Thursday, August 20, 2009
Am I Grandma or ...(Birth Grandma) Lorraine? Someone not quite connected.
Names do mean something, as we've written about before here at FirstMotherForum. My surrendered daughter Jane always called me "Lorraine" except when we were kidding, and then it occasionally morphed into "Maraine." Occasionally. However, she frequently would sign her notes and cards, "Your daughter, Jane."
My granddaughter Britt called me Grandma when she was little and spent summers here, but as soon as she hit puberty, I also became "Lorraine." Did that hurt? Oh yeah, a great deal. A great deal. I remember going to an acupuncturist for some other reason and broke out sobbing, thinking about this shift that had occurred, how once more I felt so diminished in my daughter's--and now granddaughter's--life. It was "Don't call me," (see previous post) all over again. If I had not had what seemed like a normal grandmother relationship to start with, this probably would not have affected me; it was the downgrading that was a fresh slice in the heart.
I once told Britt in a letter that it did hurt when she simply called me Lorraine, after years of being Grandma, but it had no impact whatsoever. She lives near the adoptive grandparents, the Schmidts, and it's clear that while Ann, her adoptive grandmother, obviously accepts that I am Britt's biological grandmother, I am first and foremost: Lorraine, the Egg Donor--oh god she really is the grandmother--from Faraway. And of course with Jane, who died in 2007 by her own hand, out of the picture, and everyone living a thousand miles away, Lorraine I remain.
Now I accept it. Her way of explaining it was that I didn't seem like, um, the other grandparents, that that is true. To my step-grandchildren I am of course, Grandma, but never to Britt. Though the adoption issue is a big one, sheer physical distance adds to the separation. Financially, life is, um, hairy for me and my husband, also a freelance writer, and so trips to Wisconsin are not part of the picture. I have not seen Britt for more than a year. What this means is that I am perforce an occasional physical presence, as they all live in semi-rural Wisconsin, and I live on the East Coast, a thousand miles away. Even if I could use miles for a ticket, the ancillary expenses make the trip prohibitive to us now. Plus--I don't look forward to being in the same town (it's a small town) when the Schmidts are there.
I don't mean people are rude or take pot shots at me, the way they did, say, when I publicized Birthmark, but without the "protection" of Jane, I think it would even feel more unwelcoming. Ann's so very negative attitude is a force field that repels me. Even this week, there was a shot heard here, which I can not go into here. Britt knows that if she would like to come here--I tell her every time we speak--we'll get her a ticket, but at seventeen, with a summer job, and her senior year of high school starting the day after Labor Day, that's not happening this summer.
Yet I know that Britt does not mentally disassociate from me. We do not talk frequently, but I happened to catch her the other day when she had time and we spoke for over an hour. About this and that, and I do feel that she is very open and honest with me. And after her mother, my daughter, died, she combed Jane's things looking for the three gold stackable rings that had been my mother's (Britt's great grandmother, whom she had met a couple of times) that I had sent Jane when she graduated from a technical college. Britt was desperate to find them, and told me she wanted them more than anything else her mother had. I believe she valued the connection to a past that went beyond her mother (and her father walked away without looking back), as the rings were not that valuable. But alas, she could only find one. I know she values it.
The other day she told me she had lost her platinum senior ring, before she even started her last year of high school; I told her about a valuable sapphire ring my father had given me in college and how I almost immediately lost it by taking it off when I washed my hands in a public bathroom and leaving it behind. I told her losing rings seem to run in the family. She liked that.
This started out as a comment to the previous post but got long and I decided to make it a fresh blog. Tomorrow we'll have fellow blogger Jane's Dear Prospective Adoptive Parent letter.