Tuesday, June 28, 2016


When Mom M gets really angry, she lifts both eyebrows up into her forehead and squishes one down to make a furrow that could rival the Grand Canyon. In a resting state, her eyes are big and beautiful. In an angry state they work independently. One becomes enlarged with a working laser that burns a brand mark on your soul. The one with the Grand Canyon over it becomes smaller and sharp projectiles shoot out of the small opening to slice your ego into unrecognizable pieces.  She never once hit me. I am probably still supposed to be in my room to live out a grounding sentence, but she never hit me. 

Prior to moving into her house, she was my guardian angel. I came to her house with my hair chopped off and she turned it into a beautiful haircut. She always had projects that needed one more pair of hands. She knew, or at least suspected, that I was failing to thrive. Her subtle interventions were nurture enriched injections to help me sustain life.

When the M-Family moved to the Wild Horse house they took my safety net with them. There was no one to keep my step mother in check. No one to see the bruises. No one to drop by to hear the yelling. No one heard the wailing. There was no one who would ask me if I was OK. As long as my step mother was done with me by 6 p.m., no one would know a thing. 

I don't know what caused the M-Family to ask if I could live with them. When Dad came into my room to talk me into it, there was no need for the sales pitch. I wanted him to be sad that he wasn't going to see me except on Holidays.  Instead his sales pitch emphasized that I could see him on Holidays. 

I was grateful, but I arrived into my new home with no family skills and no sense of trust. I needed training in everything from appropriate female hygiene to proper emotional response. 

Mom-M taught me how to be a girl. I had not been treated like a girl before. I was a boy with long hair for my Dad and a caged animal for my step mother. Becoming a girl took great effort on my part. It had to take even more patience on Mom-M's behalf. 

"Look how beautiful you are!" 

I didn't believe her. I loved hearing her say it. I needed to feel her smile at me. It felt like I was stealing someone else's  praise. There was Sissy standing next to me looking like a model out of Teen magazine. I wanted to be pretty like her. I wanted pretty to be as easy for me as it was for her. I don't know how Mom-M could find me beautiful when she had real beauty so close by. My conclusion; she lied. 

What I did accept to be true was her example of how Mothering works. She did not come from a healthy emotional environment, so she did her best to create a good environment for us kids. Only one of us was hers by birth, but we all got our fair share of what she had to offer. 

She was a maker. She made clothes, decorated cakes, cut our jello into shapes, crocheted, made macrame plant hangers and never seemed to run out of things to make. She was always willing to teach us how to make something. We were always receiving pieces of her time in both attention and made things. 

Ah! Ah! Ah!

This means stop dead in your tracks. It works on kids, dogs, cats, and husbands. I believe it could stop a wind storm if she had a megaphone. This is how she controlled two teenage girls and two rambunctious boys. If we didn't comply we got the angry look. 

In many ways discipline had a bigger impact on me with the M-Family than I was accustomed to. It was far less physical stress, but emotionally, my only coping tool was to believe I could never be loved. Every time I got in trouble it was because they could not love me. I wanted them to love me. I did not know how to stop messing up. 

By the time we moved to Helix, the storm inside my head was turning into funnel clouds waiting to touch down. I loved that school. It was tiny. Little brother and Sissy went to one building, while I went to High School in the building next to it. They were attached by a breezeway. 

It was easy to make friends there. New students were rare and the fresh meat lured in everyone looking for a new flavor. It was impossible to disappear into the back of the classroom when there were only 9 students in attendance. Students and teachers saw me in a way I had never experienced before. 

The dividing line between the cliche groups was fluid. I could be a punk and hang with the cheerleaders at lunch. It was as if none of them knew they were supposed to be rivals. It offered a safe place to try on new personalities. 

I was still struggling in school. The disadvantage to a tiny school is that the teachers can memorize your home phone number.   I was smart and it made no sense why I wasn't doing better. I was a great mystery to everyone concerned with my education - except me. 

Why did I need to get good grades?

It was not an act of defiance, though I understand why it seemed that way. If I could go back in time as a ghost, I would whisper in Mom-M's ear, "She is afraid to let you love her. People die and leave her helpless when they love her.  If you stay angry with her, she never has to face that pain.  Do not let go!  She is drowning in her own fear."

