Today would be the 52nd birthday of a girl I grew up with. Unfortunately, she died, what was it? A year ago, I think. We lost contact, and I Googled her a while back and got her obituary. I wonder what happened to make her die so young. I think she may have had heart issues. She married in 1981 and was with her husband till the end. It must be hard for him. She lost twins not too long after her marriage. I don’t know if they were stillborn or what. She did have a daughter, but it sounds like she might have been a handful. She had a granddaughter that she doted on, the obituary said. I feel like so many people (and, yes, animals too) that I have known in my life are gone. What is it like when you’re really old, when all your contemporaries are dead? Does the thought of dying get easier? My mother-in-law told my husband it does.
I wonder why loss is such a recurring issue with me. I wonder sometimes, not to get all sentimental or anything, if it doesn’t have something to do with the fact that I was immediately separated from my biological mother. I try to play that down like it’s no big deal, and truly I don’t feel any giant, aching, must-find-her-now loss. It’s more of a sense of accepting regret (I was going to say “regretful acceptance” but I think “accepting regret” expresses it better–it’s that fine of a line) that things are the way they are…but they are that way.
But if I think about it intellectually, divorced from emotion, it does make sense that that would have an impact on someone, right? I mean, I was with that woman for nine months. I began my life in her. I came out of her. Then I never saw her again. Did she want me? Did she put her palm on her abdomen and talk to me like I did Daphne Oat when we were in the car together? Did she love my father and want to be with him and to raise me, did she hate him and want to raise me, did she not want to raise me at all? I know I could have been a burden that she would have just wiped away if she could. I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her for that. All the ridiculous talk you hear now–“What if your mother had aborted you?” Well, what if? I most certainly would not know it, so it’s kind of hard to get all ginned up about the possibility. Stupid question, and, frankly, if she had, as I said, I wouldn’t have blamed her. How hard it must have been to have gone through nine months of whatever she went through. Either missing my father, being tortured with the knowledge that their baby was going to be taken from her, or living with flashbacks of a rape and just wanting to dig me out of her, or of some sort of “Well, what are you going to do about it?” conversation and the sight of him turning his back and walking away, maybe hearing that later he started dating her best friend while she went off in shame to the home for unwed mothers.
Anyway. So now that I think about it, she was likely living with some sort of loss all that nine months: either the knowledge of the soon-to-be loss of me, the loss of her former life, the loss of her boyfriend, her “honor,” whatever. Unless she was that girl the forced-birthers want you to believe exists–the one who stoically gives up her baby because she knows it’s best, and then moves on with her life unscarred, secure in the knowledge that she did the right thing. Quite honestly, that is the story my parents told me, and it is the one I have chosen to believe. Because why not? Why torture myself with imagined scenarios about how I came to be, about what my biological mother (I still can’t write about her without that qualifier in front, because it makes me feel guilty about my mom who loved me, I think, but who was so horribly scarred in her own right), when I can’t know if they are true or not. I mean, I think about them, sure, but I always default to the “she was doing the ‘right’ thing” scenario. What a ridiculous one it is, now that I think about it. As if she had a choice.
But to continue. There is that loss. That overriding loss that must have pervaded my development, and then was one of the first emotions I must have felt, in my little whatever-the-word-is mind, being carried away from that thing that made me feel safe, likely wanting to go back to it, but never being able to. Never. It makes me tear up now, so obviously there’s something there. I think about it with puppies sometime, oddly. That they are born, they are with their mothers for eight weeks or so, and then they are sold away to people who want them. How was I any different, except for the money thing? Well, the money and I hope to Christ my mother wasn’t deliberately bred. I do think my parents desperately wanted me. But that is not to say that my biological mother didn’t. Again to the forced birthers and that question I mentioned above, “What if your mother had had an abortion?” Well, I counter with “What if your mother had been forced to have you and give you up? What if she had chosen to have you and give you up? What if you never knew her? Suck on that, you self-righteous assholes. Because if things happened that way, you would know it. You would live with the knowledge every day that you could be sitting next to a relative on a bus and not even recognize them. That you could walk past your own mother–or father–on the street and utterly have no clue. You would have to deal with the thought that maybe she didn’t really want you, that all she wanted was to get you out of her and move on with life. You would have to sit on your couch and write journal entries wondering if perhaps that overriding theme of loss that appears in all your writing, the fact that virtually all your stories feature some solitary character dealing with some sort of internal sadness, has anything to do with the fact that you not only never knew your own mother, but you were taken from her as soon as you were born.” Those fucking assholes who think they know. All they want to do is impose their morality on other people. Honestly, like I said, if I were aborted, I wouldn’t fucking know. I wouldn’t fucking know it. I would just have ceased to exist, gone back to God, whatever. But being born and being adopted–let’s look at the effect that has on the baby. They never do though. They don’t think about the woman, they don’t think about the child–as differentiated from the fetus. They love that fetus.
