Tag Archives: relinquishment

The Many Sides of Mother’s Day

Kate1956Mother’s Day is confusing for me. When my mother-in-law was alive, I focused my good wishes on her and felt the warmth of her radiant smile over the phone right to the root through the layers of chilly damp dirt that covered my heart.

I had come to her late but when I married her son our two hearts snapped together like Legos. As artists, me with my music and she with her theater, we played our parts for each other in perfect counterpoint. As mother and daughter we filled an unexpected place in each other’s puzzle and there was no question that we adored one another. We shared our secrets and were confidantes. I was her Irish daughter and she was my Jewish mother and we were a perfect pair of hearts. “You are not my daughter-in-law, you are my daughter”, she declared as she sat for the last time on her bed before she died.

There were no tentacles of regret, sadness, or grief to dement our relationship. We had a pure and a happy run and I am grateful to have had the gift of her love in my life. She was intuitive always knew how I really was before I ever admitted it, the way a mother does. She never missed the mark and I felt like she knew me better than anyone. I miss her.

Now she’s gone and I’m back to my confusion. I have loved my natural mother all my life but a limiter seemed to set her heart on low, maybe from losing her first son before I was born. It felt like I wasn’t the child she wanted. Out of the nine of us, I’m not sure if any of us were what she wanted but she made the best of it and fed and kept us until we could feed and keep ourselves. She is alive in a quiet life with my father on the other side of the country in Floridian assisted living, nearly ninety now. She is pleasant on the phone with me the way an old acquaintance is pleasant.

“How’s life in Seattle? Oh, that’s good” she says. It’s not clear if she can hear me, she hates her hearing aid and refuses to wear it, so I yell about the weather and say “I love you, Mom” and without exception she says, “Let me give you back to your father.” As I wait for her to hand him the phone, a dead tone in my ear tells me we’re back to the sound of nothing and the call has been dropped. This has been going on for years now. It’s not her fault. She does her best and I love her no matter what. I just can’t seem to reach her.

I’ve sent her flowers that should have arrived by now and hope they make her feel happy and loved. I wrote her a card this week full of my news, as though we were sitting at the kitchen table over the Lipton’s tea I remember her drinking fifty years ago. I send cards because she loves to get mail, not because Mother’s Day was looming. I just missed her and wanted her to know that I think of her. She doesn’t write me back but that’s okay. She doesn’t have to. I’m okay. I accept the way she is.

My Mother’s Day heart changes direction to see my children. I wet my heart to feel the weather like a finger in the wind. The waves in my heart loosen to rise and fall in the magnetic hold between push and pull and moonlight shines on the surface of my soul. When I close my eyes I can feel the love for my children rise up and fill a thick shell of regret and the brittle sadness softens in the lining under my skin. I stop to relish them in my mind’s eye, the small details they can’t feel me watch and take in. I see their beauty and fears and whisper a silent prayer to protect and nourish them.

I have an insatiable appetite to connect with my daughters. Most of the time, it’s invisible because they look past me to the ones they’ve come to rely on. But my hunger to love them as their mother is there and it has always been there – since the beginning. I learned to contain it when I gave up my first child as a teenager. By the time I gave up my second child ten years later to divorce, I was pretty sure that anyone was better than me to be a mother.

I met my first daughter when I was thirty-seven years old. I had been in reunion with my second daughter for a short time when Cathy came back into my life. A tsunami of conflicting forces stirs between both of my daughters. I can feel the storm brewing to break over the storm wall that holds them back from telling me the truth, like banshees in the wind, and wish me into their lives as the mother they needed and wanted then, not the mother who left them to forage on their own. The mother they have now can’t be the mother they lost. They are two different mothers and I am both of them.

The cruelty of regret is that we are not allowed to return and replay our parts and catch up from there. No matter how good it gets, the damage is done and nothing I can do now will kiss and make it better. The mother I am yearns to tend and heal the cuts of broken trust while the mother I was hides ashamed and sad in a deep well where she will never, ever be found to bother anyone again. She is still in exile underneath my rewoven life. I repeat my vow to be here now and come back to the surface, take a deep breath and rededicate my heart to each of my children, no matter what, to be here for them as long as life is in me.

Even my boys, my two handsome stepsons, know me as a complicated mother. It’s not as hard for them because their mother is in the middle of their lives and I’m more simply an extra, an understudy, an afterthought, who came to love them in her borrowed mother guise when their dad fell for me twenty years ago. I feel gratitude for the love they show me. I don’t nag them with expectations and our attachment is different from what they have with their mother. I adore them and give them plenty of room. If they need me, they know I’m here and I’ve got their backs 24/7. We’re close in a way that works for each of them. I’m lucky to have them in my life. They allow me to love them as sons to a second mother and for me, that is a great and precious gift.

