Sunday, June 20, 2010

Part 5: A (birth) granddaughter's rejection turns into a YES!

So, continuing the story of my other granddaughter, the one who was relinquished to adoption. The story so far in brief is this: My daughter, Jane, whom I gave up for adoption, had a daughter almost twenty years to the day she was born (see Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption) and relinquished her to a closed adoption (Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption. As the years passed, she did not want to talk about this daughter, her first, see Part 3: A granddaugher adopted by strangers, the years tick by. Her name is Lisa Marie and the last installment is about how I had reached out to her through the Wisconsin Adoption Search Registry, but got the word back from the state-appointed searcher, Jacy Boldebuck, that she was not interested in meeting me. Part 4: Reaching out to my missing (birth) granddaughter but being rejected....

I failed to note in the last post that I had also made one step in finding her: I listed her birth information that I recalled on the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR) even though I was not sure if her birthday was April 2nd or 3rd, 1986. Shortly after that I got an email from a Mary Wielding, saying that she could find her for me. But it was not my granddaughter herself, and so something pulled me back from telling Mary to go ahead. So I let it be. I understand so completely how it feels to have a fear of searching, thinking that rejection may be at the end of the line, and perhaps I was still raw over the loss of my daughter, who died by her own hand, in 2007. If Lisa was not searching for me, I was not ready to search for her.

And I will add that the need to find my granddaughter was not as emotionally pressing as it was to find the daughter I had surrendered to adoption. That was a killer, and I would have climbed over any legislator's body to get her records, if necessary. I had put all the clues about her birth and relinquishment (date and place, etc.) in my memoir, Birthmark, and hoped that she would find me that way, but it did not happen. I did hear from one young woman who hoped I was her mother, but I was not; an adoptive mother also called me thinking I was her daughter's other mother, but I was not. Time passed. Actually a few years went by, as my daughter was in her early teens in 1979 when I published Birthmark.

With my husband-to-be's and a male friend's encouragement, I put the "order" in to find my relinquished (birth/first/only) daughter shortly before I got married in the fall of 1981. "You're never going to be able to put this to rest until you find her," my friend Peter had said. "You aren't going to go in a grab her, so what's the problem?" The fee was $1,200, which I gladly paid.

But as I said, finding the missing granddaughter was different, and I felt rejected--hell, I was rejected! Because of my daughter's severe PMS and suicide during an episode, she had been contacted but turned down the opportunity to know me. It stung. I retreated.

So, nothing happened for about a year. Then after I began writing about the low rate of reunions effected by the Wisconsin program, and wrote Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on with information on what other women and searchers reported, I again got an email from the same Mary who had contacted me a year earlier. She was reading the blog and wanted again to know if I had changed my mind about locating my (birth) granddaughter. Mary lived in Wisconsin. She assured me she could most likely find her. Linda and I emailed about it. Finally, I said, What the hell, I might as well take this opportunity, maybe it won't come around again. Find my granddaughter, I said, she was born in April, in Madison, in 1986, on one of two dates.

Two days later Mary called me with her name and probable whereabouts! Within the next couple of days I got pictures of her from her high school yearbook and some other basic information, including what appeared to be a current address. She was living in Minneapolis and had graduated from St. Thomas University in St. Paul. She had kept the name--Lisa Marie--that my daughter Jane gave her. I was pleased with that. Because Lisa is biracial, Mary and I were pretty sure we had the right person at her nearly all-white high school. But--now what?

Do I contact someone who has told the official state worker she does not want contact with me? Do I "interrupt" her life? Do I bother her? Am I stalking her? Do I upset her? What? A first/birth mother searching for reconnection and reunion with their "birth" children is what so many people find so upsetting, it was the cause of the recent blowup with my friend, Yvonne. What do I do here? My granddaughter has actively turned down knowing me....

