I don’t think there was anything extraordinary in the way I presented myself to the social worker that she allowed me information to find my bio family. My knowing where to look, in the library, how to put the trail together, was not my brilliance. The words, the complete sentences, without blubbering,I spoke, first, to my biological mother, were not my own. My fearless leaps were not from the unsure heart that beat wildly in my throat.The unbridled joy, bio mother and family,felt at the return of me in her life, was not generated on their own. The extraordinary, the brilliance, the courage, the joy all were God. This desire, the search, the find, the response, all answered prayers, answered before I prayed, answered before I was born, answered before L realized the heartbreak she carried within her. I knew then and even more now, God is the why of everything good and right. My hopes and joys exist because of Him.
I asked Keith what he remembered of my meeting, face to face, with L, 24 years ago. His recollection is of totally different events than mine. Both are limited. Not only time has robbed me of many memories, but also the fear, the nerves from that first meeting turned much into fog. We had several conversations before meeting, I remember more of those. For me the actual meeting, was a whirl of questions, thoughts, impressions, fear, joy. I was looking at her, a total stranger, yet blood of my blood. I was listening to every word from her, yet not hearing content only sound. Wondering if she liked me? If she was just being polite, but truly just wanted me to leave? If she liked me more before she actually saw me? If she thought I was fat ?(I wish I was that fat now 😉 ) Had she cried for joy, sadness, or regret over me, ever? Would she would want to know me? Would we become family? Did she think my children were gorgeous? Did she want to claim them as grandchildren? How do I explain to them the difference between she and their ‘real grandparents’ my parents? Why did she have to live across the state? I wondered if this was the right woman. Why did she keep looking at Keith?
When planning to meet L, I did not want to make the trip just about me meeting her, I hated putting the family out for me. I could have flown by myself, but that would have been awkward, the whole purpose being me meeting her, she seeing me. Not to mention the expense of me getting there and leaving all my loved ones at home eating bologna. If we all went, she gets to meet the boys, Keith, my everything. I get to meet her, as if she is someone from the past I am catching up with. Which she actually was. We were just dropping by on the way to somewhere else, so time constraints get us back on the road.(a reason to run away if need) We would stay in hotels, do some fun on the way, make it a vacation. We traveled miles and miles and miles with 3 and 5 year old boys. We were on a vacation, the lower middle class kind where you go and blow money on Holiday Inn and be proud because it is not Motel 6, and eat cheap fast food.We are not big ‘savers’, we probably were going on tax return money and my parents gas cards, to pay back later. The stop to meet the bio family was put in the middle of Six Flags and visiting an old friend of Keith’s who lived in Arkansas. I am a practical traveler, I want to get all the worth of my time and money, if a relative lives in a town, we must visit. Keith is not a practical traveler. Keith HATES to visit family in a town if the goal is vacation. He thinks if we have doctors appointments or business in town it is NOT the time to visit others or vacation. He is the ultimate one track mind.
I wore my favorite skirt, high waisted, v front panel, khaki, buttoned with brass buttons up the front. A peach knit shirt, with tiny rose buds on it, like the pattern on my baby blanket, Mom saved for me. This was the year of the perm, so my hair was CURLY shoulder length, and still naturally blond. I felt fat. That skirt, though, would not reach around my waist today, even if I sucked in. My boys, gorgeous, cute and adorable. Their golden blond hair in bowl cuts, they almost looked like twins. Keith tall dark and ever so handsome, my rock. I remember knocking on the door of the cute little house, a home L moved in to from her lifetime home town. I looked down at the boys and up at Keith, knowing my blessings. I looked up as the door opened and into the eyes of the woman who gave me birth. I recognized her from her picture, she was much prettier though. I thought, ‘She does not photograph well, either’. Her mother was standing behind her waiting expectantly. We walked in and a mother I do not know and I attempted to hug, awkwardly. Grandmother, I did not know grabbed my hand pulled me toward her and gave me a hug, I felt my grandmother, Mamaw and my caretaker for my first 5 years, Mamie, wrap their arms around me, I stepped back and looked into tear filled eyes of peace and love.
My bio grandmother died a year after I met her, from the ovarian cancer. Years later, I was attending my sisters wedding ,a sister in law of my bio grandmother told me what peace it had brought Bio Grandmother to have met me. She said Bio Grandmother had worried and prayed for me always. Bio Grandmother had considered keeping me and raising me, but knew that would be hard for L. But she still regretted and worried. The aunt thought that having known I was safe is what allowed bio grandmother to have peace from that the last year of cancer. I thank God I listened when he called.