After receiving a D in Math, I was grounded for the next 9 weeks. The following report card was worse, in spite of the carrots and sticks. They added another 9 weeks to my sentence. I started to become secretive and stopped confiding in Sissy. I slowly slipped into the mind spinning world of self defeat. I began pulling away from everything that brought me joy the year before. 

Near the end of the school year, I contacted a woman I called Aunt D. She was a foster parent who took in kids for the state. She had an open bed and agreed to pick me up on the last day of school. I packed my things in two cardboard boxes and told the M-Family my plans. 

They called my Dad to let him know what I was doing. I don't know what he told them, but no one tried to stop it. I wanted someone to beg me to stay. I wanted someone to lock me in a room until I changed my mind. I needed someone to tell me they loved me no matter what a failure I had become. 

On the last day of school there was a huge celebration . There were water balloons and music blasting out of the vehicles. The kids were all hanging out on the school grounds. I walked home alone and put my boxes on the porch and waited for my ride. No one was home when Aunt D arrived. I put my boxes in her car and we drove away. 

The funnel cloud touched down. I was ungrateful. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Identity Crisis

My new sister was such a good child.  She was impossible to compete with.  She always said the right things, and made good decisions.  She had the good hair and the pretty eyes.  She was athletic.  She was a year younger than me, but she was smarter about many things.   I loved her.  I admired her.  This added a layer of complexity to our relationship and my place in the household.  On the surface, we were equal, but I needed her much more than she needed me.  At the time, she was the only one I believed truly loved me.   I would have jumped off a cliff for her.  My first taste of loyalty was my sissy.

She was the voice of reason and I was the voice of wild adventure.  Together, we fed mud pies to the younger brothers, then cleaned them up because it was the right thing to do.  We ran free in the acres of wood lined creek beds and discovered all the mud holes we could swim in.  We guided the boys on adventures and packed a lunch to eat in some far off location  in the deep corner of our fenced-in boundary.  We shared elaborate dreams and fantasies that included houses, cars, boys and kids.  In those moments, I lost track of my orphan status.  I was just a kid whose biggest fear was getting bucked off in the creek when we tried to cross on the horses.

We shared a room in the house on Wild Horse.  She was my therapist and I was her dream catcher. Every night we would whisper and giggle until we fell asleep.  We had a lot in common.  We both had dead mothers to wonder about.  We each searched for some kind of identity that included them despite not remembering anything about them.  We both were raised by our grandmothers for a period of our lives.   My grandmother was dead, but hers was very much alive and the reason I was living in exile.  For Sissy's sake, I kept my hatred to a minimum.  In some ways, I accepted that the reason her grandmother hated me so much was so I could have a sister and two brothers.  I understood her love for her grandmother.  She understood my love for mine.  It was safe for us to love them as much as we did inside our secret bubble.

Everyone in the house laughed.  We laughed at dinner, we laughed while we did dishes, we laughed after dinner.  We laughed our way to bed.  I broke my toe on the way up the stairs once.  I cried until Sissy laughed so hard I had to join her.  We only lived in the house on Wild Horse for a year, but I laughed more in that year than I did in all of the previous years combined.  We made up words and had our own slang.  Then we laughed at the words we invented.  We put on plays in the evening that we rehearsed while the parents were working. Mom and Dad M giggled at our mistakes and blunders which encouraged us to deviate from our original script to make them laugh some more.  Love and laughter became synonymous for me.

Going to school was not as satisfying.  I struggled to keep up.  I was not a stupid girl, but I felt stupid in those classrooms.  I craved the attention of friends and a sense of belonging.  I spent my 8th grade year trying to discover what personality I would choose now that I was free from a suicidal wardrobe that warded off any opportunity to make a  friend.  Sissy and I parted ways after we got off the bus and I swam in a sea of students that all felt a lot bigger in personality than me.  I was no longer wearing polyester pants on the outside, but on the inside I felt like everyone could tell I was one outfit away from a geriatric funeral pantsuit.  