Lisa Marie was on Facebook but oddly enough, neither my husband or I could see her page, or even
that she was there, though other people could. My nephew in Tampa could. My brother in Michigan could. Fellow blogger Linda could. Mary Wielding could. Had she been given the name of her mother when Jacy called her, and looked up Jane's obit? And now, had Lisa simply blocked me and my husband, whose name was also in the paper? That seemed the only logical explanation I could think of.

Nothing again. Months went by--let me see, probably five or six or seven. But Lisa was not exactly an invisible presence in the world. Of course I Goggled her and found that she tweeted, but you had to be invited; she had spoken at a conference on social work in Chicago when she was in college and her picture was on line, she had some poetry in an on-line magazine. I learned that she had supported Obama, been involved in a dance group of some sort in high school, and the theater. I'm a dancer, can't carry a tune more than three or four notes; her mom went from being terrified of speaking to joining Toastmaster's and winning at least one trophy for one of her speeches. I saw that Lisa followed Time magazine on line--hey, I'm a political junkie, to some degree, used to be a newspaper reporter; my daughter's father--her grandfather was Irish--a newspaper reporter, a political columnist and a terrific writer with real flair. All signs pointed to someone--a granddaughter--I'd really like to know. Someone who was, er, more than a bit like me.

Every now and then I'd google her again and one day I discovered she had started a blog. Well, blow me over. The kid writes! My granddaughter is a writer! So I started following the blog, 2speakease's Blog. She writes about the music scene in Minneapolis/St. Paul (her grandfather, Jane's dad was a huge jazz fan, had a collection of hundreds of early jazz records when he died), about her struggles with being an artist, her poetry. I see a link to an adoption site: Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora...certainly a political adoption site, something her mother was never interested in except as something I was involved in. She's applying to writer's retreat; she's involved in the black writing scene in Minneapolis; she posts news about readings and publishes some of her poetry. I'm amazed, but still keeping my distance. Incidentally I have very little information about her birth father, so I can draw no parallels to him or his family.

How It Feels to Be AdoptedThen on the anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut's birthday, November 11 (and also my deceased father's birthday) she writes about how much she likes Vonnegut and puts in a plug for her favorite bookstore, Micawber's. Well, blow me over. Jane, her mother, worked for Kurt and his wife, Jill Krementz, for a short time one summer as a nanny taking care of...their adopted daughter, Lily. I knew both Kurt and Jill, had lunch with them several times, they came to my house; Jane and I are featured in Jill's book, How It Feels to Be Adopted. This is now getting really freaky, right?  

I left a comment just before Christmas, wishing her a Merry Christmas and adding: I've been thinking about you. It's posted there. At the end of the year, she writes about people using her blog to tell their stories...and she posts her email address. I think about contacting her for a few days, and one night before I go to bed, as I'm drifting off, I know that in the morning I will write her and tell her, in brief, her story as I know it, and about the similarities in our interests. And that is what I do in the morning.

I hit send, and wait. Four or five days later, I get an email back from Lisa Marie Brimmer.
Dear reader, she is coming to visit in two weeks. That's her with her college roommate,
Nikki, recently in Seattle. To say I am thrilled is to understate how I feel. --lorraine
--------------
Note: Mary Wielding has been ill and is dealing with cancer. Prayers wanted. And note to Laura, I did add Mary's name in the notice about her on the right in the sidebar, but you did not leave your email that day you contacted me through the comments section.

If you are interested in transracial adoption, you might find In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories thought-provoking.

16 comments :

  1. Great, Lorraine. Never give up!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Lorraine she is so pretty! She looks like such a nice young woman. I am so happy for you and for her. Not having closure is worse than 100 beestings. That is how I feel as I have nothing but doubts and confusion, a fate no one deserves. I hope you have a wonderful reunion, I can just see you two walking on the beach...:)
    and I am so glad you have a little peice of Jane again to hold....I wish you and Lisa Marie many years of happiness.