With my daughters it’s different. So far it doesn’t seem to matter how much I try to connect with them and to be present, day by day, year by year – the visits, the voice mails, the texts, the cards, the gifts – or how much I express my love in the words I say (or contain) to prove it. The hunger, sadness and anxiety is there and it’s never satisfied. Our attempts to be close are distracted by pain. Is this the same disconnect between me and my mother? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’ll never know and it’s just the way it is. Even in my prayers and dreams, I am left to trust and hope in silence that my true mother love will find her way to slip in and sink deeply into the tender hearts of my beautiful girls, and soak them in warm comfort that no longer feels the chilly void of my absence but instead keeps them swaddled close to my bosom and nourished in lasting mother love; this mother, here mother, first mother, me mother, real, true and connected-by-heart-body-and-soul mother, as the mother they missed most becomes the mother who croons to her babes in their sleep as they slumber softly and safely in her arms at last.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Our Reading

KC_FiorDItalia_BCathy and I had checked into the hotel and got ready to read for the public. Cathy was worried that nobody would show up – there were six workshops at the same time and this was Thursday, the first day of the conference. I told her not to worry.

“Even if there’s only one person, you can sit on one side and I’ll sit on the other and we’ll just present to that one person as though they were a room full. Whoever is there will be enough. People will come, don’t worry.”

She wasn’t so sure. And then it was time. We opened the doors and walked in to a large room buzzing with people in their seats who waited there for us to share our story. Half the room were adoptees. Half were birthmothers. All stages of reunion were present, from new up to 25 years plus. There was a lot of history in the room.

Sister Mary, birth-aunt and witness, set off to the side to listen and to be present as our support team of one. Cathy and I approached the podium and side by side, read our alternating excerpts from The Invitation, Honeymoon, Going Dark, Therapy, and Integration chapters. It was vulnerable, and it was stunning.

We had never done this before and we stood on each other’s side as we took turns to read. When my eyes came up from the page, the expressions on the people were glued to the words we were sharing. One glance mid-read caught everyone in tears – we were all feeling the story together and there was an incredible bond – between Cathy and me – and amongst all of us in the room as the pangs of truth pierced the heart of what bound us and had brought us together in that moment.

It was scary and good. The response at the end was powerful and one of the conference leads needed to end the Q&A to clear the room for the next presenter. We did it! We did a good job. We were a little unpracticed but it was good practice and now our story was out the gate. People approached us for future interviews, radio and to sign up to hear more about the book. They all wanted more. It worked.

I’m thankful for my daughter’s courage, and for her love that returns to me in spite of my insecurity. She’s beautiful with a great heart and I am so proud of her. We have begun a new beginning together and I will cherish the memory of this first time forever.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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First Read – The Truth

Kate 12_24_70_1_smallWhen I left work for the train station to pick up my daughter, Cathy, in Seattle, I didn’t know what to expect. My husband was in New York City and I was on my own for the week. Cathy and I were getting together at my apartment for the weekend to prepare for our upcoming presentation at the AAC conference in San Francisco. For the first time since we started our collective memoir ten years ago – Kathleen~Cathleen – we were going to read some of what we had written to each other.

We chose pieces from four chapters that would represent turning points in our relationship – Honeymoon, Going Dark, Therapy, Integration – chapters that each describe the emotional weather of a birthmother and a relinquished adoptee post-reunion and further down the road to a long-term relationship.

We had shared a couple of brief excerpts for our feature article, “Being the Secret” in the Spring 2014 edition of the Adoption Constellation magazine for Adoption Mosaic. That share made us eager to hear more from each other’s writing.

What follows is the aftermath of what I learned from that first share between us.

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There is no substitute for being somebody’s mother. There is nobody else who can be that. Having a baby means being somebody’s mother. When mother is not present after baby is born, baby knows , and wonders where you are. No matter how good the substitute is, there is no substitute. The baby knows its mother and feels the loss of her when she is gone.

This is the truth of what my daughter told me tonight. Tonight we read previously unshared chapters aloud, and to each other. We are preparing for a conference where we will read our excerpts to a roomful of strangers. It was time to uncover our secret writing to each other.

Listening from where we sat on my living room couch in Seattle, I heard her younger self reacting to the me she met on that exploratory summer in 1993. I also read back to her from the same place in time and we surprised each other with our synchronism. Our take on each other, and the confusion that chased our courage was vivid and honest. To listen and experience her written take on me was painful, sometimes brutal, and made me bark with laughter and quietly weep. Nothing surprised me , but it was still a shock to hear her descriptions filled with snapshots that rang true. It was wild to hear her read aloud what she had written in secret. I felt intimately included and exposed at the same time, trapped in the words of a twenty-two year old witness as to the person she found in me.

