Welcome back to Blogville, I’m so glad you decided to visit. Won’t you join me in a cup of green tea as I reflect about my 4.5 parents. Put your feet up and travel this journey with me.
So, obviously, I was created by a birth father. I called him my first father, as purely by genetics he was my biological father. What was his role? Well, firstly, to have had a role he would have had to have been notified of the pregnancy. For some reason, known only to my birth mother and her family, he was never told. Perhaps she could not find him as he travelled a great deal in his career, or perhaps she was afraid to look. As I was growing up, an adopted kid, my birth father was relegated to a fantasy role in my young life. He was my knight in shining armour who would have let me ride my bike down the big sixth avenue hill, he would have let me hang out with my friends uptown, I mean, he would have let me do all the things my father would not let me do! I know that my birth father’s other kids are laughing out loud right now because he actually parented them, and they probably disagree with 90-100% of what I just said. Hey, he was my ‘fantasy’ dad ok? Don’t burst my bubble with reality please (ha ha).
I think that birth fathers have a bit of a challenging role in adoption. Often, the birth mother does not, or cannot, identify the birth father. Sometimes men will give false information about themselves to birth mothers. Other times there may have been an issue of consent in terms of the child’s conception. Sometimes birth mothers do not want people to know that they had a relationship with that particular man based on his reputation, not hers. Sometimes birth mothers will refuse to identify the birth father to protect him, or on the other hand, to prevent him from exercising his parental rights and disrupting an adoption plan. These are but a few examples of how birth fathers may be excluded in adoption planning based on the birth mother’s disclosure of information.
In my case, my birth father was not informed of the pregnancy. At first I would think, ‘oh the poor guy, imagine not knowing you have a child out there in the world’. Then I would think, ‘how can I even search for him, perhaps disrupt his life when he does not even know I exist, how fair is that’? But then, I began to think about how there might be medical information I should be aware of. I began to think about the possibility I might be his only child and that he might even be happy to know I exist. Self-doubt began taking over. What if he wasn’t happy to learn I was his child? What if my existence hurt his current relationship, if he was in one? What if he denied that he is my birth father? I remember one day looking at my dad and wondering if my birth father was better than him, or worse than him? Then I realized, they were both just dads, doing the best they could for their children (if he had any others). That is when I decided my birth father had a right to know I existed, for better or for worse.
Speaking of the right to know I existed, my birth mother definitely knew. She not only knew I existed but that my birth half-sister existed as well. Imagine her fear. I really cannot fathom how she went through those two pregnancies unwed, in the 1950s, in a small Northern Ontario community. As I understand it, her pregnancy for my sister went pretty much unnoticed. As it turns out, my birth mother’s mother was pregnant at almost the same time as our birth mother, so I have a birth uncle born around June and my sister was born in September. Oh I am sure there were rumours, as there tended to be in those days. Plus, my birth mother’s family were recent immigrants to Canada and to their community so they already stood out. Imagine their fear of my birth mother’s pregnancy for my sister being discovered in a time when a family name was never supposed to be shamed? My sister was born and whisked away to live out her adoption plan and our birth mother’s life went on. Then, just about two and a quarter years later, my birth mother became pregnant with me. Hiding that first pregnancy successfully would have been nothing short of a miracle, hiding her pregnancy with me? Impossible. So off she went to ‘nursing school’ or some such cover story as was common in the 1950s and this young woman found herself in a home for ‘unwed mothers’ overseen by Catholic nuns. If you have ever done any research on homes for unwed mothers in the 1950s, you know that this would not have been a pleasant experience. However, it would appear that having a second pregnancy in a small northern Ontario community would have been much, much worse.
