Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Answers. And Questions.

I've been debating for most of the afternoon and this evening over whether or not to write about this. I've talked with a couple of close friends and the Husband about it, but I'm dealing with some info that is tugging at my heart, making my head pound and causing me to question much of what has gone on in my life. Before I get too far ahead of myself here, let's go back to the beginning.

It was the spring of 1977. I was a chubby 3rd grader with long pigtails and a crush on Donny Osmond. My mom and I lived in a small yet cozy house. I'm sure she struggled financially, as she received no child support from my father, but we managed. Throughout the end of winter and the early part of spring, my mom started gaining weight. I recall saying something in a joking way, and she just laughed it off. I really didn't think much about it, being nine years old and stuff like that just didn't stay on my radar for long.

One night, my mom woke me up saying that she was sick, and my aunt was coming over to take her to the hospital. It gets kind of weird here, because there are some random details that I recall very clearly, and other things that I should remember, I just don't. For example, I remember wanting to wear a green dress with white polka-dots, but my mom said no. But I couldn't tell you what month or day it was. Anyway. My aunt took my mom to the hospital, and I went to stay with my aunt's boyfriend. We'll call him 'James' because I think that might have been his name, but I'm not totally sure.

James let me drink coke and stay up late watching TV. He must have sensed that I was worried about my mom, because he said that she would be fine just as soon as she had the baby. What? What baby? Maybe somewhere in the back of my 9-year old mind I knew James was on to something, but I decided that maybe James had had a few too many beers and he probably just didn't know what he was talking about.

The next morning, my aunt came to pick me up, and she took me home. I asked her if my mom had a baby, and she simply said 'no'. The next day, my mom came home, no baby. So, there. There was no baby, so obviously James had been hitting the Schlitz a little too hard and didn't know what he was talking about. Sometime after that, I remember my mom tearfully explaining that she had a tumor that had to be cut out of her stomach, and that she had been really sick. I suppose the story could have ended here, but it doesn't. As I got older, I began to wonder why, if my mom had a tumor, they had sent her home with a diaper bag filled with nursing pads and those gargantuan sanitary napkins women used to wear. What was that all about?

As years went by, I would occasionally come back to this event and wonder, 'what if'? Surely though, if my mom had a baby, I would know. I often thought about asking my aunt, and last year decided that I would ask her, but unfortunately she died before I got that chance.

With my mom's recent diagnosis with dementia, I began to wonder about this again. Today my cousin emailed me to ask how my mom was doing. I replied, giving her the update, and said that I missed her mom, because there was so much I wanted to ask her, that I never got to ask. She replied that my aunt would have answered anything I would have asked her. So I asked my cousin- did my mom have a baby in 1977?

She replied. Yes, she did, and yes, she gave it up for adoption. Between my cousin and I, there's not a lot of information to go on. My cousin thinks my aunt said the baby was a girl. Not knowing the date of birth, though, really gums things up. And, the hospital where my mom had the baby was torn down years ago.

I feel terrible for my mom that she went through this. I think there were several reasons she gave the baby up. First, I'm pretty certain that the baby would have been bi-racial. If so, my mom's family would have written her off completely. For her to have a child with a black man would have been the ultimate transgression in their eyes. I don't think my mom was even dating this man for very long. And, there was just no way she could have afforded to raise two kids. She could barely afford to raise me.

I understand so much more about why my mom is so negative and so bitter. This changed her drastically. I never really knew why my mom was so sad all the time, but I think a lot of it comes from this event. It explains so much. And even though I think I've known this to be true on some level, it's still a shock to hear that I was right about it.

I don't know yet if I want to find this person. I don't think I have enough information to even start a search. Somewhere, there's someone who may look like me, or maybe my mom. There's a 32-year old woman somewhere out there, who may have questions about who she is. Is she married, does she have a family of her own? Was she fortunate enough to be adopted in to a loving family? Or did she grow up in the foster care system, bouncing from house to house?

For a long time, I have wanted a solid answer to this question, Did my mom give a baby up for adoption? And now, while I feel relief to have the answer, I have more questions than ever. And I have no idea how I will get the answers.


Clayvessel said...

Would you mind if a lurker you've never met made a comment?

Assuming no, you wouldn't...

My MIL had dementia and I took care of her for about six years as she got worse and worse. I could tell you a million stories and my dh says I should write a book but I don't know if I would survive it. I'll just say that one of the effects of her dementia was that she thought her son, my dh, was her husband and that I was the Other Woman. So she didn't like me much. Sometimes. Sometimes she got it and was fine.

I'm sure you already know that your mother has good days and bad days with the mental issues. The files in her brain probably just get messed up and some things get buried. I would bet though that all the info you would want is still there and could come out, bit by bit, and may even without your asking. I found out all kinds of interesting things from my MIL when she had a memory triggered by some benign thing.

Maybe there is a good relational reason you can't ask your mother what you want to know but someday you simply won't be able to any more if you wanted to. And maybe no one else will be able to answer questions either. The window of time to ask may be short. Also, I found that my MIL, as her dementia progressed, lost that propriety that made her keep things secret. She became like a child that was easily open and kind of detached and didn't mind talking about things she wouldn't have in her younger days.

Someday your mother will be gone and that mystery person may come along with her own questions and the road really will be closed.

Something to think about. Like you need anything more.

Excuse me if I am talking out of turn.
Best wishes to you,

Kelley said...

Pam, thank you for de-lurking and commenting!

You've said so much that I've thought of over the past week or so. I even said to my best friend today that I wondered if at some point my mom would say something, not realizing fully what she was saying.

I would love to be able to sit down and just tell her 'I know, and it's ok', but she and I just don't have that relationship. Our relationship has always been hard, and there's not much affection there. So I don't know how to best approach the whole situation, at least not yet.

I really do appreciate your post, and please, feel free to post any time!

Thank you!

Clayvessel said...

Back again. Got me thinking.

One thing about dementia- the victims tend to forget the recent past while recalling more vividly the distant past. In fact, they sink farther back in time. My MIL thought her place here was the one she grew up in. She insisted that if I took her into the kitchen she could climb the stairs into her room, etc. All kinds of things from the past came out. But she'd forget who I was. It's entirely possible the same will happen to your mother and in a way your relationship with her will get easier. You'll become this nice lady she knows and not her daughter with a strained relationship. Something to look forward to. :-) Then who knows what you could talk about!

Or I could be full of crap.

Lurker Girl said...

Wow--what a huge amount of information for you to have to digest at such a hard time.

I don't know what I would do if I were in your shoes. Are you open to knowing this person? Do you have the support of your family--because man you are going to need it. If they are tellig you to let it lie, I don't know how much emotional support they will give you.

Again--I don't know what I would do and I am sure you are very confused as well. Try asking your mom abut it and see what she says--can't hurt....

Good Luck Kel!