My cousin R.A. went to the same school.  He denied that we were related, and told his friends that I was from a step family of his grandfathers.  His mother was my mothers sister, but in the public, I was not his relative.  He was not allowed to speak to me.  He was not allowed to claim me.  When I talked to him about it at a Thanksgiving dinner, he explained that it was too embarrassing to talk about at school.  We could be close in the safety of secrecy, but not in public.

There was tension between the two families and I managed to land on the wrong side.  I was a traitor now.  My relationship with my new Mom, Dad and my siblings was in direct conflict with the war over which set of children were the better children, in the marriage of my grandfather and his wife,   In one sense, I was a liability for the F-Family.  I was so broken nothing could be done with me. At the same time, I was an example they used to demonstrate how his new wife was attempting to rid herself of his family.

I didn't have the vocabulary or the maturity to understand that I was struggling with my identity.  I didn't know if I was a sweet sister with a lot of spunk, or a stupid girl with a learning disability. I wasn't a F-Family member. I wasn't an M-Family member.  Yet, both families seemed to be stuck with me. 

Mom and Dad M would talk about the lack of money in secret code that was not hard to crack.  They were promised a monthly boarding fee that they rarely received. Just as Christmas season came  it was announced that my Grandfather and his wife were not buying gifts for their kids and I was legally their child. Neither me, nor Dad M received a present from them.  It was as fair as they could be. 

I lost hope that one day I would get my Dad back. He would never pull me to the side at family get togethers and ask me to come home.  He would never show up in his pickup and tell me to pack my things. He didn't miss me. He was a man who always paid his bills and he had forgotten to even do that. I began to believe his wife was right. He was stuck with me against his will. She helped him get out of debt and get out of raising me. She did him a favor.  

Christmas with the M-Family had a magic that outshined the damp scourge of disappointment and rejection. We had beautiful handmade footie pajamas and delicious homemade sweets. I learned a lot about Christmas spirit that year.  I learned a lot about resilience and finding that spark of light and love in a dark world. I learned that it was not the present, but who wanted to give you a present that meant something. 

With that same fire, an anger ignited deep inside of me. It was a tangle of resentment and utter helplessness. I began questioning the validity of my existence. I wished my mother would have had an abortion. I wished I hadn't been born. I had no one to tell this to and nowhere to put this energy. 

Do not be ungrateful. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

He gave me away

He gave me away like I was a box of unsold items from his last garage sale. After he dropped me off, he drove away and didn't think about me again. He wasn't really my Dad, I just called him that. This is how I made sense of it. I was the last thing my mother left before she died. Without Grandma there to remind him, he just couldn't remember why he hung onto me as long as he did. 

My new home was not a bad place to live. It was out in the country with plenty of mud, a creek to fall into and horses to fall off of. I loved that house on Wild Horse.  I learned a lot about what it means to be a sibling and the responsibility of being the oldest. Even though I did a terrible job of being a good example, I loved the idea of being a protector. I was given a piece of power that I am sure I abused. I loved them. I could not allow myself to be loved by them. My wall building skills were stronger than anyone understood. 

I called T and T "Mom" and "Dad."  Those were nicknames now, instead of job titles. I had a "sister" and two "brothers" that I wanted desperately to be "really" related to, but understood the impossibility.  I teased myself with the idea that I could become a full member of their tribe. I wished for it, but there was always that gentle reminder that I wasn't. Introductions with explanations about how I was taken in and the problem of looking entirely different than the rest of the kids were the forgivable, yet painful, reminder that I was not where I belonged.  

"You are very fortunate to have them!" The people would say as I stood in respectful silence. I knew they were right. I was fortunate to have them. I was as greatful as my broken heart could allow. It's hard to be happy and grateful like everyone expects. So I faked it. 

I didn't want to be grateful.  I wanted to be as ungrateful as any other normal and biological child. Being grateful meant that I was unlovable at some point. I was a refurbished child with a no-return policy. Being grateful meant that there were conditions to this relationship. Being grateful meant that I could be put in the next yard sale. This is when I made my first rule - Always have an exit plan. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Secret is out - I Exist.