In between my birth and my move to my adoptive parents, there were foster parents, ergo the .5 in my title of 4.5 parents. Foster parents are a selfless breed of people who only want to help children in need of a family. Well, for the most part anyway. Following my discharge from the hospital, I had an emergency placement with my first foster family. There is no expectation that an emergency placement will last longer than an overnight or a weekend, and I was no exception. A day or two in an emergency foster home and then I was moved to another foster family. After approximately 20 days I was moved to a third foster family. Though my record does not contain specific details, just know that I was moved quickly, and with a horrific diaper rash from my chest to my knees and sores on the back of my head. My third set of foster parents were first-timers but dedicated and devoted parents to their biological children and then, to me. The love and care I received in this family shines through every typed word on the pages of my disclosure documents. In fact, my foster family put in a request to make me a permanent family member but they were told that they could not adopt me because they could have biological children and it was the agency’s practice that, when free for adoption, infants went to families who could not have children ‘of their own’. So, after seven months of love and care in my third foster family, I was moved to my adoptive family; my mom, my dad, and my brother.
My dad was a typical 1950s father. He was a railway man and a volunteer firefighter. I remember watching the volunteer department’s fire practice demonstrations both in awe of what my dad could do and in fear that he might get hurt. I never saw my dad in action at an actual fire as he always told my brother and I that we should stay away because, “Rubberneckers might get in the way of the firefighters or their equipment, and someone might die.” My dad was always just my dad. Its funny how I had accepted that my dad adopted my brother and I as a natural course of events when we each needed a family. I had never questioned how he felt about not having biological children, or how the adoption journey was for him. I think, as a society, we have always done and will always accept that men mostly just accept any children that come with a mother. Or in our case, children who were in need of both a mother and a father. Often, when I was upset with my dad, or felt hard done by, my thoughts would drift to my birth father who, if he had gone ahead and had other kids, I believed must be undoubtedly more understanding, more fair, and well, simply put, a far more lenient (but fantasy) father. (Only my paternal half-siblings can know that truth.)
My mom was anything but typical, but she was also a 1950s parent. She worked part-time and then full-time. She took care of my brother and me with all our homework, supported all of our 1950s gender specific activities; Brownies and figure skating for me, Cubs and hockey for my brother. There she was, sewing on earned badges, or designing and sewing figure skating costumes. You could sometimes find her at the arena, usually knitting while she watched my brother play hockey. She cooked and cleaned but I never saw her pick up a snow shovel or push a lawn mower, and she sure took pride in her flower garden and in the vegetable garden in our backyard. My mom was never afraid of blood and could handle all the cuts and bruises of our childhoods without flinching. Unlike with my dad, I never really fantasized about a mother that would do things differently. I wonder if I just thought that all moms were the same.
So, all that to say that these are the people who shaped me, for better or for worse, and contributed to the person I am today. Perhaps this blog will lead you to look up the “Nature-Nurture Controversy” and consider whether I was more a product of nurturing or of inherited/genetic traits. You might need a stronger cup of tea, or at least a fresh one, as you try to solve that puzzle!
As ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at email@example.com. See you next time, thanks for reading.
One more day
Welcome back to Blogville my friend. Today’s tea is a relaxing rose petal raspberry as the frenzied activity begins to abate a little. I am hoping, as promised, this blend of tea will help to calm and soothe me while I write this blog.
I’m sitting here, just thinking, which is never a good thing for me because my mind wanders everywhere, like a plane flown by a student pilot looking for a safe place to land. Suddenly I landed on the idea of what I would do if I had one more day with mom? Imagine? Just one more day. I wondered how I would spend those precious hours with mom.
I thought about the discussions we had of late about adoption. Would I have any ‘last questions’ about that? No, I don’t think I would. I think she and I worked through that in the last few months. You have no idea how grateful I am that once my fear of asking her questions disappeared I was able to learn so much about my adoption from mom’s perspective instead of just my own. Before we had these chats I realize how little I actually knew about her, not just as my mother, but as a person. I had never really spent any time trying to understand what her life, hopes, and dreams were like until we started talking woman to woman, instead of parent to child. It turns out that mom was a pretty fascinating person who had survived some interesting life experiences. If I had one more day, I tell her this, and I would thank her for sharing ‘our’ adoption experience with me.
