My Six Soul Mates … So Far

My Six Soul Mates … So Far

In his book Journey of Souls, Michael Newton posits that rather than one soul mate, each of us likely has a soul group – an assembly of about 150 “people” we travel with from one lifetime to the next (yes, this post presupposes you can, at minimum, entertain the idea of multiple lifetimes). He arrived at this conclusion after recording the stories of thousands of people he hypnotized in his analysis practice and hearing the same pattern repeated time after time, regardless of the person’s religious beliefs at the time of the hypnosis.

When his patients were taken back to a prior lifetime, their reporting of what went on between lifetimes followed a pattern that included recognizing the same others from lifetime to lifetime. The most vivid depictions tended to be of individuals who showed up as close family members: mother, father, siblings, spouses – although their roles tended to change from lifetime to lifetime.

Given those very loose parameters, I’ve identified a handful of soul mates – people from my soul group with whom I am traveling this lifetime. It’s hard to define exactly what makes them a soul mate, other than that they “get me” or that I have an inexplicable comfort level with that person. Maybe for you, they are people you seem to relate to from the first moment of meeting them. Except, of course, my mother – with whom I was not at all close, and yet whom I am certain is in my soul group. Because of a history of vascular dementia, she demonstrated mental health issues from the time I was very young, and was thus incapable of a “normal” mother/daughter relationship. Yet her very presence in my life, the fact that we were never able to have any sort of a “real” conversation, and the unfinished nature of things between us leads me to believe that there’s still more to come in another incarnation.

Others who fall into the prior category have included: my sister, Corina; my best friend, Jane; the only man I ever loved besides my husband, “Tom”; my husband, John; and my son’s birthfather, Tony. My sister and I had our ups and downs, as most same-gender siblings probably do. But toward the end of her life (thank god neither of us knew it was nearing her end!), we grew very close. And even at our most distant, she was always the one person I knew I could count on – no matter what. Jane and I just clicked from the moment we met at a summer program for gifted high schoolers held at Arizona State University.

Tom and I never dated, but we had an emotional affair more intense than any romance ever written. He was kind and thoughtful and so incredibly smart. He constantly challenged me, and I appreciated the fact that I always had to be on my toes with him. And he had a girlfriend he couldn’t/wouldn’t leave – so eventually I ended things. I finally spoke with him a couple months after my sister passed away for the first time in a half-dozen years. Things with him had always felt so unfinished – and this conversation was eye-opening because it seemed he hadn’t moved an inch from where he’d been when we last connected. I’d been through so much and grown so much as a person in those intervening years – and he seemed still to be in the exact same place, in spite of having gone through some difficulties of his own. Talk about closure!

My husband seemed to recognize our connection much sooner than I did. Part of the challenge for me was that, even though I was falling in love with John, things with Tom were still unresolved in my memory and psyche. I remember my friend Sunil, my relationship guru, for lack of a better term, suggesting to me that I stop looking for the person of Tom and instead look for his essence in the next person. John – though he couldn’t have physically resembled Tom less, most definitely embodies the amazing parts about Tom’s essence – the parts with which I so inextricably connected. While I never had that “prove the universe wrong” determination about Tom, I was so sad when that relationship dissolved, and yet today I am so glad that I had the sense to leave it when I did, because otherwise I couldn’t – more importantly, probably wouldn’t – have met John.

And then there was Tony. He’s actually the hardest to put my finger on, in terms of what the connection was. Other than that he was just instantly comfortable to be around. There was no pressure to be or perform or say anything. He was fine just being with me. We could wander around New York City or make dinner or sit around watching TV or play video games in perfect harmony. For the first 24 to 48 hours. Then, inevitably, we’d begin to get on each others’ nerves and the antagonistic, overwrought, dramatic push/pull pattern would emerge. So we’d step away for a few days to a couple weeks, and then come back together. And the cycle would repeat. Things would be idyllic for a day or two – and then we’d bug each other again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. If he truly is a member of my soul group, it’s no surprise, then, that it was so challenging to break off and remove myself from that intense relationship. Makes me so grateful that things with Tom never blossomed into a physical romance when I think of it in those terms. And it wasn’t that I didn’t love Tony, as much as I don’t think I even understood what love was at the time we were together.

So that’s six soul mates I’ve identified. Meaning there are some 140 others I haven’t yet recognized quite so specifically. That’s not to say they’re not in my life now, or are unimportant in my life. Just that the connection hasn’t presented itself quite so viscerally and clearly. I’d like to think that Eric is among them. After 23 years, we’re still getting to know each other, so I’m guessing he might well be an important member of my soul group. All I know is that I’m staying open to all possibilities.

