Happy birthday to me!
It has not been an easy year but this amazing woman reached this incredible milestone with the strength and dignity I’ve always admired in her. Facing tough setbacks in her nearly perfect health, she was undaunted by the changes in her. Her ever positive outlook on life has kept her moving and healing, but mostly is an inspiration to all of those who know her.
From the time I was small she taught me that I could be anything I wanted, something I have passed on to my daughters. Her help has allowed me to figure out my path and feel a sense of security.
This time living near my Mother has been a blessing after spending so many years apart. She has given me more than I can really express. And really without her decision so many years ago, when she knew adopting a little girl was something she needed to do, I’m not sure where I would be today.
Happy 90th Mama. I love you.
This amazing painting was created by the most important, talented and influential person in my life. She has been an artist for many, many years working in all sorts of of mediums from oils to stone, much of it self taught. This talent moved her to become a teacher herself where she was respected by a host of adults who never dreamed of creating gorgeous stone sculptures prior to her tutelage.
I have always believed she could do anything she put her mind to (except maybe fix a leaky faucet, but that’s another story) and felt if you could read you could do anything.
This painting is her latest, started before she became quite ill. It sat for some time and she feared she wouldn’t finish it, but it’s a testament to her strength and perseverance that she did.
I’m blessed with it’s beauty now on my wall which will be a constant reminder of her beauty. It’s intricacies remind me too that we all have depth that is worth exploring.
It is with gratitude that I accept such a gift and love is what I return. And whenever I look at it I will always feel my deep connection with this most special person, my Mom.
How does one tip toe around their disapproval of someone’s choice in something they feel is unwise, or even potentially harmful–especially if it’s someone they love? It is so easy to come crashing into this person with all your advice, or even anger when wisdom may have shown you that the other person’s decision to do something most likely will have a negative outcome.
It could be because you know this person, and have for years: maybe it’s a family member and you’ve seen them make unwise choices in the past. Or you know that they are mentally, financially, intellectually or physically challenged, so the thing they want so much may end up hurting them more than helping them.
But in trying to help and guide them, in the end, only ends up making them angry and defensive. It can be such a fine line one walks in trying to help within one’s disapproval. And I’m not sure I do such a good job…at least not at first.
As a Mother, I certainly come up against this all the time. Most certainly with my middle daughter, who is developmentally and health challenged besides. It has been an ongoing challenge for me to try to help her with major life choices the older she gets. She is stubborn and strong willed, not necessarily a bad thing, but she also can have a hard time asking for help. And sadly this is something we all need at times–and certainly something that would benefit her.
Because of her fierce determination to ‘go it alone’, she gets herself (with her challenged boyfriend) into some spots that aren’t great, and then we end up bailing her out anyway. But now they have made a huge ‘decision’ that really scares all of the family and I feel they have no idea of the consequences.
When you have two people that have a hard time thinking past today, it makes it tough to plan…to plan for the life of someone else. And as we all know, being a parent is a life long job.
So I am trying very hard to wrap myself around how to best tell her about the realities of Motherhood, without making her defensive or frightening her either. It’s not all about pink dresses and pigtails–sometimes it’s about crying, illness, money and kids not listening to anything you say (even when they are grown).
And it’s also about being a Mother and loving that kid no matter what, even when she’s maybe not making the right choice.
This is the unending question of an adoptee. We go through life trying to figure out where we belong, who we look like, how do we fit in and who we are… It does not matter if we come from loving homes (as I did) or if we ended up in less than perfect ones. Most of us have this hole that just can’t be filled by the families that picked us.
It’s no-one’s fault. It’s just this genetic thing I feel that most of us yearn for deep down, adopted or no–to want to know who ‘our people’ are and what ancestral pool we crawled out of that made that person staring back us look the way we do.
Well, because of that longing that I’ve had just about as long as I can recall, I took the plunge, and sent in some saliva to a company a couple of months ago and got some DNA testing done. It’s a simple, but accurate test from what they say. I’ve had friends do it and while it cost a little, for me, it was worth every penny.