We listened to each other read on the couch as we sipped the champagne we had poured to celebrate this turning point. We had waited 10 full years to share these few selected parts of what we had written about each other. The words both shocked and soothed me. The excerpts we chose for the conference came from the Honeymoon, Going Dark, Therapy, and Integration chapters. As we read to each other, we find that we have unwittingly written about many of the same exact moments in our remembered history. The conversation that followed what we read went deep into the night through gullies of tears, gulps of surprise and connection, laughter and horror that stirred us to more questions. Our thoughts chased each other aloud, and whipped eddies around the rock embedded in the riverbottom of our story as we stepped from stone to stone.

Our words, wet with memories, stirred the ingredients that were suddenly unsettled beneath the lives we led and now shared. The original question kept beckoning in the call and response of our story as we read.

For Cathy, there was no excuse that I chose to leave her and she felt that my absence had inflicted irreversible damage. Even sitting in front of her after all these years in reunion, I could not give her what she wanted, what would have been her birthright – those early years with me as her mother. The mother sitting here beside her now was not the one she had needed – the one that would’ve held and comforted her in the beginning when she was new. We cried as she told me that my youth and lack of experience didn’t excuse me from what she was forced to endure without me. She wanted me to have changed my mind, to have done what I didn’t think at the time I could do and raise her beside me – not leave her alone, parted forever from me and the beginning she might have had in my company. She told me that she felt certain that I would have given her everything she had needed, and nothing would have been too big to overcome. We would have made it. I could have done it. She knew me well enough now to know it. And now, so did I. It could have worked out differently.

She may have been given the best situation possible given our circumstances, and she was loved as kin by her adoptive parents, but that didn’t make it easy or okay that she was put there. She was made to become the child of strangers, and she had an innate sense from the beginning that she had lost her way. She came to learn that it was just the way it was.

What my daughter told me translated into the opposite of what I had believed for all these years – that I was giving her to a better life than she would have had with me. From her perspective, that wasn’t true. Just because I didn’t have the confidence to raise her as a teenaged single mother in 1971 didn’t mean that it wouldn’t have worked out for us to be together. In her eyes, she thought I should have tried. In her eyes, if I loved her, I would have tried. Her secret wish all these years was that I would have tried, and now – looking back with honest and older, if not wiser eyes, I know that it probably would have worked out, one way or the other. Everything does. I thought at the time that I was doing the responsible thing. I learned that night that she thought that I abdicated my responsibiiity and that it was inexcusable, irreversible and, yes, she was very angry. By the time we finished talking, I didn’t even think she liked me and now I see, for the first time really, that the upset is still so fresh , and it’s because she couldn’t be with me, be mine, from the start – to finish.

I told Cathy that I didn’t have thoughts of raising children when I was a child – that I longed for a more interesting world than the one I saw my mother living in. I had wished I had been a boy when I saw my brothers go on a fruit boat to Panama with our grandfather, while I stayed home with my mother and younger siblings “because I was a girl”. I wanted to be independent and to do whatever I wanted about anything and everything. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my childish dreams.

Cathy looked surprised, and maybe even relieved, and said, “That’s important! That needs to be in the book” as though it explained the confounded truth. Maybe she was able to see that my errant decision to live without her didn’t have anything to do with her or who she was. I wondered if she really thought that I had given her up because I didn’t like her – that I had thought there was something wrong with her? I always felt love for her and had never thought there was anything wrong with her; from the very beginning moments of her life, she was perfect. I knew she was perfect. I may not have developed my maternal instincts yet and being a mother would be something I would have to later choose to become.

When I asked Cathy, as we faced each other on the couch, what she thought I should have done, she looked me in the eye and said, “Termination.”

I lost my breath and quietly let out the words that hollered in my head as I asked her. “But what about the fact that you are living? Doesn’t that have value? Doesn’t it matter to you? Don’t you want to be alive? What if you make a difference, for you or for others or for your children, that couldn’t have happened without you?”

These unanswerable questions held no weight in her answer, nor any conviction in her eyes. She wasn’t sure that any of that really mattered. Her look made me feel foolish and naive. I held on to her gaze and she looked back quietly as though it was just a fact… As though the fact of her living self was irrelevant. How can that be? She was important enough to come this far. The irony of the blessing and the curse didn’t escape me.

“I’m sorry” I said as we held each other, crying.

Now we are left to trust that what’s done is done. We can only make the best of what we have, where we are, who we are with. I am grateful for what we have together. My sorrow is real, but so is my joy. I sense that this kind of conversation has to happen between two people who really care about each other, as well as the truth these conversations uncover. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the answers aren’t clear. Our mindful relationship outweighs what we could say about it. The fact that my mother and I don’t talk as openly as my daughter and I do reassures me that we are on the right path.

I may never be able to fill the gap she feels anymore than my mother can fill mine. Feelings of disconnection are part of the human condition and persistant, consistent, and steady unconditional love is what heals the gap.