    ReplyDelete
  3. She's beautiful and seems so grounded. I hope it's the start of something lovely for both of you.

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  4. How exciting for you, Lorraine! May you and Lisa Marie have a long and close relationshiip.

    Am I imgaining it, or does she have your smile and even shape of eyes?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Forgot to add about Lisa's biological heritage (though I just added it now):

    My daughter's father, her (birth) grandfather, was Irish, a newspaper reporter, a political columnist and a terrific writer with real flair.

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  6. She is beautiful and smart. Congratulations, grandma.

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  7. Excellent :- )
    Best wishes to you both.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lorraine, what a great story. I'm thrilled for both of you! I can't wait until my granddaughter is 18 and I can (hopefully) see her freely. We have a bond, since her birth 14 years ago, which has been interrupted by her father/my son. Every time I do see her, I see that it is still there, thank goodness!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks everybody for the good wishes.

    Lisa has agreed to write a post and tell her side of the story...and I can't wait.

    XXX to you all.

    lo

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh cool beans. I can't wait to read it either.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Awww, how wonderful! What a beautiful young woman.

    From one adopted Lisa to another adopted Lisa...I wish both you and Lorraine the best:)

    Lisa...my first mother has also passed away and I SO treasure the relationship that I have with my grandmother. I hope that you and your grandmother can also have a wonderful relationship. I look forward to reading your story...

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  12. What an amazing story (of you and Lisa Marie)! She is a beautiful and talented granddaughter. It is my deepest hope that the two of you have a wonderful reunion. I can't get over how the two of you have connected despite a loss in two generations. The best to you both.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have finally found something to help me with my deep need to understand the feelings I and my daughter have towards each other. Even though it has been 16 years since she "found" me and we retain a close relationship, it is a roller coaster ride. Some days she barely will look at me, other days she hugs and holds me and tells me how much she loves me, I just feel so needy about wanting it to be always right but knowing that somewhere, way back in the dark recesses of my mind, I just have to accept whatever she is ready to give and there is nothing I can do about it. Just stay close, Just stay close, don't criticize, don't argue and maybe she will love me more.

    I gave birth in 1970 at the tender age of 17, only 11 months out of high school, traveling every day by bus to a new job in NYC. After hiding the pregnancy from my parents, friends and co-workers, all of whom I am sure were pointing fingers at me and laughing behind my back because they “knew”..for the entire 9 months. Feeling terror, anger, fear, regret, sorrow and shame, so much shame...fearing they would send me to a home for "unwed mothers" and hate me for ruining their lives.

    You cannot imagine the horrified, disbelieving faces of my two 30 something parents, staring at me from the foot of my hospital bed when they came to see me after the birth, called there by my best friend who came out in the dark of night to bring me to the hospital after I sneaked down the stairs to meet her in her waiting vehicle.

    I signed my daughter away on the 4th day, with much hate in my heart for myself knowing that there could be no life for her with me and my parents under the same roof, it would be brutal. I went through the next 25 years of my life, telling no one. not even the man I later married. Then one day in 1995 my phone rang one day, and it was "her" OH MY GOD!, my feelings of elation. I was bursting with joy. We met later that day and have been connected ever since. I never for one moment had a thought of not having her in my life, to hell with anyone who could not handle this news. And I told everyone in my life including my husband and his family… and oh yes, I am one of those women who never had another child. because in my heart, I didn't deserve to be a mother.

    My daughter is now a mother of three aged 6 and twins of 3. I moved closer to be near her and involved in their lives. we spend a lot of time together. Sadly my mother has refused to meet my daughter. How absolutely enraging this has been to me. My old fashioned mother, fearful of airing her "dirty laundry" or her "skeletons in the closet" My father is long gone but I believe that the birth of my daughter was the huge tear in their relationship so many years ago, my father not understanding how a "mother" could not see that her daughter was pregnant and my mother so angry that she was being held responsible by him for "letting" this happen.

