Maybe it’s not so much a search, as a quest to know the truth about my mother.
I don’t know why it took me so long to decide to look into my suspicion: that my mother might also have gotten pregnant as a teen and given a child up for adoption.
I first considered the possibility based on my mother’s reaction to my pregnancy, how coldly she treated me, and her insistence that I leave town, keep the secret, and give up my child. I chalked it up to the times she had grown up in, when an unwed pregnancy was the most shameful thing that could happen to a family. Although not much different than in the sixties when I got pregnant. Then, her reaction to my reunion, still insisting that no one find out, even though times had changed and acceptance was forthcoming. Her fear of the truth was palpable. As if it was more than my pregnancy that haunted her.
I thought this had more to do with being abandoned by her own mother. Those who know me or who have read Second-Chance Mother are aware that my grandmother walked away, leaving my mom and her eight siblings to their own devices or fostered into other families, after their father died young in 1929. My mom was so ashamed of this past that she never told my father or her children. We only found out when her younger sister found her and she had no choice but to tell us.
Eventually I learned that my mother left her hometown in rural Virginia the day after her high school graduation. I wondered why the hasty departure. Some said she desperately wanted to get away from her foster parents and perhaps escape the shame of what had happened to her original family.
What I do know is that she lived with family friends in Washington D.C., and went to secretarial school there, after which she got a job with the government, which included some time working in Bermuda. My father was an officer in the Navy when they met in D.C. They’d only knew each other for a few months before they married, and then traveled to San Diego, where my dad was newly stationed. My two younger siblings and I were born there.
My mom passed away almost nine years ago. I rarely questioned her about her past, or why she had kept her family a secret from us. Probably because my father was always present, guarding her. I sensed the topic was taboo. A few times when I caught her unawares she let a few things slip, most importantly that she believed a child should never be separated from their mother. “But sometimes that doesn’t work out,” she said.
So, why do I care now, if she might have had a child and given him or her up for adoption?
Last night, I attended an adoption support group that I’ve visited off and on for the last six years. I met the woman who founded and facilitates it at a Society of Southwestern Authors event all those years ago, when we were both working on books about our reunions. I went when the group first began, then dropped out because I felt like I had nothing positive to say (while my son and I were struggling and then estranged), but have been attending again for the last year. I love the other members and providing what support I can, plus I’ve felt like I have something to add now that I’m reconnected with my son.
I was telling about my upcoming presentations at the American Adoption Congress conference in April, and mentioned the session on adoption running in families. When I explained about the three generations my family has — my grandmother giving up her nine children, my relinquishment of my son, and then Josh and his first wife surrendering their two young boys when their marriage dissolved — I said that it seemed to have skipped a generation, my mother’s, then added that maybe it didn’t. That I suspected she too had lost a child.
“Have you looked into it?” some asked. “Registered with Soundex?”
It had never occurred to me! That I might have a half-sibling out there. But how would I find them? I have nothing other than my mother’s information. No birth date or place. Whether it was a boy or girl. I can’t be sure if it was the same year she left town or early in the next.
It might not even have happened.
If I were to search, what would be my motive? To find a sibling (if they even exist)? To confirm (or clear) my suspicions? Should I let the past die with my mother?
What would you do?