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That Old Familiar Feeling
An Adoptee's Birthday Misgivings
No matter that I searched and found my birthmother and maternal family thirty years ago, and that, decades later through DNA, I learned my father's name and his character. As if none of this transpired, the cycle replays, and the old familiar existential grasp of wondering, the grip of second-guessing and afterthought recurs: My mother’s restless spirit marks my birthday.
For most of my life, the why of my mother's leaving lay undisturbed by my adoptive parents, and unexamined by me. It simply didn't matter. My privileged self-centering made no space for my biological origins. I had few, if any, deliberate thoughts of her until I reached my teens when the fog of who pressed on me. Not until age forty, did the mists of where begin to clear. All that remains are the fragments of why she felt compelled to leave me with the nuns in St. Francis Hospital. Why would any woman want to leave her child behind? This question will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Her reply to the agency echoed down the years in the non-identifying information Catholic Charities spared me. And I heard the simple words from her lips a year before she died. She had no husband, no friends or relations to help her to support another child. She could give me nothing, not even mothering. But she gave me a name. Wasn't that love? Couldn't it have been more?
As I turn seventy-two, I reflect on all the journeys navigated in the life behind me: the memories questions, relationships, happiness, and heartache; a husband, a daughter, and grandsons. The discovery of siblings, and the sadness of losing them again. Losses and gains of the past roll into hopes for the future.
I'm glad you're here to help me celebrate!
Mary Ellen (born Ruth Ann)