Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Orphanage, Part 5: The Interview

You know how they say that you should take someone with you when you go to an important doctor's appointment, because, when the news is about you, you can't absorb it? That you need that third party to listen and to take notes so that they can go over it with you later? That's how today was.

Kraig arrived at our home around noon. He wasn't anything like I expected, though I'm not really sure what I expected! Cute as the dickens, I think he said he was about 45 years old, and just very easy and casual. I had warned him about our dogs, how they would bark like crazy for the first thirty minutes before they settled down. So he came with a box of Three Dog Bakery dog treats! He had also brought a black screen cloth, two unbrella lights, a tripod, a video recorder, etc.

We visited for a little bit, my daughter and husband showed up and we visited a little more, he set up his equipment and hung the black background on the curtains, attached the mic to me, sat me in a chair, started asking me questions based on my blog posts and on the emails he and I have exchanged, and on the information that he had found and I had yet to know about.

And what information he found! Never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd have this much! Some of it I already knew, some I wasn't expecting at all, and some just blew me away. To say I was stunned would be an understatement. To say that I'm still numb three hours later would be accurate. I'm not an overly emotional person in public, but my heart was beating wildly and my ears were ringing the entire time with suppressed emotion. And that's why I can't tell you about it right now. I've yet to process it.

That bag at the beginning? That's an early birthday gift from Kraig. It contains a book of the history of Lake Bluff, Illinois (with a section on the orphanage), a dvd of interviews with the two nurses who would have been my nurses for the three months I was there, pictures of the orphanage as it looked then, photos of the nursery and the cribs...and two sets of documents covering the end of my mother's pregnancy starting in April 1948 when the unwed mother's home is making arrangements for me to be placed in the orphanage, thru to the one year evaluation of me with my adoptive parents, all the way to "August 31, 1949 Case closed. Child legally adopted."

Some of the things I thought I knew about my birth, my biological mother and her family, were false. Everything I thought I knew about my biological dad was false. Things I knew a little about were elaborated on. New facts emerged about my maternal family, my mother's pregnancy, and my birth and time at the orphanage. Most was good. As soon as I read the papers again, look at the dvd, and maybe look at the video that my daughter took, I will be able to focus enough to make a post about all that I learned today.

For now, let me just say this. I turn 62 on May 15, and I never thought I would get this kind of birthday present at this age. Did I mention that I'm stunned? And that Kraig has got to be one of the nicest people I've ever met? And that he came all the way from Chicago to Ringgold, Georgia to give me the results of this research he did for someone he'd never met, who he only found out about last year from my mentioning Lake Bluff Orphanage in a blog post?

Yes, indeed, I am stunned. ( be continued)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Orphanage, Pt. 4

Having already informed me that he will be coming to interview me on April 28, Kraig writes again. I had told him in my reply that I had googled him and found some very nice things about him, about his involvement in his community, to which he responds here.

April 14, 2010

Must be another Kraig xxxx. All kidding aside, people tend to make a bigger deal out of things than they need to when it comes to publicity. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie 7 LBS with Will Smith from a couple years ago. I'm not a very big Will Smith fan, but it's a powerful movie, and there's a line in the movie when he is visiting a hockey coach and the coach asks him why Will's character is giving him a "gift". (I won't ruin the movie as to what the gift is if you haven't seen it.) But Will's character replies something to the effect " because you do good things for people when nobody is watching". I would like to think I'm the same, but there's always a lot of people "watching" where I live that I can't necessarily escape.

As far as flights go, thanks for your offer about Chattanooga, but I'm going to stick with my Nashville plan. I found direct flights from Chicago to Nashville each way that get me there in a little over an hour, and for just $59 each way! I couldn't ride a moped to your place and back for less, not to mention the time savings too. Chicago to Chattanooga flights were all $300+. With no direct flights---so even with the rental car, I'm still way ahead. And the more I can save, the more I can give to the Vliet Museum in the long run. So I'll see you on the 28th.

