Saturday, June 23, 2007
Hallmark Moments
I filled my cart with things I didn’t really need, circling the store several times under the guise of “stocking up.” It was my third such trip in a week and I was aware time was getting short and I could no longer avoid what I’d really come to shop for. So I reluctantly maneuvered my cart into the card isle, my stomach tightening with anxiety.

I hate the card isle. It’s been a source of anxiety for me since I was a child trying to find a mother’s day, birthday or Christmas card that didn’t say what wasn’t true, but was neither insulting. Sometimes, I could manage to pick a card by visualizing its insides dripping in sarcasm “Thanks for the Memories” can mean more than one thing – especially if you were raised by my mother. Not sending a card was never an option. My mother literally kept a logbook of people she sent cards and gifts to. If they did not reply with a thank you or add her to their Christmas list, she added them to a running list of uncouth associates – and was very vocal about the names on that list.

As a result, my literal Hallmark Moments are few and far between.

As fate would have it, my birthmother ended up being a serial card sender too. In the beginning of our relationship, her cards came almost weekly. I, in turn, braved the card isle, trying to pick out something appropriate. When Mother’s Day or Christmas rolled around, I found myself in the same awkward position – it isn’t easy finding a sentiment for one’s birthmother. Not even “Thanks for the Memories” works – because there are no memories.

So there I was again, standing in the card isle with my stomach threatening to leap from my body and tears streaming down my cheeks. It had been years since I’d sent a card to either of my mothers. This time, I was not choosing one out of guilt or obligation. I truly wanted my birthmother, who is dying, to receive something from me. But what? Nothing seemed to fit and I hated that more than the thought of her death.

The tears came from the child in me who would just, for once, like to stand in the card isle and know exactly what to do; the child who would like to read one of those syrupy sweet “for my mother” cards and mean every corny word; the child who would like to have a father to choose a father’s day card for. I’ve given up that dream, but part of me still protests.

I knew what I didn’t want to say to my birthmother in her dying days. I didn’t want to address the past. I wasn’t seeking resolution. I wasn’t hoping for some affirmation of love for me, an apology or even a response. I just wanted her to know I was thinking of her and that I was sorry her life was coming to an end.

It took me nearly an hour, but I finally chose a “Thinking of You” card, decorated in delicate looking leaves. It took another four days to add my sentiment and mail it. These would be my last words, ever, to my birthmother. They needed to matter.

Inside I wrote:

I am sorry to hear of the difficulty you are facing right now. I am thinking of you and I wish you peace.

Love, Rhonda

Rhonda Ruminated at 1:56 PM | Permalink | 20 People Ruminated links to this post
Friday, June 15, 2007
Father's Day (repost)
"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection."
-Sigmund Freud

I’ve never sent a Father’s Day card.

I was never the kindergartener drawing thick, shaky, waxy-rainbow letters on cheap construction paper; never an 8-year-old hovering above a block of wood, jar of decoupage and pile of magazine clippings trying to create the perfect Father’s Day collage. I was never an 11-year-old placing a handpicked treasure from the tie rack upon the gift-wrap counter at J.C. Penny’s. I’ve never poured through Hallmark’s seasonal section, looking for the perfect prose to express gratitude for my childhood.

I remember the projects. I remember the look of pity from teachers as they coaxed me through an “alternative” project. I remember being the only child-of-divorce in my classroom and how the absence of a father in my life was easy fodder for teasing. I recall a sense of deep shame about the secret I kept from my classmates. I was screwed up, but not stupid. I wasn’t about to tell them the father whose absence they teased about wasn’t really my father and that my real father had never even seen my face.

So, I’ve never sent a father’s day card or wrapped a handmade gift in delicate tissue paper, sealing it up with awkward chunks of shiny scotch tape. For me, those childhood rituals went the way of father/daughter dances and games of catch in the front yard. Like having a strong shoulder to cry on upon my first heartbreak, a fierce protector when I felt threatened, or a stern, loving voice when I needed reeling in, these things have never been part of my experience. But, I coveted them. And, at the age of 38, sometimes still do.

I would love to be able to say: “Today is just another day.” But, if that were true, it wouldn’t occur to me proclaim it so. I’ve learned it is better for me to steer into the empty places in my life than to try to fill them with replacements or distractions.

I have a father. I need only to hold the dozen or so photographs of him to know this with certainty. I have his face: his crooked smile, blue eyes, dimpled cheek and slightly weak chin. But that is as close as the two of us, father and daughter, will ever be: a pile of photographs and an unrealized dream.

Rhonda Ruminated at 5:17 PM | Permalink | 9 People Ruminated links to this post
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I am . . .
One would think it wouldn’t be difficult for me to write the MeMe Mia tagged me with. After all, most of what I share on this blog is all about what “I am,” or, at the very least, what I am trying to become. But writing this is difficult.

My writings aren’t driven by self-importance, but are the result of trying to live an emotionally transparent life; an authentic life. I am trying to lasso my personal truth because it got away from me a very long time ago, under the dictates of the business of adoption.

Sadly, it didn’t occur to me until nearly my thirtieth birthday that I’d been absent from my own life; that I described the bulk of my experiences in terms of how they were prescribed by others – by my adoptive mother, my birthmother and the “adoption professionals.” They all had a lot riding on how I felt. My birthmother needed to assuage guilt. The adoption professionals needed to keep their jobs. And my adoptive mother? Sometimes, there just isn’t enough room in one sentence to cover what needs to be said. But, the easiest explanation is that she needed to feed her narcissism and telling me how to feel, rather than asking how I felt, was the quickest means to that end.

It’s taken nearly ten years to access my feelings, gather them up, explore them and claim them as my own. It’s been a long, painful journey – one which will likely never find its ending. My biggest fear is straying off course and leaving those feelings behind again. Recording them here – throwing them out into the Universe – helps assure that I don’t.

I am many things because of my experience . . .

I am . . .

. . . Estranged from my both my families, because I spoke my truth.

. . . Often afraid of what they will do in reaction.

. . . Worried about what it will be like to grow old without a family.

As I continue to gather my truth . . .

I am . . .

. . . Sometimes frightened what I will find.

. . . Surprised by the depth of my anger in reaction to what I discover.

. . . Proud of what I’ve become in spite of it all.

. . . Sad for the child inside me who wasn’t well cared for.

. . . Feeling more like an orphan than ever before.

. . . More and more committed to staying the course.

. . . Less and less concerned about the consequences.

I am learning so much . . .

I am . . .

. . . Learning forgiveness is overrated.

. . . Learning forgetting is impossible.

. . . Learning that understanding the whys and how’s of what my parents did, then doing my best not to repeat them in my own life, is the better path towards healing.

. . . Learning there is nothing wrong with anger. It is an energy that can be harnessed to make positive change.

. . . Learning the truth isn’t free; it comes at a cost, but in exchange, you get authenticity.

And, because of all these things . . .

I am . . .

. . . Determined.

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Rhonda Ruminated at 11:25 AM | Permalink | 11 People Ruminated links to this post