I believe that, like most children, I had never really spent any time thinking of my parents as a couple. When I was cleaning out her home I found a photograph of my mom and dad in an embrace, kissing in a doorway, hamming it up for the photographer. It made me reflect on them as a young couple, meeting, marrying, and planning to start a family. On the promise of steady work and a better life, they had followed the railway and moved from Barry’s Bay to Cochrane, Ontario where my dad’s sister had already settled and was raising her family. My dad enjoyed a long career with the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) until his retirement when he was around 55 years old. I reflected about their excitement and nervousness as mom and dad started their new Northern Ontario adventure. I remember the wistfulness on my mother’s face when she talked about her and dad deciding to start a family. I remember mom talking about my tiny lost siblings and the heartbreak of those miscarriages. I always known about it, but honestly never really thought much about it. I was a kid after all. I remember wondering, as a young teen, what would have become of me if my parents had been able to give birth to children. But, I never thought about the impact on my mother, and on my parents as a couple, of having those miscarriages. If I had one more day, I would tell mom I was sorry she had to experience all of that, especially while living so far away from her mom.
Mom would sometimes talk about her early life, living with her parents and younger siblings. She reminisced about being the one to rock her youngest brother in his cradle while her mother did all the other things a wife and mother of five young children had to get done in a day. In addition to her family, my granny cared for a garden, some animals, and a two storey, wood heated home, all without running water or plumbing. When she was young, my mother had significant spinal issues and missed a lot of school, making her more of a help around the home than she would have liked. Mom talked about growing their own food, canning and preserving, as well as raising chickens, pigs, and turkeys for . . . well, you know what for. In fact, as I was looking through papers related to selling the house I saw that the property had historically been zoned,’residential-farm’. If I had one more day, I would pay better attention when mom talked about “in them days”.
When one of my uncles came for a final walk around of his childhood home before its sale I gifted him some pictures that I had found. He was genuinely thrilled to receive them and he quickly flipped though the photos while identifying aunt after uncle after great aunts and uncles. It turns out that it was I who actually received the gift as my uncle walked me through picture after picture on a journey of his and my mother’s childhood. He showed me a photo of the property when it was more of a small farm than I had ever truly realized. I would have had no idea that was a photo of the property I had up for sale to be honest. Unknowingly, my uncle gave me a whole new lens on their childhood. I had grown up with some of the stories but the visual brought home what life had really been like. If I had one more day, I would look through those pictures with mom.
When I was a kid my mom used to bake buns that my brother and I could have used as hockey pucks. My father would tease her constantly about that. My mom was a great cook and baker, but could never bake buns or bread. Her excuse was that she had had eczema when she was young and her mother would not let her touch the dough to help knead it. She also said her eczema got her out of washing dishes, much to my aunt’s dismay. But I digress. When my parents retired (early, due to my dad’s health) they moved back to Barry’s Bay where my maternal grandmother was still living. They moved into my paternal grandmother’s house that then belonged to some of dad’s relatives. There were only about three blocks between the two homes. Personally, I believe my mother secretly got lessons from my granny because suddenly mom became the best bun baker in Barry’s Bay. Her buns quickly became legendary and were sought after by many of my relatives and my parents’ friends. Mom’s buns were now happily eaten by hockey players instead of using them as pucks! When my mother was basking in her bun fame I was busy raising my own young family and so, when I would visit, I simply enjoyed eating them more than learning how to bake those buns. If I had one more day, I would ask her to show me her secret to kneading that dough.
My mother was a patient teacher when it came to cards. She would teach you the game rules, and then walk you through all the tricks and how to best play your hand in an effort to win the game. However, once you learned the game, such as euchre or cribbage, she was merciless. I think I have mentioned before that we bought mom an iPad for her 90th birthday and when she began playing cribbage on that, sadly she lost her ability to count as the virtual game counts for you. So, instead of playing cribbage, a dear friend taught mom a card game called Golf that she came to love (almost as much as cribbage). She picked up that game in no time and, though her memory was failing, she never forgot what card she needed in order to win, or more importantly, what card she needed to keep to prevent you from winning! She might not have known who she was playing the game with but she’d be damned before she would let you win a game! If I had one more day, I’d happily lose another card game to mom.
