Tag Archives: death

The Phone Call

Unless a loved one is expecting a baby, the phone call you get at 6:45 a.m. is never a good one. 

Last year, around this time, beginning my winter vacation, I got the call that I was losing my bio brother whom I had only recently met. The loss came as a shock. After the funeral I met my bio nieces for the first time ever. They read my book about searching for my birth family. One asked me about my ex husband. The one who was so very troubled with an addiction that made life unbearable for both of us. Is he still alive?, she asked. Yes, I answered. The question surprised me. So did my answer. How had he survived this long?

This year, same vacation. Same place. Different phone call. My daughter, at 6:45 a.m. tells me her dad passed. He is in a better place, she said. I just happened to be visiting my son at the time. I was the one to tell him his dad passed away. 

While married to this man I was constantly planning a funeral. Every time he didn’t come home I pictured him dead in a car accident. I wondered who I should call. What I would do. But he kept going. I’d lose sleep while he was passed out. But he survived.  

Even after the divorce I still worried. Even though it’s not my job to worry. I do. I worry for my kids. But I have to also realize that he is in a better place. To be an addict is to live a life of pain. I always wished I could fix it for him. I can’t. 

People ask if I would have changed anything in my life. Yes.  Many things. But at this time I must stop to appreciate that he was the reason I have my beautiful children. 

Rest In Peace, T.J. 

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Who Does an Adoptee Meet in Heaven?

Proof! According to Hollywood movies, recent bestsellers and tabloids, we have proof, from recorded near-death experiences, that not only is there a heaven, but your loved ones, even those you have never met, will greet you upon arrival. Do you believe in an afterlife? I don’t know if I believe or not, but it makes me wonder. I wonder who would greet me when I arrive.

 

When I think of mom and dad, I think of the parents who raised me. I didn’t think of them as my “adoptive” parents. To me, they were my parents. However, I did spend a lot of time thinking about the woman who gave me life. I wondered if she was pretty. I wondered if she had been happy as a child. I wondered if she had been in love with the man who helped create me. I wondered if he had died as well, and that’s why he couldn’t keep me. Sometimes I wondered if my parents wouldn’t tell me anything about my birthmom because they were afraid I would get hurt. Maybe the secret they were keeping from me was that I was a product of rape.

 

Since I always thought my birthmother died in childbirth, something that made me feel guilty my entire life, I never spent any time thinking about if she ever thought about me. She was gone. That question was off the table. Until my last birthday. Now that I know who my birthmother was, and why she put me up for adoption, and the fact that she had actually died around the year that I started looking for her, now I have questions. Now I wonder, did she think about me? This year on my birthday, for the first time, I wondered if she ever thought about me on my birthday. I wondered if she ever regretted giving me up. If she was anything like I am, she must have. I have an obsessive personality, still thinking about things that happened twenty, thirty years ago, wondering if I could have done something different that would have changed the trajectory of my life.

 

Now that I’m thinking about the past, I’m wondering, if there really is a heaven, and we do see our “family,” our loved ones, who I will see in heaven. Will my parents, the ones who raised me, greet me at the gates, with open arms and tears in their eyes, and hug me, trying to make up for all those years apart? Or will my birth mother be there? Will she push my adoptive parents out of the way, finally getting to be with the daughter she never knew? Or did she know me? Had she been watching me from afar? From heaven? Guiding me along, helping me find her. It took me twenty-four years to confirm who my birthmother was. Perhaps it was she who was leaving clues along the way, helping me find her.

 

I still have so many questions about my birth. I’m sure I was an accident. But was I also part of a love story? A one night stand? Why did everyone keep the story of my birth from me? After death, then, would everyone finally reveal all the secrets that they held for so many years?

 

Adoptees have so many questions. Who do you think you would meet in heaven and what are some of the questions you would ask them?

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Reunion Memoir

Click on picture for free sample or to purchase book.

