Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Final Goodbye
I remember our first car ride together. At my request, she took me to my father’s grave. With the anxiety of our first meeting behind us, it was an emotionally calmer meeting. But throughout the hour-long drive, I couldn’t stop myself from staring at her. “That is your mother sitting there,” I was telling myself, “That is where you came from. She gave birth to you.” I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea we’d once shared such a primal connection. I didn’t have that sense of biological recognition I’d expected before reunion. The disconnect I’d always felt between my baby and adult self seemed to fill up the car.

But her hands on the steering wheel offered proof of what I couldn’t seem to grasp. They were, unquestionably, my hands. She caught me looking and held up a hand. I held up mine and we marveled at their sameness.

At the cemetery, she walked me to my father’s grave. I placed a purple rose on his headstone, tears of disappointment streaming down my face. It would be one of the few times I saw her cry. She quickly retreated to the car. I could feel her wanting to run from this place but, instead, we shared probably the most honest exchange of our reunion. She told me she felt angry with him for dying before this reunion. She told me she’d dreamt of him the night before, and he’d raged at her for not telling him I’d come back some day. And then she’d told me how much they’d loved each other; how hard it was to live without him.

Standing in the cemetery, it all seemed like such a waste. My parents loved each other, had even married following my relinquishment. Twenty three years later, we were back together – my mother and me, standing at my father’s grave. She told me she wished they’d made a different decision; she wished she’d known he wouldn’t relent until she accepted his proposal. “We should have never given you up,” she said.

Our reunion continued for over a decade. She eventually found the courage to tell my siblings about me, but the strain of being kept a secret from my father’s family took its toll on me. We were wired differently, my mother and me. She tried not to feel, I can’t stop myself from feeling. I suppose I got tired of “understanding” why I should be kept a secret without receiving any empathy for what it is like to be the family secret. And we suffered from what most reunions suffer from; there is just no way to bridge the gap of all those lost years, no matter how much we cared for one another. Maintaining relationships under the strain of all the issues of reunion is emotionally exhausting.

So our reunion fizzled, and years slipped by. I’ll never know what those years were like for her, if she missed me or if it was simply easier on her. Strangely, I don’t doubt that she loved me in her own way.

On August 6th, my mother succumbed to cancer. She’ll be laid to rest next to my father and, someday, I will visit both of them there, at the cemetery where my mother and I had our first real conversation. No matter how illogical it is, no matter how well I know the realities of relinquishment, adoption and reunion, at times I cannot breathe with the thought both my parents are gone, taking with them the hope of a little girl who once thought she’d find the contentment of a real family.

Labels: , , ,

Rhonda Ruminated at 12:04 PM | Permalink |

26 Ruminations:

  • At 12:56 PM, Blogger Lisa

    Im so sorry Rhonda. It is just so sad, all of it. (((Rhonda)))


  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Andie D.

    I love the pictures. Wow, you look a lot like your dad.

    Sorry for your loss of both of them.

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger Tammy


    I just stumbled upon you here and I am riveted to your story. And so very sorry for your losses, all of them.

  • At 3:05 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite

    I'm sorry, Rhonda. Wishing you nothing but peace and happiness.

  • At 3:43 PM, Blogger Mel

    I don't know what to say. I wish I could fix it for you, Rhonda.

  • At 3:55 PM, Anonymous michele

    I'm sorry. My wording isn't very eloquent, but I am. Next month is the one year anniversary of my natural mother's death. It's very odd, the things one thinks about after they pass. Anyway - I'm just an email away if you want to chat.

  • At 11:19 PM, Blogger elizabeth

    I'm so sorry Rhonda. SO many of your posts leave a lump in my throat. I wish there was something I could do for you.

    And yes you do look a lot like your father.

  • At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger Kim Ayres

    My thoughts are with you.

  • At 6:54 PM, Blogger Gershom

    i'm sorry for your loss, i don't even have the words.

  • At 1:15 AM, Blogger Loz

    Rhonda our parents are rarely 100% of the people we would wish they had been - but then again, if we are honest we too are never perfect. All we can do is hope that we can learn from the lessons, spoken and unspoken, that they give us, and be able to apply them to make ourselves better today than who we were yesterday. I wish you peace.

  • At 3:43 PM, Blogger Jennifer McK

    *sending good thoughts your way*
    I'm sorry for your loss, Rhonda. A beautiful post, as usual.

  • At 9:45 PM, Blogger Attila The Mom


  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger kim

    Ohh Rhonda ... your story touches part of me I don't let myself face very often.
    As an adoptee myself I have very conflicting emotions about my birth parents who are also both gone now.
    It is a story ive kept bottled up a good long time and You make me feel like telling it...
    I'll be thinking of you

  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger Nina

    Those pictures pack a real punch, Rhonda. It must make you very sad and wistful to look at them...wishing your mother could have had more empathy for you. It's such a natural thing to want and it's always in such short supply. We want to be SEEN and ACKNOWLEDGED. But people build up such defenses, especially those impacted by adoption, b/c, how else can we deal? Except honestly. But that takes a lot of courage and you've got it. That...and a lovely way with words.

  • At 5:44 AM, Anonymous mia

    Emotional exhaustion is a very accurate description Rhonda. I can only imagine the myriad of emotions you have experienced this month. I wish for you a great deal of peace and some form of closure. Thinking of you.

  • At 9:13 AM, Blogger Possum

    Oh Rhonda,
    I'm so very sorry.
    I'm thinking of you.
    Possum. xxxxx

  • At 11:17 AM, Blogger Julie

    I'm so sorry, Rhonda.

    I'm so sorry.

    I lost my Mama 8 years into reunion, and my father less than a year into reunion. My APs have both been dead for over a decade.

    How strange it is that I feel some comfort in being a True Orphan now. I guess I lived with being a Virtual Orphan for so many years, it feels oddly validating.

    What about you?

  • At 12:08 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    Thanks to everyone who responded and offered condolences. It's a relief there are so many people who understand because that is really not a common experience outside this community. Please don't feel bad that I took the shortcut and didn't respond to each comment individually - I really appreciate all your sentiments!

    Julie: I feel the same as you - and what a strange feeling. It is almost a relief to officially be an orphan. And, really, it saves one those awkward casual conversations when people ask about your parents, doesn't it?

    Loz: You've sort of echoed my own philosophy regarding how to process my experience with adoption/relinquishment. The best, I think, any of us can do is see our parents as the fallible human beings they are and then shore ourselves against repeating that which was done to us.

    Michele: Anniversaries are hard, aren't they? I to am here if you want to talk too.

  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger Nikki

    I'm sorry Rhonda. I really, really am.

    ...and now because it's my style to shatter those touching moments....

    go drink a beer.

  • At 1:36 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    hahaha, Nikki. I hate beer, but next time, on the rare occasion I have a glass of wine, I'll think of this and smile . . .

  • At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Valerie Marie

    I loose my father in 2004 and my Mom 2006 - cancer. Lot of hugs.

  • At 8:58 AM, Blogger Sven

    ...sigh...wipe tear...offer hand as a gesture of support...

  • At 8:20 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    Valerie: I am sorry for your loss.

    Sven: Thank you. It means a lot.

  • At 5:32 AM, Anonymous Alyssa

    Rhonda, you are in my heart & my thoughts.

  • At 10:08 PM, Blogger Paula O.


    I happened upon your blog and I just wanted to say how truly sorry I am. I will be thinking of you.