It's not easy, it's a long hard slog to the other side of tranquility sometime in January after the holidays because the lives of first mothers and the adopted are so full of what-ifs. The other life. The other mother. The missing child at the table, in the will, in the family tree. Where there should be a face, there is only a blank. Where there should be an extra person at the table, there is no one. And because families in general do not talk about the missing person, there is no glass raised in remembrance, with the added hope that he or she is having a good dinner with the adoptive family. We might raise a glass to someone who died, or is far away, but the particular etiquette of silence about lost children prevents that. Perhaps that has changed today, with openness in adoption. If that is so, it is a welcome change, a somber but realistic acknowledgment of who is missing.
I didn't mean to write such a gloomy post today, and we should turn our minds to the family and friends that we will be celebrating with and enjoy what we have, not who and what we are missing. Always focusing on the solid gold bracelet in the window rather than enjoying the gold-plated one we have on our wrist leads to a life of jealousy and unfulfilled desire. I can think I wish my daughter had been mine all her life, but I can't make it happen by wishing it so, I can't undo the past, I must accept the reality and find what comfort I can there.
My reality is that the daughter I lost to adoption died of her own hand in 2007. One of her daughters lives a thousand miles away; I'll call her later today or tomorrow and wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. Her other daughter, who was given up for adoption, said she was fine, goodbye, after two years of a warm relationship following my daughter's death and our reunion. We have not been in touch since. I walked that advance-and-retreat road with my daughter too many times to choose to travel it again, and so I let that relationship be. Those are the basic facts of my adoption story today.
But life is not all hard stones and those cold realities. I have a full life with my husband, his extended family of children and their children, and his nieces and nephews. I have my own family, though all will be far away tomorrow. I will phone my brothers, both in Michigan while I am in New York, and wish them well. I'll probably speak to one or more of my nieces. I'll call my alternate-universe daughter, or she'll call me. My husband and I will celebrate the holiday with a passel of good friends tomorrow, friends whose own families are hither and yon, and there will be 16 at the table. My job is two pies: one pumpkin custard, which I will make from my mother's recipe with her praline crust; the other is a pecan, which came from a bakery.
In short, I am enjoying what I have. If any of you are truly alone at this time, find a way to spend the day doing something other than feeling blue and sorry for yourself. Call a friend who is also alone; call today and make a plan to meet tomorrow, have dinner in a restaurant, go to the movies--this might be the day to choose something mindless and funny. I used to be a runner, and I always loved going for a three-mile run on Thanksgiving when I could. The endorphins alone would lift my spirits. If that doesn't work, find a food pantry that will be serving meals and could use help. A first mother friend of mine did that for years. Nothing like helping those who have less to shift your focus from what you do not have. Remind yourself that as long as you are reading this blog, you are better off than a few billion people in the world. Remember that Thanksgiving in a single day, and the holiday season and the damn cheerful music at the mall, will be over in a month.
Of course I will think about my daughter tomorrow and repeatedly throughout the season--how can I not? Even in her death, she is a part of my present. If I go for a walk early in the day and the church around the corner is open I might even slip in and sit in the silence and reflect for a few moments. The story of my daughter will always leave a hole in my heart--there is no way to truly erase the sorrow--but all things considered, life is good. I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. You almost certainly do too.--lorraine
Letters Lead to an Alternative Universe Daughter
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
My story, beginning to the present.