Someone Called a Cab?

Someone Called a Cab?

Being carless in Jersey City wasn’t that big of a deal most of the time. The entire time I was there, I either lived on a well-trafficked street which the buses and jitneys traversed (Palisade Avenue) or just a block away from a major street (Kennedy Boulevard).

I think back and laugh out loud, now, at the memory of our first night in Jersey City. I moved in July 1992, and Tony drove out with me from Phoenix, staying one night before he turned around and flew back. (He moved out to Jersey about a year later.) Rather than stay with my sister that night, we got a motel. We hadn’t yet moved up to hotels – and knowing nothing about the area, we went where we saw the signs, to Tonnelle Avenue. Imagine Tony’s surprise when he went in to get a room at one of these local establishments and the clerk asked, in response, “You want it for the whole night?” Yeah, we were in red-light district, flophouse squalor.

Interestingly enough, a couple years later, when I moved out of the apartment I’d shared with Tony and Mike, I wound up just two blocks away – up the literal hill – from those same by-the-hour joints. My street, Liberty Avenue, was right in between Tonnelle and Kennedy. That was where I was living when Eric was born; the whole timeline seemed like coming full circle.

So we could usually catch public transportation either at our front door, or just a block away. Unless it was super cold, snowing, sleeting, or the middle of the night. Those times, you had to call a cab – Uber was not even a gleam in Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp’s eyes. And sometimes the cab actually showed up. To be safe, like in the event you really needed to get somewhere on time, you usually called two different cab companies – slightly increasing your odds of one of them actually arriving to get you to your destination.

These were the things I was thinking about on the cold, snowy, sleety February days before the baby came. How would we get to the hospital? If we had to take a cab, would it actually arrive within the hour after we called it?

Eric was due on Monday, February 20. The day came … and went. No contractions. Just the feeling of my belly being swollen beyond where its skin could stretch – and having to sleep in a reclining position, as there was no other way to be comfortable. At my checkup that week, the doctor decided that if the baby didn’t come on his own, we’d induce the morning of Friday, February 24.

I’ve often wondered if there are any statistics about babies whose moms have made adoption plans being overdue. Would make sense that the mom wants to hang onto that kid for as long as possible – even if it’s just one extra day or two. And, perhaps, the kid wants to hang onto her, too. As it turned out, my son didn’t want anyone to tell him when he would make his entry. I went into labor that Thursday evening, so there was no need to induce.

You know how in every single movie or TV show they make such a big deal about the pregnant woman’s water breaking? I do not remember my water breaking. I’m sure it did – but there was no dramatic puddle on the floor. The contractions just began, became more insistent, and got closer together – so we called the doctor’s service and they said it was time to get to the hospital. The transportation gods were with us that night, the cab showing up within 10 minutes of our calling it.

Labor was longish – 13 or 14 hours, if I remember correctly. Again, Kathy probably has all of this much better recorded than I do. I mentioned in a previous post that the epidural didn’t really work, more than likely because of my scoliosis. So the labor was painful – plenty painful – I shrieked and wailed between every push, the nurses doing their best to calm me down to conserve my energy. But then he came – and he was beautiful. Tony was in the room – and he was a champ. He stayed with me, tended to me, made sure we were both OK.

I’d been in the room when my niece was born, three-and-a-half years earlier. Samantha was just hours old, my sister still in immense pain and slow moving when she needed to get up to go to the bathroom. Her husband was there, and she asked him to help her. He took his time getting out of his chair, and then on his way to the bed dropped the coins he was holding in his hand on the floor. As I write this, it occurs to me for the first time that he might actually have dropped them on purpose. So he stopped, picked up them up one at a time, and eventually made his way to Corina’s side – by which time she’d pretty much gotten to the toilet on her own. As much of a dick as Tony was at times, he never behaved that way in the hospital.

Some birthmoms choose to have one of the adoptive parents in the delivery room. It feels a bit selfish now, but I couldn’t do that. We needed something that was just ours, so we asked Kathy and Bruce to wait to come to the hospital until we called them. They arrived maybe four hours after Eric was born. The sight of Kathy picking him up and so expertly holding him warmed my heart and crushed me at the same time. That was the reason I’d chosen these people, this couple, to be his parents. They’d already been through it – they were good at parenting and I trusted them not to make the mistakes new parents would make. It would be a new experience for them, though, because this was a boy. They’d had girls first, so there would still be a learning curve. But the feeding and washing and tending and caregiving would be the same – and I knew they’d do a fine job.