    To this day my mother will not see my daughter and God knows I have tried. But I always bring over videos and pictures of them all to, I guess, push them in her face. hoping deep down that maybe someday the old woman will open her heart.

    Though we are connected in so many good ways, there are some very very tough days, weeks, months where I feel she cannot bear to look me straight in the eye. She is very happy to have a grandma for her kids and wants that. Her adoptive parents passed on 10 years ago, and I will say that it became easier to bond with her once her Mom died because I think her sense of betrayal lessened when her Mom wasn't there to feel perhaps abandoned by us reunion. She is a wonderful, bright, smart but complicated young woman...with some mental health issues that I truly believe are deeply rooted in the fact But on our good days my heart is so full of love and happiness. For her, for my grandchildren that I never thought I would have.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have finally found something to help me with my deep need to understand the feelings I and my daughter have towards each other. Even though it has been 16 years since she "found" me and we retain a close relationship, it is a roller coaster ride. Some days she barely will look at me, other days she hugs and holds me and tells me how much she loves me, I just feel so needy about wanting it to be always right but knowing that somewhere, way back in the dark recesses of my mind, I just have to accept whatever she is ready to give and there is nothing I can do about it. Just stay close, Just stay close, don't criticize, don't argue and maybe she will love me more.

    I gave birth in 1970 at the tender age of 17, only 11 months out of high school, traveling every day by bus to a new job in NYC. After hiding the pregnancy from my parents, friends and co-workers, all of whom I am sure were pointing fingers at me and laughing behind my back because they “knew”..for the entire 9 months. Feeling terror, anger, fear, regret, sorrow and shame, so much shame...fearing they would send me to a home for "unwed mothers" and hate me for ruining their lives.

    You cannot imagine the horrified, disbelieving faces of my two 30 something parents, staring at me from the foot of my hospital bed when they came to see me after the birth, called there by my best friend who came out in the dark of night to bring me to the hospital after I sneaked down the stairs to meet her in her waiting vehicle.

    I signed my daughter away on the 4th day, with much hate in my heart for myself knowing that there could be no life for her with me and my parents under the same roof, it would be brutal. I went through the next 25 years of my life, telling no one. not even the man I later married. Then one day in 1995 my phone rang one day, and it was "her" OH MY GOD!, my feelings of elation. I was bursting with joy. We met later that day and have been connected ever since. I never for one moment had a thought of not having her in my life, to hell with anyone who could not handle this news. And I told everyone in my life including my husband and his family… and oh yes, I am one of those women who never had another child. because in my heart, I didn't deserve to be a mother.

    My daughter is now a mother of three aged 6 and twins of 3. I moved closer to be near her and involved in their lives. we spend a lot of time together. Sadly my mother has refused to meet my daughter. How absolutely enraging this has been to me. My old fashioned mother, fearful of airing her "dirty laundry" or her "skeletons in the closet" My father is long gone but I believe that the birth of my daughter was the huge tear in their relationship so many years ago, my father not understanding how a "mother" could not see that her daughter was pregnant and my mother so angry that she was being held responsible by him for "letting" this happen.

    To this day my mother will not see my daughter and God knows I have tried. But I always bring over videos and pictures of them all to, I guess, push them in her face. hoping deep down that maybe someday the old woman will open her heart.

    Though we are connected in so many good ways, there are some very very tough days, weeks, months where I feel she cannot bear to look me straight in the eye. She is very happy to have a grandma for her kids and wants that. Her adoptive parents passed on 10 years ago, and I will say that it became easier to bond with her once her Mom died because I think her sense of betrayal lessened when her Mom wasn't there to feel perhaps abandoned by us reunion. She is a wonderful, bright, smart but complicated young woman...with some mental health issues that I truly believe are deeply rooted in the fact But on our good days my heart is so full of love and happiness. For her, for my grandchildren that I never thought I would have.

    ReplyDelete

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