Saturday, November 22, 2008

Night and Day

Although Katie figures in many of my posts, Evan does not, mostly because the challenges he faces are his stories to tell, not mine. At 26, he has not found his way. He's smart but won't apply himself to anything unless there's a girl involved. If he's got a nickel, he spends a dime. Angry is his standard operating mode.

Have I mentioned how fiercely I love him?

He is my first child, the treasure at the end of a long, hard road. He was an easy infant, a sunny, delightful toddler, a fabulously fun little boy. By 5 or 6 he'd become occasionally difficult. After a traumatic head injury in a car accident when he was 10, he developed epilepsy and serious emotional and behavioral problems. His teenage years were torture for us all.

During the dark years, his weapon of last resort was, "You're not my mother. You're just some woman I live with."

He once threw a battery from a school bus window and broke the windshield of a passing car. I made him pay for the replacement and insisted he deliver both the money and an apology in person. Driving through a bitterly cold Minnesota night to meet the car owner was one of the most painful half hours of my life. "You can't make me do this. You can't make me do anything. You're not my mother."

"I may not be the mother you want but I am the mother you have, and I am the mother responsible for helping you grow up. I can't make you do anything but you will not get back in this car until you apologize and shake this man's hand."

On and on it went. The Explorer was a missile of misery screaming down the freeway. The lights of the suburbs glowed warm and cozy in the distance. They taunted me, those lights. They whispered stories* of happy, unbroken families gathered around dinner tables with sweet smiles on their faces and linen napkins on their laps.

"You're not my mother. You're not Katie's mother, either. You don't have anybody."

It was—it IS—my deepest fear. Then. Now. Always.

As the kids reunite with their birth families, memories haunt me. With Katie, it is the sweet moments I fear will be brushed aside and lost. With Evan, it is the painful ones, the many times he so clearly longed for something—for someone—I could not be. Now he's searching, and I am afraid what he finds will not be what he wants.

Actually, I know it won't because what he wants is someone to take away all his pain, a common hope among adopted kids. It never happens. It can't. Not for any of us.

The day he started the search, Evan said, "I've always hoped my real mother lives in Europe."

Yeah, I'll bet. In a big tower with a moat and everything. But haven't we all wished for a better family? Remember Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess? I spent years hoping my real family—or at least a little monkey—would show up at my bedroom window.** Photographs of my mom pregnant with me dashed those hopes. I was only and exactly who I seemed to be, and so was my family.

That will turn out to be true for Evan, too, in its way. I pray he can come to peace with his truth. And I pray that truth will always and forever include me.

* Even that night, I knew the stories whispered by those lights weren't true. Every family has its moments, even in beautiful houses with warm glowing lights.
**I can't be alone in this. A Little Princess was first published in 1905. 103 years later,
eleven different editions of the story are available on Amazon.


kario said...

What is it about our children that they have the ability to lay us bare without even thinking about it? Even my biological children can sense my deepest fears and say just a few words that cut me deeper than anyone.

You have so much invested in Evan and Katie and one day, Evan will realize that. Your unwavering love and commitment to him regardless of the way he has treated you over the years will pay off. I promise.

For now, just know that you are loved.

Michelle O'Neil said...

You are a wonderful mother Jerri. And you are never along.


mamatulip said...

Every day I wish I could have five minutes with my mother to tell her that I'm sorry for the things I once said, that I get it now. I get it now.

This post makes me ache the way every mother does for her children. And it makes me ache for you.

George said...

fathers can get cut to the quick, too. If you believe love is truth and truth is love then Evan will always live your love and your shared truth.

My oldest son managed to cut me to the quick two days after his birthday. I made him and his brother the video that you saw and commented on.

My oldest son thanked me for my "selflessness" after I emailed it to him. Two days later he emailed me blasting me for slighting him on his birthday.

Deb said...

May you find comfort in the love you are for your children, and in the love they have for you - regardless their method of showing it May you find comfort in the fact that many of us would sell our "real" mothers for the price of a day parented by you.

Amber said...

So many things about you remind me sometimes of my Aunt. Her son Derek has said things like this to her over the years... I always have thought how little he realizes how lucky he was. Once he was bitching about her for some stupid thing, and I asked him how mad he got when she cussed at him, and told him he should have never been born?...She never does that, he tells me... Oh, well then, I asked wasn't he ever pissed when she hit him, or got all loaded and showed up at a school function stumbling around? ...Umm, no. That never happens... She just is so "irritating" and "bossy".

...I have a hard time understanding. I admit it.

I guess some people just come in pissy. They probably leave pissy, too.


Doubting thomas said...

Others have said all the supporting things. So I'll just marvel at the brilliant writng.

luckyzmom said...

This opened a window for me. I think about who lives in the homes I pass by in the dark. I like it best when there are curtains open and lights on. I feel connected to some and others not so much.

My parents divorced when I was less than two years old. There was a tug of war that I will one day share on my blog. However, from about the age of six, I did not have any contact with my father. So, I am well acquainted with fantisizing about an idealized absent parent and the damage it may do.

I am sure it had an affect on parenting my daughter, from my first marriage and my son, from my marriage of almost 33 years. The experience my daughter had with her "sperm Dad" was similar to my own. She had no contact with him from about two years old. About five or so years ago she decided to get together with him. I was taken aback, yet hugely supportive like you have been with Katie.

But, I didn't mean it. An occassion came when I told her just how much it hurt me. I regret that to this day. I think that it eroded our relationship. I can't think what else it might be. I can, though, feel what George says to be true, "Evan will always live your love and your shared truth." The truth of that being so with both of my children resonated with me.

"I am the mother responsible for helping you grow up." is something most mothers feel so deeply, whether adopted or birthed. And when they don't turn out to be the doctor you thought they would be and instead become a used car salesmen, you feel like you were a bad mother and are disappointed in yourself.

I wanted to share this with you so you wouldn't feel alone. The new relationship you have with Katie and could have with Evan doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Wow, I was just planning on saying that I think you "write sentences that sing nicely"!