Monday, May 24, 2010

Orphanage, Pt. 9: The End

I thought I would have a dramatic finish to the two series of posts (Adoption and Orphanage) that have taken up so much of this last year. But truth be told, I've been sitting here staring at the screen for several days and can't seem to find that big finish. What started out as a mention of Lake Bluff Orphanage in a post a year ago has turned into the most incredible journey, and mere words really can't do justice to the experience and the feelings involved (though I did try!).

I've told you everything from my conception thru my birth mother Lillian's relinquishment of me for adoption, thru my time at the orphanage to my adoptive parents, my upbringing, my search for my birth mother, my reunion with my siblings, my wistful yearning every birthday and Mother's Day to know all the what/when/why/wherefores of my history. You probably know more about me and mine than you do about you and yours! There just is nothing left to tell.

Some of you have said you hope I found peace at the end of this journey, in finding out so many details about my birth mother, the adoption, my time in the orphanage. And I have to honestly say that it was never about finding 'peace'. It was about finding those details, facts, documentation, good or bad. It was about filling in the blanks. And, because of Kraig, almost all of those blanks have been filled in.

I've always said that what I missed most in my life was knowing the pure love that a mother has for her child, the kind I've only experienced thru my love for my own daughter. I know now that even though she never even held me, despite taking over two months to sign the relinquishment for adoption papers, she did want something better for me than she could provide, and that is love. I think that knowing this will soften the image I have of her as the alcoholic who eventually lost her other four children due to alcoholism and neglect, at least in regard to her relationship to me and my life. My conception may have been an accident, but the decision to give birth to me and to give me up to the hope of that better life was from love.

I've always wondered how an orphanage could not have known about my adoptive mother's instability. And I know now that they did recognize it...just too late! I'm not sure exactly what she did to get noticed other than appearing flighty, or why they let it pass, but it was what it was. I certainly never expected to find so many written details about her in the orphanage records, though I had always said that there surely must have been records somewhere about the process. I think I expected generalizations, not detailed descriptions of visits.

Something about my whole story that still surprises me is this: (1) My birth mother named me Linda Irene. My adoptive parents named me Linda, not knowing that was my birth name. (2) My adoptive mother's name was Irene. (3) My birth mother became an alcoholic and neglectful mother who lost her other four children. My adoptive mother was an alcoholic and neglectful mother who lost me. I don't believe in destiny or fate, but...seriously? What are the chances?

Truly, the most amazing part of this whole journey of the last year is how it happened. The lady who flagged Lake Bluff Orphanage, who put my original adoption post in the Lake Bluff Gazette? She knew that Kraig was doing research on Lake Bluff Orphanage because her daughter had him as a coach. What are the chances of that happening? And this random alignment of events brought this awesome man into my life. I cannot say enough about him without totally embarrassing him (which I already did by saying he was cute as the dickens), so let me just say that he is honestly one of the most interesting, kind, and empathetic people I have ever met. He not only went over and above in finding out all this information for me, but he did the research and took the journey with his heart.

I can't begin to tell you how much it has meant to me to have you share the written part of this journey with me, much of it while it was happening or shortly thereafter. It was a lot of reading, but it was clear from your comments that you really read it, instead of just skimming through it as sometimes happens when a post is too long. Often, your comments helped me sort thru my own feelings about what I had just written.

My main goal was to get all this written down for my grandkids to be able to read someday, but I hope one of the side perks will be that someone will read my story and see that anything is possible, at any age! Whether you're 16, 26, or 62, being adopted comes with built-in frustration of not knowing facts and faces. If they are interested in looking, in finding out more about their beginnings, then I would say to at least give it a try. I've had several people contact me by email with their story of being adopted, or knowing someone who was adopted, and I tell them that every story has a paper trail. Sometimes all it takes is one person to give one little tidbit of info that will lead to those dusty boxes of records hidden away somewhere. Mentioning names and places in a blog doesn't hurt either, because you just never know who will be reading!

I'd like to end this with an email that Kraig sent after he had been here with his treasure chest of information (or, in this case, a pink birthday bag):

"As I read your blog, you stated about the information that "most was good" (news). So I wanted to share with you what I took from your story.

