Friday, November 29, 2013

One of four .....

I have no conscious memory of the next few days.  The drive to the East Coast took most of two days, and I don't remember anything of the trip.  I know I sat in the backseat, likely reading or napping the entire time.  If I cried, it was done silently, and neither my uncle nor his wife would have bothered to try comforting me.

As my uncle would later say, many times, he didn't believe in psychiatrists and counseling.  Any problems could and should be dealt with privately and on one's own.  And neither he nor his wife believed in "coddling" children.

I knew it was going to be vastly different, but I hadn't realized how difficult life would actually be with my uncle's family. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Saying goodbye .....

Going through my grandfather's effects after his death, we found several letters and photographs. Shuffling through them, I came across one that I'd forgotten even existed, and seeing it brought tears to my eyes.
Somehow during the intervening years, I've lost the picture, but I have a clear memory of it, even now.  It's a photo of my uncle, my uncle's wife, and me -- taken just before we left for the drive "home" after my grandmother's funeral.
The three of us are posed in front of the family car, a station wagon.  Hitched to it, a small U-Haul trailer carrying all my worldly possessions.

The end of the beginning .....

The days immediately following my grandmother's death are rather hazy now.  My uncle's wife soon arrived, having made arrangements for the care of her children and then driven 800+ miles to reach my grandfather's house.  Of course, my mother (my grandmother's daughter) was notified and, as with her relinquishment of my brother and I a decade prior, there are conflicting stories about her response.
She was never financially well-off, and she simply didn't have the money to fly from the West Coast.  When we talked later in life, she said she told her brother and father that she wanted to attend the funeral, but just couldn't unless they paid the airfare.  My uncle's version was that she said she'd ONLY attend the funeral if one of them paid the airfare.  He never hesitated to remind me how "selfish" and "unsuccessful" she was. 

A side note:  When someone makes disparaging comments about an adoptee's first parent(s), it's like making a disparaging comment about the adoptee him/herself.  After all, we are the biological offspring of our first parents.  They are part of us and we are part of them, whether or not we have a relationship with them or even know them.  Please be respectful of that.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Unloved and unwanted .....

It was early November, 1967, and my grandmother had just died from breast cancer.  I thought nothing worse could possibly happen, but then my grandfather told me that, after the funeral, I'd be going home with his son (my maternal uncle).
When my birth mother allowed her parents to adopt me, it was with the understanding that they'd be able to give me a better, more stable, life.  Obviously, no one anticipated this tragic turn of events back in 1958, but this is why I suggested earlier that my grandparents were too old to adopt me.

Creature Comforts .....

As the only child in the house, I naturally had my own room, and my grandparents spoiled me to the extent their finances would allow.
Because they were both teachers, they understood the importance of reading, and I had several shelves of well-read books:  novels by Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, several volumes in The Bobbsey Twins series, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Black Beauty, and many, many others.
When an elderly relative died with no other close family, my grandparents took care of settling the estate -- they kept a large (19"?) black & white TV and gave it to me for my room.  Many evenings I would make a big bowl of popcorn, pre-microwave style:
A layer of oil in the bottom, heated until a single kernel of corn pops.
Pour in 1/4 cup popcorn and wait for the magic to happen!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The beginning of the end .....

The evening of the day after I refused to visit my grandmother, when I heard my grandfather and uncle return from the hospital, I skipped down the stairs to greet them.
It was then that my world came crashing down around me and life as I knew it would change forever.
As my grandfather tearfully informed me, I would never see my grandmother again, because she had died.
Since the seriousness of her condition had been kept from me, I was totally unprepared for this news and absolutely incapable of handling it.  I was, after all, just 10 years old.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My uncle's wife .....

It's necessary at this point to re-introduce my uncle and his wife.  He was the oh-so-perfect older brother to my irresponsible, flighty mother.  His wife was equally perfect, at least in her own eyes.  They met in college -- he, an engineering student; she, in the school of pharmacy.  They married shortly after graduation and, within a year, had their first child.  Four years later, their second child was born.
As a girl, my uncle's wife had been stricken with rheumatic fever and though it was fatal for her older sister, she survived -- but with a permanently weakened heart.  She had been raised by her mother, a strict, unforgiving Southern Baptist, and a stepfather who reportedly had sexually abused her.  As her mother's only surviving child, she no doubt felt pressured to excel academically -- and she did.