I’ve waited patiently for the results to come back and while some of them corroborated what my adopted Mom said to some degree, some of them surprised me. Here is what I found out:
- Italy/Greece: 61%
- European Jewish: 8%
- Iberian Peninsula: 7%
- Trace Regions: (Europe East 3% and Great Britain <1%)
West Asia: 21%
- Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey) 14% Note: also places like Bulgaria, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Palestine, Romania, Turkmenistan
- Trace regions: 7% Middle East ( Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan and Iran)
My adopted Mom had told me about my Italian heritage long ago and more recently that there might have been some Jewish background (although I still think of this more as a religion personally), so now it is all confirmed! It is very exciting to have some concrete information. She thought it was very interesting too.
But all the other cultural information was amazing. It kind of puts so many deep seeded things about me together now. Because as I’ve gotten older, and actually raised an adopted child, I have begun to believe that nature has much to do with how we turn out vs. nurture. We can’t get away from our genes, no matter how much we may think so. What is tied to our DNA is real, ALL of us. That is why we as a species have survived and do what we do all the time.
So then too, it is why we as individuals act a certain way, crave things, miss things, need things, want for things, feel certain ways, act a certain way, are shy or bold, crave a big family or like small family gatherings. I have always wanted to be a part of a huge family and now I wonder if it is my Italian/Greek/Mediterranean background??
It also seems to hurt me on some soul level when refugees from these areas are suffering; it’s like I’m suffering–maybe I am on some genetic level.This is the beauty of humanity and the binding of our molecules and atoms. We are all one when it comes right down to it.
Maybe this is the start of a journey to a distant place, a land and history that belong to me. A part of me that has not really forgotten. Because within my DNA my ancestors are carried: the memories of their lives, their footsteps, their journeys across land and oceans. Journeys that eventually brought two people here in the US together, combining their DNA creating me.
And now I carry DNA and I gave it to my daughters who carry it on filled with all the ancestors from the ages. May we do them all honor.
One wonderful perk of being closer to my Mom is that family visits her, therefore I get to see family members that I don’t normally see. When I was younger, much younger, we all lived closer, so my cousins and I used to see each other a lot. We played and bickered (mildly) as cousins will do, but I recall a general feeling of closeness.
This meant a lot to me, as I was always looking for this feeling of closeness, being adopted. It was easy for me to feel alien or the odd one out. But I never, ever got a sense from my family that this was the case. Just one of the gang–that’s who I was as I ran around with the rest of them.
So seeing my first cousin yesterday, his wife, her Mom and his 22-year-old daughter for (I believe) the first time–it felt pretty natural. He was one of 4 siblings–the quiet one as I recalled, but now, being 60, there was no hesitation on his part (or mine) to talk about old times.
His daughter is my youngest’s age and amazing: beautiful, talented and all the qualities one wants the youth of today to have. It was so easy to be with her, and his wife, who I barely know! Being spread out all over the place–they live on both coasts and his daughter in Israel–it’s years in between visits.
But I was reminded that family is not about blood ties. It’s about love, memories and caring. My cousins did a wonderful thing for me when their Dad, my Uncle, died a number of years ago. Something they did not have to do, but something that family does for family.
My own adopted daughter often feels outside and left out. I empathize with her and we probably have not done as good a job at making her feel a part. Divorce, lack of closeness of cousins didn’t provide the same kind of broth to grow the wonderful taste of love I have felt, even if it’s infrequent. When it does cross my path and my chosen family gets together, I recall the warmth, the sense of normal and the simple gestures of kindness that make life good.
I hope my own birth daughters can reap the rewards of this family someday too! So far they barely know them….
On another note: we had another visitor today. Luckily only my mellow cat and I saw it. Quite bold and inquisitive… checking us out. I snapped a few pictures before my dog or my sour puss saw this visitor, because then there’d be heck to pay.
This visitor would NOT be welcome I’m sad to say…..!!
PS Pictures have been rendered silly to protect the innocent 🙂
There are moments in this new life that catch me feeling like I’m down the rabbit hole. Everything can feel so strange and unfamiliar; the streets like an unsolvable puzzle and faces from an alien world.
With no work yet it’s easy to become listless and start feeling of little value. It’s spooky and not emotions I’m used to carrying after a career as a paramedic for so long. Although applying for jobs online these days is practically a job in itself, taking hours for one job that may include a test, video and personality quizzes that leave you exhausted by the end.
But even with all these challenges facing me here in my new home, there is one very sure and satisfying part.
