January 10, 2012 § 19 Comments
Twenty six years ago today my father died. It was my brother’s 12th birthday.
I’ve just returned from my first run back and the almost four miles gave me time to think. I barely noticed my breath, hardly felt my legs, concentrated on the stunning last chapter of The Lovers and was lost in my thoughts.
There was a line in the last chapter of Vendela’s book about death that spoke personally to me. It said something about how we all grieve differently and in time the grief dulls more and more until it fades.
My dad’s death has faded enough for me that I don’t cry about it anymore. The loss has become an integral part of the person that I was meant to become.
I haven’t seen my brother in over seven years. His life, like all of ours, changed the day Al Feldman died. Sadly though, his own inability to move past it has darkened the days of his own life; been used as the excuse for all that is wrong with his world.
When my brother called on Christmas, I almost didn’t answer the phone because I knew I would be exhausted by the anguish he exudes and makes sure you feel throughout his conversations.
I did answer the phone, it was Christmas after all, and after a moment of niceties was bombarded by his huge anger. He was angry over the fact that his computer had died. He began a rant about needing a Mac and insisted he couldn’t learn to use a pc. It would be too expensive for him to buy a new Mac, since he hasn’t had or been able to keep a job in years. His Mac is a few years old, which is ancient, and the guy at Apple said to buy a new one. How he got one in the first place was never discussed, though I wondered. On and on in circles. Antagonizing bitterness that could be cut with a knife.
As I listened and responded with a level head, he became more and more belligerent and aggressive. He accused me of being hateful; of being like everyone else. How dare I not agree? How dare I not jump on the band wagon of woe is he?
He was beyond reason, which is what happens more and more every time we talk and I realized in that very moment, when I asked him what he wanted me to do about it, that the brother I knew as a child was really gone.
I mourn the loss of my brother today, because I honestly don’t think I’ll ever see him again. He didn’t attend my wedding and has never met my children.
When someone you love can no longer be reasoned with, when every conversation swings from highs based in an unreal world to lows that only the strongest can climb up from, what is there left to do?
Pray? Hope? Cross fingers? Stomp feet and scream?
I miss my dad today as I do all the time, but he is with me still, despite being an angel in heaven that is probably smoking a cigar with a crate of strawberries in his arms calling all the ladies, “Sweet heart.” I would bet money that my birth mom is near by; there’s no way she could resist his charms. He was of a different time. A spectacular man.
I feel like my brother is the one who has gone. I’m sad for him. I want help for him. I will always love him. But my power to protect him, to show him the way, to convince him everything will be alright is gone.
Mental illness is a death of it’s own. It is more painful than a permanent death, because the pain and suffering is so alive. Today I feel like I begin a new grieving process. I await a call to let me know he is at peace, however that peace may come. I hope it’s his voice on the other end of the phone saying, “I get it, I am responsible, I forgive, I am living, I am happy!” Unfortunately, that’s not the call I expect I will get.
I will continue to hope and pray. My fingers remain crossed and I feel at peace with how I’ve handled my part in his life.
Today I will remember the boy two years younger who was sweet and good and not marred by pain. No one should live in pain. There is far too much joy.
November 27, 2011 § 3 Comments
You know the party has been successful when you can’t stop thinking about it, replaying the moments over and over again and wishing it could go on forever. I spent the five-hour drive home from Virginia trying to comprehend all of the information I’d gathered. The bright young faces of the cousins and their resemblance to my own kids, my grandparents sitting in the kitchen watching the whirlwind of their family circling around them, my mom in quiet conversation with this new family (that will now be hers too), the buzz of the kitchen during cleanup, the music at the dance party the day after Thanksgiving. The list and the visions are endless and so it’s been decided, I will write a book. Maybe two. There is far too much to cover on a blog.
I also spent the drive home thinking about which story I would cover first, because my birth mother and my grandmother lived extraordinary lives. My mind kept coming back to my sister Gabby, though, whose own story is one of true survival, persistence, and love. My most important goal will be to share my beautiful sister with the world so that they know of her strength, her heart, and the gift that she’s given me; the gift of my biological family.
Back to running! I hadn’t run since that almost ten miler, five days before. On Thanksgiving day, Uncle Donny (the oldest child of my grandparents) and I planned to run on Friday.
I had trepidations. Planning a run with a partner can be daunting. If said partner runs too fast, you burn out too quickly, and what could have been a bonding experience turns out to be sheer speed work. If a partner runs too slowly, then the activity is less about personal training and more about gauging the others’ enjoyment and comfort. It’s rude to push someone too quickly when they run a little more slowly than you. A faster runner should always try to encourage anyone who runs more slowly. It is true what they say, “No matter how slowly you go, you are lapping all those people sitting on the couch!”
Finally, running with men is a different experience altogether. Venus and Mars and such.
