Monday, April 21, 2014

The post-Easter reminiscence: Everybody's Got Something

Before we began
I meant to write a post for Easter but I was so busy with cooking for 12 on Friday and Saturday, time got away. And then Sunday was taken up with the more-or-less annual Easter lunch. Here I am today, Monday afternoon.

Holidays can be depressing for anyone whose family is far-flung--whether or not there is a relinquished child in the past--and it certainly has been that way for me. It took some years but eventually I learned that as a transplant from the Midwest I needed to recreate the kinds of holiday events that I grew up with. As for Easter? In the Polish household is is not a holiday to be sneezed at!

My earliest memories surrounding the day include getting up shortly after six on Holy Saturday and coming downstairs to find my mother making bread--something she only did on this day. As soon as I was able she let me knead the dough. Push down with the heel of your hands, fold it over and do it again.

RUSHING TO RELAX 
Everything--including the sweet rolls that came after the bread was in the oven--had to be ready by two p.m.in order to catch the last blessing of the repast for Sunday morning at the closest church with a large Polish population, as St. Alphonsus, our parish, did not partake of this particular custom. Into the basket went hard-boiled eggs, kielbasa, oranges, a beet and horseradish relish, Mom's fresh-baked bread, butter molded in the shape of a lamb that we got from the Polish bakery, the sweet rolls and a few of the chocolate nests we had made the day before.
Mom made these. Helping was yummy.

That was breakfast after Mass. Then the relatives arrived--aunts and uncles and cousins--and a large festive meal (and lots of chocolate) centered around a ham and took up the rest of the day.

THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE? MAYBE
My first Easter after leaving home was one of the most depressing days of my life, I suppose, if you want to stack them up like that though I usually don't. It was the day after I left my baby in the hospital, still in an incubator. She had been born on Tuesday, April 5. Patrick, her father, was with his "other family." I was the merely the other woman who "got caught," as people used to say then.

The day was gorgeous. The sky was cloudless and azure, the sun was blazing, the air was warm, but in a third floor walk-up, filled with the admonitions of the times--I didn't brave the stairs and get outside. I don't know how I got through the day, but I remember it was long. I didn't cry much that day, I was burnt out and dead. Patrick was with his other family. My parents phoned from Michigan and I made up some lies about how I was doing fine, as they didn't even know I had been pregnant. On Google Earth, I can find the apartment building, and my west window where I was living then--at the intersection of Rosedale Street and Monroe Avenues in Rochester, New York. It looks so unremarkable, so plain, yet staring at it brings back all that happened there.

Before: Table set with our collection of china, each plate different
There have been all kinds of Easters since. Knowing I might emotionally nosedive on Easter, I always made plans. Initially, I went out for a swell lunch with friends. With my first husband, I spent it with his family. Later my mother and younger brother drove from Michigan to New York City for a long weekend, and I'd have made reservations in some nice restaurant.

FINALLY FIGURING IT OUT
But in time, with marriage to Tony, I settled into recreating a version of the big and boisterous Easter dinners I remember from my childhood. We invite a group of friends over--anywhere from 10 to 40--and lay out a meal that always includes beets and kielbasa, even though my husband, of English, German and Swedish descent, doesn't know from kielbasa. This year it was sliced and grilled and passed around as a canape, along with deviled eggs and something I call Memphis cheesies, which are cheese crackers with a lot of crunch to them. The good dishes were pulled out, the silver set, the flowers potted in the tub outside the back door. My daughter's forsythia bush was in full array. All the work involved in preparations takes my mind far away from the depressing Easter when I left my baby.

Forsythia was in bloom when my daughter was born. 
This morning I noticed that the title of Robin Robert's new book is Everybody's Got Something and I thought, right. She's had cancer, I lost a baby and even after reunion never truly got her back. We had a good relationship at times, but you can't go back and rewind a life. For new readers, let me add that my daughter died in 2007. She left me a granddaughter who is quite like me and my family, studying art an all, and she does like me, but she's far away in northern Michigan; and another granddaughter who was lost to adoption. I found her, we had a really nice year or so, but she doesn't want to be bothered anymore. I could mope and be terribly unhappy about all this, but it is my life and what I decide to make of it is my choice.  I still have my weepy days, of course, but now when they occur I know it is not always going to be that way and soon I will pick myself up, dust myself off, et cetera, and get on with living.

After dinner, cake and coffee
We do have to look at our lives, and figure out what makes us happy and go with that. Everybody's Got Something. Yes, our "something" hurts sometimes like hell. But how long you going to lie down and let life roll right over you? Our pain hurts, but it doesn't have to defeat us.

The sun was shining here on Long Island yesterday, the sky was a brilliant blue, the weather was warm enough for mimosas on the deck before lunch inside. I didn't have time to think about my something yesterday. I was much too busy dealing my life today.--lorraine
________________________
Everybody's Got Something

Following her mother's advice to "make your mess your message," Robin taught a nation of viewers that while it is true that we've all got something--a medical crisis to face, aging parents to care for, heartbreak in all its many forms--we've also all got something to give: hope, encouragement, a life-saving transplant or a spirit-saving embrace. As Robin learned it's all about faith, family and friends. And finding out that you are stronger, much stronger, than you think. No, I haven't read this book--but I think I will. 

