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!

 

 

 

 

 

A Resolution For the Irresolute

I’ve had a long standing agreement with my life… if there’s anything about it that I really don’t like, I procrastinate dealing with it until I hit one of two milestones…either my birthday or January 1…

It’s a shitty plan, admittedly.  And many times I just hit a mental “Postpone” button (kinda like that Windows Update that keeps cropping up on my screen… you do it, too.  Don’t judge me.)

I’m not a believer in resolutions.  I’m firmly irresolute.  The only thing that I do believe about resolutions is that they usually wind up left at the curb with the dried Scotch pine and broken light strands of the holidays somewhere mid-month.

As I write this, it’s 7 degrees outside, I’ve got a fire snapping and popping in the fireplace about 3 feet away, but I have something burning much more intensely inside.

The urge to write.  To create fantasy.  To actually make my living from all of the demented fermentation of thoughts, words and ideas sloshing around in the ol’ skull… at least while I still have enough synapses connected to accomplish that.

You only have so many good years on the planet.  I’ve been counseling my youngest on that very fact.  He spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about deep life issues that a 13 year old needn’t occupy their thoughts with.  But that’s a tale for another day.

As I lecture him from my Paternal Pulpit, a little voice distracts me.

“Great advice there, Pops.  Now, when does the physician heal himself?  When do you start taking your own advice?”

I firmly and politely tell that voice to piss off.  I’m tending to my fatherly duties.

“Sure, Pops.  You’re 47, you know.  Ain’t getting any damn younger, that’s for sure.  Just when do you expect this wonderful writing career to start?  Another year just flew past you.  Another year that you could have been living the life you want to, but you let it slip past.  It’s gone.  Adios.  Sayonara.”

Yeah, yeah.  I get it.

“Do you?  Do you get it?  I happen to recall YOU telling a co-worker that life was short…and if he was unhappy, he should retire.  You told him not to waste any more of his life being miserable.  You should have been having that conversation in the mirror, pal.”

And so on and so forth.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the mental debate,  but I’m pretty sure that the voice called me a dumbass and other less nice things.

But it’s true, folks.  Not just for me but for you as well.  You ain’t getting younger either.  So if you are as irresolute as I, skip the resolutions and instead pick one goal to accomplish.  I don’t care if it’s racing in the Cannonball Run, or creating art or simply getting your damn laundry caught up.  Accomplish that goal and then pick another.  Baby steps, just like Bill Murray’s mantra in “What about Bob?”

Tomorrow isn’t a guaranteed delivery.  The only thing that you know is that you have the moment now.  Take action.  Put paint to canvas.  Carve unflattering soap sculptures of your sister-in-law.  Seek and destroy whatever is creating that godawful funk in your teenager’s bedroom.  Whatever it is that you have been putting off, your time to do it is now.

Before another year passes you by, buttercup.

(But seriously, find out what in the hell is causing that smell.  The stench is overpowering)

Thanks for a great 2017.  I appreciate you and especially those who have been kind enough to give me comments and feedback.

Meanwhile, Imma get busy writing.  I’m going to try my hand at erotica, but I can’t post that stuff on a wholesome family blog like this…

Or can I?

(laughs wickedly and then coughs and hacks… damn cigarettes)

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Closing up shop…

It was an ordinary-looking house. A post war Kleenex box with a roof. It looked like every other one on the street.
I pulled to a stop in the driveway. I could feel it coming on me already. I knew that this was going to be a bad one.
My job is to visit foreclosed homes before they are auctioned off. I assess the property for the mortgage company so they can report accurate conditions to the bidders. I walk the floors and check for carpet wear. I flush toilets, run faucets and crank up the air conditioner to see if it works. My boss calls it “closing up the shop.”
But I am cursed…cursed with the ability to see the lives and feel the emotions of those that lived there. I’ve seen love and heartbreak, sadness and tragedy, joy and celebration.
Most houses have a pretty even balance. This one felt a lot different.
Not in a bad or menacing way, and I didn’t expect a hockey-masked psycho to jump out of the linen closet at me.
But this felt different. And the house looked different.
When I stepped across the threshold, I saw something that I rarely see.
No dirt. No dust or cobwebs. Not a cracked windowpane. The carpeting still had the tidy lines left in it from it from its last vacuuming.
And then I saw her. She was slightly out of focus, like a hazy VHS tape that has been watched too many times. She walked worriedly through the living room, stooping to pick up a speck of lint. Worry lines furrowed her face. Pure sadness was in her eyes. She studied the countertops in the kitchen. I followed her. She took something from a white bottle that was under the sink and scrubbed a spot. She shook her head and dropped the rag and headed to the basement. She did not want to have the new owners think ill of them.
I decided not to follow her down. I walked back into the tidy living room to see a boy of about 7 playing with Legos on the floor. He hummed to himself as he lay on his belly, constructing impossible combinations of pirate ships and interstellar cruisers. He held up one creation proudly to his dad, who sat on the couch holding an infant girl, feeding her a bottle. The dad smiled and nodded encouragingly, but the boy noticed something in his dad’s eyes. He saw fear and worry. It made the boy’s stomach flutter. He did not like to see his daddy scared.
I turned away and went down the hallway to the bedrooms. I peeked in the first one on the right and saw the dad years earlier, holding the boy as a baby as he rocked him to sleep. The father’s face was pure contentment. The baby was asleep, but it felt so wonderful to hold his first child in his arms that he just wanted to keep rocking that baby forever here, in this beautiful house that they had just bought and moved into.
I felt this pain inside me. The father’s pain. Grief and a sense of failure. I walked into the parents’ bedroom and walked over to the window. I needed a break. I had hoped to see a bird or squirrel, something to change what I was feeling.
Instead I saw the father again. This time pushing the lawn mower. His back was slumped. Defeated. He was mowing the yard one last time before they left. He trimmed the edges carefully. He pulled stray weeds from his flower beds. He didn’t know what else to do. They were taking his house from him, but he was doing it his way. He sat on the back steps of the house, surveying his yard. Then he put his head down and wept. Big, racking sobs where he knew his family couldn’t see him.
I turned away from the window, eyes wet.
I was met by scene that I was never meant to see. The mother and father making furtive love, trying to be quiet and not wake their sleeping children. Passionate kisses. Bodies with a fine sheen of sweat. She stopped him mid-thrust, putting her index finger on his lips as they paused, listening intently for the stirring sounds of a baby. He giggled and she shushed him, smiling. Passion resumed, quietly intense.
I left their room, with a blush that they never would have imagined.
In the last bedroom, I saw the girl at 5, carefully and gently laying her dolls in a white banker’s box. She wasn’t sure why they were leaving this comfy house, it made her sad. Mommy and daddy had tried to smile and tell them that it was an adventure. They were moving to a new neighborhood with a new school for the fall. It sounded fun, but was scary at the same time.
I spun and walked back down the hall towards the front door.
I could take no more, it was time to close up this shop.
I put the key in and locked it. As I walked to my car I saw the family carrying their belongings, arms loaded with boxes, heads swiveling from side to side to see if neighbors were watching their walk of shame.
I slid into the driver’s seat and keyed the engine. The sun was setting over the roofline. I turned on the radio and hit the scan button, hoping for relief. The second station it landed on was a country station playing “There’s No Place like Home.”
No. There would be no relief tonight.