I lose things. Right now I am looking a pair of black leather gloves that I know for certain I had yesterday--a trip to the dentist, a stop at the thrift shop to peruse the books, a bakery to buy dog treats for the pooch of the host of last night's dinner party, No luck. Where are the gloves? I searched for them last night leaving the dinner party, but they could not be found--did I even have them when I left home? I looked this morning in the car and on the street, but still they are not making their presence known. I have lost objects so often that I do this thing with numbers that might give me a clue as to their location; today it says that "much effort will have to be exerted" if the lost object is to be found. It also hinted they might yet be found at the host's home but so far the phone has not rung telling me so.
Last month it was my prescription glasses I lost. After searching high and low, after my husband did the same, I replaced them. Two weeks later they showed up on the ground outside where I had bent over to pull up English ivy that has been choking the hydrangea. I wasn't looking for them, yet there they were. Maybe it will be the same with the gloves. They were only bought last fall, they were not the kind you wear all winter, and so had plenty of life in them. I'm hoping, that like so many objects in my past, they show up when I am not looking for them. Some times things do; sometimes they do not. Nothing can be predicted.
|From the good days....|
As I was rummaging through coat pockets and looking under the bed this morning, I thought about a comment someone left recently at an earlier post: "When people push us away our automatic action is often to chase after them, but chasing people is usually just chasing an illusion. Stop chasing, the people that are meant to be in your lives don't need to be chased." Think of relationships someone broke off with your for whatever reason: demanding that the individual see you again, or otherwise respond to your entreaties--just made him or her retreat further. Or turn it around and remember when you broke up with someone--the individual was "too needy," in response to your ability to give to that person, or you weren't comfortable around them anymore, and when they came with flowers or phoned or emailed, you retreated even more.
'RETURN TO SENDER'
For us reunited first mothers, it is like that with our children once lost to adoption--yes, our adult sons and daughters. Whether they will or will not stay in contact is largely--most often entirely--beyond our control. Just like with other relationships, this one has the same basic parameters, even though we are mothers who wanted reunion hope that they will never again be "lost" to us. Alas, it often doesn't work out that way.
My daughter Jane and I reunited when she was fifteen, with her adoptive parents blessing. At sixteen, she visited us for two weeks in the summer, and the next year, she came for the whole summer. This was her choice, and based on that, I imagined that she would never purposely walk away from me. But she did. Three or four times, sometimes for a few months, once for more than a year. Sometimes we might have had a mild disagreement, but she could take umbrage if I so much as expressed displeasure at something she did and shut down completely. Other times, my daughter's silence was totally in reaction to something her adoptive mother said, as I related in an previous post. Her own daughter, as a teenager, told me one time her mother announced: We are never going to be in touch with Lorraine again. Her daughter didn't believe her then, because she had witnessed the on-and-off switch before.
What I recognize now is that nothing I did could make her come back to me. It happened on her schedule. I could apologize for things that did not seem that I should apologize for, and she would still ignore me. Or there might be absolutely no clue why she had cut me out of her life. She was totally in control of whether or not we would be like mother and daughter, or not. If she didn't want to be in touch, my phone calls and emails went unanswered; once a letter I sent to my granddaughter then under eighteen and living at home with her mother and step-father, was returned with a foreboding red stamp on the front: Under a pointing finger with "RETURN TO SENDER" several reasons are given for the mailman to check: "Refused." Let me tell you, that kind of message does focus your attention. The letter said nothing of the split between me and her mother, but she wouldn't know that. I was worried that if Jane cut me out of her life, I would lose any contact with my granddaughter, who had also spent summers with me and my husband. I didn't try to write her or otherwise contact her, because any entreaty from me would almost certainly also be "refused." I gave up.
But some months later she phoned. Out of the blue. "How are you?" she began the conversation after I said hello, as if there had been no break in our relationship at all. What we first mothers who have lived through such vicissitudes of a reunited relationship have to accept is that we can't control this relationship any more than we can make a lover who has left us return. We can't force it. A relationship takes two people. If only one comes to the party, there's no relationship. "The people that are meant to be in your lives don't need to be chased."
'YOU CAN'T FORCE FAMILY'
As some of you know, my daughter Jane also relinquished a daughter for adoption, and after my daughter's death, I was able to connect with her. She visited in our home; after that we had a phone and email connection that she seemed to find as gratifying as I did. Then she decided to seek out her father. Something snapped after that, and within a couple of months she simply stopped responding to an email. I bugged her with a few more emails over the next couple of weeks until I got one telling me to leave her alone as she was "in a good place." I was not willing to be dropped for no reason of mine this time, and I'm glad I pushed her to respond, to actually tell me I was being dumped. Maybe I felt differently because I had not given birth to her or given her up for adoption--in fact, when her father wanted to keep her, I sided with him as much as I could without alienating my daughter. I had been through this before too many times, and now I was not willing to replay the scene. Adoptees feelings may be raw and tumbled, as someone else wrote, but simple politeness--an email that stated that she needed some space for a while--would have been, well, polite. Then I wouldn't have felt it necessary to keep "chasing" her to get a response.
Now I think of her as Jane's distant daughter who doesn't want a relationship. She either said or wrote, You can't force family. Of course in one way, she is still a part of my family, and I am in hers. That's a tie of life, of blood, that cannot be cut, but the emotional pull of her in my life has receded. I opened up myself to her (so then I could be hurt), I made a mistake at the blog in a comment once (don't ask, not telling and repeating it), she didn't let me know she was upset until she was saying "go away." I have. As for my daughter, for those of you who don't know, she died of her own hand in 2007. We were in a good place when she died; I miss her dearly. The anniversary of her death is next month.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
Though I have been writing as a first mother for first mothers and fathers, of course I am so very aware that some of them have cut off relationships with their reunited sons and daughters for reasons that are as inexplicable as the ones when my daughter temporarily disappeared down a rabbit hole. We've heard from many rejected adoptees and I still find it stunning and amazing what some first parents do, and how much pain they inflict. Reunions are impossible for some. Like us, you can't force a relationship with a mother or father who doesn't want one. I know your hurt is real and raw and never-ending. It's the other side of the coin, the yin versus yang, heads versus tails. Both kinds of shutdowns, both kinds of rejections, hurt. The best you can do for yourself is to step back and stop chasing. Take care of yourself. But the loss of this relationship is due to the limitations of the other party.
An adoptee wrote on Facebook the other day that it was his mother's 84th birthday, but he hadn't been invited to celebrate with her and his siblings. All I could think was that it would have been such a simple, and generous, gesture to include him, and would have meant the world to him. Why are humans so brutal to each other? It's a question for which there are no real answers, only more questions. Of course, families that have not been broken by adoption have some of the same problems. But I am talking here about the special and frequent bumps in the road of what starts out as a good reunion.
Should my lost granddaughter ever come back, like my lost gloves, if will be a surprise. But I have stopped looking for them. And I have stopped chasing an illusion.--lorraine
UPDATE: The gloves were located on the lawn in front of the house of our hosts Saturday night. A bit soggy but they will dry out. This morning the host emailed me. As for the rest....time will tell.
Contacting your (adopted-out) adult child when they have gone away
When a birth parent writes a will....
Part 5: Why did my daughter walk away? All is revealed.'
Adoption and Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Reunion
By Evelyn Robinson
For anyone struggling to understand what drives those who have been separated from family members by adoption to seek them out later in life and the issues that arise in reunions. Highly Recommended.