Again, I’m not saying I had a bad life. I did get adopted by a verbally and emotionally abusive woman, though. I feel bad saying that, but it’s true. When I read about the cycle of abuse at work, I recognize it from my own home. The times that things were good. My mom was never sorry, but she would go through stages where she was pleasant, happy, considerate, fun. Then it would start to build again, and then she would blow up. I always felt like it was my fault, though, like I made her do it, if I could just be better, if I could just–I don’t even know what i did wrong, really. Smarted off to her is the only thing I can think of. I was really a good kid. I can’t even pin down what pissed her off. I think about it now, trying to remember those arguments, and it seems like my lip was always the problem. But I remember being really restrained, really holding back a lot of things I thought. And I never remember being antagonistic, like starting things myself–I was too afraid of her. And what kid doesn’t smart of?. I mean, blow it off, for God’s sake. Who really goes for days not talking to anyone because an adolescent smarted off? So it was her, not me. I know that. No I don’t. My training as a domestic violence advocate tells me that. I never realized that she as an actual abuser. I felt at times as a kid, that what she was doing was abusive, but I never thought of myself as being in an abusive home. Well, maybe I did at times, but I never just said, “Yes, that is it, I live in an abusive home.” But I did. God, I remember when Gary, my first boyfriend, came over that time and she threw the coffee cup or did something with a coffee cup and broke it because she got in some kind of fight with him. My freakin’ boyfriend! He hadn’t even done anything. She didn’t like him because he was Armenian–and dark–and he was kind of cocky, but he was never disrespectful to my parents. Yet she picked this fight one day. After that, I seem to remember, he wouldn’t come to the door anymore (who could blame him). I had to go out to the car. Then, no doubt, she probably blamed him for not coming to the door like a gentleman.
Why did she have to do those things? It was really a horrible existence, and I think it’s part of the reason, if not the entire reason, that I can never get enough of just being in my peaceful home. Of being by myself. Of being able to do what I want. Of being uncontrolled. Because I was controlled by her moods. There was that constant watchfulness, to be aware of when things were building. There was the trying to avoid the blow up, which was never possible. I even remember then, when I knew little about abuse, thinking that there was a pattern to things, that they would be fine, and then the tension would come back. I just remember that tension, the dread-filled realization that it was coming again. I remember walking on eggshells then, and I remember doing the same thing during her silent treatment. God, It just makes me tense to think about it.
But with all that, I love my mom. I think bad things happened to her. I think she wasn’t, for whatever reason, long on self-examination, self-reflection. So she acted out as an abuser, as she was abused. I didn’t, thank God. The other day the kids at my talk at the high school asked me about that, if you live in an abusive home, will you be an abuser. No. Some people are reflective. Some people say, “God, I remember what that made me feel like, and I won’t be involved in making someone else feel that way.” My mom was not one of those people; I don’t think she had the skills, the capacity. She grew up hard–I’m not even sure she had the opportunity to develop the skills. My dad grew up hard in an abusive home too, but he was not an abuser. He did marry one, though. Interesting.
I feel like I’m dogging my mom. I’m not, though. I’m just truth-telling. And I’m truth-telling because I was making a point about adoption. Bright, shiny, glittery, adoption. Sure it has upsides. But it has downsides too. Is it the reason that the theme of loss appears in my writing? I think so. Is it the reason the theme of loss appears in my life? Possibly. Maybe it’s not the reason for that theme, though. Maybe it’s a karma thing. Maybe I caused loss before and this time I needed to experience it–right from the get-go. Who knows. It is what it is. Lots of people hate that expression, but I don’t. It makes sense to me. Things are the way they are. I can think about them and try to understand them, but I can’t change them.
I’m not sure where all this came from. My friend’s birthday, I guess. She was adopted too, but she left a thread of herself in her daughter. I have no children. I had a miscarriage. Now I am in menopause, so it’s clear that my line, what I know of it, will begin and end with me. That makes me sad, even though I never had a burning desire to have babies. I did, however, have a desire to look at someone and know, just by looking, but watching them in a room, that I was related to them. Maybe they had my eyes. My unfortunate chin. Maybe we both made the same hand gesture or crossed our legs the same way. Now I will never know that feeling. I’m just, like, out here in the world all by myself. Sometimes that is a hard feeling to deal with.