It’s been interesting, in writing these posts, how many details I remember. Perhaps it’s because I’ve told some of these stories a few times, so the details have imprinted. Other things I don’t remember nearly as vividly. Today is Eric’s 23rd birthday. It’s after 7 p.m. as I write this, but I don’t have any idea what I was doing at 7 p.m. that evening. I know Kathy and Bruce and my sister Ann were there in the hospital within hours after his birth – which was around noon. Not surprisingly for New Jersey in February, it was cold, with snow on the ground. A few other details, which I’ll share in future posts – but I certainly could not recreate any kind of accurate timeline of my stay in the hospital. Any such chronology would simply be a guess on my part.

Toward the end of Eric’s first year, I got involved in an Internet chat room with other birthmothers. One mentioned celebrating her daughter’s birthday every year with a cake. That was such an astonishing concept for me – so simple, yet an idea I’m not sure I ever would have come up with on my own. It was almost as though I needed permission to celebrate the birthday of this son I had carried and birthed and released – yet still loved so very much – to come from someone else. The fact that this other birthmom did it gave me the room to coopt her idea and do it, too. And so I did. Every year for the first 10 years or so, I not only had a cake – but made a cake.

Some of those cakes came out well – others looked like sixth-grade Home Ec class failing grades. The nice thing was that one of the other birthmoms in Spence-Chapin’s birthmother support group had a son whose birthday was March 6. We met on the first Monday of the month, so each year, I would make my cake, carry it to work at Lehman Brothers – sometimes through the most atrocious weather – and then drag it on the subway all the way uptown to 92nd Street. Even if it started out looking nice, it was pretty battered by the time we ate it – but delicious nonetheless. As far as I am aware, I was the only birthmom in our group who did the cake thing.

It must have been February 2000, the first birthday I was living in Phoenix. February 24 rolled around and I headed to the store for chocolate cake mix and white frosting – Eric’s favorite – and proceeded to make my annual baked wonder. I made the cake, iced it, and was carrying it out to the dining room table when my dad asked me what the occasion was. Though my parents hadn’t known about my pregnancy, I had told them about their grandson four years prior, on his first birthday. So it wasn’t like my dad didn’t know – he was being deliberately obtuse.

I was outraged. I remember shouting at him – I must have seemed completely unhinged – that he never had any problems remembering Samantha’s birthday (my sister’s daughter), and just because my son wasn’t within eye’s view didn’t mean he wasn’t there or didn’t matter. Needless to day, the festive mood was spoiled.

The next day, my dad did something I don’t ever remember him doing before or after: he apologized to me. I’m not saying that he never apologized in my lifetime, just that I don’t remember any of the other ones. This one was a really big deal. And as his way of making amends, he gave me a greeting card he’d made on his Macintosh computer, one page folded in quarters, with one of those clunky, pixelated fonts. Happy Birthday, Eric. It was the most beautiful card I’d ever received. What’s more, going forward, for every birthday, Mother’s Day or any other celebratory occasion, he would make me two cards, one from him and one “from” Eric.

He’d not only heard me that day I’d freaked out on him, but my dad had understood how important it was to me that he recognize and honor his grandson’s existence. I can only speculate, but I imagine he must have considered how much Corina and I meant to him – and that gave him a sense of why my son, even though he wasn’t in my day-to-day life, might have been important to me, too. I still wish the two of them would have had the opportunity to meet. I know for certain that Grandpa would be so proud of his amazing grandson.

These last dozen or so years, I’ve gotten lazy. We tend to buy our cakes, or cheesecakes. Much more recently, just slices of cake, so we aren’t stuck with the whole thing. We actually celebrated Eric’s birthday early this year – yesterday. I wrote a post for Kathy’s birthday (February 3) about all the crazy birthday coincidences within our extended adoptive family. Somehow, in that post, I managed to ignore one of the biggest coincidences of all. My late sister’s husband, Matt, shares a birthday with Eric. So we had Matt over for dinner last night and sang happy birthday to him and Eric as we dove into a (whole) cheesecake.

I called Eric today – his voice mailbox was full. Apple and tree, right? So I sent him a text – and he called me right back. I was surprised, and pleased. Delighted, actually. Have you ever tried to act natural when you’re trying not to gush? I hope he knows the communication is important to me without my coming across as needy or demanding. Really, it’s just gratitude and a feeling of utter blessing when he reaches out – or calls back. Of course, I told him to be safe tonight. He said, “Yeah, you and my parents all said the same thing. I guess sometimes a parent’s just a parent, right?”

You betcha.

