Greatest Pain of All

"I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity" – Michael Masser

My eleven year old son, soon to graduate fifth grade and go onto middle school, has been singing a Whitney Houston song for days.

He was humming a few bars earlier in the week. My head whipped around quickly as I recognized the song.

"Is that…" I started to ask.

"Its a Whitney Houston song, Mom. Do you know her?" he asks.

Amused my son is asking his mother if she knows Whitney, I smile and respond "Yes, I know Whitney. And Bobby and Sissy."

"Who?" he asks.

I explain to him who Bobby and Sissy are and I ask him where he heard that song. It is not one I play at home and that is by design.

"We are learning it in chorus at school. We are singing it at our graduation ceremony.  I believe the children are our future…" he rambles on.

A lump forms in my throat and tears quickly form in my eyes.  I have to turn away from him.

"Its a nice song, don't you think, Mom? I like the words. I figured you would too since you like story songs" he says.

Still looking away I grunt and agree. "Yes I do like story songs" I tell him.

What I don't tell him is that The Greatest Love of All played on the hospital bed the day I turned his sister over to strangers. What I don't tell him is that I have considered that "her" song and every time I hear it I feel, see and hear the two of us, her and I, in that hospital room in St. Joes. I see me, bad eighties hair, holding her cradled in my arms, rocking her, as my tears fall onto her face. I feel me torn between running away with her down Lake Shore Drive and turning around and handing her over to the caseworker known as Colleen. I feel my chest sobbing, my stomach turning, my eyes hurting from holding back the pain. I hear me whispering to her, telling her to be strong, telling her  love her, apologizing to her. All the while Whitney floats in the air.

My son continues talking behind me. I am barely there. My mind, even parts of my body, float away to Chicago.

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be….

I never heard my own childs laugh I realize. I dont know what her laughter sounds like.  The lump in my throat grows and I walk away from my son. I am assaulted with memories, sounds, smells. The dark haired beauty that I thought would look like her part Native American father rests in my left arm. Only this time I am looking out my kitchen window in West Hartford. The image is all wrong. Everything is wrong. I now know that dark haired baby girl is white as a ghost with red hair like mine.

I am catapulted back to reality.  My son is singing his song.

I am back in the dining room and I realize how odd, surreal, maybe even a tad cruel it is that my son should graduate fifth grade singing the song his mother sang when she gave away his sister.  I struggle to get my wits back. I don't want him to see me crying. I don't want to him to ask why I don't like this "story song". 

I don't want adoption to take my sons graduation from me.

I don't want it to take it from him.

8 Thoughts.

  1. Oh my god…my heart aches for you.
    Why don’t they realize what they are doing? This is wrong, so wrong.
    Write your wrongs…they need to know.

  2. Yikes! I guess I am more fortunate that my trigger songs are too old (or not meaningful for other purposes) to get used in modern situations. One of my friends (in Hawaii, after I was “deported” to California to wait and deliver) wrote out by hand and sent to me the words to “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” The one that gets to me the most is “Close to You” by the Carpenters: “On the day that you were born, the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true… just like me, they long to be close to you.” And “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps: “Ooh child, things are going to get easier, Ooh child things will be brighter.” Yeah, right.
    The song that always made me cry later was BJ Thomas’ “Rock and Roll Lullaby.” “She was just 16 and all alone when I came to be, so we grew up together, my mama-child and me.” DAMN!
    I hope you can sit through your son’s graduation without flipping out. Or that he will interpret your tears to mean tears of joy for his accomplishment.

  3. wow! Adoption hids in every corner, ready to spring up when you least expect it. I was reading “are you mother” to my son, and that book produced a huge lump in my throat.
    So sorry such a huge moment will have heartache for you.

  4. it’s funny how music and media can be one of the many things that catapult us back to the surrender.

  5. so sorry
    I’m glad that your son gave you some warning about the song before you were at his graduation. Maybe he somehow knew you needed the heads up.

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