Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shock Waves

So, still reeling from the information I had tripped upon, I made my way downstairs to the main lobby of the apartment complex. Mother lived in Building One where the dining room and most of the social rooms are located. I noticed my mother-in-law sitting with a couple of people I did not know having dinner. I stumbled in and silently handed her the letter I had found. She asked me if I was going to tell Mother I knew. When I told her I didn't know, she advised against it. I took that into account as I drove to the hospital.

By the time I got up to Mother's hospital room, I had all but decided not to say anything to her directly, but see if I could coax it out of her. She had been alert and all there the day before in the emergency room, but, probably overwhelmed by her condition and on a lot of medication, that state of mind had really broken down since. Honestly, I thought I could get her to slip and say something. We called her sister in Washington, Pa. to let her know where Mother was and, believe it or not, Mother commended me to her saying, "She's so good with the paperwork, I'm not sure where she gets it. It must be from [her father] because she certainly doesn't get it from me." Wow. Really, Mom? Try: I didn't get it from either of you! But, that told me right out of the gate that this might be a little tougher than I thought. I reasoned there was no way possible that my aunt did not know I was adopted. So, she was either so intent on keeping it from me that she could keep up the act even whacked out all kinds of medications, or it is a fact that she has repressed even from herself. But, a while later, I gave it a shot. I always had spotty visual recollections from Roswell, where I was born. Just fragments really. I can recall things from the base where Dad was stationed: the air control tower, the red stained concrete flooring in the base housing, my waiting in my crib for Dad to pick me up when he came home for lunch. When I was younger, the debate always was whether those were true memories or visuals I had conjured from stories I had heard. Who can say for sure, although the latter is more likely the case, but it was discussed more than once when I was growing up, as though it was proof that I was bright, so I assumed she would remember it and tried to bring it up. I figured that she might pick up a thread of remembering the old days and let something slip. But, she's too good for me. All she offered was a faraway smile and the comment that she used to get so frustrated with Dad because he would forget to take his jacket off before he'd swing me up and she was always afraid his medals would scratch me. I gave it up for the night.

In the ensuing months, I have never confronted her with it. Nor has she betrayed it. I became buried in the stress of taking care of her, her affairs, packing up her apartment, dealing with two kids of my own who were in various stages of crisis, and it became a back burner issue. But, for the first couple of days, I felt as though I was in a constant state of shock, and I looked at everything with slightly different eyes. The eyes of a stranger. What was my true background? Who were my parents? Why did they not want me? How old were they? Did my adoptive parents know my birth parents? And, of course, the two Big Ones: do I perhaps have half siblings out there somewhere and what really is my medical history?

Over time, my curiosity over my birth parents has faded to just wanting my medical history for my two daughters' sakes. They didn't want me, I don't need them. It would be interesting to know my whole and true story, but I can live without knowing. After all, I did for a long time. And, I accept that Ruth and Graham Bleiler are my real parents. My friend's mother, I realize, said nothing to me that was not completely true. Maybe they are more real than most parents. They went to a lot of trouble to get me.

The anger has faded a bit. I still think that, as soon as I announced I was getting married, Mom and Dad should have told me what they knew. If not then, certainly when I was pregnant with Kelsey. And, at the very latest, when Kelsey first began having problems. But, it is what it is. Now it is up to me to try and unseal the records to discover what I can.

I did not go back into the lock box to dig through the rest of the papers until recently. I wasn't sure I could withstand any more shocks. But, I dug up two more papers pertaining to the adoption, which is how I know I was labeled Baby Girl McGuigan. So, the physical resemblance to my Scottish descended mother makes sense at least.

There are still those odd disconnects, that sense of being adrift. I have a portrait of my Father's mother that I love. I never knew her; she died before I was born. Mother has nothing good to say about her, and Dad actually avoided that kind of personality based recollection (he'd gladly tell you about setting fire to the porch, but not really anything intimate), so this was all I really have to know her by. She is dressed for her high school graduation. The dress is very reminiscent of the first long gown Lara wears in Dr. Zhivago. The time period is the same. She stares back at me demurely, the power of her youth radiates off the canvas. Now I look at it and realize I have absolutely no claim to this woman, nor she to me. I have similar pictures of my other grandmother, but at least we knew one another, and I don't feel as though I am being a cheat by displaying them. But, when I look at that beautiful portrait now, I feel lost somehow. I am not sure when that will change.

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