Adoptee Commits Suicide

When I got the tragic news that a sixteen-year-old girl died, I was horrified. Jumping to conclusions, I assumed she had been in a car accident. A victim of a drunk driver. Or perhaps she was drinking behind the wheel. Why are sixteen-year-olds driving anyway? Or drugs. Too many kids use drugs these days. This was not just any sixteen-year-old, however. This girl was the daughter of a man my husband had been friends with many many years ago. A man who also passed away, way too young. We wanted to know why, how, she died. My husband, who hadn’t been in touch with the girl’s mother for years, couldn’t ask. We looked up her name online. Her obituary did not list a cause of death. But it did list her age and her school. She was my granddaughter’s age. She attended my granddaughter’s school.

I called my granddaughter to find out if she knew any details. She was the one who told me it was a suicide. The school was providing counselling for the students. Now that we’ve ruled out driving, drinking and drugs, my mind immediately leaped to another conclusion. “She was adopted,” I said to my husband. That’s all I had to say, as if the word “adopted” covered it all.

Why did I link the suicide to adoption? I don’t know what type of relationship this young girl had with her family. With her adoptive mother. Most teenagers are filled with angst. With existential angst, wondering why they were born. An adoptee has the additional angst of wondering why she was given up. Abandoned. Is that enough to cause someone to commit suicide? There must be more.

When I was a teen, I often thought about committing suicide. I even got as far as holding a razor blade in my hand. Dumping a bottle of aspirins (I know, very lame) on the bathroom vanity. I was brought back to my senses when my mom, my adoptive mom, yelled, “What’s taking you so long in the bathroom?” I stopped my foolishness and reminded myself, if I killed myself, I’d never know how things would turn out. Maybe it gets better.

Since this suicide, I started thinking about how many events in my life revolved around my mother. My mother criticized me. My birthmother might have done the same. My mother hated that I did things differently than her. That I looked so different than she looked. She tried to change me all the time. She even tried to get me to dye my hair like hers when I was 12! We fought over trivial things all the time. I might have fought the same with my bio mother. We also might have been very different. I’ll never know. She passed away before I learned who she was.

I married when I was only eighteen, to get away from mother. Is this common among adoptees? I married an addict. Is this common among adoptees? After my divorce I remarried right away. Was this my fear of being abandoned because I was given away at birth? I only have questions. Not answers. But it still haunts me that I immediately jumped to the conclusion, adopted, when I heard about a suicide.

The point is not that adoptions cause these problems. The point is, how can we avoid potential problems that might be brought on by adoption? First and foremost I believe that adoptive parents must remember that their child is unique. Their child has a different bio-identity. Different blood. Do not try to mold the child to your ways. Teach right from wrong, as you would with any child, but embrace their differences. Embrace their uniqueness. They might be brilliant, creative, talented in ways you’d never had imagined. Ways you’d never have expected. Their DNA might lead them in directions you’d never dreamed of. Enjoy your children. Love them. Let them be the best they can be. If they want to know their heritage, let them. Encourage them to learn who they are. Where they came from. Never feel threatened. If they grew up knowing you loved them, that won’t change.

What were some issues you faced as an adoptee? What would you like to tell adoptive parents?

I discuss my own adoption issues and my twenty-four year search in my memoir, Call Me Ella. This is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, iBooks and more. I’d love to get your feedback.

A Sweet Lesson on Patience

Reprinted from  www.elderhelpers.org.

A sweet lesson on patience. A NYC Taxi driver wrote: I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was …going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. ‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’ ‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’ ‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.. ‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice. I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. ‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. ‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse. ‘Nothing,’ I said ‘You have to make a living,’ she answered. ‘There are other passengers,’ I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly. ‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’ I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one. PLEASE SHARE THIS TOUCHING STORY…

Adopted in New Jersey

Having been adopted in New Jersey, I was never able to obtain my original birth certificate. Growing up I begged my adoptive mother over and over for any possible information she might have about my birth mother until one day, shooting her foot through the kitchen wall she screamed, “Don’t ever ask me that again.” I guess that was the end of the story. For years I would go on believing I must have been the product of rape, incest or my birth mother just wanted to get rid of me. I never fantasized about being the daughter of famous celebrities who were unable to raise me fearing an illegitimate birth might ruin their careers. This was a few (?) years ago. At least I thought this was the end of the story until my mother was on her death bed.  Literally.

