I am calling my biological mother at her sisters home, because my sister who does not know I am actually her sister, gave me the number and told me to call her mom, mine too. ” …because it would do her good to hear from someone from her past .”.
I sat in my bedroom, on my bed. Tethered to the wall with a phone. I hear my two boys, (third is not a twinkle yet) playing in the other room with their dad. I hear the ring tone in the earpiece. I pray that I know what to say. I pray that she be there. I pray she want to hear from me. I pray that God give me the courage to … The ringing stops, a child’s voice says “Hello” , I ask if L is there. My heart is pounding.
“Aunt L, it is for you.” I hear voices in the back ground, women talking.
“Hi, I’m Christy Petty. You don’t know me…. “ I really do not know verbatim what I said, I only have snippets my words, – My mind was a whirl ,my heart was pounding, my soul was leaping and jumping for joy. I was talking to my biological mother, I was hearing her voice for the first time. I was trying to picture her. I was wondering if she would want to know me. I was praying she would. I hoped I would not hurt her, cause her any more turmoil in life. What if she hung up? What if she is angry? How do I explain my understanding of her not wanting me in her life, when all I do want is her in my life. What if this is somehow not the right person? Like the Gann name being wrong?
I have to be clever and romantic and hint who I am.I tell her I know she has had a lot of things happen recently and that if she does not have the time for me right now, I will understand. And then I ask if my birthdate means anything to her?
She says “Go on.”
I think, ‘OH CRAP, this is not her, how can that not mean anything to her. For as long as I can remember I knew that on my birthday my biological mother would be remembering me on that one day of the year, the time that we would both be thinking of each other.I say “ I was born in San Antonio, in the Mission Home, I was put up for adoption… by you.” The last more a question than statement.
What I heard next I will always always remember. Two words, spoken by L, actually to the women in the room with her, her mother- my grandmother, her sister- my aunt.
L said. “It’s her.”
I hear a woman respond with “What?” in the background.
L repeats “It’s her.” emphasizing HER.
Screaming, laughing repeating “It’s her.” “She called.” She found us.” goes on for minutes from female voices in the room with L
Just those two words, the reaction to the two words, removed all doubt, all fear for me. These women, a mother of a daughter who gave up a child, a grandmother of a lost grandchild, a mother who gave a child away, a daughter who disappointed, a sister who watched her sister struggle and cry,, they all thought of, desired to know, wanted for, HER,-me.
They quieted down, I could hear sounds through the phone, others asking what was going on, women’s voices explaining. L began to talk again. She says, her mother and sister are with her, they have always wondered about me always wanted to know about me. She says she always wanted to find me.
She asks, “ Do you hate me?”
I am a bit stunned, saddened, that obviously, this was a burden L has carried.
I answer “ No definitely not. I love her. Mom and Dad explained to me the sacrifice you made, how your love is why you were able to give me up for adoption, to give me a better life.”
She answers with praise to my parents. She asks about them, about my family. She says you have brothers right? She knew and remembered things they told of the family who adopted me. They were teachers or something right? She treasured things in her heart for me.
L wants to know how I found her, I explain. I hope, to her, she is not angry with the social worker, she is not. She explains she wanted to look for me, her husband, who by the way is NOT my father, had tried to convince her to do so, all the years past. She never did because she was afraid I would not want to meet her. I tell her of calling her daughter, she tells me her name. I told her I did not tell her who I was. L explains her children do not know about me. She will need to explain to them, before I meet them of course. Well of course, and she wants to meet me.
I ask about her children. The oldest son is just a couple of years younger than I, L married her husband just after high school and had first child with in the year after. Just like me. Daughter is next, about 4 years younger than I, then the youngest another boy, about 9 years younger
Everything L tells me generates about 50 more questions. Names of half siblings, ages., What school did you go to. How did husband die? When are you moving? Who was my father? L had questions of her own, of my parents, were they good to me? My brothers ages. Married to whom? When did I marry? Where did I grow up?
What we don’t talk about is the ‘how’ of my conception, the whys, the what for’s. We basically knew what we knew. It was not necessary to get into the details, this time, that was for later.
When I asked of my biological father, she says, “You know he is dead don’t you?” I did not, but I for some reason had a feeling he was, for years. I figured with his age he would have served in Vietnam, and for some reason believed him to be dead. I told her this, she explained he died by a tragic shooting accident about a year after I was born. She did not see him at that time, she would explain more later.
L is the one who brought the phone call to a close, she said she had to go and talk to her mother and sister. She had to gather her thoughts. She was going to call her daughter at home she thought, and explain to her, or maybe wait till she went home. She had to gather her thoughts. We had been on the phone for over an hour, this would cost too much. (pre long distance was affordable time) She would call me soon or I her, we would figure out a time to get together, to meet. She would be moving within the week and the kids would be moving, starting new schools.Leaving home they always knew, where their father had recently died. L. had a lot of explainin to do.
We exchanged numbers, addresses. I asked for pictures and she did the same. I don’t remember sending her any, I hope I did. I received from her, a few days later, maybe weeks. Prompt response and correspondence skills or lack of turns out to be genetic.
I still have my stack of pictures from L. Picture of Grandmother, Aunt, Cousins, Sister, Brothers. Polaroid shot of L. All very random shots, someone sitting on couch, two standing in kitchen in some house. This was pre digital days, pre internet– we are so spoiled now.
L was packing to move,her husband had recently died, mother in last stages of ovarian cancer. L went through memories, tragic memories at a time she was having to start over, to find glimpses of a her life to share with someone, though genetically hers was a total stranger. It seems small, I suppose, but I think it great. I can not imagine what she was looking for me to see, for me not to see. I do not know how many pictures of her husband she passed over as she searched. How do you choose a picture of yourself to give to someone you thought hated you for 24 years?
My first reaction when I saw her picture? She is thin, skinny, petite, just like Mom, so now what is my excuse?!!