I reach to understand – on an intellectual level – why her perspective that termination would have been easier for her; is it because then there would have been no “her without us?” to concern herself with? That has such an empty ring to it when life is so full.

Her pragmatism and anger makes me sad as I ponder the consequence of my relinquishment, an act that was based on my teenaged, Catholic-raised perception of love.

I love my daughter. The ironies in our lives have conspired to synchronize over and over again because we are connected – even when we’re not.

I want to believe that my child’s capacity to feel loved will open up wide and fill to the brim with answers to her heart’s desires so that she may get to live her life – heart, body and soul – to the fullest, with or without her mother, and that our bond will rebuild the trust that was interrupted at birth, creating ties that weave us freely and inextricably together.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Our First Magazine Article

AdoptionConstellation1The Adoption Constellation magazine, an outcropping of Adoption Mosaic, will publish our article, “Being the Secret” in the March 2014 issue. This piece will be the first printed publication from excerpts of our book, Kathleen~Cathleen.

For the first time in the ten years we’ve been working to co-author our story, Cathy and I shared excerpts of our writing with each other.

We chose four pieces, two from each side of our story, to reflect the theme. The editor also asked for a photos for the article. In a moment of blessed synchronicity, I found three faded photographs that were taken of me in on the very day I first wrote about.

In all this time, there is little doubt that we should continue what we have started. It is our intention to finish and share Kathleen~Cathleen in the next couple of months, in the hope of deepening understanding for those separated by issues of identity and social standards. This article in March edition of the Adoption Constellation magazine will be the first share from our book, both with each other and with the world.

Thank you for sharing our journey with us as we begin the climb to the finish line.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Aside

I told her what I had told almost no one. It was important to me that she knew the truth. I revealed myself in that first conversation with my story of reunion and reconciliation. Continue reading

Letters – Mother’s Day

portland-oregon-signJanuary 17, 1993

Dearest Cathy,

Your letter was so potent, honest and welcome. I’ve been thinking about you so much. You’ve worked so hard and long and now on the home stretch to finishing your college life … you find yourself itching to scratch your right brain for balancing the academics with the rest of your self. The plateau is a restless springboard to new chapters, phases, and directions – mastering fears of the unknown and risking the familiar to learn about the new.

Our capacity for new experiences is flexed by our need to move forward… We have to take care of ourselves on so many levels – like a garden; mulching here, pruning there, building up the soil, transplanting so the roots can spread out, moving to deep places as we grow.

I can’t help empathizing to your resonant feelings for similar thoughts have worked their ways through me over the years. If you don’t mind, Cathy, I’d like to speak openly about my impressions of your dilemma and a few thoughts and ideas that came to me as I read your words.

Number one – your self-esteem is shot. You feel like a scramble of accomplishments and what you want to accomplish. You’ve been in a long stretch of educating yourself toward a defined line of work through which you can participate and contribute to the society you live in, while at the same time realizing that on many levels you are as yet untapped in the ways that really bring you out and express your gifts.

How to be who you are when you’re not really sure who that is? Sometimes this catalyzes rubbing against experience, chosen or not, that help us define aspects of ourselves in ways that put old insecurities to rest and generate new ones. The trick is how to make the best of it. One way is to choose things that reflect your dreams and don’t wait for someone else to let you do it (i.e. parents, husbands, boyfriends, bosses, ideas that start with should instead of could).

The reason I say this is that life often puts us in a place that makes us wait, puts us on hold from the things we want to be learning about by experiencing them. Instead we’re somewhere else very busy, hopefully productive and making our way through the day-to-day.

Much of life is spent in what I call a gathering time; gathering money to live, things to get by, neighbors, friends and community, living environs, nesting routines. The quality of the lifestyle is going to depend on how you think about what you want – deciding what’s okay, what’s in and what’s not. What constitutes fun vs. someone else’s fun? This was a long and difficult dilemma in my marriage and relationships.

It took an awful long time to realize that if I did what I thought about I would have more respect, not less, from the people who mattered to me. I may disappoint by someone’s measure of what they expected but heck, their expectations are attached to their dreams and pasts and experiences and though we learn from everybody (no exceptions) we have to live our lives ourselves as true to the bone as you can get it. When you’re driven by personal direction/choices, life has integrity and its meaning ever deepens in small and vast ways.

You don’t need to know everything or even what’s coming next. What you need is the flexibility to enjoy your choices and take the options that enrich and enhance your life. Sometimes this means making a choice upfront and then making (and letting) it happen. These are often the more dramatic choices because they’re cased by faith, declaring the idea, giving it tangibility by speaking it and the dominoes begin.

Much of life we spend reacting to what comes our way. If I’d had the foresight evident in hindsight, I would have been less afraid to follow my real instincts and believe in the good about myself. I’d have said yes to the unexpected and no to the mundane. The best decisions I ever made to date were like that (like you!).