Mom put much effort into apologizing to me during those weeks I sat at her bedside trying to comfort her after we realized the end to her two year battle with cancer was near. “I know I was a bitch you,” came as a surprise to me.  I smiled, figuring it was probably the morphine talking, allowing her the freedom to let go of her pride for once in her life. “You were a lovable bitch”, I responded, with a wink and a smile, while my heart was breaking inside. Why couldn’t she have apologized years ago?  Why do they always wait until their deathbed?  It’s like the parents who know their children are struggling financially, but refuse them monetary help when they need it saving it instead for “the inheritance.”  By the time the will is read, the family is bitter and torn apart.

We both laughed.  For the first time in years, maybe ever, we talked.  Opened up.  In this dreary hospital room, with its green walls, threadbare divider curtains, IV drip, heartbeat monitor, this same hospital where my son was born, for the first time in my memory my Mom wasn’t judgmental.  Telling me she was proud of me I could only think, why did she wait until she was dying?  No one knew the pain I felt growing up.  I couldn’t tell her how she had hurt me. Not now. She was dying. I let her talk.

A week before she died she told me about a “lock box” that was hidden in the back of the top shelf in her bedroom closet. “There are important papers in there.” She said. Then she gave me the secret code. “Your daddy’s birthday”.

For the first time I was nervous being alone in her house, my childhood home.  Before this trip my only concerns involved the safety of my children as I had left both of them with their alcoholic father, trusting in God to watch over the three of them while I visited my dying mother, and how much longer my mother had to live, praying at this point that her pain would end soon.  As I prepared myself to open “the box, the secret hidden box,” I felt my heart pounding in my throat.

Balancing on a chair pulled up to the bedroom closet, reaching past the stacks of hat boxes, the silk scarves and leather gloves, my hand touched the metal of a small box, like a buried treasure.  I pulled the box down from the closet, placed it on her quilted bedspread and stared at it as I got comfortable in my usual position, legs tucked beneath me.  Memories started flooding into my head like the waters crushing back together after Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea. Like it was yesterday I pictured my Koko, surrounded by her litter of eight poodles, resting on the blood stained blanket right there, in front of this same mirrored closet door.

I looked at the box. After taking a deep breath I rotated the first cylinder to “6”.  The second was already in the correct position.  After easing the third cylinder into place I could feel the lid release and slowly open.  Although I had no idea what was in this treasure chest, I knew it contained something important.  I rifled through lots of papers.  Mostly insurance docs.  Itemized lists assigning values to the jewelry, furs, monogrammed silverware and the China my father shipped over from Hungary during the war.  “My inheritance”.

My parents weren’t wealthy by any means, but they liked their trinkets.

As I worked my way through the documents I came to a sudden halt.  My heart stopped.  “Adoption Papers”.  Oh my God. It listed my birth mother’s last name.  My eyes burned as hot tears flowed down my cheeks into my mouth. I could hardly read the documents my eyes were so filled. After removing my fogged over contact lenses, I was able to examine the hand typed court documents drafted so many years ago.  While I studied the pages, one memory came to mind.

“Don’t ever ask me that again”.  Was she telling me where this box was so I’d find the adoption papers and open a dialog?  Did she want me to ask her about this now?  Was she ready to talk?  She had apologized for being so mean to me all my life. She realized she had been unfair.  But was she ready to talk?  Is this why she told me about the box?

I returned to the hospital the next morning expecting her to ask me about the box. Did you find the box, do you have any questions?  I’m ready now to answer anything.  But no. She never mentioned the lock box and I didn’t have the heart, or guts, to bring it up at this time. She was dying. I wasn’t going to do or say anything that would upset her now. She had to be the one to broach the subject.  I waited. Nothing.

No matter how many disappointments my mother had in her life, she could never bring herself to talk to me about her greatest disappointment of all – that she could not give birth. She said nothing and I said nothing.

She died the following week. Her secret intact.

(This is an excerpt from my new memoir about my twenty-four year search to find out who this mysterious birth mother was. Along the way, I learned who my birth father was as well.)