Your "fans" that are following your blog are putting a lot of heat on me to produce some life changing information. I know from what you wrote that you're not expecting much, so if you go into our meeting with that attitude, I'll hopefully leave you feeling happy and your soul a little more filled.

Just so you can sleep at night, I'm not going to show up with some 82-year-old hairy-eared-man with no teeth by my side and say he's your father. So no Luke Skywalker/ Darth Vader "Luke, I'm your father" surprises --so you can relax about that.

But I do certainly know a bunch about the people who took care of you the first three months of your life, and have some stories to share that I've discovered since sending you the first DVD that I think would best be done in person. Any additional tidbits, or, as you said, "nuggets" of information that my contact at Cxxx can give me to give to you when I meet with her next week, will be gravy to what I already know and had been planning to give you for over six months now.

So hopefully that will take some of the anxiety away from my approaching visit. Should any emergency come up and you need to reach me... Here's my cell xxx... Kraig

In just a few more days I will know...what? There's no sense in trying to guess or speculate, as I haven't a clue what's in store! But this I do know. Anything I find out will be exciting, and will add so much to what little I know about my early life story. It won't change anything then or now, but it will be nice to know.

I actually never thought too much about having been in an orphanage as an infant when I was growing up, especially since I was there such a short time. (The only thing I knew about orphanages was from David Copperfield and Annie!) My thoughts leaned more to my birth mother and why she had given me up, or to how my life surely would have been different or better if she had kept me (not so, as we found out!).

It wasn't until I had my own daughter that my thoughts turned to the orphanage, and again when she had her two children. We both took so many photos those first three months! Photos of so many moments that covered no particular milestone except that they were born and they were ours and they were beautiful and loved. So I naturally would have the passing thought about my first three months. Was I left to cry in a crib all day, receiving attention only when I was wet and hungry, or did they have caretakers and volunteers who held me and interacted with me, cooed and hummed lullabys?

Well, I may still not find out the answer to those questions, but I'll let you know what information Kraig does bring me, so tune in on the evening of April 28!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Orphanage, Pt. 3

This isn't the email I had intended to post, the one I mentioned at the end of Orphanage Pt. 2. from Kraig xxxx. (As a reminder, he is doing a documentary on Lake Bluff Orphanage, and has offered to do research on my time there in 1948.) I think the two most current ones sum everything up pretty good, so I'll post this one first, and the other one later in the week. (I don't expect you to be able to keep up with all of this...there have been so many emails that I have trouble myself! Since I'm skipping some, you might feel that some 'pieces' missing.)

April 14, 2010

"Linda, how are you doing?I wanted to let you know my tentative plans. I've booked a flight to come see you on Wednesday, April 28th. I would fly into Nashville, which seems to be the closest and most economic flight situation with a rent a car. Flight gets in shortly before 8:00AM and I would then drive to your home and arrive around 12 noon or shortly before that?

I had hoped to do a short interview with you where you can tell your story. Basically everything you've written about, but just filmed. And then I plan to give you whatever information I have for you to fill in some details about what I could find about your first 3 months of life at the Lake Bluff Orphanage. I don't have any information or report yet from your file from my contact at Cxxx, but she's on the case! She should have this all together by this date.

I would leave around 3:00 pm to get back to Nashville to catch a flight that leaves at 7:00pm. Does this day and timing work for you? As far as the interview would go, the only thing I would need is for you to sign a video release saying it's ok to film you. I'm new at all this, but the video guy who runs the video program at the local high school who's assisting me when I have questions gave me a standard release form that he said I need to have everyone sign. All the kids at the school need to use them for any video projects kids are making for class.

The video I'm doing is a gift from me to my town. I'm giving it to the Vliet Museum of Lake Bluff History and they plan to show it over the Christmas season for a few nights as a fund raiser for the museum. The only thing I'm asking for is reimbursement for my expenses from the museum to make it. ...(portion deleted)... Anything beyond my expenses the museum will keep.