Those of you who knew her are aware of what a great seamstress mom was and the wonderful projects she would knit or crochet, she could even tat! Some of you might need to look up what tatting is, and it is an art form that may be lost in the next generation in this country, or may have already been lost. People would come to mom to have pants and skirts hemmed, zippers replaced, and all kinds of alterations made, well into her late 60s. My mother could even darn socks, whichu means to fix a hole in socks to make them last longer, essentially you are sewing over the original knitting to mend the sock and get more wear out of it. When people would shockingly realize that I do none of those things, sew, crochet, knit, and for sure, tat, I had something I would always say by way of explanation. I would flippantly say, “Mom was a very talented seamstress, knitter, etc. but she was not a great teacher. She would lose her patience with me and just take over the project.” Suddenly I realize that instead of expecting mom to be a more patient teacher, if I had one more day, I would be a more patient student.
I knew and will remember my mother as my mom, my model, and my teacher, with all her flaws and strengths, and her undying love for me. If I had one more day, though that would still not be long enough, I would pay closer attention so I could better get to know the woman that other people knew and learn more about my mother as the sister, aunt, cousin, colleague, and friend that people described to me at her wake, at the lunch after her funeral, in their beautiful cards, or in conversations since she left us. My mother made a difference in her time here. This was even more evident as people talked about, or wrote about, mom’s kindness, her generosity, her gratefulness, and of course, her smile. If only I had one more day.
As ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time, thanks for reading.
Waterworks (ongoing saga)
Welcome back to Blogville my friend. Today I am drinking a ginger turmeric tea blend as we visit. I know that this is the Holiday Season and I am not sure how much that is going to influence this blog, but I know that grief will continue to be evident in my words, because it continues to walk with me every day. I appreciate your company on this difficult journey, but know that if you too are grieving, there may be triggers in my words.
I feel grief most strongly as I experience the conflict between the adult executrix and the grieving little girl. The adult executrix selling mom’s house for all those practical reasons while the little girl stomps her feet in protest is one example. Believe me, I often envied that little girl’s ability to protest my own decisions. In my last blog I spoke about having to decide the fate of all the articles in mom’s home. I had to make those hard choices despite the strength in that little girl’s wish to preserve everything, every decorative plate, special fork, knitting needle, and pretty sweater that held a memory or a scent. It was my wish to keep it all too, as my mother’s daughter. But I also had to acknowledge that my mother left me the role of executrix because she trusted me and had faith in my decision making ability. That faith in me, so bittersweet.
I think the little girl analogy explains the water works I continue to experience suddenly and unexpectedly. I unexpectedly cry all the time and for the silliest reasons, or sometimes no reason at all, just a feeling, or a sudden reminder or thought of mom. Someone will ask me a simple question and I find myself tearing up and struggling to speak. As embarrassed as I often am there is a part of me that wants to give in, throw myself down in defeat and cry until no more tears can form.
What’s wrong with me? Mom was 97 years old I remind myself, a part of me has been half-expecting this and trying to prepare for her passing, but all the rationalization fails me while that little girl screams “I want my mommy!” I just want to yell “Me Too!, I want my mommy too”. Somehow, I don’t think that would be appropriate at the bank, in line at Tim Hortons, or at Walmart in the gluten-free aisle so the adult me holds it together, well, mostly.
I have now returned back to my home community, surrounded by family and friends once again. Remarkably though, still mostly alone. I’m discovering that grief is a lonely journey. Well, just me and that little girl prone to some pretty big feelings!
The other sad reality is that just because I am home does not mean that the work stops. Preparing thank you cards is a good example. I would honestly rather call or give you a thank you hug. People who know me are aware that I do not send out Christmas cards (except for the one I would send my mother) and that card sending is not something I enjoy. It’s just an inexplicable thing with me. I mean, I barely got my wedding invitations out all those years ago. Spending three hours on that task left me emotionally drained because with every thank you card I prepared, I relived each kindness I was thanking people for. My tears made it hard to write the addresses.
As I was placing a thank you card in one of the envelopes my husband put our mail on the table. Anxious for a distraction I started opening the mail. There were sympathy cards from caring relatives and one Christmas card. Suddenly I realized that in your house now, among your Christmas cards, our thank you card will rest. The very idea of that made me burst into tears. See? Crying for the silliest reason.
