Sunday, April 29, 2007
Somebody’s Daughter
I’ve reached middle age. My children only speak to me when they need money or a ride; my last eye appointment resulted in tri-focals and all my intentions to “gray gracefully” recently washed down the drain in a sudsy swirl of “biscotti blonde” hair dye.

Those, however, are the minor inconveniences of mid-life; the glimpses in the mirror reminding us things change and those changes are, more often than not, outside of our control. Mid-life also asks big questions whose answers cannot be found at the optometrist or plucked from drugstore shelves; questions we all must, at some time, face. Our parents’ age, they get ill, they die. It is then we realize biology and the passage of time are unbeatable foes.

Parents. Death. Biology. Those are loaded words for an orphan; words with a meaning few will understand; words filled with should-have-beens, losses and loneliness.

Somewhere, 3,000 miles away, my mother is dying. The surgeons closed her up, saying “there’s nothing we can do.” I found out days later, third hand. My adoptive mother holds my mother’s contact information hostage, using her eminent death and my emotions as a means to end our estrangement. I won’t sell my soul for a phone number.

So somewhere, 3,000 miles away, my mother is dying. I don’t know how to reach her and am not even sure I want to. There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture. My ambiguity makes me nauseous. In times like these, adult daughters are supposed to hold the family together. Were I not an orphan, these past weeks would have been filled with concern, torturous days in a hospital waiting room, heartfelt conversations traversing decades of memories and visits with unbending grief.

Instead, I will learn I’ve lost my mother when I stumble upon her online obituary. There will be no sibling on the other end of the phone line, sharing the aftermath; no gathering of family finding comfort in a shared experience. There will be no “bereavement flights” because, legally, I don’t meet the qualifications. I will not attend the funeral because my brothers will ask me to sit in the back, keep my identity cloaked and do nothing to further upset those who have come to grieve.

My grief will not be public or acknowledged. I must find a way to say goodbye in a world that thinks I can’t lose what I have never truly had.

I spent the first two decades of my life praying she remembered me; the next decade pressing against a reunion relationship loaded with conflicts and concessions; and the last decade resolved in the knowledge all our missing years carved an impassable chasm between us.

The greatest irony of all in this experience is that, for the first time in forty years, I hope my mother isn’t thinking of me. As she faces her last days on this earth, I don’t want her heart full of anguish and regret. I hope she can spend her last hours revisiting the life she lived rather than mourning the one that disappeared in a decision made in the early morning hours of September 22nd, 1967. I hope her spirituality is strong enough to relieve her fears. Mostly, I hope she doesn’t, for a moment, feel alone, but is sharing her death with the people who shared her life. That I wasn’t one of those people is now my burden, not hers.

And if she does think of me, I hope she knows that I am okay. I have learned how to be an orphan and ceased looking for ways to fix what is unfixable. I hope she knows that in the process of doing so, I’ve discovered her, the person. I hope she knows that, in my eyes, she is no longer a villain or hero. I see her as she is; a flawed human being. It sounds like something so simple, yet is one of my proudest accomplishments. I am okay; okay with what happened and okay with her.

Perhaps most importantly, I hope she knows that for all the things we couldn’t, or didn’t, share, we do share the wish that things had been different. I will always, always wish I’d been somebody’s daughter. When she takes her last breath, I hope she knows that I wish that somebody had been her.

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Rhonda Ruminated at 11:04 AM | Permalink |

20 Ruminations:

  • At 1:42 PM, Blogger Mel

    Nothing that I could say would be helpful; please just accept a hug and know that I care. And hope that you are okay.

  • At 2:27 PM, Blogger Charlie

    Your wisdom and insight, as well as your beautiful writing, astounds me.

    Please pass me a Kleenex.

  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger Jennifer McK

    She will know. And your grief will be shared by those who know and love you. At least, I hope so.
    What a beautiful tribute to a tumultuous relationship.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger Kim Ayres

    What an incredibly complex mix of emotions. I can't begin to say I can understand, but I do feel for you.


  • At 9:06 AM, Blogger Mia

    I am just speechless.((((((((Rhonda)))))))) Oh I SO wish I could offer you that hug in person.

    Did you know we are just nine days apart in age? We are connected on many levels aren't we?

    Thinking of you. Here for you.

  • At 9:53 PM, Anonymous quinn

    (Hugs)) rhonda..I thought I placed a comment on here already...I must have deleted it intstead of sent it..

    I just wanted you to know you are not alone. I really truly know your pain and it is very real and I wish I could give you some answers.

    I just believe that in the end, she WILL know your heart and know you and that will give you both some peace.

    It did for me when my birth father died. I know he knows me now , like he never could have in life. It actually comforts me.
    Take care
    and so good to see you again.

  • At 10:41 AM, Blogger kim

    I want to say so many things to you about this Rhonda but instead for today ...Im just going to send hugs for you. Im so glad to see you !!! *biggg hugsss*

  • At 6:43 PM, Blogger elizabeth

    I read this and weeped and had to walked away from the computer.

    It is completely gut wrenching. And I suspect that I someday will be writing a similar post.


    I'm just an email or phone call away if you need to talk.

  • At 8:12 AM, Blogger winterskibunny

    I hope I get to that place of forgiveness one day. It is a proud accomplishment.

  • At 6:06 PM, Blogger Attila The Mom


  • At 6:07 AM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite

    You are gifted in so many ways, Rhonda.

    No doubt she is thinking of you now, just as you are thinking of her. You're connected.

    And now that you've arrived at a place of acceptance, hopefully you both can move on.

  • At 6:42 AM, Blogger Pendullum

    Rhonda...You truly are someone's daughter...

    Such a road travelled... The journey to who you are is truly inspirational...

  • At 8:42 AM, Blogger Sven

    Wow. You never cease to touch my heart.

    BTW, we were born just a few weeks apart, (9/3/67).

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    You've all been incredibly gracious and I am sort of overwhelmed by your responses, so I'll just say a collective Thank You. I really appreciate all the thoughts and feedback. It's been great to say hello again to old blogging friends and welcome to new faces, too.

  • At 8:05 AM, Blogger Rel

    Oh Rhonda. Sorry for the late comment on this one. That is such a lot for you to take on board.. although we live with this disenfranchised, unrecognised grief daily, to have it so overtly there, so real.. I am thinking of you.

    You have given me (and i'm sure others) hope that some day i might be okay and okay with my father and what has occurred.

    Much love to you xo

  • At 2:46 AM, Blogger LeRoy Dissing

    Hi Rhonda...just came here for the first time and scanned a bit of your blog. I hope, too, your mom realizes in some small way what you are saying here. I wish you two could have gotten together before now. This is the part of adoption that feel is so unfair.

    Wishing you peace and solace!

  • At 10:16 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    Hi Rel, it's good to see you. I don't think I'll ever be fine with any of it. I'm happy to be "okay" with it (meaning I get how it all happened, not that I endorse it). You probably understand that all too well.

    Leroy Welcome to my ruminations. I hope you stick around.

  • At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Michele

    My own natural/biological mother died this last September. Feel free to write if you need to talk about it with someone who gets it. It's strange and it's hard. I wish you well.

  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger Rhonda


    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I am very sorry for your loss.

  • At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I will never understand the cruelty of people...never!
    I found myself getting angry reading this piece. And also sad, for you. I have known some people in my life that seem to have a black hole inside of them

    I also loved the humor you inject throughout. That speaks of character and courage.

    I love reading your work. I love the honesty that pours out of your heart and soul.