Thursday, April 5, 2012

Remembering my daughter on her birthday

Jane and Lorraine, 7/25/83  NYTimes photo
Today is my daughter's birthday, but of course the correct syntax is "would have been" her birthday if she had not died in 2007. What runs through my mind in crazy seemingly random fashion are images of the two of us together: the second time you came off the plane to visit Tony, my husband, and me in New York. You were planning to spend the summer with us. What a surprise to see that you had lightened your mousy blond hair (that was so like my mousy blond) to look a lot more like mine! Highlighted! Yes, I was thrilled to see that. You were my daughter, through and through. Was that the visit that we went to the Statue of Liberty and were the first off the boat from Manhattan and first up the stairs as we scrambled up to the crown? We both enjoyed that, and joked about it over the years.

I see us hanging out downtown in Sag Harbor, at the pier, with our first dog, Fred, a friendly female lab, and just, well, just enjoying the view with the water, the boats, the sunshine and reveling in being with each other, after so many years apart.


We had lots of fun shopping for clothes for you--remember that black pin-striped suit we found for you at Loehmann's? I remember taking in the joy in your face in the mirror as we stood there admiring the person you were that day. I would have bought the same suit for myself if there had been another; we wore the same size, we like the same styles. You had just turned sixteen. We stopped at a Pizza Hut on the way home. I don't know what we talked about but I do know we had a great time. I remember lots of other shopping excursions, buying you clothes, seeing what went with what. You often used the word, "sharp," describing clothes you liked. And I remember you saying that shopping with with me was something you were aware of missing because your other mother didn't have time (she had three boys to look after) but really, you and I knew that she didn't enjoy taking the care you and I did with what we wore. (What tense to use? Present or past, I am still here.)

Hearing stuff like that was always bittersweet--sweet because it made me feel closer to you, because it reminded me of how you were like me, despite the adoption, despite us being apart after you were born--but bitter because our separation denied us both safety, sanity, a sense of belonging to each other.

Forsythia for Jane, 2012
There are so many other things: you and I loving restaurants on the top floor of skyscrapers--who cares if they are full of tourists and the food is not great--because we liked the view; sitting outside on top of the World Trade Center one balmy afternoon for a half hour when you could do that; learning we had both been painting benches for our own back yards at about the same time; discovering that just like me you can't snap your fingers on your left hand, no matter how hard you try. One day you told me that you understood how difficult it would have been for me to keep you, how hard it would have been with your epilepsy and my lack of a large bank account--Sweetie, that was a precious moment, it seemed to me that you did understand and accept what happened, how it happened, without censoring me, yet expressing a certain sorrow at what was--for both of us. Your words felt like redemption. And always I recall your reaction when Tony remarked to you--after climbing the stairs at our house--"You walk just like Lorraine."  You said that his offhand observation made you feel that you had really come home. Your adoptive father was always asking, you said--"Couldn't you have a lighter step, Jane?" Well, no, it turns out you couldn't. In so many ways that seem inexplicable to those who deny biology, we were alike. And of course, I recognized your biological father in you too. As e.e. cummings wrote...Jesus he was a handsome man....

My mother, Jane, her daughter, and Lorraine                       April 1995
I miss being able to call you and find out what you are doing tonight, to celebrate with your husband. Or what you made for dinner last night, or how you are doing in the darts league or how the planning for the epilepsy foundation benefit is going this year, or god knows, the millions of tiny little things--recognitions and murmurs of the heart--that made up our relationship over the more than quarter of a century we had with each other.

Today's a regular lava flow of memories, Honey. The forsythia bush in the back yard planted for you is in full blazing bloom, just as forsythia was when you were born 46 years ago. My friend, Christy Bulkeley, sped me to the hospital just around now as I had contractions. Christ they hurt! She was hoping that I didn't give birth in the car, and as I looked out the window I remember seeing rows of bright yellow forsythia along the roadside. You were born two hours later.

Of course we had our differences, your inchoate anger that came out every now and then when you would just back away for long months of silences. That hurt too, as much as the physical pain, but in a different way. Then you would be back with the ring of a phone call. You had a troubled life, being given up and being adopted, having epilepsy, and the attendant psychological difficulties that came with them all. But today, let us not dwell on that. Let us keep the good parts in our heart and, though aware, release the sadness of our separation. --lorraine

26 comments :

  1. Thank you for sharing with us about your daughter. I wish you peace on this bittersweet day.

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  2. That was very powerful. I would wish for you nothing but the greatest peace on the anniversary of your daughter's birth. Best wishes.

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  3. Send you a big hug Lorraine. Beautiful post. Made me cry.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this beautiful remembering Lorraine. Wishing you much love on this birth day.

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  5. What a lovely and poignant memory, Bless you for sharing. Always, Jenny

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  6. Thanks, Lorraine, You have touched me with your sweet and honest recollection of your time with your daughter. I read your book a few years ago, and I often lurk in the shadows reading your blogposts. You've made a difference in the way I look at my own firstmother journey. You make me feel proud <3

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  7. Strange,my mother passed away ten years ago on this day. May your memories comfort you and all the beloved dead rest in peace, "may perpetual light shine upon them."