Though there is still much to do, the pace is slowing as the urgent decisions and duties are behind me, but somehow this pace serves only to speed up my thoughts. I was washing my hair the other morning and instead of thinking about which box to pack or unpack, I thought about how I would curl my mother’s hair when I would visit and how she loved that. I think there were more tears coming out of my eyes than water out of the shower head. See? I’m crying now just thinking about that, how such a simple thing brought her so much joy.
For heaven’s sake, the other day when I was looking for an estate paper I needed, I moved a pizza flyer out of my way. I flashed back to how we had to special order a pizza for mom because she was gluten-free and lactose intolerant. A pizza flyer for God’s sake!! Cried my eyes out. Then I remembered how one of my best friends is also gluten-free, maybe she will let me order her a pizza for nostalgia’s sake. Scrolling through Notes on my phone I came upon one of the GF recipes I would use for mom, and it was like looking at your child’s baby pictures on their wedding day. Yep, crying.
I notice how many times a day now that I have random thoughts of mom and it leads me to wonder if I used to have those when she was still here, and question that if I had, was I too busy to act on them? I think back to the many times I would think of mom and look at the clock to see if it would be a good time to call her and then get busy or distracted and forget to call. I don’t know how many times that happened but in regretful hindsight, once was too many. Or I would call and she would say, “Oh Ruth is here playing cards.” Or “That Burchat girl is here visiting.” Or “My girl is here to help me with my shower.” I would always say, “Ok, mom, I’ll call you back.” But I rarely did, at least not that same day.
When I was cleaning out mom’s house I found little notes in many places with my brother’s home number, his cell number, and my home number. This was why I have always said I will keep my landline as long as my mother is alive. That sentence, once innocuous, now brings a flood of tears. Did I really think I would never see the day I would be cancelling my landline? On the rare occasion that it rings the little girl in me looks anxiously at the caller ID with the hope that it will be mom. So if you call my landline and you hear it picked up but no one says hello, listen for the tears. Don’t hang up though, just give me a sec ok?
Every thing I read about grief and grieving is the path I am now walking. The brain fog that has me looking everywhere for her locket when it is in my other hand, check, the displaced anger when I cannot open that package and start yelling at it, yep, yelling at a brick of cheese, that’s me, or the inability to decorate the house, or a tree, in anticipation of the holidays, check.
If I seem detached, I am, because my new reality is weird and I’m not sure how to present myself. Poor bank employees, Tim Horton’s staff, retailers and other helpful people. Often we will be talking about the most innocent things when suddenly they find themselves on the phone or face to face with a blubbering mess. I think somewhere inside, maybe it is safer to cry with them? I am grateful for how they always respond to my apology, not by hanging up or walking away, but instead by saying, “It’s ok, take your time, I understand.” I thank them for that (but I cannot possibly write and address another thank you note, sorry).
My mother was the most amazing, kind and caring person. So many people tell me wonderful stories of how she made a difference in their lives. It is funny how much a person influences others without those closest to them every really being aware isn’t it? I feel that it shows how humble mom was, and how genuine in her acts. She did things for people simply because they needed her, or she wanted to, with never a thought to how they might be grateful. My mother acted without any motivation other than to help another human being.
Mom would always say that she wanted to be a nurse but ‘life got in the way’. You would have made a wonderful nurse mom. I may have said this in another blog but my mother raised my brother and I to always smile and say hello first when encountering another person. I remember her saying, “Don’t wait to smile back, smile first, because it may be the best thing to happen in that person’s day.” Let’s all work at carrying on that legacy. Let’s all smile first in memory of my mother.
Thank you for visiting with me in Blogville, as ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at email@example.com. See you next time, thanks for reading.
Huge trigger alert on this one. If you are adopted or have recently lost a parent, this blog is raw. It is raw because writing is how I process, and I really need to process this. Again, Orange Pekoe tea with milk, my favourite and my mom’s favourite. Thanks for joining me today. 🤗
So as you probably know, I lost my mother on October 31, 2022. She lived 97 years, most of it in very good health and active in her community. I have already talked about the “final arrangements” and all that that brings forward. Now lets talk about the aftermath and the quiet. The flurry of activity and support is gone. In my case, this is partly due to the distance between where my mother lived and where I live, a 7 hour drive. Now a 7 hour drive in winter conditions, I do not feel worth that risk to my family or friends, and so I am alone in a town where I know so few people.
