Archive | April, 2017

I Love You

21 Apr

Now that you have an idea of where I came from, it is time to learn about the chain of events that led me to my present day journey. It all started with a dream.

Growing up, most of the pictures I had seen of my mother were of her as I child. I had seen maybe two or three of her as an adult. She had short hair, happy eyes and was always smiling. The pictures were never up close, always far enough away to be a tease as she smiled at me. They were close enough that I could see her but just far enough away that I could not take in all the details.

One night I got lost in a dream. I was on my way to the hairdresser. As I walked up to the salon, there was a woman in the doorway of the brick building. I had never seen her before. She had wavy hair, just past her shoulders, her right arm in the air as if reaching for something. A smile crossed her face as she welcomed me and brought me inside. I felt comfortable and at ease. While I had never seen her before, somehow, I knew she was my mother.

I sat in the chair and could feel her playing with my hair. She never cut it. Just ran her fingers through it, wrapping it around her fingers. We talked for what seemed like hours. We laughed, smiled. I wish I could remember the words. The things she said to me. She asked questions about me and told me all the things I wanted to know about her.

When she was all done with my hair and it was time to leave I stood up and turned towards her. She wrapped me in her arms and pulled me close. I could feel her. The softness of her skin, the smell of her hair, the peacefulness and honesty of her embrace. I did not want to let go. She slowly pulled away and held my hand as she walked me to the door. I stared into her eyes. I couldn’t look away. Over and over it was if I could hear my own voice telling me not to wake up. Just a little while longer. But it was time. The last words I remember hearing as her image slowly started to disappear……”I love you.”

I awoke from the dream feeling so close to her, as if we had known each other for ages. I felt such a real and deep connection. But how could it be real. The image in my dream was different than any I had seen before and all the things she told me, where did they come from? I didn’t know many facts about her. Then again as I look back at it now, I don’t remember the things we talked about. The facts and tidbits she gave me vanished when I woke up. Even though I felt the closeness, I could not remember any of the things she told me. The only ones I held on to were her parting words.

As soon as I got up I wanted to know more. I decided to trace my mother’s side of the family tree, and learn about where I came from. But I wanted so much more. In addition to wanting to learn about my family’s heritage, I also wanted to learn more about my mother. I started asking questions. All the ones I never wanted to ask growing up because I never wanted to make anyone sad. As an adult I realized talking about her didn’t make people sad. It made them happy because it gave them a chance to remember the good times they shared with her.

The more questions I asked, the more clues I got. Bit by bit I started to piece them together, determined in some way or another to finally know my mother.

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Purpose

20 Apr
Now I swear y’all…this is all going somewhere. But for you to understand the journey I am about to take you on, you needed to know the background of who I am, where I came from and the pieces that make me tick.
What I can tell you is this….I am loved. There has never been a day in my life that I have not felt loved by someone. How many people can say that people loved them enough to go to court and fight over them? That they have been loved enough that people don’t give up on you? Been loved enough to have never been forgotten or be a presence in the life of people you have never even met.
My story may not be super conventional but I can say without hesitation that I have been blessed and have daily reminders as to how lucky I am.
With that said, I still have my moments. There are times I sit down and write letters to my biological mother. I tell her all about the things going on in my life. I ask her all the questions I want to ask her: Do I make you proud? Do I disappoint you? Do you love me? Do I embarrass you? Am I living up to the potential you saw in me? and so many more. With the letters come tears.
I am not sure what it is but I sometimes long for my biological mother. I long to hear her voice, to feel her arms wrapped around me. I long to just look at her face and know she is there. To have that moment, that one moment to say everything or say nothing. Just that one moment to have her there.
Maybe it is a girl’s need for her mother, but I have never felt that way about my biological father. In fact I have never felt an emotional connection to him at all. Maybe it is because I have grown up not knowing who he is. No name, no picture, no anything to make him real to me. When it comes to my father, it is more questions like: who are you? How did you meet my mother? What is your story? Were you a couple? Why are you a secret? Did you know about me? The list just keeps going on and on. I guess my mother, because I know she is gone, is the one I long to have a relationship with. I long for her acceptance and love and that validation that I am doing ok by her. My father I think because while I knew he existed, I also knew would never exist in my life. He would never actually be a father. I look at him as a connection to knowing more about my mother and where I can from.
It is all these questions that keep the wheels in my mind turning. That keep me hungry for answers. That have lead me to the journey I am about to embark on…….with you!

