Dear Mom ~
I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 51 years, but this past year alone I feel like I’ve earned a Ph.D in “me,” learning more in one than all of the other 50 combined. I guess it’s about time. About time that I stopped avoiding the reality that there’s always been a gnawing pain at the deepest part of me – a pain so deep that it scares me to admit. A pain so scarey that I’ve kept hidden and even tried to deny its existence for decades …. until I no longer could.
I’m not sure I could’ve given this nagging pain a name as a child … I certainly didn’t know its source since you never told me I was adopted. It could’ve been attributed to many things, I guess, and most likely was by most people in my life: your divorce, dad abandoning us, crazy step-dad and typical financial struggles of single mom raising 2 kids.
But now I know. I know the source of the pain that only seemed to grow stronger as I grew older – abandonment. It seems counterintuitive that the farther I’m removed from the source of pain, the stronger it gets.
But this has been my reality.
Remember how you constantly told me as a kid to “just sit down awhile and be still?” You remember how I couldn’t just “be still” for very long … ever? It’s not because I didn’t want to … it’s because I couldn’t. Even years later, through college and then when I became a wife and mother, you told me how I always looked tired and that I needed to “slow down” but I only busied myself even more.
Now, I know that keeping myself busy has always been a way of distracting myself from the pain. Busy is easy with seven kids. I used to consider “busyness” my friend but now I understand that my avoidance in dealing with the pain was very destructive and has brought much emotional upheaval into my life.
I’m sorry I couldn’t just be still …
I’m sorry the adoption placement counselor didn’t alert you to the fact that babies left in the hospital for weeks crying for their mothers and then drugged to make them more manageable could be extremely difficult to deal with and would take longer to bond.
I’m really not sure we ever bonded … I’m sorry.
I’m truly sorry …
I’m sorry they didn’t tell you how difficult it would be to raise not only one but two other mothers’ children. I’m sorry they didn’t ask you probing questions that would alert them that your husband’s job took him away for months at a time leaving you without the support that you’d need. That they didn’t ask enough questions to find out that your once stable marriage was now shakey and that adding yet another adopted child into the family might take a toll on your marriage.
It did – I did. I’m sorry …
I’m sorry they didn’t tell you that adopted children are boundary pushers. We have to. I’m sorry … I know it was even more difficult for you as a single mom to raise 2 boundary pushers. I wasn’t being defiant or disobedient. I was testing you … to see if you’d abandon me too. Crazy thing is, I always tried to bring about the very thing I fear the most – abandonment. I knew if I could say just the right thing I’d finally reach that invisible threshold that’s there for everyone who says they love me and you would leave me too … so I tried.
We both know I tried.
In my mind, in my core, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” I knew abandonment was inevitable, so I tried to bring it about on my terms … in my way … in my time. I wish they had told you this about me … my greatest fear has always been abandonment.
In my mind, “I love you” equals abandonment.
I wish I could tell you these things now. Now that I understand more about me and us and why we never “fit.” It wasn’t because there was something wrong with our relationship. We’re just different. I wasn’t supposed to “fit.” I always felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t like you. I couldn’t be like you even when I tried because I didn’t understand you.
I’m sorry I couldn’t be like you …
Your refusal to tell me about my adoption means that we have more in common than I ever understood. Your greatest fear was the same as mine … abandonment. You didn’t want me to know because you thought I would leave you. You didn’t want me to know I had first parents out there somewhere that I might possibly search for and leave you to be alone.
Your fear whispered, “control.” Mine, “distance.”
We struggled against the same silent fear, together. Against each other … for decades.
I wish I had known …
I’m sorry I never told you that your face – without a trace of me in it – will always be the one I see when I think of “Mom.” You’re the only mom I will ever have. No one will ever take that place away from you. It’s impossible.
I’m sorry I never told you …
There’s one thing that I will never, ever be sorry about … no matter how hard I tried to string together the perfect combination of words to test you in order to bring about the thing I feared the most – you never left me.
I’m sorry I never said, “Thank you.”