A 48 year old secret that I want to tell you…

As this Sunday dawns. I stand at the threshold of my 48th year….and it’s time that I revealed the secret burden that I’ve been hiding from you the last few months.

This may divert from my usual “gee, this past year kinda sucked but was kinda OK” birthday post.

Because this last year was freaking AMAZING.

The kind of year of my life that I had always dreamed and hoped for.

It wasn’t perfect.  But it was jaw-dropping at times…in all the best ways.

And a 47 year old mystery dissolved in a matter of minutes and a lifelong burden lifted.

Some of you may know that I was adopted when I was six weeks old.  For some adoptees, myself included, this comes with a wagonload of questions, issues, etc.

Speaking for myself, I spent most of my life feeling unwanted and out of place, even with my own family and those closest to me.   At home, at work, it didn’t matter.  Apparently it’s quite common among adoptees, and I empathize with those among us who fought that battle in their life.

I always knew that I was adopted.  It was never a secret, my parents told me from the moment that I was able to comprehend the concept.

And as kids are wont to do, I used that in shitty ways.  I remember my mom being mad at me for something and my reply was “Well I’m gonna go find my REAL parents” (Sorry Mom) or words to that effect.

Of course I never did.

Until this past March.

The law preventing adoptees from accessing their original birth certificate was quietly changed in Missouri a couple of years ago and as of January 1, 2018 adoptees can now request their original birth records…so I did.

Unless you have no idea what your biological roots are, you may not have any idea how powerful the concept of not knowing who you are or where you came from can be.  Now I did a DNA study a couple of years ago, which answered a few questions and you can find a post about it on this blog.

After sending in my requests, the months of agonizing wait ensued until a chilly Friday in March, when a nondescript envelope was waiting for me when I got home from work.

I’m pretty sure that I was weeping before the envelope was fully opened.  Nope.  I’m positive that I was.  In fact, I pretty well cried that whole weekend and freaked the shite out of my kids who I kept trying to reassure between bouts of tears that I really was okay.

I called my sister before I even left the mailbox.  She’s also adopted (from a different family) and would understand better than anyone what I was going through.  We cried together on the phone and I promised to keep her informed as to anything I found out.

Here’s what I found out:

My birth name was Robert John.

This surprised me because I had fully expected to see “Baby Boy Jones” or something along those lines.

And it also listed my birth mother’s name but no father’s name.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, in literally 5 minutes, I located a likely individual matching the name, approximate age and profession (my parents had always told me that my birth mother was a nurse.)

I studied her Facebook profile, poring over her photos and wondered…could this be she?

Then I pondered what to do for several days.  I realized that I was opening a 47 year old can of worms and possibly disrupting a peaceful life for her which was nothing that I took lightly.  I did not want this to be a negative experience for anyone.  I’m not that selfish.

The following Wednesday, I wrote a carefully worded letter and mailed it to the address that I had found with no expectations.  In the letter, I expressed my thought that she could POSSIBLY be my birth mother and if she she was indeed my birth mother, I would understand if she could not respond to this letter, for whatever reason.

A few days later, I was elbow deep in replacing the rear brakes on my girlfriend’s car when my cell phone rang.  I saw the area code and knew instantly who it was.  I grabbed my phone and hustled to my car to have some privacy for this moment.

For the first time ever in my 47 years, I heard my birth mother’s voice.

Her voice was soft and kind as she confirmed that she was indeed my birth mother.  She told me my birth father’s name and gave me a bit of the history of what happened.

I tried to keep it together and keep the conversation from getting too emotional.  We ended the conversation after about 20 minutes agreeing to keep the line of communication open.

The feelings that followed are hard to put into words.

All I can say is I have a sense of peace about who I am and where I came from.

And a tremendous sense of relief.  I had a host of fears about this contact.  None of them came true.

I have creeped on my biological father’s Facebook page.  My birth mother told me that he looks like Mark Twain.  She’s not very far off.  But I’ve taken no steps to communicate with him.  I just have this gut feeling that it won’t go well.  Knowing who he is is enough for me now.

And for the first time in my life, I am celebrating my birthday knowing exactly what had escaped me for all my years prior.

Join me as I raise my glass to 48, Daniel Gerard/Robert John.  Thanks to all of your for being a part of the journey.  If 48 is anything like 47, I’m in for a hell of good year!

 

 

 

 

 

Caution: Adult themes ahead…

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Well, I did it.

I wrote and published something on Amazon for sale to the general public.

I took the leap.

All of the years of procrastination, the fear of rejection, the worry…

I decided to chuck it all.

Caution has been dispatched without ceremony.

And now, I prepare myself for the results.  Success and reward or folly and failure.

The die has been cast.

But all of this with a twist.

The genre which finally allowed me to break the barrier is, shall we say, of an ADULT nature.

So needless to say, this is not Shakespeare, nor Hemingway… not even Danielle Steele.

But it’s mine.  And my hope is that it leads to more.

