The life of each of her children eerily paralleled each other in various ways. As their stories became known to me in those first few months, I couldn’t help but wonder about fate, genes, life patterns.
Kathy and Lawrence were sent to live with their father after being taken away from Lillian, each already bearing emotional scars that would effect their development and lead to serious problems even into their adult years. Lillian had been a barmaid in what we used to call in Texas a 'shitter bar', and she herself was a drunk . She brought home strangers who were as dysfunctional and unsavory as she herself was. Kathy, being only in grade school, had become the mother to the other three children. (If you've read some of my other posts under the labels 'adoption' and 'about me', you know that my adoptive mother, also, was a drunk and promiscuous, and declared an unfit mother.)
Karen and Stephen, at something like four and five years old, were sent to a foster home. Karen went to school one day leaving a little brother at home, but when she returned that afternoon she was told that they had sent Stephen back to social services. She herself was adopted, but was so distraught at losing her only remaining real family that she never forgave them and left the home at the age of sixteen and struck out on her own (just like her mother had done). She managed to graduate from high school and married young, but she says she found it hard to put her trust in anyone. Plus she blamed herself for Stephen being sent away. She was not in touch with her maternal family until she was 18 years old, only to find her mother dead and her brothers and sister strangers to her.
Stephen grew up with only shadowy memories and images of his real family. All he knew as he grew up in the boy’s home and foster homes was that he had apparently been unwanted and unloved and had been “sent back” as if he were an inferior article of clothing purchased at a store. He was also abused. I think Aunt Helen searched for and was able to find him when he turned 18. He lived with her a short while, but he just had too many issues with anger, and was also caught peeping in windows. Not a good sign.
Little John was put up for adoption as baby, almost immediately after being taken away from Lillian. He was believed to have slight brain damage because of malnutrition.
Although I hadn't met them at this point in the story, 1979, from talking on the phone and exchanging letters we seemed to accept each other without question, and the word LOVE was used immediately. Strangely enough, I found out that they had known about me, known that Lillian had given up a child for adoption and she(I) had died.
I was in touch by mail and phone that first year after finding them, and made it known that my home would be open to them whether it be for refuge or just kinship. There could be problems - it takes a while to accumulate “shared experiences”, until which time we would be virtual strangers. We did have one shared experience - having been born to the same mother - and that in itself made us a family. Maybe together, as a family, we could help one another forget or at least forgive our legacy, and begin a life of sharing, caring, and loving.
ONE YEAR LATER, 1980: Things don’t always work out as one hopes. My hopes for “instant” family were not realized even after a year, and it was such a disappointment.
Kathy and her son, Jacen, moved from Massachusetts to Colorado to live with us for a while (a single mother who needed help, and the new big sis just jumped right in there!). I even attended the birth of her daughter, but we just didn’t hit it off after the initial excitement. Maybe we had our hopes too high, maybe we tried too hard to make up for too many years too fast, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten along no matter what the circumstances. She wanted to be the mother, I didn't want to be mothered by a younger sister. She used people to get what she wanted/needed, we paid our way. The best way to describe it is that we irritated each other. She moved from our home to a trailer home, and then one day she just packed the kids up and left...leaving me responsible for a huge phone bill from a phone that I had co-signed for. But at least I had photos to show for her visit, of her and my niece and nephew with me and my daughter, photos of what looked like a family.
I also met Lawrence once when he came from Texas to our home in Colorado to visit, but it just wasn't for long enough a time to get a fix on each other, though we both tried. After he went on his way, he would never call or write. But, again, I had photos to show of his visit. Of me and my brother!
I talked to Stephen on the phone once, but then he disappeared. Karen would write occasionally, but after a while you run out of things to say to a stranger. At least she called me on Christmas Day. I hoped that as they all got older and got to know themselves better, they’d be more ready and able to establish a relationship with me...and I with them. Until then, I could only wait and hope.
One and a half years after finding my family, August 1980, six year old Melody and I headed for Galveston to meet, finally, my Aunt Helen, Uncle Sonny, Karen, Stephen and cousins for the first time. Lawrence and Kathy and her two kids would also be there. Was I ready for this? (to be continued...Part 7 here)
(Sorry - but I told you it would be long! Hope you're not getting bored. Really, it's almost over.)
6 years ago