Your birth mother, Lillian, to me, made the ultimate sacrifice. You had put in one of your blogs that it was a "no brainer", based on her home situation, to give you up. I hope after reading what you now have, you realize how untrue that was. Despite her situation, she was severely conflicted, so much that it took her 2 1/2 months to finally decide what to do about you. In a world where babies are sometimes found abandoned in dumpsters or on the door steps of fire or police departments ... I hope you realize how much she cared about you. I've seen many adults who put themselves first before their kids. Teenagers are even more self-centered because they're not emotionally developed, nor do they think about things in the same way an adult would. The fact that this teenager was able to process her decision, more rationally than some adults, I find pretty amazing.

And based on what I brought to you, I hope you know how much the people at the Lake Bluff Orphanage, in particular Katy Patterson and her staff, cared for you. I'm sure based on the fact that Katy's daughter said "you couldn't help to get attached to the babies, especially the ones that were there for a month or longer." When she said that, IKNEW that you were well received and probably talked about on a daily basis by them in trying to find the right home for you. And it was obvious the case worker, Miss Fox, truly cared about your mother, and you too.

It's easy for us to think of our parents as what they "became", because often this is only what we were able to witness first-hand. Sometimes this is a depressed middle-aged person, or a drug or alcohol dependent person. And this is obviously what your mom became along her life path along with some other problems as she grew older. But as I read the report, I didn't see her as that person, because she hadn't become that person yet. All I saw was a naive teenager who made the right choice to better the life of her daughter.

The line that get's me each time is when she said she wanted to know the information on the adoptive grandparents. She herself had little home-life or any kind of contact with grandparents. And that she stated several times that she never had a place to bring her friends. Had she brought you home to Texas, and the unstable life that awaited you there, it is in my opinion you NEVER would've become the person you are today. I feel the main difference on this was your adoptive father. It was obvious to me from the reports about Tom Ecklund that he cared enough about you at the time of your adoption to gain custody of you later. I can't necessarily say any parent figure on Lillian's side was going to provide that for you.

So, in summary, because of Lillian's mature, unselfish and rather visionary decision, you now today are able to have the relationship with Lillian's great-grandchildren, Conner and Garrett, that she hoped someone would have for you. And I think THAT is what's the best thing to come out of all this. Kraig


Wine and Words said...

The Big Finish? Is there really such a thing? Heaven perhaps, but no sooner. It was quite a ride my friend. You know my birth mother named my sister Ann, not knowing my name was Ann...both of us with middle initial M. many more "coincidences" like this are there?

And I wonder what you will write of now. A new chapter. A new voice. Another path.

Thanks for taking us along!

glnroz said...

Ms. Linda,
This has been extraordinary, but still you have been extraordinary. I think few of us bloggers have been as intense and interesting as you have been with your story. I am sure I speak for a lot of others with that statement.
As, a request from me,,, DO NOT stop writing and posting. Someone once gave me a "kicK' for attemping that, now I am kicking back,, lol..Seriously,, great job.. glenn

Cheryl said...

Just found your blog so starting at the end, however what I've read has been extraordinary. I run a small writers group who are all interested in writing their life stories, so I will share your blog with them for inspiration.

Timoteo said...

An intriguing, engrossing, and poignant story from start to finish. It could not have been so in a lesser writer's hands.

Michele R said...

I read this post yesterday and got so teary eyed I couldn't see the screen. I agree with what Kraig wrote. Your mother made a very mature choice and thought about your well-being. She thought about you every year. Thank goodness for your dad. Thank goodness for where you are today with your loving family.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, Linda. I think this is such a fine post. I can't imagine how long all this will take to sink in and think it most important for you to journal your thoughts as the days and weeks go on.

It sounds like your birth mother made a wise, albeit most difficult, choice in choosing where she left you. And your appeal to all those who are adopted or those who gave their child to others - to fill in the details - most compassionate.

Kraig's letter is most lovely. His support and assessment I hope provides a basis for you to find comfort. I've always thought that adopted children begin with a contrasting conflict - for someone gave them up with such sorrow, yet someone else wanted to raise them and love them desperately. That the knowledge of wanting to be wanted might outweigh the other. Difficult, I know.