On January 17, at 7:20pm I got this message:

Hi, I am [Child2]. Evidently, you are my little sister. I wanted to send a note just to introduce myself. I'm still a little shocked over everything, but would love to get to know you. I'm at a loss for words at the moment, but I didn't want you to think that I'd be angry or anything. I'd be happy to call you my sister...
It was the beginning of many such messages.  A day later other sisters, Child1, Child4, then Child3 sent me similar words.  Then a stream of nieces and nephews.  I was living the adoptee dream.  They were looking through my Facebook pictures, gaining what little insight into my character that they could and telling me I was worthy of their acceptance.

Being worthy.. that's so important to an adoptee.  When acceptance doesn't happen we like to tell ourselves that it isn't about us.  We try to affirm that this is not a reflection of who we are as human beings.  We even seek help from our support groups and loved ones around us.  Convincing our hearts that there isn't something so fundamentally wrong with us that our own family doesn't want us is the toughest battle we will ever face.  Not all of us win that battle.  Not really.  We learn to fake it. We learn to laugh it off, brush it off and live it off, but the smallest little reminder drives us right back into that abandoned building we feel like we came from.  Even after the huge reception I received, I still hear the creaking hinges behind me, reminding me that it is still possible to be stuck in there again.

On the same night, L called me and we talked for 4 hours.  It was a heartwarming, uncomfortable, crazy conversation that I was afraid to end.  His voice was more soothing than I imagined, and his words had a rhythm to them that was almost lyrical.  Sometimes he would say things and I imagined he practiced that part in his head a few times, because it was a beautiful delivery.  I thought it was strange of me to pay attention to these things, but a couple days later, I went to see my newborn grandson and I watched him listen to me sing to him.  That's what children do.  I may be an adult, but in that moment, I was no different than any other child.

Over the last few days, I have interacted with my sisters, niblings and D through Facebook.  It has been a fascinating adventure discovering similarities and sorting out personalities.  We are all in a honeymoon stage of the relationship, where everything is brand new and exciting.  I see glimpses of myself and my children in them and I want to feel warm and cozy in this soft blanket of relatives.  I know they can't be this perfect and wonderful forever, but I am just going to enjoy this perfection for what it is as long as it is this way.  It's what you do when you bring a newborn home.  It's what you do in a marriage.  It's what you do with family.

Without my mother or my grandmother, I was merely a legal issue to my maternal family.  Where do we put her?  How much is that going to cost?  Are we still obligated to buy her a Christmas present? Do we name her children in the obituary?  Does she qualify as a child, or a grandchild in the will?  Is she considered one of us? Or is she considered someone else's kid because she lived in foster homes? It always felt like I was trying to stake a claim in a family I never belonged in.  If I stopped trying, it was disloyal and ungrateful.  If I continued to push to have these relationships, I had to squeeze my round self into that square hole.  It seemed like an endless cycle until my grandfather died and the estate was settled.  After that, all but one cousin just stopped talking to me.  I am nothing.  I no longer exist.  In truth, to them, I only existed on paper.

I can't be a legal issue for L and his family.  I was legally adopted and cannot inherit anything according to the law.  The only reason any of them have for speaking to me is because they want to. This is my tribe. These are my people. I am built like them.  I think like them.  I love like them. Everything about me that made me an outcast in my mothers world fits in my fathers world.  My inner shield maiden is screaming "Do Not Believe That This Will Last!" while that little 4 year old girl makes a nest so she can finally lay her heart to rest.  I can exist here.

I am still very afraid of L even though I have no reason to be.  Since our conversation I have chatted to everyone but him.  I don't know what to call him.  I don't know how to approach him.  I don't know how to be a daughter to him.  I don't know what I am supposed to do now.