The color in the tapestry before us is produced by the richness of spirit of the piece. You are from a high-spirited clan and I imagine life has many very special and significant crossroads for you to be blessed by. There’s one around every corner for travelers as we.

‪Okay. Here’s what I think. I think you should come out here for the summer. I think you should rub elbows with your genes.‬

‪You could stay in my flat. It’s small, but easily could be done. If you wanted a summer job you could do a variety of things, but the one that comes to mind is the Hawthorne Street Café. It’s a humming neighborhood café within walking distance of here, with good food, good tips and lots of interesting folks. This is not a career opportunity but a people-watching summer job. There are several other places where I know the merchants well there on Hawthorne Boulevard. Or downtown for that matter. Or in social services as well. Depending on what you wanted, I could help with this.‬ ‪

Meanwhile, basics covered, you could explore. Portland’s a beautiful city, my personal favorite, with a great deal to offer. I could take you to all the little places in my life. We could while away many an hour at the beach, on the island, heading to the mountain, hashing out the finer points of any given topic and discovering new and old ties.

You could meet my friends and they you. Your name comes up as one of the family here. You’d be so welcome.‬ ‪We could have dinner at the Vat & Tonsure, drink Rioja to the opera in the background and talk about any and everything. Or down to the East Ave Tav, the Irish community pub where the best music’s happened in the wee hours of the past dozen years. Or to the ceili on 3rd Fridays.‬ ‪Sauvie Island on a July weekday, warm water, Columbia River tugboats pulling logs, ships going by. Surreal in the landscape, Mt. St. Helen’s straight across on a clear day; salmon grilled.

A million pictures come to mind but what I want to emphasize is that I think it would be really good for you, and the time would be full and fast-flying as summers are inclined to go. But you would have afforded yourself a chapter that might help a ways towards knowing yourself better. Through a different frame of reference we grow aware of what we didn’t see before.‬ ‪The light is beautiful in Portland, much like Paris I’m told.

Please just think about it, Cathy. It’d be natural as pie—and a great contrast to life in New Jersey. Believe me, I know. That’s where I left. Come for the summer, C’mon!‬

With love,
‪Kate
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Birthday

“Castle of Dromore” (performed by Kate Power & Steve Einhorn)

I’m sitting on the sixth floor on West 79th Street in Manhattan. My in-laws are sound asleep in the next room. My husband is playing gently on his ukulele in ours. I’m considering the chapter I’ve been working on from where I sit at the dining room table and close my book of notes; I have finished for tonight.

In little more than an hour, the clock will strike midnight and it will be my birthday. I took a call from my eldest daughter an hour ago. Her voice was cheerful as she asked me what my birthday plans were. Our phone conversation was lined with the sounds of my young grandsons in the background and the normalcy of all this made my heart ripple and sing.

It’s never been like this for me before. “Normal” is more unusual for me and I notice when it happens. The edges that used to protect my feelings of loss have softened with time since Cathy and I reunited. I used to hold myself tightly inside at the sight of a baby on my birthday (or hers), on Mother’s Day, holidays, schoolyards filled with children at play. Our relationship has seasoned and mellowed over the twenty-three years since we met. The portal of my daughter’s love has opened a place that allows my joy to snap like happy fingers to the sound of children now. I embrace this time and cherish my role as mother and grandmother. I savor each second and each of them. In my eyes, they are the most beautiful beings on earth. Something in me believes says that angels hang close by the children of the earth. Children are the closest to God in innocence and purity, and only one step removed from the divine as new inhabitants to their human form. Innocence awes me.

As my dearly departed friend, Hazel, used to say, “If you live long enough, all is forgiven!” She may have something there. I chuckle to remember the warm gravel of her voice under shining eyes in her wizened old face, etched deeply with loveliness and time. If anybody knew the truth about life, it was Hazel. Perhaps aging is a gift after all.

Our phone call was interrupted as Cathy’s cell phone dropped the call. I held my mute phone and laughed out loud to no one in particular, “I was just telling her the best part!” and let it go. We emailed back and forth where we left off and both went back to our writing. Even three thousand miles away, there are things we do together when we are apart: the book and our blogs.

We’re working on chapters ten and eleven. Ten is the “Honeymoon” chapter and filled with mutual exploration four years after we met. She went to college, graduated and then decided to take me up on an invitation to visit me in Portland for the summer. Chapter eleven is “Going Dark” and the turning point from the bliss of innocence in reunion to the bleak depths of disappointment, anger and anguish that followed. The two chapters describe two sides that are markedly different and indelibly bound in the middle with the truth – two sides of a coin that paid our passage into discovery, delivery and ownership of our truth and our place in one another. I don’t know yet what my daughter has written in her side of these chapters but it doesn’t matter. Underneath whatever comes, I am a lucky mother, a proud first mother and a grateful birthmother.