You can have anyone over at your house when we do this. I don't know if your daughter is around - hopefully your husband. I think they'd all share in some joy of what I hope to present to you this day . It would just need to be pretty quiet for the interview portion - the mic I use is really sensitive and picks up the most remote sounds.

Anyway, let me know if this all works, so I have time to cancel or change my flights around. The sooner the better, as you know, flights get more expensive the later you make changes.Best regards, Kraig

April 14, 2010, my reply:

The 28th sounds fine! Did you check for a flight into Chattanooga? It seems like relatives always come in to Nashville, but we've always used Chattanooga. Maybe it's more expensive? On the other hand, unless you have your mind set on getting a rental car and/or doing sightseeing, you could come into Chattanooga even if it was a little higher, and I could pick you up and return you and save you the rental fee and drive! We're only maybe 30 minutes from the airport, an easy drive down I-75. Just an idea. Whatever works for you! We're not a big family and don't have a bunch of friends that would come over even if we won a million dollars, so there shouldn't be any problem other than dogs barking, which we can try to hold to a minimum by getting them some extra long-lasting treats. The grandsons will be in school. I'm looking forward to meeting you, Kraig! I googled you, so know that this isn't the only good deed with your name attached to it ... unless there's another Kraig xxx! ... Linda

Ok, I don't know about you, but this turn of events seemed to come out of the blue, even though he had told me that someday he hoped to interview me. "Someday", to me, was...sometime in the distant future, maybe in the summer! And yet here it is, coming up in little over a week! The email he sent the next day is quite funny, so come back later in the week to check it out. (to be continued...)

Note to self: Get hair trimmed, get chip in front tooth fixed, do spring cleaning, find special treats to keep dogs from barking for a couple of hours...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday's Wander to the Wayside: My Early Spring Garden

Today we're wandering to the wayside from your vantage point, but not mine...we're looking at my own garden! We went from winter to summer here this last few weeks, literally. From the 60s to the 80s and a sun so bright it could burn your eyeballs. I swore last year that I was going to paint my front door from dark green to white (it gets so hot that Conner burnt his hand last year), but with it being so hot already there's no way. Well, maybe we'll have some more seasonal weather before June actually gets here.

In the meantime, the garden is waking up. The daffodils/tulips/iris are absolutely gorgeous in our area this year (though my iris aren't even in bud yet), but, sadly, they're also fading fast because of the intense heat. Most knockout roses are already covered with buds, and all the flowering shubs and trees are blooming at the same time (forsythia, lorapedlum, dogwood, bradford pear, etc.), thus making this one of the worst allergy seasons we've had in a long time. Fortunately for me, most of my allergies are in the fall, but Garrett, the 7 year old grandson, really suffers.

I've had these strawberries for about eight years, or at least they're from the original ones I bought then, and I moved them into pots a few years back because our pasture grass would not leave them alone, and David didn't have time to do raised beds. They get their first delicious bounty by the end of May, and then another batch at the end of the summer.

This is the krawnzan cherry tree that we're still not sure will survive. It took a terrible drought hit it's first two summers, got canker, and the trunk somehow went all crooked. I'm having to prune the branches on one side to keep it from getting too heavy on that side and falling over! But it's right next to the deck, providing much needed shade in a few years, and a spot for birds to nest (if we ever get any).

David's always bring home cool pieces of wood, and lambs ear always softens it's edges. I just got thru cleaning this one up - if you've ever had one (lamb's ear) you know what an ugly mess they are at the end of winter!

This is a Lithodora, which is a ground cover that has a dark blue flower against dark green foliage that blooms thru June. I bought it thinking it was Forget- Me -Not, obviously not reading the tag. It was a deeper blue when I brought it home, but the sun has kind of faded it. I can't wait to see how it does, as it was one of those blues that just jumps out at you, and it will spread to 2-3' and reseed.

This bush is a witch hazel, and you really need to enlarge it to see the spidery flowers. This poor bush has been dug up and dragged to I don't know how many houses, but has finally come into it's own now that it's had four years to recover from the last move. It starts blooming in early March, or even in December if we have a warm year.