What do daughters that exist do?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mom Mysteries

L could call any day now according to the schedule I told him I was going to have.  It makes my stomach queasy just thinking about it.  It isn't that I don't want to talk to him.  It is that I am so nervous about talking to him that my stomach boils to the back of my throat.  I am scared I am going to say something stupid that will make him hate me.  I am scared I won't say enough and it will be horribly awkward.  You would think a girl who spent years in the telephone business would be better at this.
I was younger than this when my mother died
Up to this point, I have avoided asking questions about my mother.  The first message he sent me said:
 I remember your Mother I saw her 1965. It was not a romantic relationship and I was cheating on my present my wife and I told her then.
All of the questions I had about her fell to the wayside.  I didn't have the guts to ask him anything more about her.  Maybe I felt like his wife was watching over his shoulder and I thought it rude to ask questions.  Maybe I felt like it was an indiscretion he did not want to relive.  Maybe it hurt my feelings that it meant my mother did not get meaningful love no matter where she turned, and that was too difficult for me to handle at the time.  I changed my line of questions to focus on him and I haven't asked a single thing about her.

There are so many unanswered questions about my mother.  I have asked everyone that I knew to ask and have come up with little to no return on them.  In the DNA/Adoption support groups they recommend that adoptees write down their questions and leave room to jot down notes while they talk.  This seems like very good advice.  Between the nervous jitters and my genuine fear that this may be the last chance I get to speak to this man - I am bound to forget something or leave something out that he may be able to answer.

My mother lived in Stanfield, Oregon prior to going to Portland, Oregon.  Some say she ran away from home.  Others say she went to attend school.  I don't know what she was doing nearly 4 hours away from home.  I know that this is where I was conceived and this is where she died.

Why was she there?  Was she working?  Was she going to school?

L says he could not be sure that he was the father.  It sounds like she had more than one lover at the time.  Does he know this for sure? or was he guessing?   L says that after he demanded a paternity test he never heard from my mother again.  This has several possible explanations starting with he either ticked my mother off, or he ticked my grandmother off when she heard about it.

My Grandparents adopted me so no one could ever come take me away from them.  I am not sure how I knew, but I always knew "no one" was L.  They were so dead set against him that they told me I didn't have a father and to just stop asking questions about someone that didn't exist.  He might have ticked my mother off first, but he ticked my grandmother off last.  His name was not spoken in my presence.  Now that I know what it is, I can assure you it was completely foreign the first time I saw it.  She won that war until November 27, 2015.

In my post: The Story on Paper I mentioned that my grandmother hid me away because she was afraid he might come to Stanfield.  I need to ask if there were any mutual friends between L and my mother.  Did he know she died?  How did he find out?  Did he know the minister that owned the house she died in?  Did he know the boy who killed her?  I would like to know if there was any way my grandmother could keep tabs on him.

Why is any of this important?

The short answer is "I don't know, but it is."  The long answer is that I have spent an entire lifetime identifying as a copy of her.  I don't think I am an exact copy, but I am enough like her.  People loved to hold me up to some standard that she set in "very quiet and very smart," and held it against me when they wanted to frighten me into "behaving" around males.  I grew up making up stories in my head about her life and her death to try to figure out who I was.  I needed her to be something good so I could believe I was good.  I think everyone does that.  My own kids do that.

I want to ask him where he met her, how long they had an affair, why he was attracted to her, why was she attracted to him?  I am content with the thought that they didn't love each other.  She 19 years and 12 days when she gave birth.  He was 25 and married.  It was 1965.  Was he aware of how she felt about him?

I am afraid to identify myself with him.

If I have a single nameable fear, it is identifying with him.  He is the nameless, the faceless and the loveless.  It isn't about forgiveness or letting go of resentment.  It is that identity that scares me.  I am afraid I will disappear once I claim him, because she is already gone and I am barely a representative of who she was.  If I start replacing my characteristics that were always said to be hers, with his, then I risk losing myself to becoming "no one."  I know that is much too deep for anyone to go, but these are the things that drift through my mind.  I raised my kids to be her legacy.  I don't think they see themselves that way.  None of her descendants would be defined by anyone but themselves.  That was my contribution. It was hell trying to prove I was worth wielding her face.  (I look a lot like her)

A dead mother and a dead grandmother saved me

It is easy to get into trouble when you are young.  It is even easier to get into trouble when one lives in the middle of the wrong side of the tracks.  I lived there.  There were drugs and booze and all kinds of troubled expectations from a girl in that place.  My only safety net was the belief that my mother and my grandmother followed me around like ghosts.  They watched every move I made.  I believe that made me be a better person than most people thought I was.  At the end of the day I could look into the mirror and believe they would be ok, if not pleased, with who I was.  I gave them as few reasons as possible to abandon me to lost hope.  There was no one and nothing else to cling to.  I know that now.  At the time, it was my mission to finish their work.  In many ways, I still strive for that goal.

