Tag Archives: adoptee in reunion

The Guitar Lesson

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Before Cathy left on a vacation to the UK with her adoptive mother, she came over for an evening to write with me, and for a guitar lesson with my husband, Steve. She started to hedge about the music lesson “until I return from vacation” but Steve, in his irrepressible manner, threw the little parlor guitar into her hands and said, “Here, just do what I show you.”

It was like she had just saddled up her horse, climbed on and rode. They started singing “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and he’d stop every now and then to show her a trick with the strum, and then a little picking. He loves to teach and nothing delights him more than a willing student. And Cathy was much more than that to him. She wasn’t given any time to wrangle out of the idea and once the guitar was settled on her lap, she played and sang along without missing a beat. Her voice was pretty and had good pitch, and her rhythm was natural, spot on – she kept pace like a pro.

It thrilled me to watch and listen to her, and I threw out words of encouragement between bars of the song. “That sounds good!” “You’ve got it!” and I began to harmonize to them while I finished putting away the dinner dishes.

I had always wanted to find a way to share the music with Cathy but had been afraid of intimidating her, or frustrating her by not teaching her what she wanted to know and creating more distance between us. Steve didn’t carry any of the baggage I had, and in his free-spirited manner made their lesson a sweet part of the evening before we sat down to write without any fuss or second-guessing.

That little guitar lesson taught me something, too.

He just took her by the hand and walked her through it in the most natural way. She trusted him – they have shared a loving, mostly uncomplicated relationship over the years. Steve simply took the lead and she followed. He looked at me and smiled, “She’s really got it!” Her voice was beautiful.

The next day she marveled at how much the lesson thrilled her. I happily envied their exchange and how excited she was for the next time. I saw more clearly  now that rather than being afraid of teaching Cathy to play, I could simply follow Steve’s example, throw the guitar in her hands and say, “Here, just do what I show you.”

I want to harmonize with my daughter the way Mother Nature intended it. There’s really nothing for me to be afraid of except getting closer, chord by chord.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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Going Dark – Sundown: Excerpt from Kathleen~Cathleen, Part 2

Circe_JohnWmWaterhouse
Below is Part 2 of our blog series using previously unshared excerpts from the American Adoption Congress Conference in San Francisco in 2014, where we read alternating excerpts from our memoir, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Last week we shared an excerpt from “Honeymoon,” which gave a glimpse into the joy of coming together. However, all honeymoons come to an end. In “Going Dark – Sundown,” we take the first steps into the darkness and confusion that are an inevitable part of reunion. My excerpt below is from the Going Dark chapter of the memoir, titled “Sundown” (then read Cathy’s “Sundown” excerpt.)
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KATE Reading…

The discovery that being accepted into a relationship with Cathy was purely optional on her part was disconcerting for me. Since our reunion, I had assumed that she would make room for me, and the kin who came with me, in her life. I began to see that Cathy’s choice to become involved with me, her sister Abby, my parents, my siblings and circle of friends, was selective on her part.  It was conditional and existed at her whim. Just because she knew who we were was no guarantee that a relationship would be forged.

I felt the opposite about my role with her.  I had been responsible for relinquishing her to being adopted and now she had come back to me. She wanted to find out more about who I was and why I had let her go.

Just being together in my apartment was proof that we were both on a quest. I looked for ways to put her at ease and tried to make her feel at home. I wanted to understand who she was. Her quiet nature begged questions. She didn’t think outloud like me.

I felt in my soul that it was her birthright and my moral duty to give her genuine access to who I was, and I wanted to offer her what I could without pretense. We had come from secrets and lies; in this new relationship we could be true and honest. Conversely, she had a right to be herself and to decide what she was interested in – or not – about me.

As hard as it had been, I had “deselected” my role to mother her as a baby, and I had put her in the hands of others to raise and care for her.  Now she was an adult and she had unspoken rules that did not allow unchecked interference from anyone, including me – maybe especially me. She would decide what role she wanted to take for herself. I wanted to be closer but she held me at arm’s length.

Unlike families you are born into and stuck with no matter what, Cathy’s re-entry into my family seemed to be more as a spectator than a participant. The fact that she chose to connect with me was her prerogative, and that she had the option to engage or not, remained her advantage. The “select” button wasn’t going to be pushed just because we were all related by blood and we stood there in front of her.

I began to discover that she appeared indifferent to whatever feelings arose, whether from me or Abigail. It wasn’t that she didn’t care, we were just “outside” of who she officially needed to care about. We roamed “outside” of the boundaries that contained her “real” family members. We were extras in her movie, and she was under no obligation to employ us in her plans.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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All Rights Reserved
KathleenCathleen©2015
Circe Invidiosa (1892) painting by John William Waterhouse

The Men in Reunion

ImageReunion in adoption isn’t gender specific but there seem to be more women in the limelight than men. The truth is that it is a topic that affects all of us and that everyone, women and men alike, have a story or some personal history related to adoption. As a firstmother in reunion, the men in my life took a role much greater than as simple spectators. As I approached seeking, meeting and getting to know my daughter, Cathy, the men in my life played roles that both challenged and supported me in my quest to connect with my child.

