Serious Q: What if…

The question that was not really a question did not surprise me.

I sensed the feeling, the confusion, and the angst surrounding it for years. Every time I spoke with her and got an update on her reunion it was there, hiding behind the uttered phrases, peeking out behind the “things are rough but I am lucky to have her in my life” word wall she had built.

I recall one particular challenging phone conversation where she cried a mixture of deeply sad and tremendously angry tears.  Her words, confused and conflicting, indicated she was tired of reunited daughters’ treatment of her and her kept children yet she feared stating such would end the reunion. Avoiding all conflict with daughter, she tolerated the vicious attacks, the nasty emails, the contrary gifts sent to relatives.  Much like a battered wife might state about an abusive husband, she felt having her daughter, even with the abuse, was better than not having her at all.

I rarely knew what to say.   I generally assumed she did not want me to say anything; she just needed someone to bear witness to the craziness she endured. In her presence, I would hold her hand and let her vent. Electronically I sent {{hugs}} and on the phone, I would “aww” or “hmm” or, as was often the case, lacking anything to say, sniffle to acknowledge I had heard and was still on the phone.

Thus, when the painful question finally passed her lips and made a sound that my ears could hear and my heart could understand, I was not at all shocked.

“What if…what if you do not like your child?” she asked.

The question was almost too much for her to utter.  I could hear her fear of judgment in the pause and repeat of the “what if”.  She felt like a terrible mother.  What kind of mother feels this way let alone utters the question for others to hear?

My friend does. My very good friend who happens to be a very good mother to her parented children feels like a terrible one to her surrendered and reunited child.

I did not say that. I really did not say anything. I had too many mixed feelings to safely answer her.  The words brought flashes of memory to my mind. My mother and my sister.  My own reunion.  My experiences with adoptee friends who tell me the reverse – they do not “like” the mother they found.  Such a situation does not qualify for a yes or no, right, or wrong answer. It is far more complex than that.

I still have yet to answer her, assuming she is even waiting for it.  Maybe it was enough that I listened and did not quickly respond with an answer, cast any judgment or ask her to explain herself more clearly.  Perhaps my silence was an acceptable response.

Or not.

Silence is sometimes construed as judgment. I think of all the years my family avoided the subject of my daughter.  They thought they were helping me. I thought they were ashamed of me.

Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  When I did not respond to her did I contribute to some sort of evil? Even if that evil exists only in her mind?

More thoughts to come in my next post on same topic.

Getting What We Want

Sitting on the funeral home chair, too small for my ample back end, I turn to my sister. We are hiding from a woman also attending my aunts wake service. We knew said woman in our childhood days when she had exceptionally bad halitosis and a tendency to pick her nose and rub the retrieved product in between her fingers as she spoke to you. We have no desire to speak to her. We pretend we are engrossed in a deep conversation with each other. Our mother is behind me and to my left. I hear her speaking rather loudly. Are you supposed to be quiet at wakes? I am never quite sure. I have attended loud talkative celebrations of death and somber quiet ones. My mother surely feels this is one of the loud ones.

“Marianne! I cannot believe it is you. What has it been? 30 years?” shrieks my mother.

The woman my mother called Marianne leans in close to her and responds. I cannot hear exactly what she says in response. She clearly thinks wakes are to be quiet events. I can only make out the words “lost” and “Jack”. I gather is she is referring to my father’s death a few years prior.

My mother responds (again loudly) and proceeds to share an inaccurate explanation of my fathers’ death. I cringe and look at my sister.

“Duh-nile is more than just a river in Egypt…,” she says as I roll my eyes toward her. She seems to have heard the same thing I did.

What is so wrong with admitting my father died of liver disease caused by a lifetime of alcoholism? Must our family secrets continue into the grave? Why not tell the truth? Everyone knew my father drank too much. This is no secret. I am irked. The death of my favorite aunt, my mother acting like the mayor of the funeral service and now her sharing false statements are almost too much to bear.

“And I have fourteen grandchildren!” my mother squeals in delight.

“Fourteen!” Marianne parrots back to her.

“Yes….and …” her voice trails off. Either she got the memo to lower her voice or I have shut her out. Likely the latter.

Years ago, I would be hurt when my mother said she had thirteen grandchildren. I would cringe every time I had to write her an email at the address that referred to the baker’s dozen of grand kids. At some point, I mentioned it to her and she changed her tune. She began telling people she had fourteen. She did this subconsciously without prompting by me. I was pleased as in those days I believed denying my daughters’ existence created a negative mojo or something. Some rift in the familial force field. I worried it somehow contributed to her not wanting to know us. I posited that if we acknowledged her fully and accurately it would be better for her and us when she finally wanted to meet us.

I look towards my sister again.

“Mom just said she has fourteen grandchildren”

“Well, she does.”

“Yeah. I guess…”

It is odd how her not acknowledging my daughter was a stab in the heart and how the reverse approach stabs me as well.

Amazon Transparent

Hubby and I watched all episodes of the Amazon original program Transparent over the weekend.   I enjoyed it. I do not want to share too much as I might spoil it for you.  Here is a bit of a teaser.

Transparent tells the story of a 70-year-old divorced father coming out to his children as a woman. The story flashes back to father’s early life when he first began dressing as a woman and realizing his gender/identity. While I have no experience in this transgender area, I want to think the writers do the experience some degree of justice. I say that because while I cannot relate to being born in the body of the wrong gender, I can relate to society telling me I am not a mother when I clearly am. I can relate to having feelings inside me that society does not acknowledge and more importantly, encourages me to deny. The pain and conflict felt by the character (played by Jeffrey Tambor) is very familiar to me. I lost count at the number of times my heart ached for the Mort/Maura during the process of coming out to family and friends.

Mort/Maura has three grown children – two daughters and one son. Their lives are also a bit challenging. In the last two episodes, we learn that the son (who happens to be a bit of a womanizer) conceived a child with his teenage babysitter – when he himself was a teenager. Unknown to him, the babysitter had the child and surrendered the child to adoption. The child, a boy, shows up in the last two episodes. While we do not hear much from him, I suspect (perhaps hope), the show will get a second season and we will learn more about the boys’ adoption and his reunion with his natural parents.

For more info, visit the Amazon Prime site or read the review by NPR.