THANK YOU FOR ORDERING ANYTHING THROUGH First Mother Forum--and to those who have, a special thank you! I can actually can see what is ordered. So I know you are remembering us when you go to use Amazon or whatever ad comes up in the Blogher ad column. 

13 comments :

  1. I think the weather was glorious around the country on Easter. We sure had a beautiful day in Chicago.
    Your message today offers a lot of hope for the newly found mother. Those first few years of holidays wee pretty hellish. I could never be far away from the despair of having lost my daughter to another family. All those years of her being gone I was okay somehow. I just blocked it all out, just knew that I had done "the right thing" and was confident that she had her Disney family and I blocked all (at least most of the time) the pain out.
    After reunion none of the lies worked anymmore. I realized that I was hoodwinked into "giving my daughter away". The grief was unbearable at times. I felt like I couldn't breathe and was going ca-ra-ze. I don't know what came first, me stabalizing or us getting into a groove of a healthy relationship.
    Yesterday I had my siblings over for Easter lunch. One of the sisters died in March so it was bittersweet. But when you lose one maybe you appreciate the ones left all the more and everyone couldn't have been kinder to one another. It was a fun loving party. Afterwards while cleaning up I felt a twinge of sadness for not hearing from my daughter. And then I did the good self talk of "She may gone up to the mountains where there isn't cell coverage" or "you know how busy life gets, don't think twice". And low and behold not five minutes later I got a beautiful picture of my granddaughter texted with a wish for a Happy Easter. I LOVED the picture, but I also loved the energy field that we obviously enhabit together. And I like the fact that I had a glorious day regarless of getting attention from my firstborn. I love her and she loves me. Pretty lucky after leaving her at the hospital to fend for herself.

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  2. Beautiful post, Lorraine. It certainly was a beautiful day on Long Island this year.

    As Barbara Thavis commented...I am the daughter lost to another family. During my childhood, Easter basically began a week earlier, on Palm Sunday. This was a day of a big meal and relatives coming out of the woodwork! Then came all the preparations for Easter, until finally we would sit down, usually in our crowded apartment with a million people, to another huge meal. Lasagne, lamb, potatoes, sometimes meatballs and pork spareribs in sauce, cannoli and other pastries, along with bread that we made during Holy Week with Easter eggs baked into it. My God!

    I always felt disconnected from the whole thing.

    I don't like huge crowds of people. I didn't like the elder relatives speaking Italian when they were saying things they didn't want us kids to know. I don't look or feel Italian in any way.

    Fast forward to today, and I still have to have some kind of Easter, mostly for my AP's. The crowd is smaller, but we have to do something or my parents will never get over it. This falls to me, because A-mom can no longer host these things.

    I wish my heart was in it. I basically go through the motions. It is one more thing that I do and have been doing for the other people in my life, not for myself.

    The next one will be Mother's Day, which is second only to my birthday in making me feel depressed.

    I hope I didn't ruin anyone's Easter with this outpouring of feelings! But this is a good place to share how we feel about these holidays, and other such events.

    It is very difficult feeling disconnected like this! No one thought of this years ago, when they took away my history.

    Thanks for listening!

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  3. Thanks for bringing attention to Robin Roberts' book. I wasn't aware of it, but I definitely want to read it. I agree we "all have something". I don't think anyone gets through this life without some kind of heartbreak. This was a beautiful post.

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  4. Beautiful post Lorraine and thank you for the pics - I felt right there at dinner with you! Much love.

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  5. I stumbled on your blog while reading through news stories and have spent nearly an hour reading through posts and comments.

    I was adopted shortly after birth. It was a closed adoption, yet my parents always were honest and supportive. I didn't have a "found out" moment; I just always knew. And they offered repeatedly to help me search.

    I never did want to search. I don't feel that I am not whole. I am a content, healthy person.

    Recently I was contacted by a birth sibling through an intermediary. The sibling, based on the letter I received, has a much different perspective. In that perspective, wholeness can be achieved only by reuniting with biological family.

    I feel badly about his pain, especially since our biological mother denied his request to meet and he seems to so deeply need it. He also expects me to fill a void his adoptive siblings cannot.

    I'm sharing this because I have read much pain and anxiety on this site. I also have read a lot of "always" and "everyone" and accusations of coersion, fraud, and abductions. Those happen. But not to everyone.

    I have quite a bit of information about my both parents and their situations. I have zero doubt that my upbringing and my family were very good for me. I cannot undo their decision to relinquish me, nor would I want to. I cannot alleviate their guilt, or any other feeling they might have. That's a huge expectation to lay on a stranger.

    I do hope that anyone who worries or thinks about me could find some relief knowing I'm doing well and am happy. If someone is thinking about me at the holidays, I hope it's with respect for my life choices and well wishes.