You just can't beat a tulip, can you?

And now, a sad story. This next photo is of a resident hawk (not sure which kind). Because of him, and the resident mockingbird, we have NO BIRDS. Seriously. Remember those beautiful bluebirds from last summer? No bluebirds. The bright yellow finch at the living room window? Nada. On the plus side, we also have no sparrows, but I'd gladly welcome them back if it meant the others would follow! Enlarge if you think you can identify it, or just to see the mean look in his eye! He can turn his head all the way around, and is so quick it's like watching a magic trick. He will sit there for hours and hours, and couldn't care less that I'm watching him. This shepherd's hook is only five feet outside the window, and he looked me in the eye when I took this photo!

The only bird he hasn't caught or threatened is...the f***ing (yes, I know, those of you who know me are surprised that I didn't say it out loud) MOCKINGBIRD that tormented the bluebirds last year, and has taken over the back yard to the nth degree already this year, including chasing away the bluebirds and cardinals before my very eyes. I actually have a video of two mockingbirds having a territorial fight out back, but couldn't get it to upload.

All this started when I put out feeders this winter. Birds of all kinds came from miles around to feast in my yard during our four snows, until the starlings also arrived. And then the hawk. And then the mockingbird. But it all started with the feeders, and I'm sure the hawk was circling overhead and saw them all hanging out. So it's my fault. As for what to do about it, I don't know. I'm guessing that we can't shoot either bird (except in my dreams), so I'm at a loss. Any suggestions? Imagine, a nice big yard with trees, bushes, and flowers...AND NO BIRDS!!!

One last thing...I didn't take a photo of it but will mention it anyway. Did you ever make a donation to something like the Arbor Day Foundation, and get fifty twigs in the mail that you're supposed to plant? Well, last year, that's exactly what happened. I think I forgot to take them out of the plastic bag they arrived in, and they got soggy and moldy. I stuck three in a pot of dirt to see what would happened, and promptly forgot about them. Until this week. Lo and behold, what do you think is growing in that pot? A Sargent Crabapple, a Golden Rain Tree, and either a dogwood or crepe myrtle. The problem is that the color code has worn off, so although for some reason I still had the descriptions pamphlet within easy reach, I don't know which is which. Oh wait, I guess there is a drawing for leaf identification, so that might help. Except that the trees are very misshapen trunk wise (or twig wise I should say), so I'm not sure if planting them would be a smart thing to do. Though I guess it won't hurt to give it a try. They couldn't look worse than the trunk of the cherry tree!

Happy gardening to all! I'm enjoying seeing everyone else's spring flowers, and I look forward to seeing the fruit of YOUR efforts in the coming months.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Orphanage Pt 2

As I told you in part one of The Adoption Story that Keeps on Giving, I received an email from Kraig xxx last May after I had mentioned Lake Bluff Orphanage in one of my posts about adoption. He and a friend were doing research on the orphanage, and he was interested in my story. He also had a dvd that he sent me of the early days of the orphanage, filmed about ten years before I was there in 1948. I didn't mention it here at the time because I was going to wait to see how things turned out, if he finished the documentary, etc.

Over the last ten months, Kraig and I have exchanged many emails, both about my story and about his documentary, and then this last Christmas(2009) I wrote to see if the documentary had been finished on time and how it went. A couple of weeks ago, March 2010, I received the following email:

Linda, How are you? I've taken about a 3 month break from the film documentary to concentrate on my full-time work. Now I've got a 6-week block of time I'm committing to getting back on it. I was wondering ....

1) Did you ever find out who was your biological father? If I could find that out for you, would you care to know? I'm not sure I can get it, even if it's available without a court order , but I thought I'd ask.

2) You said in your original post that, "I would have loved to have had at least one photo of that time, either of someone holding me in the orphanage, or especially of Lillian holding me before she signed therelinquishment papers." If such a photo existed, would you allow me to find it for you?

