Forty-four years ago this morning, I gave birth to a daughter, after a challenging nine months of sticking to my guns, staying in school, living on my own and standing up against a ton of adversity, so change my life as little as possible while providing a life for this unexpected child. In those days they kept one in the hospital for five days, and for five days I cared for her, treated her to all the love and support I could give. I named her “Jane” and when I left the hospital, I left her there to join real parents in a real home where she could have a real life – something I could not give her at 19 years old.
For the next thirty-seven years, I wondered and prayed and wondered. There were times when I knew she was out there, somewhere. There were times when I was sure she had passed on and left my plane of existence. But every birthday, I remembered her and spent time thinking about her. Sometimes I wrote her a letter; sometimes I sent a figurative birthday card; sometimes I sent figurative flowers. But I always remembered.
In 2006 I got a letter from a Dr. Z, a veterinarian in Tennessee. It turned out that Dr. Z is the child, Jane, that I gave away all those years before. We made arrangements the meet – as quickly as possible. What followed were regular trips by me to Tennessee to visit with my daughter, and try to get to know her and she me. I met her adoptive parents and brother. I cherish the few meetings I had with them. I remain supremely thankful for the gift they gave my daughter.
Often my daughter and I talked on the phone more than once a week. Almost always she called me. We tried for three years to make a relationship. In the interim she and her husband adopted their own child, making their own small family in the State of Franklin. In 2009, after three years of trying to develop a two-way relationship – at least that’s how I perceived it – I broke off contact with her. I asked her to respect my privacy and not be in touch, that I did not feel right continuing the way we had been going.
Each year thereafter on November 24, I remembered her birthday, wrote a letter, sent a figurative card, or figurative flowers, and wondered how she was. Sometimes I sent a two-word email “Happy Birthday.” I could “cheat” and did. She has a public website and once in a while I would look at it to see if it said it anything meaningful about her. Sometimes it did; sometimes not. But I didn’t want contact. Then, in October 2012, as I watched Super Storm Sandy move inexorably towards the coast, I could see that the storm track passed very near her home. Some of the times I had visited, very violent weather, even tornados, happened near her. I worried. I said a prayer, and sent an email to her, writing the prayer that she stay safe in the storm.
She wrote me back and asked to be in limited touch. I agreed, because I would like to know how she is doing. I learned that her adoptive father passed on in 2011. I am sorry that I will not be able to sit down over a meal with him in this plane. He was a good man, who lived through a great many substantial challenges, not the least of which was taking care of my daughter. On the occasion of her birthday, I bless his memory.
Today, I sent the usual birthday email, wishing her well, Happy 44th, Child. She wrote me back with pictures of her son, her dogs and the new house she’s building. I am grateful for this limited contact. Sometime soon, I will write her and let her know what I have been doing for the past four years. How I have changed, how I have stayed the same. In that process, I may learn whether I want her to be a more immediate part of my life again, or whether the distance of the past four years is more to my liking.
Dr. Z, I love you.
May you have many, many more.
(So sorry I birthed you in dreary November.)
Did I say “I love you”?