Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: two by two by two, plus one - Part 2

...and thus my little sibling party grew, 
two by two by two...

But who were these latest two? I had a million questions and only a handful of answers, and the answers I did have I could not reconcile in my mind. 

I tried to imagine a life where welfare and WIC did not yet exist. Because of the situation with Jimmy and Jackie, I was already struggling with the concept of a life where parents got divorced and a father who was alive would choose not to care for his children... These concepts had not previously existed to any great extent in my life let alone in my mind, but I had summed it up as my dad's polio being the cause of all that had happened in his first marriage. That was something I could reconcile, until now. 

I tried to imagine a mom, my mom, giving away her precious little children. Would you not do anything humanly possible to keep them? But of course the concept of what it was really like to be a mom also did not exist yet in my mind. 

I struggled with the biggest concept and the fear that accompanied it, that children were expendable... expendable... As defined, "Of little significance when compared to an overall purpose and therefore able to be abandoned". Was I expendable? Fear is not always a rational emotion particularly when you pair it with a lack of life experience and understanding.  

There was also the never ending struggle with my intense desire to know my brothers and the feeling that I was being denied something that was rightfully mine. I wanted a big brother. Someone to pick on me like big brothers do, tease me and help me with my homework. Someone to protect me... 

I lived a life of insecurity. Somehow, even as a small child I knew that my dad could not protect me while paralyzed from the neck down. After he died, my inner fear grew. When we moved north, away from any other men in my family it intensified and when my mom spent the majority of my teenage years in the hospital with asthma, Liz and I were alone. 

Two teenage girls, alone in a small community where everyone knows everyone and they all know you are alone. We became the 'summer project' for the community's Peeping Tom. The police told my mom, "Don't worry, he just looks". Can you imagine hearing that news while lying helpless in a hospital bed? Knowing some creep is looking at your girls and there is nothing you can do, and nothing the police will do. Sadly, that was only one of several bad things that happened and in comparison, it was harmless. I struggled on, big brother-less and mostly alone, knowing that somewhere 'out there' I had brothers.

Michael and John were not babies when they were given up. They were probably at least 5 and 6. Old enough to know... and to remember... The story my mother shared with me of the day she took them to the courthouse put a crack in my heart for those boys that will never be repaired. She told Michael what was happening and he said, "Does this mean I will never see you again?", "Yes", she said, "That's what this means.". I can't begin to express the sadness I had for them, the desire I had to tell them they were loved. I was sure that moment had ruined their lives.

I struggled with all of this for a long time, I mean a really, really long time. Okay, honest statement... I still struggle with parts of it. Now that I've been a mom for 29 years I can better understand that a mom who truly loves her children will do whatever she thinks is best for them, even if that means letting someone else raise them and never seeing them again. I can better understand that her flat out refusal to find them stemmed from guilt and fear that she had ruined their lives, not a lack of love. 

My second experience with the secret envelope came nearly 13 years after my first. I was nearing 28 and my second child, my sweet little Max with his swirly little cowlick right in the middle of his forehead, was soon to celebrate his first birthday. 

Mom, who was always very good with her other grandchildren, spent much of her time avoiding him. It hurt my heart and I didn't understand why. She hardly ever held him, or cuddled him, in fact she tried not to even look at him. 

One day, out of the blue, she handed me the envelope and told me I should keep it. She was in her first relationship since my dad died so many years before, with a man who would eventually become my step-dad, and she didn't want him to know about the boys. Having had her secret found out once already because of the envelope, she didn't trust her ability to keep it hidden and destroying it was inconceivable. Thus she called on me to keep her secret for her...

"Promise me you won't look for them."

"I promise"...

When I got home I opened the envelope with so much... so much, everything... fear, excitement, relief, anger, weight, responsibility... The entirety of their existence in my life was now in my hands. There is not one human word that fits all that I felt. I laid my eyes, for the second time ever, on the pictures of those adorable little boys, my brothers, and in an instant I understood my mother's avoidance of Max. He may not have looked exactly like Michael, but that swirly little cowlick in the middle of his forehead, that precious hair I fussed over all the time, was staring back at me.

Had she loved it as much as I loved Max's? Had she traced it with her finger over and over as he lay in her arms?  I came face to face with a small fragment of her pain and it helped me understand.

Many years passed and many times I was sure the time had come to break the promise. But where to start? I had information, probably enough to go on but the fear of hurting my mom, of lying to her and breaking my promise always seemed to help me find excuses not to start.

As computers and the internet became more of my world, I would occasionally type their names into a search engine, toying with the idea of pressing enter... sometimes I did, but nothing ever came up. Once I went so far as to contact an agency that specialized in finding people who had been adopted. I had a couple conversations with them but in the end, didn't proceed any further.

I wrestled with myself for so long and asked myself every question in the world I could think of. I played out every scenario in my mind as to how it all might come to pass, what their lives might be like... fear, always fear. The envelope ever present on my desk, waiting for me... the fear, ever present with it, always won.

And then I turned 50. The realization that over half my life was done sank in. If I was 50 they were 63 and 64 and that was a stark reality that rocked my world. It didn't send the fear running but it made me courageous in the face of it.

One quiet night in April of 2014, I contacted my uncle and told him what I was about to do. I wanted him to hear it from me, not facebook and I wanted him to know I was not telling my mom. She was already beyond the beginning stages of dementia now and I thought it would take so long to find them that by the time I did... well lets just say I hoped she would never comprehend what I had done.  

I posted their pictures on facebook with the information I knew and sent it out into the world. I found a website called and I registered. They assigned me a 'Search Angel' as they call them, her name was Judy. She sent me an email and I answered her questions. Then I waited...

People shared the post on facebook, people from all over that I didn't even know.

And I waited some more... and I wrestled some more.

"Promise me you won't look for them."

"I promise"...

There was no turning back.

This story is part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on my link. Thanks!

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