Dear readers: These two columns — the previous one was published on Dec. 24 — are about decisions. I made one choice and others made other choices. Life isn’t anything if not complicated, and decisions like these are never easy or made lightly. I simply want adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents to know that there are state of Wisconsin forms for information sharing. To all of you, peace and understanding in the year ahead ...
Before I opened the door, I took a deep breath and remembered some of the precious words Brenda wrote in her return email to me.
Dear readers: I had some indecision over the last month deciding whether or not to publish the essay below. I am doing so in hopes that adopte…
“Your letter was the most beautiful thing I could have ever received from you (besides my life of course). It brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart in ways I didn’t expect.
“From my earliest memories, I always knew I was adopted, so I never had any shock about it. My parents always made it out to be a special thing. I was ‘chosen’ or ‘picked’ they would say and emphasize how badly they wanted me. They repeatedly told me that you loved me too, and attempted to explain how much love you had for me to be so strong. I had a blissful childhood with love all around me. If there was ever anything that I wanted to say to you, it was always ‘thank you.’ I’ve certainly said it many times throughout the years.
“I have sent my love, thoughts, and gratitude into the universe for you on so many occasions it would be impossible to count. So now, finally, I get to say it. Thank you. What you did was courageous and so very brave ... I knew you loved me; I always knew that, and I hope you know that I loved you too.
“I feel zero resentment to you, and 100% gratitude. It makes me feel stronger knowing I came from such a remarkable woman. Your strength has always been an inspiration to all of us. You are a hero on this side of the story, and I’m overjoyed to be able to finally tell you that.”
Warmed by the memory of her words, I opened the door. And there she was, bright and beautiful, looking at me with a tearful smile. The next few minutes are a blur to me. I remember that we were in each other’s arms and that, when we parted briefly, we were back in each other’s arms again. Only when my eyes cleared of tears did I notice the bouquet of yellow roses she had brought for me. Yellow roses, as I had used at my wedding years ago. She couldn’t have known, of course.
The words we spoke that day are for Brenda and me only, but these are the things we noticed. I saw that she is kind and smart and beautiful. We didn’t think we looked like each other, although maybe there’s something about our eyes. We talked about our affinities. Despite her relative youth, she wears dresses almost exclusively, as do I. And, like me, she likes black. We also both lean a little left politically.
Most importantly, we are equally ecstatic to have met each other, and we marvel at that. “I have friends who are adopted,” she says, “and these stories don’t usually work out this well.” She told me of a friend who located the address of her birth mother only to learn that she had died the previous year.
She has another friend seeking her birth mother, but can’t tell her adoptive mom because she would be too upset. (I think for the millionth time how lucky I am that Brenda’s parents are so open and warm and welcoming to me. Brenda’s mom had even written to me, “How lucky that Brenda has two moms now. We never can have too many people who love us.”)
What I most remember about that first day is that we talked and hugged and choked up occasionally. We shared pictures of our families and children. And, on our parting hug, she said in my ear so softly, “I love you, Mom.” Mom. What a gift after all these years.
We’ve met multiple times since then. My husband and I took the three-hour drive in April for the dance recital of Brenda’s then 8-year-old daughter, my granddaughter, who calls me “Grandma Linda.” We also met Brenda’s husband that day, a kind, smart, musically gifted, dear man. In June, the three of them came to Racine for Father’s Day, and for the first time ever I got to also celebrate my daughter Brenda’s June birthday with her. There are no words to say what that meant.
In August, Brenda and her family met most of my immediate family when they visited here. Brenda now has two half-brothers and a half-sister and two new nieces and two new nephews. And Brenda has also pored over the book we keep of hundreds of tribute letters and pictures of our daughter Jocelyn who died in 2012. Brenda feels our painful loss. I gave her a necklace of Jocelyn’s and she wears it often.
We’ve had many adventures together. In September, we traveled again for our granddaughter’s 9th birthday. And then there was that ideal day, that day of blessings, Thanksgiving. Brenda and her family of three came, as did our oldest son and his daughter. But amazingly, Brenda’s mom and dad from Florida also joined us and we met them for the first time.
We sat around the table and shared words and thanks and gifts of the heart that precious day. One of those gifts was from Brenda’s mom, who said, “Please don’t ever think that we are threatened by your presence because we aren’t. We know that Brenda loves us, and that she loves you too.” What a generosity of spirit in those few words. I will be eternally grateful to them.
To me, 2017 will always seem like a year of miracles. Yet 2018 is ahead and, as we look forward, we look backward as well. So this holiday season gives me pause for reflection. Did I do the right thing those many years ago? How can I know? When I said this aloud to Brenda she wisely responded, “No, we don’t do that. We don’t look back in a rearview mirror. We have each other now, and that is what matters.” And then she added, “And we have time ahead, too.” Oh, I so hope.
After the first part of this essay, I wrote, “To be continued.” And that is the irony of life, isn’t it, that all things are “to be continued” until they are no longer? “To be continued” makes every moment of this life a mystery and an adventure. In the future, all of us will still stumble, and we will question what we have done, and what we should do. But traveling on with a modicum of hope, a bit of forgiveness of ourselves and others, and always an immensity of love, that is the measure of our legacy.
And so we toast to an old year which brought an unexpected gift, and we toast to a new year which holds the promise of continued love and joy.
A Happy New Year indeed.