Friday, September 2, 2011

Frank talk about adoption with my relinquished daughter, Part 3

I taped this conversation with Jane, my daughter whom I relinquished to be adopted, in the fall of 1998 or 1999. I will be eternally glad that I did. She knew I was doing this for a memoir I was writing. It was the longest sustained conversation we ever had about her life, epilepsy, and adoption.
Lorraine, Kim and Jane in 1994. I love this picture.

The warm day had cooled down considerably and the night air was chilly. We put on thick sweaters, went out on the deck, stood at the railing and looked up at the millions stars in the sky visible there. A more peaceful setting there may be somewhere in the world, but I am not sure I know it. We picked out Orion and his belt, the Big and Little Dippers, the North Star. Our breath made white fog in the chilly October night. She lit up. Of course she lit up. She was Patrick’s daughter; she was the Marlboro woman. Which was, in fact, her brand.

“I had this drive to find out—it might have had a lot to do with the epilepsy and needing to belong somewhere,” she begins after a while. “I knew that my family loved me and I knew that I belonged there, I belonged with my family going through my stupid daily routine—that there was a reason for everything. But you get up and you’re sitting in bed thinking for a moment that you are going to go down downstairs and take your pills and then you wrap up your pills [anti-seizure medication] in tin foil and put them in your lunch box and wait for the school bus and then you get off the school bus and the kids start making fun of you. You try to get inside the school before anybody can get to you or make fun of you because once you are in earshot of the teacher they are not going to make fun of you.”
Pause.
“The older boys used to come by and rap their knuckles on my helmet,” she says, looking off in the distance, remembering for a few seconds what that was like.
“I found a lot of security around adults because…I had no choice. If at least there was an adult within earshot, the kids might not be nasty and if they were it wasn't going to be as nasty. They might get into trouble or have to go to the principal. And that was my stupid routine.
“Recess wasn’t much because there wasn’t much I could do. I can’t climb on the Jungle Gym. I can’t go on the monkey bars. Can’t go on the balance beam, maybe I shouldn’t go on the swings. I shouldn’t be playing on the concrete. So I sat on the grass a lot of the time. That took away the feeling of belonging. There were lots of times I had to sit out gym class because I was too ill [meaning, she had too many seizures that day]. I knew that I belonged with my family but there was a feeling that I also belonged somewhere else. It wasn't belonging somewhere else, it was—
“I needed to know for a certain completeness inside of me, and if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t feel whole. I wouldn’t have felt I belonged with you either, so it wasn't exactly belonging, it was completeness. I was this circle, and it was broken. I had this”—she held up her hands forming an arc—“but I didn’t have this”—she moved her hands to fill in the rest of the circle.
“So I felt like a part of me had been moving along, and all of a sudden Boom! and I’m supposed to go along like this isn’t happening—like one day I was this person, and the next day I was somebody else but I still had this other person somewhere inside of me. Imagine you have an ancestor who was just yanked away and you were supposed to keep on walking like nothing had happened. But I kept looking backwards—the way an owl can turn its head all the way around, you know, and I’m saying—So, where is she?” She stops now, her parents are far away, dammit, she’s going to have a smoke in the house, the smell will be gone when they get back. I’m not going to stop her. A minute later she continues:
“I always felt like I was walking on a fence and could fall off at any moment.”
What to say? Nothing. Later I pointed out that in the family portrait—that one on the wall I’d seen that first time I’d met Ann—that she, Jane, with her light complexion and dark blonde hair, she does look like she is not out of place—not really—in the Zimmerman family. “If you don’t look too closely,” she scoffed, challenging my assertion. “And look at Mark [her adopted brother]—he’s got black hair, his skin is darker than everybody else’s. Look at the picture, he doesn’t fit in. But I’m not going to talk about him. It’s his life.”
The photograph reminded her of what it might be like to be her parents: “Being an adoptive parent sets up an certain insecurity. While the adoptee always feels like they are going to be rejected, the adoptive parents always feel that someone is going to take their child away—that is their deepest darkest fear, whether they admit it or not, and there are always going to be reminders of that. Take television, you see lots of adoption stories. I’d always walk out of the room, and my mother would be sitting there crying.”
We had talked for a couple of hours, I was tired. It’s after eleven,  I say, let’s call it a night.
Right, she says, I’m going to Club 33.
Club 33 is a bare-bones juke joint on Route 33 as it runs between LaValle and Reedsburg, a larger town to the east. Jane’s patronage of Club 33 drove Ann [her adoptive mother] crazy. Mom despises bars, Jane told me, because her father—Ann’s that is—tippled too much. I wished Jane had not wanted to go to Club 33 either, not at that hour, not now, I knew she had to get up the next morning for work, I knew because of her epilepsy she needed adequate sleep, but I also knew I could not stop her. Except for the years when I worked on a newspaper, I never hung out in bars, and even then, not a lot. I rarely ever went to a bar by myself. But Jane was Patrick’s daughter too, and just as Patrick enjoyed the easy euphoria of an hour or two in a friendly saloon, so did she. Besides she needed to leave adoption behind and simply hang out with her pals. I went to bed. She went to Club 33. I don’t know when she got in; the next morning she was gone to work before Kim and I got up.--lorraine
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copyright Lorraine Dusky 2011 
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Birthmarkfor more of this conversation see: My (relinquished) daughter talks about adoption and Frank talk about adoption with my relinquished daughter, Part 2