Where does L fit into that?  I feel like I have gone renegade.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

He wants to hear my voice..

L and I have been exchanging information about his illegitimate birth.  It is ironic that he is in much the same boat I am in with my mother.  His father died when he was very young and he spent his whole life wondering what it might have been like to have him as a father.  He didn't say that, but I know.  I know because he's doing everything he can to find out as much as he can, to include getting a DNA test done.  He wants to find relatives.  I can relate to this!  I know this desperation.

My Dearest Daughter Anna, I am so glad I found you

That is how he started his last email.  I started crying.  My inner shield maiden shouted "Do not let this distract you from the battle!" and  that little girl who sits in my head said "Maybe he is for real.  Maybe I could be a Dearest Daughter to him.."  The conflict made me dizzy.  I couldn't even concentrate on what he was saying.  I read words, but each was an island and didn't interact with each other to have meaning.  My husband asked if I was ok and I couldn't explain what was happening on the inside of me.  How do I explain this?

Rejection is easy.  

I am familiar with rejection.  They tell me all the reasons they can't love me.  I tell them it is their loss in very polite words.  They feel smug because they don't believe they are losing.  I go lick my wounds over some dishes so no one can see me cry.  Then I dive deep into a project that requires concentration so I stop thinking about rejection.  I post lots of pictures on Facebook because there are lots of people who "like" me there.  If the first project doesn't make me stop thinking about rejection, I dive into an even more complicated project to reinforce the habit.  I am so good at rejection that I do it on autopilot.  And this explains why I know how to plaster walls, bake, sew, crochet, draw, paint, quilt, decipher DNA results, knit and a multitude of other ridiculous skills I have forgotten about.  Some people think I am creative.  Nope.  I am just a reject junkie who uses Youtube like an alcoholic beverage.  I get drunk on creative chaos for a while and then wean myself off to reenter real life.

I want him to love me.  I want to love him back.

That little girl inside my head is winning this argument.  She hasn't been loved unconditionally, by a living human parent figure, since she was eight years old.  She believes in miracles and she has been really patient.  Dearest Daughter.  When was the last time she was anyone's daughter?  Really a daughter.  Not just a temporary verbal kindness handed out like a cookie for good behavior.  It doesn't even matter that he has never kissed a boo boo or grounded me.  That little girl inside my head thinks she needs him.  She is wiggling around my Shield Maiden and ducking under the shield.  She is tugging on the spear and fighting my Shield Maiden from her unguarded rear.  She wants this so badly.

Back to reality Warrior!

I read the rest of his letter and reread it to gain clarity on dates and information regarding his conception.  His mother sounds like an interesting character and I would love to know more about her.  His father has a history that I would like to learn more about.  He was a German Catholic.  Wow!  That is not something you see every day.  L even told me some of his reflections on the events and revealed that he spoke to his nephew, but didn't reveal that he was related.  The information is very interesting and I need to correct some dates and put some notes in my family tree.

I hope to talk to you soon Just to hear your Voice. Thank you for searching for me too. I really didn’t believe your mother knew who your father was and I needed to know. I am so sorry I missed your growing up. Your Father L

He is sorry he missed me growing up.  That is not the first time he has said that.  I have been so good about skimming over those words.  My shield maiden has protected me very well all the other times.  But this time, that blasted little girl read those words and she got into the fray and started battling from behind. I feel like this little boy..

I told him he could call me anytime he wanted to and gave him my schedule and my phone number before the Shield Maiden could let out a battle cry.

How do I communicate how this feels?  Words are worthless.  I say them and they fall like nonsense out of my mouth.  I just cry.  It is the only thing that makes any sense.  I have been crying off and on for two days now.  I can't even explain why.  I might have to pull clean dishes out of the cupboards soon.