As I was driving to my Mom’s for dinner tonight (trying not to use Google maps ), I realized how really wonderful it is after 40 years to be able to drive 15 minutes to have a meal with my Mother. And the more we hang out, the more natural it is and the easier it feels.
We are past the awkward stage and seem now to really be enjoying each other’s company. She did the shopping and I made the dinner–she even put away the quiche for herself and enjoyed what I made instead. The conversation was real and not awkward. She gave me leftovers to bring home. And she made me laugh with the coffee she bought.
So whatever else I may feel here, I have family. We are catching up on lost time. And this is such a beautiful thing.
There are two of you
One that lives and breathes before me
And one that resides within
She is made up of dreams and stories
Of cells and mirror images
(The image that is hard to look at)
But that stares at me in my daughter’s eyes
She is the one that gave me away
Who may have been torn between worlds
Or simply happy to skip town no toddler in tow
Handing her off-
Tears spilling down the unwanted cheeks
But the new one
Waiting to see what I’d do
My arms reaching for solace
Dazed and confused in a tiny pink dress
A life once known
Then gone in a beat
Facing faces unfamiliar
A child’s seedling of trust
Recently, I put a pattern in my life together and came up with something odd and rather sad. It appears that everyone in my immediate family is lacking a trait I consider vastly important. I’m not sure why this may be true, although I have some theories. But I do know that I find it disturbing on some levels for sure.
As a young child, I had a very hard time reading books like “Bambi” or watching movies like “Lassie” because I found them so upsetting. Even though I knew on some level things might turn out OK, the in-between parts just tore me up.
When I got older, reading “Black Beauty” had the same effect, or watching certain TV commercials. I was always a sucker. And now as an adult, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to the news dry-eyed.
This is all because my empathy meter is off the charts. I’ve never figured out if this is a blessing or a curse. In my job now as paramedic, I’m with people all the time in various degrees of suffering, so you can imagine how this takes a toll on me. But it also allows me to be a decent provider because I truly relate to what they are feeling–and honestly, it’s real.
But it is draining being this kind of person. Not only that, it has always been disheartening when others are so unlike me. And so, the fact that my family is thus, it’s like being surrounded by aliens. It’s as though someone plopped me in the middle of another country where I don’t speak the language. Where everyone is looking at me like I have three heads. It leaves me feeling out-of-place and out of sorts.
It started when I was young and my adopted mother’s reactions were often quite different from mine about things. And when I had ‘too strong’ an emotion about something, this somehow was labeled as being unwieldy and uncomfortable. Sharing these feelings with others was not tolerated either if I happened to find someone (an adult especially) who might be more like me.
And throughout life people would often tell me: calm down, why does that bother you so much, you shouldn’t let these things get to you. These were constant mantras folks put in my ears, but somehow they didn’t feel right to me! They DID get to me, and why shouldn’t they?
As my kids have gotten older, I see the trend continue with them. This really surprised me! I figured given the fact that I had raised them, they for sure would have some modicum of empathy in their bones. But emoting on my part either sends them huffing off to their rooms, ringing off their phone or thinking I’m ‘over-reacting’.
When I had my appendix out and when I had my car accident, there wasn’t much from any of the above mentioned. No help, no phone calls to check in, nada. It was so very odd–not to mention hurtful. But mostly, I didn’t understand it.
So what does it all mean? Is it some weird karma? Was I an undeserving human in my last life, destined now to live out being surrounded by people who don’t care? Or is it something more?
It may depend on what one believes. If it is in our genes how we act, then maybe this has something to do with things. So I will put forth some theories.
My birth mother walked away from my life when I was 18 months or so the story goes. I don’t know much about her (except she was a prostitute and Italian). Could she have been lacking in empathy?? It’s hard to say. But my 3 daughter’s Dad was not filled with it–that I will say. It’s one reason I walked. His personality was the antithesis of mine. So is this where is comes from?
Or is it the new generation? This me, me, me personality of today’s kids? That doesn’t explain my adopted Mom’s behavior though and how different we are, but that may be generational too.
In the end, I know I just end up feeling strange around the people I should closest. This bothers me. There’s a strong sense of not belonging which I always felt, and now more so than ever. Isolated and an island unto myself.
It’s not a terrible thing, but I just wonder, where has empathy gone?