Running to Stand Still

Running to Stand Still

No post yesterday. My goal was to write 50 posts in a row – for you, my readers (and, full disclosure, for the search engines). I got to 49. I knew I wouldn’t have the time, thoughts, or discipline to write them every day, so I wrote about 3 weeks ahead. Then we moved, we lost one of our dogs, my husband’s been going through some personal challenges, and I just hit a wall. I used up all but one of my pre-written posts, and the remaining one is not finished. I have a list of at least 20 more topics, to which I keep adding, but I’ve not had the time or inclination to write ahead these last few weeks or days.

John and I have had some huge losses over these last three years, as I mentioned in a prior post, punctuated by the loss of some beloved pets. While different than losing a person, to be sure, the grief over pet good-byes is sometimes inexplicably heavier than the grief over losing a human. If you’re not a pet person, this may not make any sense at all to you. If you are, you probably understand.

As I’ve gotten older – matured, I like to think – I find myself more and more attached to my pets. We were always a dog family when I was a kid, but cats entered my life right around the time I met Eric’s birthfather and have had a place ever since. When I was pregnant with Eric, I had a cat, Quincie, and Koko, a beautiful merle-colored Australian shepherd. They’d made the move from Phoenix to New Jersey with me, and while Quincie was a typical cat, friendly on her terms, Koko was my pal and companion. She got sick quite suddenly, about six weeks before I was due, and I was concerned about how to manage getting her to the vet without a car.

I lived on the second floor of a four-family apartment and was trying to coax Koko to come down the stairs so she could go out to pee, when I lost my footing and fell down the stairs. At 34 weeks pregnant. Now I not only had a sick dog, but I had to worry about the baby. I immediately called the doctor’s answering service. They asked if there was bleeding – there wasn’t – and told me just to take a Tylenol and watch to see if any complications developed. I remember being alarmed by how calm they were. No complications – other than some really lovely black and blue marks.

Timing was everything, though, as Koko slipped away that night.

I don’t remember, specifically, telling Mary, my social worker, about Koko’s death – but I missed a couple days of work due to my fall, so perhaps I missed a meeting with her, too. At any rate, the agency freaked out. I got a call a few days later from Judy Greene, the birthparent coordinator, evidently in an effort to assess my grief about Koko. What it came down to was they were worried that because my dog had died, I wasn’t going to go through with the adoption. To this day, the idea of it just grates on me, because I can’t fathom how you could draw a causal relationship between the two. Nothing else in my life was different. Tony still wasn’t promising to stick around or marry me. My family still lived 2,700 miles away. And if I were to parent, I would still be trying to juggle all the costs, responsibilities, and emotions as a single mom. All the same fears and concerns I’d had the day before were still there, even though my dog was gone.

As I think on it now, Quincie was probably the one who got me through the adoption. If it hadn’t been for her, I’m not sure how I’d have handled losing Koko and then Tony’s leaving right on the heels of letting go of the baby. She didn’t make the move with me back to Phoenix, when that finally came 5 years later, passing away suddenly about a week before I left. It was as though she knew exactly when she needed to be there, and she was.

I watch, these days, as my husband hugs the two remaining dogs and loves on Isis, our cat. They help us cope with all kinds of things, don’t they?

People I know – my sister in particular was rabid about this – get upset when folks don’t call them back. I can almost always relate to the non-caller, though, because I know I’ve been that person more than once. When I get into this stuck place where I’ve found myself lately, I’m like a turtle, pulling my head inside my shell to hide from the world for a while. It doesn’t help the people who want or need to hear from me, but it’s been my way for a long time, and it will take more work, yet, to change that pattern. If you’re reading this and I owe you a call or email or blog posting, please accept my sincere apology and know that communication is forthcoming.

I was beating myself up about my stuckness when my husband reminded me that this time last year, I was still on the couch, pretty much 24/7, getting over pneumonia. Yeah, the first three months of 2017 went by with a whimper – so I suppose I’m ahead of the game if I’m comparing my now to my then. Point is, it’s time to get unstuck.

running to stand still
With props to U2.

Eric’s Encounter with an SJW

Eric’s Encounter with an SJW

Unless you closely follow Canadian politics – more specifically, Canadian gender politics – there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Jordan Peterson. He’s a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, and he’s become something of a YouTube sensation and recognized cultural critic since he took on the Canadian government’s new law, Bill C-16, which proposed to add “gender identity or expression” as a prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and simultaneously expand the definitions of “promoting genocide” and “publicly inciting hatred” in the Canadian Criminal Code. Essentially, the law requires Canadian citizens to honor a person’s desire to be called by one of a list of dozens of different pronouns, words, and word groups, if they prefer that to the traditional he/she and him/her.

