I am grateful for the eight months I had to correspond with my cousin before she passed on.
Having lived with my mother from the age of four and being only three years younger, she was a fountain of information, one I certainly wished I had tapped more completely.
I am an emotional sap these days. I cry reading stories of adoptees who refuse to meet their heartsick mother, who’s waited eighteen years or more for the chance to see again the child they were coerced out of. I even cry happy tears watching reunions on "The Locator". The absolute worst are the stories of adoptees rebuffed, denied, hurt beyond measure as they experience again the fears and self-doubts they’ve struggled so long to overcome. I simply cannot comprehend how a mother could not want to know her own child. It is the cruelest thing I have ever heard of and I bawl like a baby whenever I read of another.
When I was young, before age six or so, I spent a lot of time on the front lawn waiting for my mother to return for me. I figured this "adopted" thing was temporary. After all, I had been told that my mother "just couldn’t take care of me"; I expected she would remedy the situation, come pick me up, and all would be fine from then on.
(I guess I didn’t bond all that well with my forever parents. They were good people, generally, but strict, and the natural love found in most families was glaringly absent. I was well aware of that fact and envious of my friends’ families before the age of five.)
Only once did I try and discuss with my cousin the impact my relinquishment had upon my mother. It went something like this:
Me: So, umm, did M ever mention me, I mean, say anything about me, later. Like, years later or something…. I, umm, just wondered if she thought about me or anything, umm…
Cousin: You know, I asked her once if she ever thought about trying to look you up, to contact you, and she said "Oh, they seal those records forever, I couldn’t find out if I tried".
Me: Yeah, well, they certainly tried, I mean the records are still sealed though they have this central registry thing nobody knows about because they never advertised it. I was just wondering if she ever brought me up in a conversation or something…
Cousin: Oh Jimm, she would have loved to meet you, I just know it in my heart.
Me: Yeah, well, probably, I sure wish we had had the chance, you know. I kinda just figured that since you knew her so well, you were the only other family member to even know of me, that she might have felt the need to talk about it once in a while, and, umm, you would probably be the one she would speak to…
Cousin: If she were alive today she’d be so happy to know you. You’ve grown into such a nice and responsible adult. And L too. [my half-sister, also relinquished] She says she worked at the phone company too, just like me. Twenty years I worked there, they treated me pretty well. You know your mother worked there too, for a few years, a different department than me though, I remember one day, I had to work through most of my lunch hour that day…
Thereafter, no discussion on the topic was entertained. The conversation was always gently guided elsewhere, typically a humerous recollection including my mother, raising my suspicions that a joyful reunion might not have been likely after all. I had set upon developing another line of questioning that might reveal more truth in the matter but was unsuccessfully slow. With L’s passing, the last hope of answering the question of why also died.
At least I escaped being abandoned a second time. For that, I suppose I am grateful.
In a way. Sort of.
Or maybe not. It’s hard to decide.
Very hard to decide.