Thank you for sharing this story with us. What a ride for the reader. Can't imagine for you. How lucky for your family to have you. Interesting how things work, huh?

yaya said...

Until the book is closed, the next chapter is always around the corner. I'm glad you were able to fill in the missing pieces of your life story. Kraig's letter is just awesome and he sounds like a honey. I truly believe God knows us so personally and will guide us in this journey if we let him. Thanks for sharing!

Jeanie said...

This has been such a compelling story, Linda, and I think Kraig summed it up so well in saying "because of Lillian's mature, unselfish and rather visionary decision, you now today are able to have the relationship with Lillian's great-grandchildren, Conner and Garrett, that she hoped someone would have for you." It has been a great deal for you to take in and process and you will be doing that for a long time, I'm sure, but what he said about Conner and Garrett is so wonderful.

Bernie said...

I really enjoyed reading this story of your life with all its ramifications. It is told with such sweetness! Your mom comes off a being a really wonderful human being and all the other people-Kraig most of all and the people at the orphanage. My maiden name is Eklund. If wonder if we are related!!!

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. I am sure many who are adopted will value your push to go for it and find out the facts. That alone makes this valuable to those persons as well as to those of us who were not adopted.

You must be proud of your heritage now, my dear. Your mom was a great unselfish person.

kobico said...

Oh, Linda, I don't think you need to worry about a big finish. I think that just being able to see most of those blanks filled in is one of the best possible endings.

I'm so glad Kraig found you and that you found some of the answers you were seeking. And I'm glad you've taken the time to have the story available for your grandchildren.

My Aimless Infatuation said...

Oh Linda,I am speechless.(((hugs))).

ethelmaepotter! said...

The. Best. Blog story. EVER.

Kraig is right, you know. And so wise. I hope he shares his wisdom and passion with someone special in his life.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. And for introducing us to Kraig.

Ginger said...

There are so many coincidences, especially about the names.
Thank god your mother carried the pregnancy through and had the intelligence to know she had to give you up. I just wish your adoptive mother had been nicer to you.
Kraig sounds like a wonderful person and I hope you keep in contact with each other.

lakeviewer said...

You have gone through a tremendous journey, and twice. Once, in your day to day life; twice, in this search to find and write it all down. You must feel so many emotions, so much peace and clarification, as well as a bit of lonesomeness and regret for how things ended up. How much more understanding you now have of who your mother was, what her choice was.

Ultimately,you've gained more than you will have be able to articulate. Through reflection and empathy we learn to love and understand each other.

I'm priviledged to have followed your journey. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

Whitney said...

Wandered here from Differences with the Same Likeness, became fascinated by your adoption story as I started my own little blog, and plan to keep reading as you write on.

My sister and her husband adopted their second child a little over a year ago, and I frequently wonder what the little guy will think of his own story when he gets older. What a gift to have some questions answered - love Mr. Kraig's take on it.

Keep writing!

Lori said...

I realize that this comment is written more than a year after your original post. How I happened upon your blog is that I am a member of a songwriting group and one of the other members, Terry, is a friend of Kraig, who is prominent in your orphanage posts and he (Terry) is writing music for the yet-to-be-completed documentary on the Lake Bluff Children's Home. There was a poem written my a staff member that Kraig asked Terry to set to music. When he sang his musical rendition of the poem last night, it had all of us very somber with emotion. Most everyone else in the group is a Lake Bluff native and knew the story of the orphanage. It was the first I had heard of it however and when I arrived home I googled it and clicked through a few things and landed on your blog.

So last night and this evening I have read every word of your adoption and orphanage threads. What a generous thing you have done, sharing your story in such detail. It moved me greatly and I was compelled to tell you so. I am sure that you have touched countless lives who have read but not commented. For myself, I wish to say, "Thank you."

Your story has also caused me to think about my ex-husband. I always suspected that being adopted was somehow responsible for some of his issues. Now I am certain of it. It also makes me wonder now, all these years later, why he used to say about the fact that he was adopted, "The best part of me ran down my father's leg." That is a lot of self hatred to carry around about something over which you had no control, and for which you were completely innocent. Sad, really.

Again, Thank you! I will be contemplating all of this for some time.