Peterson stood up and said, “NO! My right to free speech trumps their right not to be offended.” That was in September 2016, and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s written a book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, but more notably, he’s shown up on a host of YouTube shows and podcasts and has been invited to guest lecture anywhere people want to learn more about common sense approaches to the extremes that seem to be pervading our collective thought processes. The extremes seem to abound on all sides: white males being excluded from diversity discussions; worry that if you expressed an opinion other than that the new Black Panther movie was the best film ever made, you’d be labeled a racist; the belief that if you think responsible Americans still deserve the right to own guns, you must secretly harbor a desire to slaughter children in your basement. OK – the last was perhaps extra extreme, but that sure feels like where we’re headed with all of our divisiveness and anger.

Who do you know who hasn’t lost at least one friend since the start of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign? We can’t even be civil on social media, the place that was supposedly designed to bring us together. The problem, it seems to me, is that we’ve lost our ability to think rationally, about almost anything. We are sacrificing our relationships – that is, our ability to relate to those around us, and the thing that makes us uniquely human – on the altar of being right, being angry, being defensive, being justified.

I make no secret about my politics – extremely progressive, liberal if that word works better for you. So I remember my reaction the first time I heard the term “social justice warriors,” more affectionately known as SJWs. The person describing them wasn’t singing their praises – in fact, he was appalled by their behavior. Wait! That can’t be right. What’s wrong with social justice? Everyone should want that, shouldn’t they?

Well, it’s not really the social justice part that’s the problem, as much as it is the warrior part. SJWs take all-or-nothing stands and set impossible standards that no mere mortal could achieve or maintain – and then become vocally, sometimes violently, agitated when people can’t, won’t, or as in Peterson’s case, don’t adhere to their rules. After all, those rules were made up – and sometimes written down – with everyone’s best interests at heart, weren’t they?

You may have heard about the two Anglo women in Portland, Oregon, who were forced to close their taco truck over claims of “theft” and “cultural appropriation.” And why shouldn’t people be up in arms, after celebrities with platforms like Lena Dunham spout off on Twitter that student dining halls shouldn’t sell sushi because that, too, is cultural appropriation? I’m not saying it never happens – but what seems to be happening more is anger over the idea of something that’s very clearly a gray area as if it were a straight-up offense with no room for debate. There is almost always room for debate.

So as John and I have watched college kids attempt to create safe spaces to insulate themselves from thoughts that even hint at making them uncomfortable and alleged feminists shout into any available microphone that it’s impossible for men to be feminists, we’ve wondered what it must be like to be a college student on an average campus today.

As it happens, my son is a college student at Northeastern University in Boston. And he shared a story with us over our holiday get-together with his family in December that made John grit his teeth and clench his hands into fists. It seems Eric was at a party with some friends. As you might expect, he met people there he did not know, a guy and a couple of girls. I didn’t grill him for the details, so I’m not sure why my son didn’t ask this person directly, but he said to one of the girls, “Does he want a drink?” pointing to their guy friend. Imagine his shock when she stepped toward him, inches from his nose, and with an alarmingly raised voice told Eric that her friend did NOT go by “he” or “him” but preferred to be called “they” or “them.”

This episode had happened weeks earlier and Eric still seemed a bit rattled by it as he recounted it at the dinner table for the whole family. “He visibly appeared to be a guy to me. I’d never met any of them before. How was I supposed to know that he went by they?”

I had to chime in to clarify. “Wait – the person with the gender issue was not the one who corrected you?”

“No. Didn’t say a word. It was their friend who got in my face.”

A huge part of the SJW motivation: get angry and defensive on someone else’s behalf. Find the most persecuted party and become their hero, whether or not they want you to. As long as you feel justified making someone else feel bad, you’re probably making a real difference.

What they completely fail to see is that they’re not helping at all.

That night when we were going to bed, John said, “I kind of hoped all the hype about the SJWs we were seeing on YouTube was just a wild exaggeration. Your son’s living proof that it’s real.”

What I love about Jordan Peterson is that he’s calling for us to stop yelling, to stop judging, to stop overreacting, to stop exaggerating. Each side of the political aisle views him as friend or foe, depending on the issue he’s confronting at the moment. Peterson himself claims he natively leans more liberal, but he’s on neither side, politically, as neither is making a whole lot of sense these days – not here in the U.S., and not in Canada or many parts of the rest of the world, either.

John bought his book today. Maybe after I read it, I’ll share my thoughts here.

The Book I Always Wanted to Write

The Book I Always Wanted to Write
Another letter I never sent…

7 June 2013

Dear Eric –

Writing that graduation letter has opened the door for me to start a series of letters I’ve been wanting to write to you for a long time. I realize as I write this that I may or may not ever send them to you. They may just one day become a book that I dedicate to you. The idea of a book has been hovering over me, since long before I moved to Arizona and began my business working with authors. It was actually an adoptive mom in the small basement of a church somewhere near Nyack who gave me the idea.