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  8. I'm so glad you found your daughter at 15. It's no fair she left this earth so early and I'm glad you had the time you did with her.
    I'll be praying for you at the Holy Thursday services tonight.

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  9. celeste BillhartzApril 5, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    omg, Lo .... this is so tender ... and so true ... Love you for your honesty and compassion ... and your courage in telling these lovely ... and lonely ... truths ... Blessed be ... Celeste

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  10. Dear Lorraine, what a beautiful tribute to your daughter. Thinking of you and sending love and light on this bittersweet
    anniversary of your birthing day!

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  11. A beautiful post about your daughter Lorraine. Thank you so much for sharing her with us through your writings.

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  12. A beautiful post, thank you for sharing with us. Sending much love as you remember this day. ((Hugs))

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  13. I will always remember Saturday, April 9, 1966, the day before Easter and the day Lorraine left the hospital in Rochester, New York, without her daughter, Jane. I was living 5,000 miles away in Fairbanks, Alaska. Of course I did not know Lorraine; we would meet many years later at a CUB conference.

    April 9 was the day my pregnancy was confirmed and I learned for certain that my daughter's father would not be there for me. That evening I picked up a copy of "Time"; the cover read "Is God Dead?" God was certainly dead for me. I began my zoombie like existence going through the motions of doing what respectable single pregnant white women did in 1966. Hide away and give away my child.

    The "Time" article was based on the work of William Hamilton, then a professor of theology at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. When his ideas became known, he was fired.

    In 1970, Hamilton moved to Portland, OR where I live. He passed away on February 28 of this year. Here's more information about him from the Portland "Oregonian": William Hamilton

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  14. This has touched my heart so deeply that I can't seen to stop the tears. You have put your whole being into this living tribute to your daughter. My daughter was located several years ago. She has battled drugs for years and at this time she reportedly is clean. I can't imagine losing her even though our relationship doesn't have a solid ground. May you find peace in all the wonderful memories you hold in your ! Hugs....

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  15. Everybody, thanks, for your kind comments.

    I went to the movies last night to see The Kid with the Bike, the French Oscar nominee (if was okay, suprisingly less than great), and had pizza with Tony. And oddly enough it is about a young father who abandons his son; there is never a mention of a mother or what happened to her. The son, after a certain amount of acting out, trying to get his father to take him back, is able to make a life with a woman who crosses his path by chance.

    I vaguely remember that "God Is Dead" cover story in Time, as I had a subscription and it was waiting for me at home when I got out of the hospital on Holy Saturday. I thought, how fitting. I spent the next day--Easter--alone in my apartment. I was a sunny clear day. I called my parents and pretended that everything was fine. And then the day was over. Life went on.

    Easter was always a big holiday in my Polish family, and for years I duplicated that somewhat by giving a large lunch for up to 30 of my friends; it also kept me too busy to remember that depressing day in 1966. This year I can't because of the surgery, but will have brunch with friends in a restaurant. And life will go on.

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  16. Poignant post & photo Lorraine, we share your joy and sorrow. xo

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  17. Lorraine,
    Thank you.
    I am glad you had all those years with your daughter. I am also glad that your memories of her and your sweet connections can erase some of the lost time for you.

    Hugs

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  18. Lorraine,
    Thank you for your beautiful post. Thank you so much.

    I needed to read something like that now, in the middle of a silent period with my own daughter and not knowing when - or if - we'll ever speak again.

    It must have taken a great deal of strength and courage to write such a bittersweet homage to your own daughter.

    Thank you again.
    Angela

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  19. Angela: Though I don't talk about it here much because it is all in the past....months, nearly a year one time, or maybe a whole year...when by when I did not hear from my daughter and she was immune to my entreaties. One time it happened simply because she needed to show her adoptive mother that I did not count.

    Lots of tears, lots of tears. There were times I never thought she would return. But she did.

    xxx to you tonight.

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  20. "present, past, I'm still here" Wow... I understand.

    This blog post was like a love song Lo, and my heart aches for you.

    Much love to a mother without her daughter, from a daughter without her mother. xoxoxox

    Tamara

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  22. Lorainne,

    A beautiful post froma loving mother to her daughter. She is no longer here but always close she is still here in your heart.

    My son's birthday is in April too born in 66.

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  23. I am so glad you are able to focus on some of the happy times with your daughter. Thank heavens you were able to find her. I am sorry for your loss.

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  24. Your beautiful remembrance made me cry. Thank you for sharing it with us. (((Hugs))).

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  25. I have only just discovered your blog and can empathize with your feelings. I share with you in the pain of losing a daughter, although mine was not given up for adoption. I only had eight years to share and love life watching her grow, being her mother, making memories that I were all too short in the making. Bless you for your courage and thank you for sharing with others such a deep part of you.

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