I’ll be sixty-one in less than an hour. I was eighteen when I conceived Cathy and eighteen years later, at thirty-seven, we met again. I have been twenty-four years in reunion and connection in real-time with my daughter. It’s had its ups and downs, easy flow and rough patches – just like normal mothers and daughters – and she just called to wish me a happy birthday.

That’s just about the best birthday gift I can think of.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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Anxiety in Reunion

Sandhill Cranes (kate power ©2012)…story & lyrics at end of blog…My eyes fall on the Buddist Chant CD lying in front of the boombox on the kitchen counter. A cache of vitamins, Wellness formula and a small bottle of Elm Bach Remedy drops “to restore optimism when overwhelmed by effects of responsibility and change” are lined up in a row on the shelf. I squeeze a dropper of the Elm into a tall glass of filtered water, slip the CD in to play at a comfortable volume and set the timer on the oven for forty minutes. If I exercise early, my mind will calm down so I can navigate from a grounded perspective. I prepare the lifeboat of my body to travel into the plans and the inevitable unexpected turns of the day before me.

Under the calm of my face, a small wave of anxiety falls and rises to slap the sides of my boat, still on course from last night’s dreams. My body rolls down into a spinal curl, down and up again. My mind steps from the dream boat onto sand. My body adjusts to the weight of the motion and lands. My toes find the back of the mat and I roll to the floor, my hands splayed below my shoulders to push off into pushups. My breath calibrates to the movement and galvanizes my mind in sync to the rhythm. I can measure my strength by sets. I’m stronger than I was a year ago. Residual scenarios spin free from the open can of my dreams that beckoned new beginnings from old places filled with family, friends and new strangers and spill into the awakening consciousness of my morning mind. I let my body begin its work to strive toward the day ahead as the evidence of dreams roll into the corners of my room.

The face of Red-Spider Woman, Grandmother Margaret Behan, one of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, comes into focus. Her wizened face beamed to hear my Sandhill Cranes song; Father Sky, Mother Earth, Sister River and Brother Trees. It spoke to her and her face was alight with love, I felt its warmth. I watched her hear the song with her heart. Her grandfather had sung a song for her conception. Song brought her to life and she is tied to its music. She understands deeply, as grandmothers do, and responded to my earlier questions of attachment to loved ones who no longer ask for me and told me to let it go.

“They have already let you go,” she says with a gentle expression as befits her beautiful grandmotherly face. Her words ring true and tears drop bittersweet as they swell under my skin, over my heart and through eyes of the child in me who still begs to be loved.

I am afraid to let go. The feeling is so strong, the need to let my loved ones know that I love them, that I have not forgotten them. Years ago, in my strike for independence as a youth, I neglected them to emancipate. Then I remembered who I was, who they were and the place where I came from and scrambled back to the ledge, looking for the path that leads up the sides of the crooked, rocky mountain back to the love that gave me to the world. I search in dreams. I have forgotten the way, or they have forgotten the weight of the love they felt and I have floated away, out of sight and mind, back into the ether of beyond memory where everything without body or heart attached to it is nothing – gone.

I feel lonely in this thought and my mind scurries to the beautiful smile I remember on my mother’s face when she was a young woman and delighted to see me, her baby. I laugh at myself. I am a grandmother three times over now. I am still such a baby. I try to be kind to myself and breathe again to keep the rhythm of my motion centered so I don’t hurt myself as I roll, feet overhead and back again. Breathe.

I remember the sumptuous summer that Cathy and I wrote together in the basement studio of my Portland house. It was a delicious time for us. We were under protected time with the door closed to the outside world as we wrote for hours several days a week all summer long. I still feel warmth from the gift of that time. We had such purpose in our autonomous co-venture. We are the irony we write of and we have come to love each other in new ways in the work we continue to do to provide the world with our story.

A poignant moment that summer happened as we debriefed the work we had just finished for the day. As Cathy talked about our next practical steps, I had a sudden rush of fear and sadness that chased her words out of my ears as they hammered and pounded with the pulse of urgent dismay and my eyes filled with tears.

“What’s the matter, Kate?” Cathy asked, her face suddenly concerned.

I could feel my eyes stretch wide in an attempt to contain the feelings overwhelming me. My mouth opened and I cried out in a small, high voice as tears broke free.

“What if we finish all this and we finally get to read each other’s sides and I find out in the end that I am a roaring disappointment. What if you don’t even like me? What if you really can’t stand me and I didn’t even know it. What if I was too stupid to see the truth. What if all this work to tell ‘our truth’ just turns out to be everything I ever feared? What if I’m just a loser in your eyes. What if I’m the jerk I think I am? What if I’m not anything you had hoped for and in the end I lose you again, only this time it’s because you know better and you just choose to let me go? What if I’m just not good for you after all?”