Aunt Becky

19 Apr

My sophomore year of high school, my mom got a call from my grandfather. He told her that my foster mother was very sick and that she wanted to see me before she died. My mom said of course and pulled me out of school for a few days. We drove to Pennsylvania where we went to visit her.

They told her I was coming and when we got there, warned me. She could not talk and may not recognize me. As I walked in the room she locked eyes with me instantly. I went and sat by her side and held her hand. She squeezed it so tight and did not let go. I am not sure how long I sat there. She was surrounded by other family members including my foster father, 2 foster brothers and some of their significant others and children. We all talked and after a little while I went for a walk with the two girls who would have been my nieces. I fell in love with them instantly.  Those two girls made me feel like I was a part of the family. That we had known each other for ages.

My mom and I said our goodbyes when it was time to go. My foster mother was getting in to bed. The next day we met my grandfather and his wife for breakfast and they told us she had passed away the previous night. They believed she had hung on as long as she did so she could see me one last time. Of course I felt so guilty. Like maybe I should not have gone so soon so they could have had her longer but I realize now that I am older that was not the case. She was physically ready to go. Emotionally, she had been holding on.

A few years later my grandfather passed away and my foster father came to the funeral. It was there he and I really reconnected. He told me that he was remarrying and invited me to the wedding. I didn’t tell my mom and my dad, but my boyfriend and I drove to Pennsylvania for the wedding! It was such a special moment to be a part of but also so strange as all these people kept coming up to me telling me stories of, “I knew you when you were this tall” making a gesture showing they knew me when I was a wee little thing!

After the wedding I spent a few days with his oldest son (who should I have grown up with them, would have been my oldest brother) and his wife and four children. It was such a nice time. The kids all called me Aunt Becky. It appears they all grew up knowing who “Becky” was. They even told me that their grandmother still had my room in her house while they were growing up. I couldn’t believe it. I was special enough to this family that even when I had not been around for so many years, I was still in a way a part of it.

Since then, we have kept in touch with Christmas cards every year, sometimes letters and cards in between and of course now through social media it is even easier to be in touch! Who said families are cookie cutter? Families come in all shapes and sizes. Families are the people who love you. Sometimes they are your biological parents and siblings. Sometimes they are other relatives. Sometimes they are people who have come into your life and and become such a special part of it.

