I found my daughter online not quite ten years ago. She confirmed for me I had the correct person and we exchanged a few emails. I believe we also once chatted via AOL instant message. Sometime during the exchange, she shared a fear. She feared I expected her to be something she was not. She never told me exactly what that meant. I should have asked as I presumptuously assured her I did not. I told her I wanted to know who she is today and I had no expectations.
This was an honest statement by one side of my personality – the adult, mature, educated side. I had read my books, talked to my adoptee friends, and absorbed all the suggested do’s and do not’s of reunion. I was mindful of the name issue. I never pushed meeting face to face. I asked permission to send presents. I told her she was driving us to whatever destination might be down our reunion road. I tried to be really good and respectful and give her space. When she told me to go away, I did. Even after going away I worked to keep the doors open so that she would feel welcome to contact me in the future should she change her mind.
I was very sincere in all sentiments. I did not expect her to be anything in particular. I was blissfully happy to know she was alive. I knew what she looked like. I knew where she was.
I have recently realized I was not completely honest with her or even myself back then.
There was (and still is) a version of me that did have expectations.
And still does.
Since May 19, 1986 (the day I surrendered my daughter to closed stranger adoption), I have had to deal with a certain duality, a split personality of sorts. Inside my singular body exists two strong-minded women. There is the young eighteen-year-old mother surrendering her child as well as the forty seven year old women I am today. As I write this, I am the forty-seven year old professional, successful parent of two sons, volunteer, student, writer, wife and activist and yet I am simultaneously that eighteen-year old mother alone without her child. Always. At the same time. This dual existence may not be obvious to the outside world but to me, I feel it, her, us, every day. She kicks me in the throat and stops my words from coming. She pinches me behind the eyes and causes salty tears to gather in glassy pools on my lower eyelids. She weighs me down in the morning and prevents me from getting out of bed at a decent time.
I am both of these women at all times.
The older version of me? The today me? Curvy chick with purple hair? She is the one who spoke for us and said we did not expect anything. She/I was wrong. While she/I meant what we said, we did not have the right to speak for the red haired eighteen-year-old mother as well. We failed to consult her.
This eighteen year old mother has been really pissed off at the older version me for almost ten years. She did have expectations. She was promised certain things. She believed in them and waited for the day they would arrive. She hung her sanity on their existence.
Is it any wonder she is trashing inside of me angry that none of those things have come true?
How do I apologize?
What do I tell her?
How can I make sense of that which does not make sense and may never make sense?