Self-control did get the better of me.  It’s written under a pen name to shield my personal and professional connections.

So this is no flack advertisement.  No link included for you to follow in order to purchase this torrid tome.

If you want to read it bad enough, most of you know how to contact me.  I’ll send you a link and your purchase stays forever in the vault of my discretion.

It’s certainly a side of me that very few people know existed.

But damn, does it feel good.

I’m more relieved than anything, to be honest.  And someone has already been kind enough to purchase it.

One sale down, hopefully many more to come.

My irresolution was fulfilled before the end of the second month of the year.

So I listened to “Raise Your Glass” as I put the final touches on it and pushed “Publish” and these lyrics played out as the mouse button clicked:

So raise your glass if you are wrong,
In all the right ways,
All my underdogs,
We will never be never be, anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on and come on and raise your glass,
Just come on and come on and raise your glass.

Finally, after all the years that my words never produced a penny, I am beginning the journey to if not producing an income, at least supplementing my income.

It was time to raise my glass.

And for the bravery to put my words out to the masses, whatever source that came from;

I thank you.

I thank you.

This spring, my hope be eternal.  And to quote the Shawshank Redemption

Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.

So raise your glasses, and join me in a virtual smashing of the champagne bottle across the bow of my writing career.

The horizon’s clear and seas are calm for now.

 

47 years and counting…

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my birthday called Reflections on 44. It remains one the most popular posts I’ve ever written.

I know that many, if not most posts I write are dark. I don’t know why that is, other than for some strange reason, the darkness rouses the Muse and words flow more freely. In case you were wondering, I don’t spend my days in some sort of gothic state of depression. Quite the contrary, I am happy most of the time. But it isn’t those moments when I am driven to the keyboard.

So today, on this auspicious 47th anniversary of my entering this world, I decided to reflect on the good in my life.

The first thing that I want to mention is you. Knowing that you take precious time out of your day to scan these words brings me hope…hope that one day, I might turn this habit of verbal doodling might become my life’s work. That’s there still value in these thoughts that bubble up in my brain. That one day, I may truly become a writer, complete with paycheck. Thank you for your presence, the words of encouragement that you leave me and for the gift of your time.

I thank the gods for my friends. You know who you are. The trials of the past year would have been unbearable without you.

Happiness is not a state of being, I’ve come to realize. Happiness is in enjoying the moments that fill our every day and being fully present within them. My own are the simplest: that first cup of coffee in the morning quiet of my front porch, smoking and watching the hummingbirds zip and dive around my neighbor’s feeder. When my newly adopted cat jumps up on the couch and onto my lap, hesitantly craning her neck out to touch her nose to mine. When I have my kids on the couch next to me, their presence (even though they are enraptured by their phones/tablets) brings me peace and joy.
Singing along (badly) with a favorite song while I drive. Flopping down and watching an episode of “Longmire” at the end of a long day. An unexpected message from someone. Watching the sun go down. Listening to the night sounds while I smoke the last cigarette of the day before bed.

That is happiness to me. And my days are filled with those moments.

Surprisingly, these days I have an abundance of hope. I can’t explain why, but I have a concrete sense that no matter what, everything will turn out ok.

Cheers to 47 years. I don’t know if I have 47 more, but I will make the most of those I do have. I plan on making changes for the better in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Thank you for your birthday wishes. Thank you for continuing to read. Thank you for being you. My wish for you is health, happiness and hope in the coming year.

What you think about, you bring about. Never forget that.

“Walk tall, kick ass and take no guff from those swine.” – HST

24 hours in Heaven and Hell

jeepYou know, the past 24 hours have been such a whirlwind, I really don’t know where to begin…

So I guess that I will just begin at the beginning.

I was about to have dinner with a friend, when she got the call that every parent dreads.

A phone number that she didn’t recognize.

A frightened voice telling her that her daughter had been in a car accident.

As the fates would have it, the accident was a mere 100 yards from her front door.  We ran to the car and we could hear the sirens howling in the distance.  Panic crossed her face, as it would any parent hurling themselves headlong into this sort of surreal nightmare.

If we weren’t on the scene in less than a minute after hanging up the phone, we were pretty damn close.  And the scene that greeted us was nothing less than the very picture of what haunts parental dreams.  Brilliant flashing red and blue lights.  Smashed and twisted steel.  Concrete strewn with debris and moonshine diamonds of shattered glass.  Emergency vehicles racing up the road.  Screams of pain.  Glowing red road flares.

We dashed across the traffic lanes and were blocked by police until she heard her daughter screaming for her and she damn near lost it.  The officer relented, let her through and she fell to her knees next to her daughter who was being carefully tended to by the first paramedics that had arrived.  She was crying out in pain, the heart rending sound that makes a person feel so helpless.  Her mom was overcome and had to take a moment to gather herself so I knelt by the girl, holding her hand like the most fragile, delicate piece of glass I could imagine, saying every comforting and soothing word I could think of.  Kind hands on my shoulders as a fireman said “It’s ok, dad.  We are taking good care of her.”  I didn’t bother to correct him or clarify my status.  At that moment it seemed trivial.  Those same kind hands purposefully guided me away, giving them the space they needed to work.