My voice choked on the last words as my heart broke in my words and I just cried. Embarrassed, my eyes lifted to find hers looking back at me with tenderness.

“But Kate, I love you. We’ve been through it all. We know what our story is. I love you. It’s going to be all right. You don’t need to worry. I’m here. I love you.”

I looked back at her, “Really?”

“Really.”

“I love you, Cathy.”
“I love you, too.”

The chanting voices of Tibetan nuns fade with the memory as the timer beeps. My body has done its work, recalibrated and aligned with the ground beneath me. My mind is awake with daybreak. I thank God for another day, for feet that walk and hands that play. I am ready.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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The story and lyrics to…

Sandhill Cranes
Kate Power©2012

The story, gathering and journey of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, combined with sandhill cranes in migration at the mesa up in Paonia in the Colorado Rockies, inspired this song. There was just enough battery for this take, set up in a small sea cave in Otis, Oregon last Saturday, September 22, 2012. My husband and I faced each other and with just enough room for our hands to play our ukuleles, I sang into the tiny recorder. You can hear the ocean outside the cave in the quiet in the beginning and at the end.

“Sandhill Cranes” is dedicated to The Global Grandmothers in thanks for their courage & loving prayers.

Sandhill cranes gather in the field;
Lift in the wind, turn and reel.
I can tell the sound by the way it feels;
It fills me with wonder and delight,
Light, light.
It fills me with wonder and delight

Hey, heya, heya-ho,
Grandmother show me what I need to know.
Hey, heya, heya-ho,
Grandfather show me where I need to go.
Hey hey heya heya
Father Sky, watch me from on high
Hey hey heya heya
Mother Earth, carry me below
Hey hey heya heya
Sister River, run beside my side
Hey hey heya heya
Brother Trees, reach and rise.

Sing in antiphon! Fill up the air,
One starts to go and they follow him everywhere.
I would go with them if I wasn’t planted here
With my feet on the ground I walk and go;
Go, go.
With my feet on the ground I walk and go.

Recorded 9/22/12 , Sea Cave, Otis, Oregon
Kate & Steve
kate power/voice, six-string tenor uke
steve einhorn, uke

Cathy’s Portland

Destiny by John Waterhouse

    At my invitation, Cathy arrived in Portland, from the home of her upbringing in New Jersey, on the 4th of July, 1993. My arrival to Portland had been sixteen years earlier to the day, July 4, 1977. We were both Jersey girls who had come of age in “metropolitan New York” and sought the new world in the Pacific Northwest – me, to find the last of the new frontier to plant my roots and grow my family; she, to rub elbows with her birth genes and to see who this first mother of hers truly was.

    To this twenty-two year-old college graduate fresh from home, Portland was an exotic difference. Being my adopted hometown, Portland was a multi-faceted jewel for me to introduce her to. It was a gift to guide her to the people and pieces I loved most about Portland life. My daughter and I were almost strangers then. She came to find me out.

    Now, almost twenty years later Cathy has created deep roots in her Portland home ten blocks from where I used to live. She has a house, a husband and two beautiful sons, six and four years old. I am a proud grandmother and my husband cherishes his grandsons in his role as “Uncle Grandpa”. I have lived north in Olympia for the past two years now and accepted a new job last week that will move me to Seattle.

    Cathy and I have gone from the bare beginnings of our mother-daughter reunion into a deeper kinship than either of us ever imagined. We struggled to find this peaceful place between us. The urgency of our parallel youth has ripened and mellowed with age. We are close now and it is natural for us to talk about anything. We risked everything to have this and it was worth it. For that, I am grateful.

    Looking back on the youngster who came out on the Green Tortoise to check me out, I now find a mature woman with a strong sense of self and her place in the world. It makes me proud to watch her navigate through the challenges, even though I know I am one of them. Her take on life is different from mine and I cherish that too.

    After all these years we now find comfort in our time together. We have come to terms with the deficits of relinquishment and we have accepted our journey our way. She loves her life in Portland and I love that she has claimed Portland and me for her own.

    When I forget how remarkable that is, I recall how vast the gap between us was in those first years. Portland was a beautiful place for our relationship to grow. The kindnesses that my Portland community extended to both of us made it possible for us to proceed as though we were normal and gave us room to breathe through the barriers and harsher realities of our loss and reclamation of each other.

    Cathy came to town looking for answers. I did the best I knew how and I know that there were times when that wasn’t enough. Still, we made it through all the days, weeks, months and years. Now we are familiar enough with each other to lean on one another in ways that weren’t possible before we knew who we were reckoning with. Cathy is a stunning human being. Her differences from me are as interesting as the similarities. She’s as strong as I am, maybe stronger. I love who she is. She is unique. I suppose I am too.