Interestingly, this was also the same group where another woman was shocked – mouth hanging open surprised – that I referred to you as my son. “What … what … what do you mean, your son?” she sputtered at me.

“Well, he’s my first-born male child. What else would you have me call him?”

“It’s just that I … I … I never expected that somewhere out there, another woman would be referring to my son as her son, too.”

“Well, she probably is. You might want to get used to the idea.”

I was frustrated with this woman – perhaps even a little angry – but I was also empathetic. No matter how thorough the case workers at Spence (or any adoption agency) tried to be, they couldn’t cover everything. And I think they actually dodged some of what I always felt needed to be said – so I said it. I hope I wasn’t bitchy, but just forthcoming as I told them that no amount of wishing and praying and hoping it could be otherwise would ever make the adopted baby their blood child. And the sooner they came to terms with that, the sooner they could move on from the grief and any resentment they might not even realize they felt toward the birthmom or birthparents.

I told you before I never liked the word “lucky” to describe my situation – but I was fortunate in one significant way. Your mom and dad had already had Meaghan, and now they had Jill. They were already parents who had experienced pregnancy and given birth to their own children. Most adoptive parents never experience that, so understandably, they might feel some resentment toward the birthparents, even wondering how these people who can do the very thing they want so desperately but cannot do themselves could just toss away a baby. Of course, it’s usually not as simple as tossing away a baby. I’m not saying abortion is an easy decision – but it takes less effort than carrying a child to term and then saying goodbye to him or her. A birthmom is committed to the life of her child – whether the adoption is her choice or not.

Anyway – I was speaking to this group of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, as I did a handful of times while I lived in New Jersey. While the one woman had this shocked, seemingly unenlightened response, another came up to me after the end of the discussion and asked if I had thought about writing a book. I kind of shrugged at the moment, because I had considered it and pretty much dismissed it. I didn’t see what I could possibly add to the conversation that wasn’t already out there. Birthmoms writing their stories just seemed boring to me. This woman was insistent, though. She told me I was a really good speaker, and that I could probably translate my story very well into writing. She had no way of knowing I was actually a pretty good writer, that I’d majored in nonfiction in college – all she knew was what she heard as I told my story to the group. I shrugged again, thinking it wasn’t really for me. Then she suggested I might write it as fiction. Looking back all these years later, I told your mom I could never write our story as fiction, because it would be so boring. All things considered, I think we’ve had a storybook adoption experience, and people would either hate the book because nothing happened in it, or they’d feel certain I was whitewashing the story.

The woman’s insistence stayed with me for a while, though. I thought maybe I was different enough from most birthmoms that I could write a story that wouldn’t be just another birthmom memoir. So I started writing. But it was too soon and I was still too raw.

You see, Tony came to live with me after he found out I was pregnant. I think at some point he told me that he wanted to make sure I went through with the adoption – that I didn’t change my mind and decide to keep you. So he was there for the first six or seven appointments at Spence Chapin. He was there on New Year’s Eve 1994 – our five-year anniversary and the day I told him I would not still be there, five years later, unless I was married to him. And he was in the delivery room. He even went with me to the nursery once to look in at you.

But once the papers were signed and you were gone, so was he. He moved out exactly two weeks to the day after you were born, and I was lonelier than I ever could have imagined. He said as he was going that he knew he was making a mistake, but he was already committed to his mistake, so there was no going backwards. I held onto that stupid comment for a lot of years, hoping one day he’d change his mind. Thank God he never did. But, wow – I sometimes want to kick myself now for hanging in there so long. I think, ultimately, three good things came from the experience: you, my computer skills, and my immeasurable patience.

So I wrote the first 80 pages of my story – longhand, on yellow legal pads. And then I got to the part where Tony left, and it was just too hard to keep writing. So I stopped. I know those legal pads are here somewhere – I never threw them away and they moved with me to Phoenix. But I’ve never sat down to reread them, either. I imagine they might bring up some challenging feelings, but if I can write this to you now, I could certainly read what I wrote back then. I’ll look for them – and the photos of Tony I promised you. Maybe it all will come out in these letters anyway.

So here you have not the book I originally imagined. Not the fictional depiction, either. Just a series of letters about things I think you should hear from me. Some of them are about the adoption. Some are about my family. Some are about my beliefs and philosophies and thoughts about the bigger world that surrounds us. Some are about my hopes for you. Some are about my own plans for the future. Maybe you’ll read them, and maybe you won’t. But once I get them down, I won’t have them rattling around in my head anymore. And I will no longer have to “wait to share them with Eric someday.”