Found Siblings

19 Apr
When I was about twelve years old my brother came back into my life. He was around eighteen. That was a very hard time for me. For many of the years in between I did not know him. His dad passed away in a motorcycle accident. While that was surely a very hard time for him, it also brought him back into all of our lives. I wanted that. I wanted a brother, my brother.
My brother showed up just before my birthday. We spent time together with my family before he and I embarked ALONE on a road trip. The day we left I was an absolute mess. Disclaimer, I was always the kid that went to summer camp and got home sick. As much as I wanted to get away from my family, I really didn’t.
We get into the old beat up Cadillac. I am sitting in the car hysterically crying. My brother goes back inside the house and gets my mom He doesn’t know what to do. She comes out to the car, opens my door, looks and me and says, “you are going on this trip. Tears will do you no good. Your brother came all this way to do this with you and you are not backing out of it now. So stop crying.” Then she looked at my brother and said, “drive” shut the passenger door and walked away. Talk about tough love!
Off we went. As we drove away it started to rain. Water started leaking on me from above and I could feel the rain drops hitting my face. I cried harder. We continued down the highway and I heard the worst words yet, “We missed the exit. We have to turn around and get directions.” Panic!!!! I was panicking! Here I am in a car, water pouring (ok that might be an exaggeration) on me, with a stranger and we are lost !!! My brother pulled into a gas station and when he came out a few moments later he handed me a Slim Jim…something I had never had in my parents house. It was pretty good. Score one for my brother 😉
We finally made it to our first of several stops.
I think the trouble I faced with my brother was that I had so much pressure from everyone. I was supposed to instantly love him because he was my brother but it was hard for me because I was still a kid. I understood that he was my brother but he was also a stranger. I had people getting mad at me and giving me lectures because of the way I was with him. I think that pushed me further away rather than towards him.
The thing about my brother is that I am not sure that he got it. I am not sure that he understood why I was the way I was. I am sure that my reaction wasn’t what he had hoped for. But the thing is, unlike everyone else, he never pressured me. He never asked anything of me. But he also never gave up on me. He still called. He still showed up. While he was in boot camp in the Navy and out on deployment, he wrote to me. He kept telling me that he loved me and kept proving it over and over.
In time, I began to feel like I knew him. I began to trust him. I began to really love him. Not the “smile and do what everyone is telling me to” kind, but the kind where I truly loved him as my brother. I was interested in him and the things he was doing. I liked talking to him and our bond began to grow. He would tell me about our mom and growing up.
I sometimes think that our mom brought us back into each other’s lives for reason. For him, because his dad died leaving such a void. He needed family. And me, while I had been blessed with so much growing up, having him in my life is kind of like having our own little family. I think our mom looks down on us and smiles knowing that her kids are together.
Two years ago I flew down to see my brother and his family. He came to pick me up at the airport. When we got in the car, there were 2 Slim Jims sitting on the dashboard. I love that we can look back now and laugh.
My brother has given me so much. He has given me his love, a sister in law and beautiful nuggets for me to watch grow up into amazing little people. I am so blessed to have them.  all in my life. A life filled with more love and happiness because they are in it.

The Wonder Years

17 Apr

I grew up calling my aunt “mom.” She was everything to me that a mom is. She cared for me, loved me, fed me, clothed me. She helped me with homework, took me on vacation, made birthdays and holidays special, disciplined me, taught me right from wrong.

 

During the first four years it was just her and I. I infiltrated her circle of friends and soon started calling them aunt <insert name here> and uncle <insert name here>. Every so often I hear the story about the time two of my “uncles” were in Europe and were staying with a friend. They kept referring to each other as “uncle Bob” and “uncle Chris.” Their friend said, “I like this American custom you have. It is so nice.” Then they had to explain it is something a 4 year old girl started among this big group of Washington, DC insiders.

I got to do a lot of pretty cool things growing up. The aunts and uncles had a tradition called “Movie Struggle.” It was a monthly event where everyone got together for burgers at Bullfeathers and then went to the movies. It was always a struggle picking a movie as a group and on occasion they would split off into groups and see different movies. But there were some times mom didn’t have a babysitter so she and I would go for the dinner part. I have so many other fond memories of being carried around on my uncle’s shoulders, going to the zoo and Mount Vernon. Even dressing up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz for an Academy Awards party. They really took my mom and I under their wing. We were like a big family.

When I was six my mom got married. Her husband got the insta family but he was ok with that. I started to call him dad. A few years later I inherited a sister. I wasn’t too fond of having to share the spotlight, but she grew on me! A few years after that I gained another sister. It is funny because by blood we are cousins but I have never thought of them as that. We are sisters. I love them as sisters. They are mine!

I may not have had the traditional family my grandfather wanted, but in a way I did. I think over the years he was happy with the way things turned out and I know my mom up in heaven sure was.

Promises

14 Apr

The first two years after my mother’s death I lived with a foster family. They were members of my grandfather’s church and had agreed to take me in. The family was made up of a mom, dad and three sons.

I don’t have memories of those years but I have physical reminders. I know I was happy. I know that they loved me and cared about me. When I was 10, the mother sent me a photo album filled with pictures, each one with a caption so I knew who everyone was. One of my favorite pictures was from my second birthday party. I wore a little dress and had pigtails that were one giant curl each. I blew out the candles on my choo choo train birthday cake. Yes, there were multiple train cars made of cake with butter cookies for wheels!!

Another favorite picture was of me with someone’s over-sized button up shirt and boots on over my undershirt and diaper trying to walk around the house. A classic picture that is taken of many a child. I am so glad to have that. I also have a needlepoint picture the mother made me that hung in my bedroom through my teen years.