    I feel her love for me grow from a place of suspicion and distrust to one of acceptance and understanding. Even though she knows that I’m not what she expected, she has accepted the mother I am and the mother I am not. We have created a place together that is current, honest, warm and open. Our relationship is real. The fantasies of who she might be in my mind or what I might have done differently in hers have faded as our true faces turn to greet each other by heart.

    We delineated the journey in this book we’ve been co-writing these past eight years. We haven’t shared our sides yet but I’m not afraid – no matter what her truth is. To share our truth with the world is an offertory of trust. Her arrival to Portland was a turning point and we never looked back. There are no regrets for coming together. I have watched her evolve from an innocent, immature young adult into a seasoned woman who knows her mind and whose compassion has grown with every corner we’ve broached together.

    I’m proud of my first daughter’s courage to say yes and come to the place of discovery and her first mother in Portland. Now it’s she who is the Portlander and I, her first mother, recognizable without disguise, who lives in her orbit – a satellite in her world and easily found. She has only to reach to find me there.

    The bonds of this love belong to us in its unique color, depth and texture, and springs from a life force that grew from my heart to hers when she was conceived and, given the space and connection it craved continues to grow from the roots in her heart to mine and back again. This is the natural course of love, as it ever was and always will be, in all its flaws and perfection between this mother and child.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

Indigenous

The Lady of Shallot by John WaterhouseDaybreak lashes and flashes, wet and stormy this morning on Spray Beach. I woke at five o’clock and slipped out of bed to tiptoe down to the kitchen and coffee. Fifteen members of my husband’s tribe (and mine by marriage these eighteen years) are spread asleep in every room and nook but this. I pull up to a small round table tucked under a porthole on the third floor as lightning cracks every few seconds and thunder thrums the wooden floor under my bare feet. The only other sound is the cast of rain against the house and the soft snores of dreamers who remind me that I’m not alone, just awake.

My family used to gather this way in beach houses every summer. The family tradition grew into the ten of us, stuffed into the station wagon to drive to our summer destination of sand, saltwater and sun. My Boston parents were both raised by the ocean and we could feel the pull of their excitement as they returned with their brood to their salty origins. We saw the secret smile they shared in their eyes, like silkies itchy to shed skin that held them back and swim free.

Our father would join us on weekends and our mother ran the house in between breaks of quiet with a book on the beach as we ran wild. We chased briny adventures to the rush and ebb of the tides and only stopped for meals, sunburnt under Noxema in our damp suits and bare feet. Dinners were served on long tables cobbled together that often accommodated relatives dropping off cousins who stayed for days and sometimes even weeks, and we happily absorbed them into the dance of our family at play. Platters of spaghetti, lobster, clams, mussels and the catch of the day still get my juices flowing as the memory floods me with the childhood happiness I felt to feast with my family this way.

A relative newcomer to my husband’s family tradition, I am grateful for the retreat amongst family. I come as an in-law and know the difference between blood and marriage. My heart goes out to one of my stepsons who has joined us from his new job teaching in China. He has never experienced being an outsider; a minority cast in another race, language and country; he is stared at on the street for being different and the lonely role of his new solitude has dislodged his sense of connection. He soaks his family in, even me, and absorbs us with the reverence of communion as he watches and feels us surround him and bring him into the cluster of kin he craves, home from his isolation overseas. I am grateful to be part of his solace and understand what it means to be outside. He knows.

I am reminded of my first daughter’s bravery when she came to my mother’s 80th birthday and family reunion eight summers ago. My daughter had been raised with one older brother, also adopted (and who had since died) and no relatives in her generation from her adoptive family line. For her to enter any family scenario of mine was high contrast to her life experience. I am one of a family of ten. All of my Boston-Irish relatives had large families and most of my siblings have produced children and a substantial thicket of cousins. It’s easier for a large family, raised on the organic network of bloodline, to absorb one more without a second thought – than it is for a solitary person to walk into a large clan by blood and feel like one of them.

I was proud as I watched my daughter’s grace under fire but didn’t quite understand until later just how hard that day was for her. Her life had been so different from mine and bloodline without connection didn’t cross the gap. She had to hold her own inside her skin and take in the culture of my family as though one of them, while for her it was as foreign as China to be immersed in. She looked like us but inside she was someone else. My family couldn’t and didn’t see the difference. Her points of reference were from other places. She had come from other people and none of them were us. They were another family and she belonged to them as much as they belonged to her.

Our ancestors and heredity travel in the blood we share alongside her birthfather’s side. Where they deliver her remains to be seen but when she comes to my door, wherever that is, she will be welcomed home.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes. Reunhref=”http://reunioneyes.blogspot.com/2012/08/indigeny.html” target=”_blank”>ReunionEyes.