I love you, kiddo.


Graduation Letter to My Son – 5 June 2013

Graduation Letter to My Son – 5 June 2013
A letter I wrote but never sent…

Dear Eric –

Congratulations, again, on a fine finish to your high school days – and best wishes for a great start to the next phase of your life. Your mom keeps telling me how anxious you are to get out on your own and be independent. It’s definitely something to look forward to – fortunately for you, you’ve got a great family to support you, even while you’re busy forming your own independent thoughts and choices and life.

I am so grateful for the invitation to be a part of your graduation weekend. I know you didn’t have to invite me – and I also know your mom left that decision up to you. I enjoyed getting to meet the extended relatives and family friends and to spend a little time with you. I’m constantly amazed by your mom’s generosity in making me feel both at home and included in every aspect. I lost count of the number of times in just those few days she’d say to people, “Do you know who this is?” about me – as if there were any way they could have known. But it was cute – she was so excited to share our relationship. Giselle, the amazing waitress at that diner, definitely took the cake, though! You’ll have to let me know if you go back and see her again before you head up to Boston.

So funny how things work out, isn’t it? I’ve been wanting to move to Boston since I originally moved to New Jersey in 1992. I intended for New Jersey to be a temporary stop – but you’ve probably heard that quote from John Lennon about life happening while you’re busy making other plans. I would one day still like to get there, but it will be awhile, at least as long as Mary – John’s grandma – is still with us. And by then, who knows what we will have decided…

Your mom tells me you’re very interested in visiting Italy. Samantha, my sister’s daughter, was there for a study-abroad semester – so if you have questions, she might be a great resource. One of my cousins on my dad’s side was working on a family tree some time ago. I think Corina has a copy somewhere – I’ll try to get it for you, just so you can have an idea of where we’re from on my dad’s side. I’ve always felt that was something I should know – and yet I still don’t really. I know a tiny bit more about the Irish side (my dad’s mom), but just barely. I imagine part of the reason I’m so detached is because we grew up away from the rest of the family. I’m so glad you’ve got the experience of a large extended family. We have one, too – but they’re in Michigan and various parts of Canada, so we rarely see either side, and have never all been together at once. The closest we came to that was at my dad’s funeral, when relatives from both my mom’s and dad’s families were in attendance.

And speaking of families – you have another one out there, as you know. I feel now as if I should have asked if you even wanted the information I was able to find about where Tony lives. You never really expressed an interest to me, one way or another. I guess if I were in your shoes, I’d want to know – who he is, where he is, probably to see him at least once. Of course, if I were in your shoes, I’d probably have driven by his house already, but that’s just me. 🙂

Now that you know where Tony is – I’m sure you can also find a phone number if you dig just a little further than I did – you get to decide what your next move is. I can’t imagine the kinds of thoughts and feelings you must be experiencing right now, but I would understand if you wanted to try to meet him and also understand if you have no interest. The thing is, now you have the option.

I’m guessing your mom might have told you I also found him on Facebook. He looks exactly the same as he did the last time I saw him, except that he seems to be growing a weird ZZ Top beard. Your dad is concerned that Tony may not want to be found – and it’s certainly a possibility. He’d made more progress than I’d expected the last time I saw him. He’d just broken things off with a woman he’d been seeing when I went out there in February 2002, and he told me he’d told her about you. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that. But I don’t know that he ever told his parents, his sister, his aunt – or now, his wife. He’s different from me in lots of BIG ways – all of them reasons we’re not still together. I’ve always been an open book about who I am, how I feel, who I love, and everything in between. I don’t know if I ever told you that for the rest of the time I was at Lehman Brothers after you were born, I kept a picture of you on my desk.

One of the other birthmothers I knew told me that I made people uncomfortable because I was so open about the adoption. But that’s not how I saw it. If other people were uncomfortable, that was their problem. I never was. And I was never ashamed, never guilty, and very seldom regretful. Most birthmoms are all of those, all the time – or at least until they get counseling and come to terms with the grief. In our case, I saw my social worker at Spence 21 times while I was pregnant with you and 12 times after you were born. She told me the average birthmom sees the social work six or seven times, total.

And I promised you – and myself – while I was pregnant that I would never deny your existence. So I can probably still count on both hands the number of times in the last 18 years when people have asked me if I have children and I’ve said no. Those were usually toss-off questions, questions from busybodies, or questions from people I felt I just didn’t owe an explanation to. Otherwise, if people know me for longer than about five minutes, they know about you.