The reason I'm asking all this is some of this information MIGHT exist. I use the word might, because I don't know quite yet, but I'd like to find out for you. You usually need to have a lawyer or a person who specializes in adoption searches do this for you, which can cost in the thousands. I'm happy to find out for you at no expense. I've come across a person on the "inside" (so to speak) that has become a pretty good friend while I've been working on this project. She's pretty good about getting me what I need without all the red tape that you might have to go through yourself. I've read different "posts" from some adoption websites that complain that nobody returns their calls, or they come to a dead end with finding what they need from this same organization that holds all the files. Here's a chance to try to gain any info that might be available for you very easily.

Here's what she wrote me that I would need from you to, pardon my French, cover her "ass" ... 1) A letter from the original person(s) - (that's you) stating: their name (and adopted name if it is different from their name now), their adopted parents' name, their birthdate. 2) A letter form the original person(s) stating that they are "granting XXXX permission to release any and all biological information related to the adoption that took place through the Lake Bluff Children's Home to Kraig xxx". Let me know

Well, as you can imagine, this was quite exciting news! Not that I have any illusions about what he could find, but just the idea that there might be some nugget of information out there that has escaped my attention would be a bonus addition to my story!

For example, as I told Kraig in one of my emails, referring to the letter that Homes for Children had sent about my mother in 1978, the letter said that "the record shows of no further contact with her after signing the relinquishment." Yet I have it from two sources that this is not the case. When I first contacted my aunt Helen, when I told her what my birth name was and when I was born, she screamed "oh my God, you're Lillian's oldest daughter, the one she gave up for adoption! We were told that you had died in a fire!" She's the one who told me that Lillian and her mother had called to check on me, to see if I'd been adopted, and were told that I had died in a fire. And the older lady I spoke of, who said that every May 15th Lillian sat at her table talking about the baby she gave up for adoption, said that Lillian never got over that she had been told I had died in a fire. But, as I said before, I believe this was not an uncommon practice back then" (to give the death story to the biological parent, or to not give all aspects of the information to an adoptee).

Also, the orphanage letter said that "we have no information about the putative father except her report that he was 23 years of age, had dark hair, and probably had graduated from high school." My question has always been 'would a 19 year old girl, away from home and across the country for the first time, be able to go thru an unwed mothers home and this adoption process and not share something else in the course of the conversation, like that she came to Chicago from Texas because that's where he was from, and he either rejected her or she couldn't find him?' And 'really, she didn't even mention that he was in the service at the time, like in the Navy and stationed in Galveston, this during a time when so many young men were in the service?' I guess it's possible, but if there was even a small notation answering these questions, I'd like to know about it. And what if she had actually said his name, Don Miner, and the adoption guy who wrote me had chosen not to give it?

In other words, if this current 'inside' person that Kraig talked about is able to access my records and the information contained in them, I would love to see it. On the other hand, if nothing else is there that I don't already know, then no harm is done in trying. Right? And let me make it clear here, I am not expecting anything, only indulging in some wishful thinking, and I'll not be overly disappointed if nothing comes up.

I had another nice email from Kraig that I'd like to share with you, but it's too long for here. I'll try to do that another time as it shows a lot about the character of the man who is offering to do this, as well as his acknowledgement that I had already, indeed, obtained a lot of information on my own or from the orphanage guy, and wasn't sure himself exactly how much more there could be. I've got my permission letter printed and ready to put in the mail. In the meantime, we will just have to wait however long it takes for any new information ...or no information!

Let me add, too, that one of the reasons I find this whole situation so fascinating is not just because of my story or what information might be in it for me. But just think about it - orphanages in the United States are pretty much a thing of the past, at least on a large scale like Lake Bluff was. Most cities have gone to the foster home system. So for hundreds of thousands of adopted children who are now adults, there is a box in some attic, warehouse or basement collecting dust, and containing information that they may never be able to access because it's not permitted under the rules of the system. Information that could complete the fabric of their life, could answer their questions. What a shame.