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  6. Hi Katie: Your post was interesting to read. It illustrates exactly why adoptees like myself feel the way we do.

    You state that your adoptive parents are honest and supportive. They were/are willing to help you search, if need be.

    You state that you have a lot of information about both your parents. You describe yourself as "whole".

    Many adoptees, like myself, have none of what you have. My A-parents are not supportive in any way. They are secretive, and dismissive. They feel very threatened. If you have been reading my posts, you will already know that my adoptive mother's way to handle things is to tell me to "change the subject".

    I am sure you must have decent legal documents. Many adoptees don't. I will not be able to get a passport unless I approach my parents and ask if they have any other paperwork from when I was born. They may have been hiding it, or they may have nothing. Adoption was a HUGE secret in my day.

    I didn't know my birthday until just about a week ago when I received a copy of my AMENDED BC in the mail. I never even had the false document regarding my birth, let alone the original, truthful one.

    Your birth sibling wants search and connection. You have had honesty and truth, and you don't need that.

    I need it, but probably can't have it because of the toxic situation I am in regarding my secretive, threatened adoptive parents.

    When my adoption was finalized I was basically a prize that my AP's won, so to speak. And their thinking has never changed. Between their approach, and the sealed records in NY, I am a perpetual child. And many adoptees are in the same situation. there is no way I can ever feel whole.

    Situations like yours are few and far between. I envy you.

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  7. Lorraine this was a beautiful, life-affirming post. Thank you for sharing the uplifting moments (and the food, the pictures - wish I was at your table!). This post is one for me to print out and read during moments when I ache for Nina.

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  8. Julia,
    Yes, I do have a birth certificate. My original birth certificate is sealed and a legal replacement was issued. It lists my adoptive parents as my mother and father. It's a certified copy and I had no trouble getting a passport. That's how things were done in Michigan back then (I'm 41). It sounds like the laws in NY were much more restrictive and harmful.

    I know a couple other adoptees well and their experiences were like mine. If I were to go by just my and my friends' stories, adoption would seem to be an excellent option. I really do appreciate you sharing your stories. It brings balance to the complicated issue of adoption.

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  9. Katie: Now that I mailed away for one, I have the same BC as you do. My AP's are listed as my true parents, and, of course the original is sealed. The trouble is when the document was issued. It has a filing date of over 3 years after I was born. No longer legally acceptable for passports, etc. No one thought of that when they changed the laws after 9/11.

    So, I have a "birth certificate". It is useless to me for any legal purposes.

    And it is basically a lie. If I falsified a legal document, I would be arrested. But here I am with my fake birth certificate, and I am supposed to be OK with that?

    Closed adoption is a mess. And it should be done away with entirely. It has ruined too many lives.

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  10. Julia, you may have been given bad advice. There definitely is a way to use a delayed birth certificate to get a passport. I hope you are able to get that all sorted out!

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  11. Katie, thank you for taking time to share your story. As a first mother who lost her child in the BSE, I would be ecstatic to find that my child was happy and content with life. I surrendered because I hoped that my child would have a wonderful and better life than I could offer. As it turned out, I became a wonderful mom to my raised child and I would have been a wonderful mom to my surrendered child had i not been duped; While I deeply regret my loss, ultimately the most important piece is the life of the adopted child/adult. Your situation sounds ideal for you and that is truly great.

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  12. Katie said, "Julia, you may have been given bad advice. There definitely is a way to use a delayed birth certificate to get a passport. I hope you are able to get that all sorted out!"

    I have also had adoptee friends struggle with obtaining passports when their amended BC reflects a different year than their chronological birth year.

    We were told to ensure we completed our adoption within the same calendar year to avoid such issues. Our adoption took 11 months to finalize, and thankfully, it was within the calendar year.

    My understanding is that to obtain the passport when the BC is not acceptable, other items need to be obtained and provided, such as a baptism certificate, a certified letter from the doctor who delivered the person, a non-relative who will swear to the correctness of the birth information (I believe it might actually be two people... may be wrong on my recollection of this one and no time to google right now). All of these things are difficult if not impossible for an adoptee to provide.

    I know I just recently read a story of someone's challenges with this, and even her birth mother (they were in reunion) could not provide any evidence that was acceptable to the agency. Perhaps it was on the Lost Daughter's Blog... maybe Declassified Adoptee...?? I will try to find it later if I can.

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  13. Tiffany: I would love it if you could find the story you mentioned in your post. Thanks!

    Baptismal cert....I didn't have one of those , either. I wrote to the church and received a hand-written copy of whatever they must have on file in the church records. Obviously my AP's were not big on keeping good records, and saving any documents that might be important!

    Doctor who delivered me? Who knows? So far there is no name anywhere on any document that I do have.
    But the point is this. Why should I have to go through all of this? Non-adopted people have their paperwork. I have to jump through hoops. I could probably get a passport for my dog easier than I could for myself at this point. And THAT is what infuriates me.

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