Before my ten year-old youngest daughter came to me for the summer, her father trumped my disclosure and revealed to her that my first child, a daughter, had been relinquished for adoption eight years before she was born. When I had shared with him that I was approaching reunion with my firstborn, he broke trust and shared that information without my permission. In my heart, I felt violated by the unexpected breach to the terms we had agreed upon – and that I would be the one to tell my young daughter first. In retrospect, it was likely committed as a compassionate act but at the time I felt betrayed.

The door to the true heart of a birthmother and the relinquished child opens and closes on trust. Without trust, the door is set firmly in place to protect the unspeakable wound of loss. I am grateful for the men in my life who, by their love for me, have taught me to love myself and pass it on.

During the recovery of my relationship with my firstborn child, the support of the men who have loved me gave me strength to stand my ground, own my walk, and feel my worth in spite of the shame that dragged behind my optimism. Acceptance and encouragement has been a constant source of courage from my husband, my two stepsons and, most recently, my oldest brother.

My husband was with me through every step since the day he first met Cathy at the Cup and Saucer soon after her move to Portland in 1993. His love for both of my daughters holds no contrary elements to confuse it – it is authentic and freely given and received. Nothing muddies the water of their flow back and forth. I envy the genuine ease of their movements. Maybe someday it will be like that for me too. He has been my anchor – there is no question of his commitment. When the weather’s up, his hand is there to steady me through the many various storms of the heart. He can sense when it’s brewing. “Be true. Be strong. Be who you are. ” he said to me over the phone on one of his many trips home to helping his aging parents in NYC. From the wireless phone I could feel his conviction for my capability to love as a mother, and to love well. His confidence galvanized my hope and trust on contact and the fears that corroded my forward motion faded and fell to the side. The power of love is a strong and wondrous remedy for all that blocks our way in the world.

When Cathy and I finished writing our book proposal under the tutelage of our first editor, we were encouraged to share it with some trusted readers for feedback. It contains a number of chapters of Kathleen~Cathleen from both Cathy’s and my sides, and although Cathy and I hadn’t shared our writing with each other yet, we needed to know that it was cohesive and that what we were doing made sense to the reader.

I asked my father and mother-in-law if they would read it and provide us with some feedback. They were well-read and deeply seasoned in their life in the arts. I had been twice blessed to be called “daughter” by my father and mother-in-law. In my heart I always knew that they were the Jewish, New York parents this Boston Irish-Catholic girl had always needed, and we filled a reciprocal place in each other’s hearts for more than twenty years. They have just passed away – but not before bequeathing me with the magnificent gift of their unconditional love. “Love is something when you give it away” sings Malvina Reynolds in my mind’s ear. Anne had been blind for more than fifty years and, with Marvin as her eyes, they walked hand in hand, ready to engage with the world every day with their true hearts.

Anne and Marv accepted our sealed draft in confidence and kept their role as our readers a secret from their other children. When they were by themselves, Marv would take out the sheaf of pages from the manila envelope and begin to read our alternating chapters from where they had left off the day before. When they had read as much as they could, they would put it back in the envelope and hide it under a blanket in the chest at the foot of their bed where it wouldn’t be discovered by uninvited eyes.

I pictured Marvin reading our chapters in his dramatic actor’s voice to dear Anne as she listened with her head down to take in every word  – words from two open hearts, mother and daughter, who hadn’t yet shared these very words with one another. Marvin and Anne  took in our undressed hearts and felt our sadness and loss, as well as the miraculous moments of reclamation and redemption as we wound our way to a sustaining relationship after the glow of reunion had faded.

“It’s so personal” my mother-in-law said. “You are brave to do this, both of you.” Marvin held my gaze and smiled. He didn’t need to say anything. His heart was in his eyes – I could always find it there – and he loved me. He had taken the responsibility to read our story with gravitas and his wife and he treated it with great care for a precious object. Kathleen~Cathleen was the fruit of two hearts they loved as family. They encouraged us to continue and finish what we had begun. “It’s good” he said. He believed in love more than anything. There endorsement warmed me like a blanket from chilly fear and insecurity. I had been the lucky one to marry his first son – the one who looked so much like him and came from the seed of that most bountiful and compassionate loving man. Marv’s acceptance of me, my story, and my craft was strong and sure. I felt safer now, and stronger than before with the knowledge that he thought this offering was worthwhile – and important – in the world.

The strength of these generations of men in my life has helped to secure my footing along this wild path Cathy and I travel to finish the work of sharing our walk in reunion. I’m grateful that these men have loved me through the real story as Kathleen~Cathleen rises to visibility and to a place where we can share its meaning with love.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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