My aunt made a promise to my mother when she was visiting her after I was first born. She agreed that if anything ever happened to my mom, she would take care of me. After my mother’s death my aunt went to her parents, my guardians, and said she wanted to take me. My grandmother agreed but my grandfather did not. He wanted me to stay with the foster family. He felt they were a “real” family while my aunt would be a single mom. It was an added benefit that they lived close by to him whereas she lived several states away.

It wasn’t long before both sides found themselves in court. My aunt filed for custody and my foster family filed for adoption. My fate rested on the shoulders of a judge who decided to place me with my aunt. In what seems a twist of fate, he signed the order on my birth mother’s birthday. As if acknowledging her last wish.

Being young I don’t remember a thing, but from what I hear, it was a pretty traumatic day, the day I came to live with my aunt. She showed up at my foster family’s door to take me away, her best friend sitting in the car as the getaway driver. I was brought to the door where my foster mother held me close. She was crying and didn’t let go. My aunt finally pulled me from her arms, put me in the car and her friend drove away. I was crying. My aunt was crying. My foster mother was crying.  A few minutes later I calmed down and that was that.

That was the beginning of our adventure. My aunt and I. Two gals against the world. She never hesitated to tell me about my past. I grew up knowing of my birth mother and how much she loved me. She told me all about my foster family and how special I was to them. That they loved me enough to want me to be a part of their family forever. She also told me how much she loved me and that my mom recognized the bond she and I shared the very first time my aunt held me and that was why she wanted her to take care of me. She knew the two of us would have something special together.

 

Fundamentals

13 Apr

As a child growing up, I always knew what family was. From the age of two and ½ to six, it was me and my mom against the world. When I was six, she married a man who became my dad. At eight and a half my first sister was born and at twelve, my second sister. Sounds pretty simple right? Now that would just make things way too easy!!

When my mother found out she was pregnant with me, she was a twenty eight year old single mom with a six year old son. She had been married to my brother’s father but had since gotten divorced. She and my brother moved to Pennsylvania where she got a job and planned to raise her son.

Somewhere in all of that she was thrown a curve ball……ME! She called her parents, sisters and brother and told them that she was pregnant. People say she sounded happy. I believe I came as quite the surprise but her message to everyone was that the father was not involved and she would be keeping the baby.

I don’t know what made her decide to keep me. She did not even know me yet. Maybe she did not want to go through the process of an abortion. Maybe she was in love with the man that fathered me. It is a mystery. He is a mystery. How they met is a mystery. Why didn’t she tell anyone who he was?

Most children grow up hearing the story about how their parents met, fell in love…and the rest is history. Not me. Not only did the book not come with a story, it came without a name or even a face.

I was born in August. A Leo. What I know of this time is foggy because all I have is snippets of everyone else’s stories. I try to piece them together into a chronological pattern but over the years they have all run together. I think the day I was born my brother was rough housing with my cousins and ended up in the emergency room getting stitches.

Many people look in the mirror and ponder who they look most like. Do I have my mom’s eyes? My dad’s nose? Whose smile did I get? I look in the mirror and just see a face staring back at me. Mine. I don’t have much to compare it to.

When I was four and a half months old, my mother got sick. She was in the hospital with pneumonia. The doctors went to do a procedure to help her with her breathing. During the surgery, she went into cardiac arrest. Sixteen minutes (I think) she was on the table without oxygen. For two weeks she was in a coma, machines breathing for her and keeping her alive. She never came home. She was 28 years old, just shy of her twenty ninth birthday. That is not supposed to happen. A six year old and a newborn at home. She had so much to live for and see. So many things to be a part of. Proms, weddings, grandchildren…just to name a few. But in the blink of an eye she was gone. No time to prepare. No one getting to say goodbye.

My brother went to Florida to live with his father. I had no father to go to. I had no “place.” My grandparents (divorced) had guardianship of me. My grandfather made arrangements for me to stay with a family from his church. But what was to be done with me for the long term?  That was yet to be decided.