with the kids, write a little? Man, was I underestimating life.

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Last Wednesday I was parked on Lansing Ave, waiting for the middle child to come out of school, while listening to the youngest jabber on about her day in school. I was trying to stay awake and concentrate on my Hidden City game after a long day of listening to kids jabber. Rudely, my phone buzzed, jolting me to full awareness, I glanced at the message and passed the phone to my daughter.

“It’s for you.” I said.

“It’s from Jetah!”

“What does it say?”

“Call me as soon as you can. Marvin and I are driving to Laura Mie(?) right now and the service is spotty, but we should be there by 3 our time.”

“Who’s Marvin?” I asked.

“Where’s Larawmie?”

“I think you mean Laramie, it’s in Wyoming. Why is she in Wyoming?”

“I have no idea.” She hands the phone back to me.

“Aren’t you going to call her?”

“I’ll call her later.”

The middle child appeared, the phone was put away and life went on.

Thursday morning  I was just about to clock in at work when my phone buzzed again.

Did you ever message Zoe?

It was from my Ancestry.com cousin. I stared at it blankly for a minute. Then realized there was another message above it.

Call me as soon as you can…..

WHAT!!

I fired off a quick note letting her know I’d missed her message yesterday and no I hadn’t sent a message to Zoe and I was just getting to work and I would call her at lunch.

Then I spent the next four hours wondering what in the world she’d found out that would require me calling her. My imagination went a bit crazy. I admit it.

At lunch, I checked my phone and was dismayed to find she was at a lecture and would call me when she was done. I tried again after school but she wasn’t in a good cell coverage area and I heard every third word for about 20 seconds before service completely cut out. ARGHHHH

Finally at 5 o’clock that night my phone rang. She’d returned from her trip and wanted to let me know that she had messaged Zoe. Zoe was a new match that had showed up on Ancestry in both of our lists the last week. I don’t know all that much about DNA but my matching numbers with Zoe were double what they were with my cousin, Ann. She thought Zoe might be the granddaughter of the woman we think was my mother, and she asked her that in the message.

“Let me read you her reply.” She said.

Yes, I am Vicky’s granddaughter, though I didn’t know her well. I met her only twice in my life. My father is her only son, though she did have a daughter she gave up for adoption. We don’t know anything about her.

 

I don’t remember a word she said after that until at some point she said, “There it is. Plain as day. Confirmation. We were right, Vicky was your mom!”

After that everything gathered speed and information came fast and crazy. I had Friday off school and I asked Ann if I could start my family tree now, she said I had plenty of DNA to do so. After I added my mom, I started looking at my matches, searching for one that Ann didn’t share. I had to go down to 4-5th cousin matches but I found one. And I looked at his tree for one minute before I found a name I recognized. I spent five more minutes verifying my find then called Ann.

“Am I looking at this right?”

I was.

May I introduce to you, Vicky and John, my parents.

 

Over the course of the weekend I I’ve looked at hundreds of pages, records, clippings and family trees. This is the story I’ve built around those records, with no input from anyone who actually know them. Any mistakes are all mine. In coming years I hope to add to my understanding of them.

John was born in Chicago, an only child. I believe Vicky was born in California but I haven’t got my hands on a record to prove me right.

1968 – John was married with four children, Vicky, a single girl. In 1968 John divorced his first wife and Vicky gave me up for adoption, the day I was born.

1969-John and Vicky marry.

1971- John and Vicky divorce, John immediately remarried.

1973- John and Vicky divorce again (? still looking for accurate/missing records)

1974- Vicky marries her second husband and gives birth to a son.

1979- Vicky marries second husband again(? still checking)

1984- John divorces his third wife.

1994- John dies.

2009- Vicky dies.

2018- Their daughter finally finds them.

 

 

 

 

 

A Second Snowflake

In what, I hope, becomes a blizzard of beautiful moments for me in 2018.

This snowflake is from my oldest brother.

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Last August when I made my final visit to my parent’s home, I cleaned out a block of eight file drawers filled with my moms collection of papers. I’d been looking for her journals and asked Dad if he’d like me to clean out Mom’s drawers. He was happy to turn it over to me. It took me the better part of 12 hours. In the end I found parts of her journals, lots of birthday/mother’s day cards and some adoption odds and ends. One of those odds and ends was a baby book for a little boy. I put it in a pile of things for my brother and was able to give it to him the weekend of dad’s funeral.

I called my brother a few weeks ago to ask advice. He’s the one person in our family who isn’t up in arms about the stepmother situation. He has no issue with her. I know, I know!! But that is another blog post.

 

He said he had something to tell me, and recounted the following.

“Remember that baby book you gave me? Well, before we left town I was telling my wife about this memory I have of a little red brick house that belonged to my grandparents. My original grandparents. Before we left Idaho we drove through the town and as I got closer to the address we had looked up, I was able to take each turn by memory and there it was. The neat little red brick house from my memory. Pretty incredible. After we got back home and after I caught up at work, I had a few moments one afternoon and I took out the book and studied it. It wasn’t completely filled in but contained my original last name, my grandparent’s names, my mother’s name. I remembered something that had happened when my oldest daughter was born. I told mom I was thinking about naming her Tina. Mom was surprised and said though she didn’t think I remembered, I had a younger sister named Tina. Hm. I turned to my computer and googled my mother’s name. No result. Turning back to my baby book I googled her with her maiden name. It brought up an obituary. I read it and there she was, daughter Tina. Not only that, but I found out I had an older sister, Roxanne. I, of course, wasn’t listed, but there they were, Roxanne, one year older, and Tina, two years younger. There she was, my mother, the obituary included her married name, my old last name. Looking back at Tina, it gave a married last name and city. I googled her and though the obituary was from 2007, I found Tina, still in that same city AND with a home number listed. Thinking it was probably an old disconnected number, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed. The phone rang once, twice, and then was answered by a woman. Now what do I do?”