When one is left so completely alone with grief it is the loudest silence I have ever heard. In all the post-death flurry I was being hugged by cousins, most of whom I have not seen face to face since my dad’s funeral almost 15 years ago, and friends that made the long trek to be with me. I was receiving the sympathies of the Catholic Women’s League, of which mom had been a member for 66 years, prayers from the Sacred Heart League, and a few people who knew her came to the funeral home to offer their condolences. It had never occurred to me that not only do you notice who has come, but also who has not. It’s like a weird sub-conscious roll call. People are so kind when you are grieving, when your pain is fresh and raw. Then, they are gone. Those of you who have reached out or called since then, thank you, it means a lot to me while I travel this new hellish journey.
Now, I am responsible for cleaning out a four bedroom, two storey home that my mother moved into when she was 9 years old, left and lived her life in Toronto, spent her summers working at various resorts, spent most of her married adult life in Cochrane, Ontario until retiring back to Barry’s Bay, caring for her mother, and finally buying and moving into her childhood home again when her mother passed away. As you can imagine, this means clearing out my mother’s things, as well as many of my grandmother’s things. The cleaning out of the home is not the point of this blog, the emotions are.
I have picked up and held every glass, photograph, letter, army papers, cribbage boards, knitting books, quilt books, and many little mementos of my youth, my grandmother’s life, and my parents’ lives, it’s fate resting on my shoulders. I donated 18 decks of playing cards to a local organization, just to give you an idea. For everything I touch I need to decide: keep; donate; give to a family member; or throw it away. Of course I also consult with my brother about what he wants to keep and then, alone, decide the fate of the items he does not want. When he gets overwhelmed by these decisions he simply leaves and goes to his apartment, about 5 blocks away. I find myself alone often, in the deafening silence of this home now devoid of its owner, alone with myself, now devoid of my mother.
Little things that remind me of mom the most are the hardest decisions. Her tea cozy, so badly stained from pouring tea while having thousands of conversations with friends, family, and neighbours. Stained or not, into the ‘keep’ box. Her clothes, boxed up for those in need, but one sweater stashed away in my suitcase, in the hopes of capturing her scent. I admit I had to go back into the winter coat donation bag because I drove here on short notice in late fall, and find myself still here in early winter. Why did you have such short arms mom, when mine are so long. “As long as your chest is warm.” I hear her say as I put on her coat and go shovel the driveway and her beloved deck. I shovel just in case she wants to walk out and see her apple tree that she grew from a store apple seed, “So many people said it would never grow! Look at the apples on it.” she would say with pride. The tree that is still here, while she is not.
Eating while grieving is already a chore, eating alone while grieving is a nightmare. So mostly I just don’t, I pick at this or that so when my family asks what I’m eating I’ll have an honest answer. I know that packing, going up and down the stairs carrying boxes and bags, brooms and mops, as well as carrying garbage bag after garbage bag outside are all calorie burning activities, but eating alone is such a sad thing. Sometimes when I start eating I find myself overcome with regret. Maybe I could have called and chatted with mom sometimes while she ate. Since I have been here these few weeks, I feel like I lived a little of mom’s life in her last few years and it makes me cry. I think of all the meals my mother ate alone because she had outlived most of her family members and friends. When I sit here hoping someone will call just to break the monotony of aloneness I think of how many times I could have, and should have called her. In hindsight, I could have called while she was eating and chatted with her on speaker phone. Why is this affecting me so strongly? Perhaps it is to inspire those of you who have time to do this for your loved one who lives alone? Just do it, so regret does not fill your pillow case with tears like mine has done. Call them.
It may be cliché but honestly the silence is deafening. I wonder if it is not as much the silence that feels weird but the loneliness. To sit here believing that not one person is thinking of you right now and picking up the phone to check in on you makes the ticking of the clock even louder, or the traffic sounds more noticeable as the odd car drives by. Try it, stop for two minutes and hear the sounds you can hear because you have stopped being busy. That is the sound of being alone. I still wake up at night wondering who is crying, until it occurs to me that it is me. Or I wake up because I hear the phantom sounds my mother made when I would be staying here with her, realize that I will never hear those sounds again, and cry. It amazes me how much crying one person can do and how suddenly it overwhelms. Dropping one of her knitting needles makes a sound I understand that I will never hear again because she can no longer drop it, cry. The unmistakable creak of her chair at the kitchen table as she played cards, never creaking the same way again, cry. When the calls did come I cannot describe how grateful I felt, that you were there, thinking of me and breaking the silence, even briefly.
