we are everywhere

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Look

Five years ago, I received a first letter from my son. And he enclosed a picture of himself; the first picture I had seen of him in over 25 year years. I had access to only a few photos of him as a newborn that were taken of him just before surrender.

Probably, I went into shock looking at that picture. Surreal doesn't begin to describe how it is for a mother to merge the image of her newborn with the image of a grown child without any images to bridge the in between period. How was I even to begin filling in 25 years of black out?

I had always tried to imagine what he looked like. I thought of him physically as a composite of his father and I. And that turned out to be true. Sometimes he is a "spittin' image" of me and sometimes that of his father.

My son and I have reunited in person, also, and reunion has made me understand that muscle movements, facial expressions, gait, body stance, vocal pitch and inflection all experienced in the third dimension are so much of what comprises and projects a person's appearance. I have realized how flat and incomplete is a two dimensional photo image of a person. The first photo my son sent me is only one version, so to speak, of what he really looks like.

I must have looked at that first photo about 20 times a day. It makes me smile when I place this photo next to his newborn hospital photo. The pose is strikingly similar. In each photo, his head tilts to the right and the my eyes can follow the the same lines of his forehead, cheek, and chin. His baby fist and wrist and the pose of his hand in the adult picture is the same. I simply cherish both photos. About two months after he sent me the picture of himself at 25, I wasn't so afraid that I would loose it anymore, so I began to carry it around with me in my purse. It was incredible, simply unbelievable to me that I finally knew what my son looked like!!!

And even a couple months after finally knowing, I realized that I was doing the still doing the strangest thing. I became strongly aware of myself studying the faces of all young men in their early 20's who crossed my path each day. I was "still searching" each face for my son; looking for the composite image of his father and myself. I was stunned to be still operating out of such deeply ingrained habit. I had to stop myself when I began surfing the crowds for faces and mentally say, "That is not your son. You now know what he looks like. You have the picture, remember?"

And I became aware of something else at the very same time.

I became aware of women staring at me with "The Look". I would catch women about the age of my own mother passing me in the grocery or at Target who appeared to be ardently studying my face. They seemed to be examining my face, my eyes, my mouth with precision 5 second timing and efficiency; just as I had become a master of doing as each five year old boy at the playground, each seven year old in the schools I taught; or each 16 year old making my change from the register at the Super America.

As I became more aware of women giving me "The Look", I began to have to fight the impulse to rush to these women and blurt out; "I am not your daughter. But I understand. I really do because I have lived this, too. Listen to me! You are not alone. There are so many of us mothers and we are finding and again seeing the faces of our beloved children! I know the face of my son!"

"Do you know about search and reunion? Do you know about the Soundex reunion registry at www.isrr.net? Do you know about CUB?"

" Do you know that it is OK to search? I know that we were told we have no right to search and that at best, we are bad for our dear children. Do you know that those are lies? Those are huge lies! Believe them no longer!"

I still do catch women who might be the age of my own mother scrupulously studying my face in the grocery lines. And about a month ago, I was strongly aware of man wearing a nice suit, who was about the age of own my father, giving me "the Look".

What about all the mothers and fathers still searching the crowds and the grocery store aisles for the faces of their grown children? How can they know that it is really OK to look for their children? How can they be better be given that message and the vehicles and support for searching?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

So yesterday, in the soft, humid 6 a.m. sunlight, I drove to work. As I turned into the parking ramp, I passed thousands of white grave markers. Every work day I drive past the same cemetery and I usually think of my son's grandparents. The parents of his natural father are buried there. I think fondly of them; and I am sad they they lost their grandson in this life and that he lost them.

I thought about driving into the cemetery yesterday. As it was Father's Day there might have been people available to give maps and directions to gravesites. I would have liked to stop by and leave some flowers or a picture of their grandson.

I think that they would be proud of him. My son lights up and consumes a room like his grandfather did, and like I remember that his father does; but in his own way. A quieter way. He has a confident swagger in his step like them; but most definitely possesses his own gait. I am so overjoyed when I see my first born son filling up the room; interacting with the people around him.

When I say that they would be so proud of my son, their grandson, I am not any longer the young woman who seeks the approval of my boyfriend's parents. However, I still feel greatly connected to them through my son; and often think of them.
I have real spritiual connection to them and a solid flesh and blood connection to them each time I touch the face or arm of my son.

I ran out of time yesterday to stop by the cemetery. I had to get myself to church after work and then home for the dinner my other sons were BBQ-ing for their dad.
Ran out of time. Also, not sure that I had the emotional energy to expend in visiting their graves, yesterday. I know that there is a whole pocket of pain and tears just centered around them and my son that will break when I do get to the graves. It takes energy, you know? Yet it also takes energy to hold together all those cracks in my heart; pressuring my being. It's just that I have to figure out when it is safe for me expend the tears and energy. I have to discern how much I can afford to expend in tears and how much energy to keep in reserve for my day to day living.

I am relieved, ecstatic really, that my son and his father finally have the chance to know one another, to build a relationship and to have the opporunity to connect today on Father's day. Been a long time in coming for them.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Grandma's 100th Birthday

Today is my grandmother's birthday. If still on this side of the veil of tears, she would be 100 years old. I was trying to tell my youngest this morning who she was.
He has no memory of his greatgrandmother as she died when he was only 9 months old. And one of the saddest things to me is that at the very end of her life, although I think she always knew who I was, she didn't always appear to recognise my youngest when we visited.

I didn't expect the tears to fall this morning when speaking of her to my youngest child. They surprised me after 8 years of her being gone. Grief does creep up and bite you when you least expect it.

My children born in the middle all have memories of their greatgrandmother; but my first born, like my last born, has no memory of her. Since my reunion with my son, I have begun to have the opportunity to relay to him who she was. My first born was the child that I and my whole family lost to adoption. And when I have had the opportunity to explain to him what my gradmother was like, I have always made the point very clear to him that my grandmother never forgot him. My grandmother always kept his newborn hospital picture on her bedroom dresser. I found in still sitting her on her dresser while taking care of her things after her death. She was the only one of my family members who was not afraid to keep a picture of him in her home; to keep him present among us. And for that, I love her even more dearly.

My grandmother was a seamstress who made and altered her own clothes. And she was a breast cancer survivor and out of necessity altered each of her dress and blouse sleeves. The mastectomies left her arms always terribly swollen. The fabrics she chose to wear were bright and very busy. She always let me know that she thought my conservative, subdued color choices were less than appealing. As for my grandmother's fashion statements, think 60's paisleys in lime greens and cotton candy pinks!

So today, on Grandma's 100th birthday, I will begin a new quilt in her memory. I have found the most perfect fabrics for this quilt; patterns I might have found hanging in her extensive walk in closet. And I will sew them into an Irish chain quilt in honor of my "I'm 100% Irish and proud of it!" grandmother.