At this point I was so excited I could hardly stand myself! What did you do? What did you say?!?

“I said hello, I’m calling for Tina. She said, this is Tina. I sat there silent for a moment wondering what I should say next. I finally said, this might sound odd to you, but my name is ____ _____ -. She started yelling into the phone – Oh my God, Oh my God! You’re my brother! You’re my big brother! I can’t believe you’re calling me! Oh my God!”

It gave me chills, brought tears to my eyes. Made my brother utterly speechless. He had no actual memory of Tina, just a name my mother spoke, a name written in pencil in a faded, incomplete baby book. He was taken completely off guard.

Hello, Tina said, probably afraid I’d hung up. I apologized and said, how do you know who I am? My brother asked.

Tina’s story

“I’ve known who you are my entire life. Grandma and Grandpa showed us your picture and talked about you every day. It broke their hearts when they lost you. Roxy and I have always known about you. In fact, when I was sixteen I found your parents number and called your house. Your mom answered and I told her I wanted to talk to my older brother! She told me you wanted nothing to do with us and I was never to call that house again. I was devastated. Not to long after that, our schools played each other in football. I asked a kid from your school if they knew you. They pointed you out in the pep band. I saw you that one time, but didn’t dare talk to you. I’ve missed you so much! I can’t believe you’re calling me! This is amazing!”

Of course, he had a million questions, and she answered them all. Between the two of them they worked out his adoption story.

His mother married his dad when she was 13 and pregnant with Roxanne. His dad was 18. He was born when she was 15 and Tina when she was 16. Not long after, (and not surprisingly) she had a nervous breakdown. Unable to care for her kids, married to a brutally abusive man who beat not only her but the children as well, she turned her children over to her parents to raise. His mother had been the youngest and her parents were older, thinking they had raised all their children. Though they loved their grandchildren, these three little kids were more than they could handle, along with their ailing daughter.

The grandfather worked with my great-uncle, who knew that his niece was pining for children. He talked the grandfather into letting mom and dad adopt the boy. (An aunt has said that mom and dad wanted to adopt all three but the grandparents just couldn’t give them all up) There was an agreement that the grandparents could stay in contact. Why that didn’t play out, no one living knows. He came to live with mom and dad when he was four years old. He came bearing the scars of the beatings he’d taken from his father. Cigarette burns on his arms and torso and thin white lines where he’d been whipped with the vacuum cleaner cord.

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   Myself, Middle brother, Oldest brother, Younger sister (who obviously adores me) We were the first four adopted. We all arrived in window of five short years.

He and Tina concurred on the brutality of their father. Tina said mom wasn’t much better. Rarely, she was present and a good mom, mostly she was depressed and looking for her next hit. His father was military and served in Korea. When he returned, he and the mother divorced when he learned she was hanging around with college boys. Tina said they’d never heard another thing from him. She’d never met her father’s parents and thought they had stayed in Germany, never coming to America like their son. Gerry’s mom remarried in the seventies and he has 6 additional half siblings out there. She died of heart failure, though Tina says she and Roxanne are pretty sure it was some form of drug interaction or overdose. My brother is hoping to take a trip to visit his new sisters this summer.

After they got off the phone, he went back to the computer and was quickly able to track down his father. Found him living in Utah with several felony convictions and lots of mug shots. He has no interest whatsoever in meeting the man of whom he has very vivid memories. But he got something even more interesting, a current picture. The similarities are jaw-dropping.

He said he couldn’t make his wife understand, this feeling, this hole he’s lived with his entire life that’s suddenly filled.

“It’s nuts.” He said. “I can’t even explain it.”

“I know.” I replied. “That moment you look at another person, and your own face looks back at you.”

 

 

Moonbeams

Because we’ve been talking the lunar calendar all month in math and because I like the sound of it. It makes me think of stormy nights, a break in the clouds, moonlight glowing in the darkest corners.

January is almost over. In truth, nothing much has changed. That said, there are a couple of little things that have morphed and moved and taken on a life of their own.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned what I got for Christmas this year. A thoughtful person gifted me with a DNA kit. The Ancestry kit. I sent it off.

I got my results last Sunday. They’re rather fascinating.

69%     Great Britain

7%      Finland/Northwest Russia

5%      Scandinavia

The remaining 19% a mixture of  Europe, coast to coast, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, no more than 2-3% from any of them. A proper mutt. Hardy as they come.

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I can see a hint of hardy Russian. Also explained, the amount of money I’m willing to spend to stay a blonde. Go Scandinavia!

The search turned up a couple of matches in the 1st-2nd cousin range. I’ve left a couple of messages, leaving my name and the fact I was adopted, from where and the year. I got a reply. Yes, I did. A woman in Caspar, Wyoming replied that she did have relatives in California at that time but she was unaware of any kids given up for adoption. Then again, she was only 17 that particular year. She’s calling her cousin in LA today to see if she can learn anything more. We’re related somewhere along her mother’s line. She’s a bit excited about how closely related we are.

I’m a little dumbfounded.