Now I must acknowledge my adult adopted person pain specifically. I have talked before about the curse of feeling different sometimes because I was adopted, and how I take things to heart and relate them to my adoption. Believe me, this is not on purpose, and I feel the feelings subconsciously before my conscious self tells me I’m being ridiculous. Like, are people not wrapping around me the same way because I did not lose my “real” mother, and so I’m probably fine? Am I able to give away family pictures to family members more easily because I can’t look for resemblances to myself or my children and grandchildren in these ancestral pictures? Instead, I feel like biological family members should have the old photos because they can make those comparisons. When I look at the few pictures I have squirrelled away to take home I note that they are pictures of my granny, whom I once lived with for 3 months, and of my parents, my brother and me. All other photos are packed away for my aunts, uncles or cousins.
Many people at the funeral mentioned to me that they had always found it uncanny how much I look like my mother (but tall like her mother) and how much I am like my mother in personality, even though I was adopted, (they always add that like a sad qualifier, that punches me in the gut, every time). Sometimes I feel like I should take out a photo of my birth mother so they can compare which one I look more like, but that would be rude. I was raised better than that. I was raised by my mother and my father, not my ‘adopted’ mother and father. I was raised to be a good and kind person and they nurtured a sense of humour that usually gets me through the worst of times. It is hard to be funny with just yourself as the audience. Although, if you ever get a chance to see my mother’s headstone . . . I warned her not to die on Halloween and she defied me! Who has the last laugh mom?
I just need to be clear. I loved my mother like a daughter loves her mother, not like an adopted daughter loves her adoptive mother, and I grieve for her with everything in me. Enough said.
Thank you for visiting with me in Blogville, as ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time, thanks for reading.
No one’s child
Hello my Blogville friends, welcome back. Today is simple orange pekoe tea with milk, it’s what mom and I drank when we were together so it brings some comfort. Trigger alert if you are grieving.
As many of you know I just lost my beautiful momma and my world is a little less colourful right now. I feel though, that it is important to talk about all of this. Maybe it will help normalize things a little for some who have walked this sad journey already, or perhaps help prepare some who may be about to. Maybe it will just help me to write about it, I’m not sure.
Walking away from the hospital where I had my last few moments with my mother felt surreal. But I found strength in the story of how excited mom had been to surprise dad when I took my first few steps, how she watched bemused at how panicked my father was as she let go of my hands and her description of how he dropped everything and ran to catch me. As I walked to my vehicle I thought, maybe dad is running to catch mom now, just as he had run to catch me, in another time. It was hunting season then too, dad was just returning from his hunt camp when I learned how to walk. In her last few years mom would wonder aloud why dad hadn’t come for her yet, questioning why she was still here. Getting into my truck and driving away from the hospital the night we lost her I hoped that he had finally come for her as I again took my first few steps, this time sadly, without my parents’ help.
When I arrived back at her house from the hospital and let myself in there was such loud silence. I never realized how much the silence actually hurts your ears. Though I had already been staying alone for several days and nights at mom’s it felt like there had been this sound, or that, to keep me company. I wonder if they had been the sounds of optimism and the hope that mom might yet come home, now silenced by my new reality. There would be no homecoming. Only the sound of my own voice on the phone telling relatives and friends that mom was gone broke the silence that night. At one point, I remember wondering who was sobbing and then realizing it could only be me.
Those of you who have travelled this journey understand the irony of complete exhaustion being in full conflict with the hyperactivity of one’s mind and thoughts. My subconscious system of hope and disbelief filled the night with the sounds of the tap tapping of her cane, her walker humming along the floorboards with the slight click of the brake handle, the beeping and electric hum of her stair chair ferrying her off to bed, and the staccato of a deck of cards being shuffled, in turn, all making me sit up suddenly in my bed at different times with a sense of hope that momentarily released me from my despair. A hope that quickly faded as I realized that those sounds must have been in my dreams because my reality was a nightmare.