Introductions of boys and Keith were made as we stood in the doorway. The oddest thing to me was their attention to Keith. I wanted more to me, to the boys, I wanted for them to see family members in my boys faces, and they would not quit peering at Keith, who was no relation to them. Keith is attractive, but seriously, not all that, and these are older women, and this was about ME not him. They went to the kitchen together to get drinks for us as we settled in the living room, I felt they were talking of us, impressions etc, or course they would. When they returned L asked a bit about Keith and where he was from. I then thought, maybe this is the wrong person, maybe she had a son instead of a daughter. Or maybe Keith looks like some other family member of theirs and I am married to a cousin or something. It was odd. Then L began to explain her curiosity, attentions to Keith, she said that he looked amazingly similar to my biological father. What she remembered of him, 24 years ago. Bio Grandmother agreed. Wow!
I met 2 of my three half siblings. The oldest boy did not make the move, he was not living in the home any longer, so I did not meet him. I met the girl, my sister, in passing, she was leaving with friends to go back to her recently left home for a visit. It was a very quick, too quick, introduction. Polite, explained well by her and L that she had plans to visit left friends, she had been busy when I arrived, and would not return until after I left. The small talk made with her was very nice, she was very kind. I knew, then, it had to be at least weird to be meeting the illegitimate child of your mother. Sister explained later that she had some issue with all the finding out of me, some sorting out to do. I can only imagine. The youngest, a boy was about 13, he was quiet, yet talkative when we spoke alone in the backyard. He had recently lost his dad, moved, his brother did not move with him, his grandmother was dying of cancer, and his mom just came up with another kid, I am surprised he was normal. My impression of him was he might be a bit geeky, if video games existed then he would have been a gamer. I loved talking with him, we talked about nothing and everything while the boys ran around in the backyard, his move, his new school, what he liked. He said he thought it was neat I found his mom. He figured it must have made her really sad to have not known about me all those years.
On first contact with L she explained she had not told her children of me. Her husband had advised her to tell them, as well as search for me, but she never could bring herself to do either. My finding her forced her to tell. Telling them was not as bad as she had anticipated, again one of those obvious God interventions. A surprise for L was the response from the two older, #1 son said “ I wondered when you would tell us about her.” and daughter said “ I always thought there was another one.” Sister told me later that as a young child #1 son would tell her that they had a big sister that would take care of them, kind of like an invisible friend. She said he also would use this ‘big sister’ to scare her into doing whatever he wanted,also, saying the big sis would hurt her if she did not. No wonder she had to work through things before she got to know me. #1 son does not know how he knew but he said he always knew there was another, a big sister. Did he sense it? Had he overheard his parents talking of me? No one knows.
Keith remembers eating dinner with them in their house, and Lee talking a lot, both boys entertaining, and keeping the mood light. I don’t remember the meal at all. I remember eating at Schlotsky’s and L and I both ordering turkey with mustard, and L noticing and saying how her family thinks it so weird not to eat turkey with mayonnaise. I remember getting in L’s car scooting across the seat, and finding a picture stuck in the crack. It was a black and white, of a girl sitting in the grass, hair in a headband, she looked just like me when I was in high school. I was showing it to Keith and L got in the car, asked where I found it, I explained and she said it probably fell out in the move, and tossed it on the dash. At the same time she said she did not like the way she looked in the picture, I told her it looked a lot like I did. I wish I had that picture. I remember going to the antique/flea market with her, Keith does not.
I remember conversations with L. I told L of my wonder over her not remembering my birthday, I explained my romantic fantasy of our thinking of each other then. I remember us sitting in her kitchen when she explained that in order for her to survive, for her to live with herself she had to make herself forget for the last 24 years. I know today I feel guilt and sadness a sense of failure over not finding lost pets. I wonder on their feeling abandoned, if they died, were hurt, starved, if they are taken by others. L felt that, and more, for a child, her child. She had to make her self not dwell on these things, she had a family other children who needed her to focus on them, to love them, and she did.
I felt I needed to thank L for giving me a better way, for sacrificing herself, for taking the harder road. Not that she did it for ME, she did not know me, I just happened to be the baby. I wanted to reassure her that I appreciated her, that I sympathized with her. I thanked L for not having an abortion, and giving me for adoption. L’s answer is something I think all should hear, and know.
L said, she really did not deserve a great deal of thanks. She said she was a good person, she followed the rules,she was church going, she always did what was right, law abiding. Getting pregnant was not following the rules, having sex unwed, was a wrong choice. It would have been much easier to have an abortion and not endure the physical and emotional pain, to not shame the family, except at that time abortions were illegal. Had abortions been legal she would have had one. She had already broken the rules and became pregnant, breaking another and having an abortion would just make it worse. She said she did not want to hurt me, she was being honest. I was not hurt, I understood. So often, too often, we let man be what governs our decisions, define for us what is moral. We justify our actions, our choices, even if they go against obedience to God, because our government says it is all ok. I thank God abortions were not legal, then. I pray that abortions would go against all societies moral standards . I pray for abortions to be illegal just as murder is. If abortion had been legal 48 years ago not only would I not exist, but 3 men and 6 children would not either. How many lives have been lost,how many purposes destroyed by abortions?
Bio grandmother was an amazing woman. L is a product of her. L is an amazing woman. I am a product of her. I hope it is genetic.