Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stories

I have to revisit the photo of the beach chairs and the umbrella ocean side fairly often these days. It is still cold here at home and although the daffodils and forsythia are making a showing, I still feel as though spring is quite far away. The pundits of weather are calling a couple days next week in the 70's so I suppose that might be true, just not fast enough for me.

So much happened between my ears while I was away (which sounds pretty funny-- as if I'm saying that this is a unique situation)------ and I feel compelled to share.

If you are not so much into the sharing thing and only here for the knitty and quilty bits, I suggest you come back in a week or so and by then I will have something to show you.

I'd SO longed for vacation, it had been too long and to say I was profoundly weary is a huge understatement. Pulling out of home with the car packed to the gills and the dogs in tow felt good, really good. My brother had passed away long enough so it was no longer shocking, but still recently enough that my heart was sore. His wife had decided upon the date for the memorial service and I could not go. During the vacation was a contracted event (the self employed work at every chance after all) that I was bound to. I hated it but made my peace. My brother and I were as close as 15 years together could make us, 15 years of emails and phone calls and seeing each other not often enough. He was my birth brother, the second youngest living way out in California. In the birth order I am the oldest followed with a year apart three brothers, like stair steps, boom boom, and boom. Over the span of my life I always knew I was adopted, my Mother told me the story repeatedly at my request. How she loved me from the second she met me there in the hospital bassinet, looking at her with big brown eyes that promised much. Really I was quite fortunate. My adoptive parents were pretty great, I had everything I needed and much that I did not. Even today 15 years after my Mother's passing I laugh to remember her oft said statement, "Children only need the best education their parent's can afford and a bicycle!" I had both and much, much more. I even had a car when I turned 16, an ice blue C*orvair that my boyfriend and I added a sweet stereo system and a Cherry Bomb Muffler. It was my Mom's old car, given to me when she upgraded to a sassy little tomato red Toyot*a. She had given me a copy of my original birth certificate when I was about 13, "just because" and I did a hunt of sorts. Nothing turned up. Well, one day I placed a phone call to the name on that aging piece of paper and said "I know you don't know me but my birthday is April X. Does that mean anything to you?". The woman's voice on the other end of the line said "Honey, I know what you are saying but I don't know who you are". Disappointed I stopped looking. Today I realize that I reached someone in the family that day, someone that wasn't ready to step into a new relationship. I've lived long enough to know for a fact that timing is everything. It was okay, not like I was heartbroken or anything, I had parents- a brother- a life. That was the summer I was visiting family (where my birth parents lived and had since I was born) and Jim Morrison died in Paris. In a funny way I was more upset about the demise of the Doors.

The Internet popped on the scene and I was right there with my IBM 286 and a connection that today would drive me insane with its speed. How I loved being able to explore and even make friends with people I'd never met, it was heady stuff. Remember the early days of P*rodigy? From there on a whim I found a group that was comprised of children and birth parents separated by adoption. Alone in the house one afternoon with my youngest child sleeping I logged on to the forum with my birthdate and parents names. Less than four hours later the phone rang.

"Hello? Tina? I think I found your birth parents!" the voice was so excited, so full of hope and promise. I couldn't believe it myself, it seemed surreal. But found them we did. My friend from the adoption boards called my parents first, as the intermediary. Of course I did not want to intrude, to push into a family situation where I was not wanted. The word came back to call the next day about Noon.

"Hello?" I said, quietly- nervously- hoping and on edge. "Is this my daughter?" were the first words from my Mom. Actually I didn't call her Mom right off the bat, my Mother was still alive then and in some way it felt improper. We talked for hours that day, and over the next week until I made plans to fly in and meet my Mom and Dad. Unbelievably although she was 13 when I was born, my father 17, they had married after family pressure to give me up and were still married 40 years later. I flew in for the weekend without a clue and came home 48 hours later knowing a lot more about who I was.

Now I believe unequivocally in how both environment and heredity play a huge part in defining us as human beings, in who we are and how we came to be that way. I'm very much a blend of my birth mother's looks and my Mother's creativity. My birth father contributed the gift of gab and the dry sense of humor. My Dad instilled deep in me a practicality, that little piece that bubbles up and with a cool optomism always wants to know what the worst case scenario could possibly be. All a very interesting pot of soup that continues to unfold every day.

Soon, the brothers called, "So I can't believe you haven't called!", "I can't wait to meet you", and the emails and phone calls and letters began our relationships. My youngest brother passed away not long after sending me a hand written letter that he was happy to know he had a sister and that he was the black sheep of the family. Sadly, I never met him. He succumbed to a bad mix of diabetes, drugs and alcohol. I met the other two brothers separately when traveling through their part of the country. We were never as close as siblings that grew up together and shared the "mean years" but we do honestly love each other and have forged a bond. Surely it is because of this that the old adage about blood being thicker than water has been given true meaning.

My brother Mitch, who recently passed away was the second youngest and I can say without a doubt that while the suddenness of his illness and death took our breath away, he wouldn't have had it any other way. He called me 't' from the start, somehow knowing that it was the shorthand name that I prefer. We always had that shorthand, that quick to the chase kind of knowing.

As we drove through Missouri, and Illinois I looked out the window and thought of Mitch, and of this family I stand on the fringe of. I've met most of them, and they have pulled me in with love and grace. It is I who find home on the fringe, standing there because I can't divide my loyalties and still have not found just the right way to dance in both worlds. In that space is where we all fight to remember that I while I was born to it, I have been away a long time and have another family by my side. I guess I would be fairly accurate when I say that it is standing between two worlds and trying to balance them both in a way that honors each.

...more to come...

5 comments:

meezermeowmy said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading the rest.

Welcome home!

Jenny Girl said...

Wonderful story Tina. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading it and getting to know you a little better.

Claudia said...

What an amazing, touching story. Thanks you for sharing it with us. Bless you.

yoel said...

I hadn't realized you had a regular mom and a bio-mom, and regular sib and bio-sibs. It all makes perfect sense though...You are so warm and familiar (family-er) to everyone, and I think that comes from having to realize that family is what you work it to be. Much love!

Louisa said...

Tina, I too am a product of two families, one nature and one nurture. I met my birth mom and siblings 18 years ago and I know what you mean about the connections but the lack of shared history. It's so odd to describe to anyone who hasn't been there. Sorry to hear about the loss of your two brothers. I lost a half-sister before I even met her.

All the best, hon'!