I had told mom that when she went, I would not cry for her, because I knew she was ready. I had also told her I would cry for me because I would never be ready to lose her, and I was right. I was so naive. I had no idea of the enormity of feelings that would overwhelm everything in me, the sense of loss so immediate and unexpectedly cruel. Crying was the easy part. I had no idea. The adult in me appreciated that she was no longer confused and uncomfortable but the child in me yelled “Come back Momma I’m not ready!” I stomped my feet, pouted, and crossed my arms in protest, all to no avail. She was gone, I was motherless. I fell into the abyss of grief.
Suddenly the abyss was filled with questions and decisions. Just as I tried to run I was tethered to a workhorse called, “Final Arrangements” and as I hit the saddle I was in for one heck of a ride! It felt a little like this, ‘casket, singers, luncheon, obituary, jewelry on or jewelry off, this person’s availability at that person’s time frame, viewing times, pall bearers, making sure he has been notified, she has been notified, they have been notified, selecting collage pictures, choosing and ordering flowers, determining charities, meeting with this person, that person, decide, decide, decide’. So many death certificates, who has been notified? Who can notify others?’ Suddenly they expected me to act like an adult when I had just been orphaned. Overwhelmingly it occurred to me, I am no one’s child anymore.
The hospital had gently handed me a list of things to do. It felt more like an encyclopedia of finality. Do they really expect me to be the one to wipe out my mother’s existence as a human being? Ours is a country of accountability before compassion as I had never really understood before now. It seems that a paper trail is started at our births and runs along beside us until the roll is empty, like some sad allotment of toilet paper. Ultra soft, regular, industrial strength, 1 ply, 2 ply, single or double roll . . . all minor details because in the end we are left with an empty cardboard roll.
When a baby is born it is relatively easy to create their existence in this Province. Fill out a couple of forms, get the correct signatures on them and a new identity is formed! Even in the case of adoption, the Court can create a new identity on top of the original identity! Wait 6 or 8 weeks and you can apply for the start of that paper trail, known as your birth certificate, or in the case of adoption, an Adoption Order and amended birth certificate. Either way, welcome to planet Earth, we hope you enjoy the ride. Don’t worry, we can follow your paper trail.
As I said earlier, the trail from life to ‘final arrangements’ is fraught with rights and wrongs! From who should read and what should they read, to who will sing, what should they sing, and to what should we have for the luncheon to follow the service? From what should she wear (mom and I had that discussion several years earlier and I highly recommend it. I even took pictures of the outfits she had preselected) to what should I wear? She had only picked out tops though so now I had to decide between a skirt or comfy pants for her? Would I want to wear a skirt for eternity? Comfy pants it is! Comfy footwear too. Now I just had to pick out what I should wear! Not much selection when you threw clothes into a suitcase after receiving a frantic call saying, “You better come Lynn, it doesn’t look good for mom.”
If you have walked this path will understand it when I say it is incredible how many times I thought, ‘oh, well I’ll just ask mom’ only to be struck dumb by the shock of the realization that she cannot tell me, I have to figure it out on my own. Only you can understand standing in the grocery store crying over the selection of yogurt available. When I say that a sound, a laugh, a noise, can suddenly make your eyes burn and fill with tears, you get it. The formality of making final arrangements is both a curse and a blessing of having to decide things, having to attend things, and some days, simply having to get out of bed.
Those of you who have travelled this path will also understand that just when you think you cannot, you can, because there are people who walk beside you, strangers, relatives, your friends, friends of your loved one, people you expect to see, people you are surprised to see, and each of them holds you up in some way, helping you put one foot in front of the other. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel toward all of you who have or are currently helping me to understand this new reality and begin my new, now motherless, journey, a sad journey where I am no longer anyone’s child.
As ever, I welcome your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Lynn Deiulis' personal and professional journey sparked a passion to write a book that offers an opportunity for children to learn about how they came to be living together as a family or living with another family.