But that’s not how Tony is. I’m not sure why, exactly, either. Maybe he’s changed, but when I knew him, he buried and stuffed all of his emotions. They came out every once in a while when he’d been drinking. I’d known him for more than eight years when I found out that his only aunt on his mom’s side is a birthmother in a closed adoption. He didn’t know – probably because she didn’t know – whether the child was a boy or a girl. She’s in her sixties now – and back in those days, once the woman gave birth, they just whisked the baby away. She never got to hold him, rock him, talk with him, or even see him. Very different from my experience when I got to hand-select your parents. You’d think that would make him more willing to talk with his parents, but for reasons I still don’t understand, the opposite seemed to be true. Again, a lot of time has passed since then, and he may have told them by now. I hope so. But I can’t promise that. And I have no idea how receptive he’d be to hearing from you – or how much he might stonewall you. I was talking with John about all of this over the last couple days, and he said something that is such a picture into who he is and why I married him: If Tony doesn’t want to see you, he’s the one who loses out.

Corina’s the only other person who ever really got to know Tony at all – and even that wasn’t very much. Hell, I knew him for 6 years longer than I’ve known John at this very moment, and still never got to know him very well, because Tony didn’t want anybody to get to know him. But when I spoke with Corina about this whole crazy episode last night, she said three things: (1) she’s sure Tony would recognize himself in you if he saw you; (2) getting married may have settled him down somewhat and made him more receptive (especially since he has a stepkid – who golfs!); and (3) that seeing you face-to-face, Tony would have a really impossible time just walking away. My sister’s the most intuitive person I know – so I rather trust her instincts on this. But again, it’s up to you. It’s not up to your mom and dad anymore. You get to decide this one.

My instinct is that even if Tony THINKS he doesn’t want to be found, he’d be more receptive to direct contact from you than from me. But if for any reason you want me to reach out to him for you, I’m more than willing to do that. I’m still guessing you’re just going to want to sit with things for a while.

Eric – just know that no matter what you decide about this, no matter what happens in school, where you go, what you do with your life – I will always love you, and I will support you in any way I can. I used to get really aggravated when people would tell me I was lucky to have found such great parents for you. It wasn’t luck, though. I worked really hard to get to the right people.

That was another place I broke the averages for Spence Chapin. Most prospective birthmoms used to choose a family after seeing three or four profiles. Your parents’ was the 12th profile I saw. And I had to demand to see it, too. After the seventh or eighth, the adoption department started to doubt I was serious about going through with it. For whatever reason, they could not hear me when I said I just hadn’t found the right family yet. It wasn’t until I threatened to leave Spence to go somewhere else that they relented and let me see more families. And your parents had just come into the process, so their profile wasn’t even fully complete yet. Before they’d let the prospective birthmom see the profile, they’d redact any identifying info. They hadn’t got there yet with your parents’ profile, so Mary, my social worker, read it to me instead of letting me see it for myself. And then she got up and left the room and left the folder with your folks’ info in it on her desk. I have no idea whether that was a deliberate move on her part, but as I look back on it now, I suspect it may have been. And I was so tempted to look at it – had I done so, I’d have immediately had all the info I eventually learned on my own. But I had made a commitment not to do that, so ever the good girl, I behaved myself. I love that the universe conspired to allow that info to come to me a little later, when I was ready for it.

As you are no doubt aware, we’ve had soooooo many coincidences, it’s beyond uncanny.

I love your family – and I love seeing you with them. They are very different from me, to be sure. Your life with me would have been very different. But I hope that even if you might wonder about that untaken road – a perfectly normal thing to wonder – you never experience regret. I have always believed that life takes all of us precisely where we need to be – and you, my smart, beautiful son, are precisely where you need to be. I’m pretty sure I would choose differently if I had it to do again, but only knowing what I know now about taking one moment at a time. At the time I was choosing adoption, I was trying to make the very best decision for so many people: for you, for Tony, for myself, and for each of our families. I didn’t realize that everything always works out, and I’d have been OK, no matter what. But instead, this is where our journeys have brought us. This is what we were meant to do and who we were meant to be to each other. And it is fine. I have always been at peace with it. Your situation, of course, is different, but I hope that you have – or one day soon – will find peace, too.

I love you, kiddo, so very, very much. Thank you for inviting me, including me, and sharing your special time with me. If there are every any questions I can answer – or you just want to talk – you know how to reach me.

All my love –


NOTE: I wrote this letter the day after I returned from Eric’s high school graduation, uncertain whether I would ever send it to him. As it turns out, I didn’t. But I have, in the interim, told him most of these things. At the time, in June 2013, we were still unaware of the string of serious losses we would all face: Eric’s aunt, John’s dad, my sister, and most recently, John’s grandmother. I also recently discovered through some Facebook research that Tony’s dad passed away almost two years ago.