Uncle Donny and I decided to set off in the area surrounding our hotel. The weather was perfect, sunny and brisk. I wore my Lululemon speed skirt, which Uncle Chucky (who saw me in the hotel lobby that morning) told me later was quite impressive. Running in a skirt is still a new idea.
We began our run at the first stop sign out of the parking lot and I tried to gauge Uncle Don’s pace. To my surprise, we were perfectly matched. I felt good and we were able to talk.
The first thing he asked me was how I was feeling about all of, “this,” meaning the reunion with Gabby and the family. I told him the story of the night Gabby called mom (Peachie) and how as soon as I was told that my sister had found me, I looked her up on facebook, and called her minutes later.
Uncle Donny wanted me to fill in the blanks; fill in the parts that my sister didn’t know. We spent the next hour running and talking, and I learned more about my birth mom and her mother, Clara. I gained new insight about my grandfather, who up to this point in my trip had spent a lot of our time together looking at me (and the girls), but left the personal questioning to Clara.
I could have kept running forever. After a while we got a little turned around, but since my uncle is a pilot, I knew he’d get me back home, so I felt safe. I internally giggled when he spit on the side of the road, while I was blowing my nose. Runners do gross stuff when they’re on a roll, and I don’t know why, but I love it. I know that makes zero sense to non-runners. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling all runners get a little kick out of that kind of stuff too.
I needed to run during this Thanksgiving experience. Out of the 32 family members and other friends who celebrated with us, I found it amusing that there was only one runner in the bunch. Uncle Chucky used to run, but had hurt his back in an accident. Maybe one day he’ll feel better and run along with us. As the fourth (?) child of Clara and Don, I’m sure he has his own unique perspective.
When our excursion was finished we walked a lap around the hotel to cool down. We talked a bit more and said, “Goodbye,” as the elevator doors opened on his floor (the second). I made my way up to the fourth where my girls were waiting with Peach and Brian.
To say that I was happy is too simplistic. Discovering my family, who was all welcoming and loving was more than I could have ever expected. Being included into a group that claimed me as their own without even knowing me was super cool. Loving people I don’t even know is strange and wonderful. It’s the whole blood-relative thing I’d always wondered about. It should be noted, however, that this wasn’t really my first experience with that kind of love and acceptance. My adopted family did the same for me when my parents brought me home. The difference is that I was a baby and was oblivious to the fact that my entry into the Feldman family was different. To them I was just Martha, and I know they love me too.
Running with Uncle Donny was like the icing on the cake to it all.
Speaking of cake, last night I finished off the chocolate one we left in the fridge before the trip. Funny how some things never change.
November 20, 2011 § 14 Comments
I’m meeting my Grandparents this week.
It’s as crazy as it sounds.
Since I was adopted as a baby it’s taken forty years to meet my biological kin.
Just last February my mom got a call from Gabrielle who said she thought she was my birth sister. Thanks to Facebook and all of her uploaded pictures, there was no doubt she was right.
I spoke to Gabby that night and to my birth mom the very next day.
It was the first time I’d heard the story the story of my birth; the giving up of me.
In the months that followed Gabby came to visit twice and on my birthday surprised me by flying to Raleigh with her children, whom I had yet to meet.
Being with Gabby is easy. We look and talk (a lot) alike.
We’re both stubborn, love clothes, eat too much ice cream, and needed each other in our lives more than we realized in that first conversation.
We’re different too, but meeting Gabby answered many questions that unadopted people take for granted; knowledge about nationality, siblings, body type and personality were finally confirmed.
My birth mom died last August. She was suffering from cancer when Gabby found me and passed away six months to the day after we first spoke. I had been nervous about meeting her in person, but Skyped her a few weeks before her death. It was sad, but I was glad to have a face to face even though she was so sick.
My birth mom had never told the family about me. She kept her secret her entire life only sharing my existence with a couple of people that she trusted.
Gabby only learned that she had a baby sister by the slip of the tongue (she then searched for 14 years).
Not only am I meeting my Grandmother and Grandfather for the very first time as a 40 year old (they are 89 and 90), I’m also meeting aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews (my other sister Danielle’s children), spouses, and (I’m certain) friends of my biological family. Once my birth mother died the secret slowly came out. The grandparents were the last to learn.
Adding to my anxiety about the whole thing is figuring out what I’m going to wear?
I actually do know what I’m going to wear, but the Libra in me will probably change her mind that morning and try on everything else in the closet, before settling on the first thing I’d chosen. It’s my way.
The whole thing is an overwhelming experience and it’s going to take a lot of processing. I hope they like me. I hope the experience is not painful for them.
When my husband awakes I’m going to get ready to run.
After my last run on Friday, I got a lot of feedback about listening to my body and being kind to myself. Instead of going out determined to do the 10 miler that’s on the plan, I’m going to attack my run like a yoga practice; go in with no judgement, setting my intention at the start. It’s not exactly tough marathon training where I must complete a certain mileage, rather a kinder way of being that will help me manage the uncertainties of this coming week.