I turned to the teenage boys that were with her in the car and who were pacing nervously, almost as if lost.  The story was coming in bits and pieces, but we managed to gather the basics but the penultimate detail was that the girl was ejected from the vehicle through a back window.  That was about all we had the chance to gather before the girl and her mom were loaded into an ambulance and fired off.

I stayed behind and tried to wrap my mind around what had happened.  I spied a shoe that the girl had been wearing left on the street.  I picked it up and searched for the other.   It wasn’t the only item missing from my sight.  As I looked at the car she had been in, I noticed that the right rear wheel was gone.  As was the tailgate of the car.  Not just flat, bent or damaged.  Fucking gone.  I looked all around and could not see them anywhere.  I wrenched open the battered driver’s door, grabbed the girl’s purse and found her other shoe still inside the car.

Incredible.  Surreal.  I was stunned as my mind pictured the immense impact and I couldn’t shake the horrible image of the girl flying out of the window in a glittering explosion of glass and winced as I pictured her body thumping against the pavement and coming to rest.  I dropped into the front seat of my car and lit a cigarette.  I closed my eyes and took a few moments  before I did the impossibly long (at least it seemed) drive to the hospital without the benefit of lights and siren or even a visual of the ambulance, but wasted no time nonetheless.

I parked the car and hustled into the ER Entrance.  As I approached the trauma room I saw swirl of scrubs and white lab coats.  Machines and monitors beeped, ticked and blinked.  Her clothes had been cut off and lay in a dejected pile on the floor.  I put my arm around my friend and did my best to keep her calm.  She described the ambulance ride as we stood just outside the room, as no space for even a single other person was available in the bustle of that room.

Minutes turned to hours to hours as staff gradually trickled out, their roles complete.  The girl seemed pitifully small on the hospital bed.  We took turns gently talking to her, delicately stroking her hair and reassuring her that we were still there and were not going anywhere while they rolled her to CT scans and paced until she was brought back.

Finally, around midnight, a relieved looking surgeon cataloged her injuries, a concussion, bruised bones and pulled muscles, cut and bruises and an ugly patch or two of road rash but nothing broken.  Nothing serious nor life-threatening.  She would spend the night in the hospital for observation purposes, but could go home in the morning.

Which in my humble opinion, is nothing short of amazing.

A few weeks ago, my youngest asked me if I still believed in God.  It brought to mind a scene from a movie where a fallen angel asks a man who once studied to be priest;  “Do you still believe?  Any of it?”  And the priest didn’t.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth, that life had battered that out of me over the past few years.  I didn’t want to break his little heart, so I told him that I still did.

I don’t know what to believe anymore, but dear reader I can tell you this I surely believe in miracles.  And when that girl shyly and hesitantly walked up to me (after I brought them home from the hospital) and wrapped her arms around me in one of the sweetest hugs that I had ever received, I knew that I was holding a living miracle at that moment.

In the midst of all of this,  I get contacted by a high school friend.  After texts back and forth, he tells me that his mother is dying.  A woman who was a second mom to me in those terrible awkward years of my life.  A woman who I had shared countless hours, cigarettes and RC colas with.

I pondered this crazy life of mine.  One moment joy and relief, and the next, sorrow.

And a few hours later, a simply worded text.  His mom had passed.  And all of the breezes that had filled my sails earlier vanished.  In a matter of hours I shall be sitting with my friend, doing my best to be the person that I need to be for them.  I will give them the gift of my time and my love and friendship.  The longer I live, the more I believe that those simple gifts are the only currency that don’t devalue.

And some day, I hope that this life will make some sense to me.  In the closing scene of the movie “Tombstone” Wyatt Earp is visiting Doc Holliday as Doc lay dying and Wyatt is lamenting his inability to live a normal life.  To which Doc replies:

“There’s no normal life, Wyatt.  There’s just life.  You’ll get on with it.”

Truer words seldom spoken.

I guess I’ll just get on with it.

 

A love letter to Brazil (or Una carta de amor a Brasil)!

For some reason, the country with the most people viewing my blog is Brazil.  I’m sure that it is due to some improper link or something even more nefarious, but I feel compelled to address those beautiful, coffee-skinned visitors.  So apologies to all of my English speaking friends, this one is strictly for the la gente de habla hispana.

Queridos amigos,
No sé lo que te trajo a mi blog, pero yo quería tomar un momento para darle las gracias por estar aquí. Estoy seguro de que usted estaba buscando algo más, pero si usted puede leer Inglés, los invito a pasar unos minutos leyendo estos mensajes. Si tiene alguna buenas palabras para dejar atrás, por favor hágalo.
PS – las mujeres brasileñas son algunas de las mujeres más calientes del planeta!
Muchas gracias!
Dan