Birthmark is the story of how I came to relinquish a child for adoption. It was the first memoir to tell a first mother's, birth mother's story and was extremely controversial when it was published in 1979. "She describes these experiences with such openness and raw emotion, without polemics or self-conscious feminist attitudes, that the impact of the book is overwhelming...a spectacular additon to feminist literature."--Library Journal

19 comments :

  1. So honest... I am a bit jealous.

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  2. Was your daughter teased because of her epilepsy, because of being adopted or both?

    I was intriqued about your describing Jane's smoking and liking to hang in bars. Isn't it amazing how much we are like are parents even when they didn't raise us?

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  3. She was teased because of the epilepsy; I don't think adoption was part of being bothered by other kids. Having to wear a hockey helmet to school to several years is one hell of a way to be a kid.

    Yes, it is amazing how much she was like me and also her biological father, Patrick. I could see so many of his characteristics in her.

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  4. I *love* this picture, Lorraine.

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  5. Poor Jane. What a hard life, and her epilepsy must have been severe if she had to wear a helmet to school. Kids can be so cruel. May she rest in peace.

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  6. just two observations from my perspective - Jane was right on when it came to how her (most) adoptive parents (especially a-Moms)felt/feel, and re "the family portrait" - we (adoptees) see what we feel. At times we see a family portrait and at other times we see different people gathered together.

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  7. Thanks, Maryanne. It was a hard life she had.

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  8. Cully Ray:

    I was surprised at my daughter's quick reaction to my comment about the family photo. Her mother had reddish blonde hair and Jane's was that color in this big formal family shot. And her a mom is Scottish or Irish and Jane's bio dad was Irish, very very Irish.

    lo

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  9. Lorraine,
    Just wondering, what were you going to name Jane?

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  10. Poignant. Jane's image of the owl, her forming a circle with her hands. Perhaps a writer lived in her, too.

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  11. Robin: Her father and I were convinced that "she" would be a boy, and naming the child never came up. Maybe because it was from such a different era, even though many women did name their children. I felt I had no right to name her. My daughter was a premie, weighed under five pounds and that was considered really dangerous at the time, and so a priest came in within minutes after I woke up--I was pretty hysterical at the time. My social worker who was, in a sense, there for me because no one else was, asked-with the priest at the foot of the bed--if I had a name. I did not.

    Was Mary okay the priest suggested? (Naturally.)

    Yes. I said. Yes.

    Her adoptive mother's name was Mary. They may or may not have known about the Mary as the baptismal name, and I don't know if the name is on the original birth certificate. If I had named her I think I would have chosen Sarah. However, when I chose a fictional name for a girl her age when I wrote Birthmark, it was Jennifer, the name of the daughter of the young man I almost married, and that is the name of his daughter.

    If you remember reading my "Alternative Universe Daughter," blog post, Jennifer, five months older than my daughter would be, is now someone I am very very close to. She has been a real light in my life. I have kinda "adopted" her and her family, and she me. It is truly a blessing.

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  12. Lorraine,

    Janes having been able to be so painfully honset with you is beautiful. I am glad she could talk to you this way.
    Funny, how much of what she says is so much like our own feelings of losing our children.

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  13. Lo... was this conversation after Mark died?

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  14. "Mark" was Jane's adopted brother and he did not die; a biological son died, and this conversation was well before that. or Jane's marriage. I know it must be confusing--coming here as it does in snippets. So I write the book...

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  15. right... I was confused by the dates mentioned. Thank you so much for sharing these recordings. It is amazing to me that there is so much in what Jane felt and understood that is so similar to what I did/do and I am old enough to be her mother... all these years between us and nothing has changed for us. Blessings on you Lo.

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  16. Beautiful and I’m sure very treasured picture of your daughter, Jane and granddaughter.

    Thank you so much for sharing the conversations that you had with your daughter.

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  17. So beautiful, Lorraine - the story and the photo. She looks just like you!

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  18. Kristi: Egads, thanks. I've got more of the conversation coming.

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