Today having voted I was drinking my free coffee in Starbucks, reading the NY Times, and in walked a light-skinned African-American young woman, and I thought: I wonder if my granddaughter--the one my daughter gave up in a closed adoption in 1986--is voting today. Is she voting in Wisconsin? Is she voting for Obama? Probably....
This granddaughter, the one I don't know, is black/white like Obama. She was born in 1986,which makes her twenty-two as I write.
My daughter's pregnancy occurred at a time when we were not in touch for nearly a year. She had lived with me and my husband for several months, causing all sorts of upheaval with her various crises, and when she left both of us stopped communicating. I knew the rift was temporary. But when Jane's birthday came in early April, I called her--how could I not? She was living again with her adoptive family in Wisconsin. Her father's tone was hesitant, as if he had something to say but couldn't quite bring himself to...I thought it was only because we hadn't been in touch, but it was more than that. Jane had had a baby a few days earlier and was at the hospital. She called later that day, and told me about the baby she named Lisa. She had been there to feed her baby. And went back for the next couple of weeks to do the same.
Hearing that the daughter you gave up for adoption is about to repeat your crime against humanity is--well, one of the worst things that can happen to a first mother. Jane would not listen to me when I tried to talk her into alternatives to a closed adoption. One, the young man's family was willing to take the daughter--and coincidentally, they lived in Inkster, Michigan in the town directly adjacent to the one I grew up in. (What are the odds of that? One in several million? One in a billion? How many town are there in America? The coincidences in adoptions are staggering.) Two, closed adoptions were beginning--would she look into that, could I help her? My words went unheeded. It was as if Jane were determined to repeat history and give up this daughter just as she had been given up. Nothing I could say made the slightest difference.
Years passed. One day when she was visiting me in New York she casually mentioned that if Lisa were to come back, she would not be receptive to her. Jane had a way of saying things for the shock value, and I thought it might be that, for I couldn't believe that she would do that to another human being. After all, she had told her parents she wanted to find me by the time she was a teenager. And now she was going to deny that to her own daughter? I didn't press the issue, for there at that point there was no daughter to argue over. There was only a young girl out there someplace wondering about her identity.
As time went on, I would sometimes call her on Lisa's birthday--April third (or is it the second, I admit I'm not sure). Whenever I mentioned Lisa, I got a stony silence. One year Jane wasn't home when I phoned, so I left a message on the answering machine. She did not respond. After that, I stopped mentioning Lisa.
The last time I saw Jane, when she came to visit over President's Weekend in 2006, with her husband and her other daughter, Kimberly, Jane mentioned Lisa briefly but with steel in her heart and voice. She did not appreciate being reminded about Lisa, she said, and would I not call her on Lisa's birthday? And you have the date wrong anyway--it's--that's where my confusion comes in. Did she say the "second" or the "third"? What I did not want to venture into was what she would do if Lisa came calling--she was twenty at the time, and as Wisconsin has a Confidential Intermediary program, contact was possible. I did not tell her about the CI program because I knew taking the discussion further only would lead to a fierce argument. I was not willing to hazard a disjunction in our own relationship. This was her daughter, not mine; I hoped in time Jane would soften and come to a different decision.
So much was going on there; her biological father had refused to see Jane, and had died before he ever did. He was also someone who walked away from anything emotionally difficult, just as Jane was now threatening to do. So I simply asked that if Lisa did make contact she would at least give her my name and number and let her know that I wanted to meet her. Without a shred of emotion, with ice in her voice, Jane sullenly agreed to do that. I can't say she promised, but she did agree. I figured Lisa and I could take it from there--if she ever came back. What particularly stabbed with the realization that Jane had become one of the first mothers that I rail against--those who refuse to see their children and are the great blockage to open records, sticky platelets clogging the artery leading to the heart of open records. Since I've spent the greater portion of my life arguing against those women having a say over the lives of adoptees, I was appalled. This was my daughter? How did that happen? What hardened her heart so?
As regular readers of this blog know, my daughter committed suicide last December. When I was in her office a few days afterward, Kim pulled out the flat extension that is a part of old desks for one's typewriter. Taped to the surface was a baby picture of Lisa. Kim--who has always known about Lisa, Jane did not keep her secret--was surprised to find it. I wasn't.
I've contacted the appropriate officials in Wisconsin and left word about my daughter's death, and my willingness to be a part of my first granddaughter's life.
And now I wait.