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 –

Laura

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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.

Relationship with a Functional Alcoholic

Relationship with a Functional Alcoholic

A significant sign of sleep deprivation – or depression – is calculating the hours until you’ll next be able to sleep, upon waking. From observing the behavior of several people I have known, it seems alcoholics function much the same way – counting the hours until they’ll be able to drink again.

My relationship with my son’s birthfather was always challenging. While I could always see his role in the problem, it took hindsight for me to see my part: chasing and begging and pleading, instead of just walking away or behaving indifferently. The thing is, I was competing with a ghost I could never best. Sure – there was the occasional other woman (Gina, the Las Vegas blackjack dealer, and his sister’s married best friend, Gwen, come to mind). But the real “other woman” in Tony’s life was booze, more specifically, beer.

We didn’t own a car for most of the time I lived in Jersey City – but once every six weeks or so, we’d rent one. And although we did occasionally go out and see a sight or take a drive to another part of the state, the one thing we did without fail when we had a car was go to the liquor warehouse on Route 1/9. And stock up. How was it that this seemed normal to me? He even bought a small, college-dorm-size fridge he kept fully stocked under his desk so he wouldn’t have to walk the extra 12 feet to the main fridge in the kitchen.

It wasn’t until I moved back to Phoenix and saw a copy of Liguorian Catholic magazine lying on my folks’ coffee table that I began to stitch together the reasons behind Tony’s near-constant absence in our relationship. The cover article was a portrait of a functional alcoholic. When people think of a problem drinker, they tend to picture someone who is constantly drunk and whose life is falling apart because of their drinking. However, that’s only one segment of alcoholics.

Others, like my son’s father, can work at high-level careers, earn good money, have a regular family life, even cultivate social bonds. Some successfully hide their drinking for years. Tony didn’t hide his drinking – it just wasn’t until I had the clarity of distance that I could see how much more alcohol meant to him than I did. No wonder nothing I did could ever grab his attention for longer than a fleeting moment – I couldn’t have won that competition no matter how hard I tried.

So they say we date and follow relationship patterns. When I look at my relationships with Tony and John, the two men couldn’t be more diametrically opposite. Except for one thing: my husband has struggled, on and off, with addiction issues for most of his adult life. The distinct difference is that I know how much I matter to my husband – even on the rare occasions when he still struggles, I know he loves me more and that he wants our relationship to succeed. I never once felt anything close to that kind of love or commitment in my relationship with Tony.

John more than likely inherited his addictive tendencies from his mother. Even after spending 10 years together, I’m not sure where Tony’s originated. But knowing, as I do, how big a role heredity can play in traits like addiction, I’m hoping that Eric takes after me on this one.

Valentine’s Day with “The One”

Valentine’s Day with “The One”

Today is my 9th Valentine’s Day with my husband, and I have lost track of the number of cards and gifts he has given me in the years since we met. Such a stark difference from my relationship with Eric’s birthfather. I told John the other day that I can probably count on two hands the number of gifts Tony gave me over the 10 years we were “together.”

“Really?” John asked. “Even including birthdays and stuff?”

Yep. Including birthdays and stuff.

I still remember what may have been the only Valentine’s Day gift I ever received from Tony a Chieftains CD the year Eric was born, 10 days before his birth, to be exact.

Looking back now, there were so many clues that Tony wasn’t “the one,” and yet I clung to that relationship for dear life. I had a loving father and (through no real fault of her own) an absent mother. I remember realizing how similar my relationship with Tony was to my relationship with mom. Although I lived in the same house with her, it was like she wasn’t really present. And though I was in a relationship with Tony, he was never really around. One of first things I had to get used to with my husband was being able to go to the movies by myself by choice, as opposed to going alone because he didn’t happen to be calling me back that week.

I long ago gave up trying to figure out the low self-esteem that must have driven my willingness to stay and stay and stay through the years. I’m just grateful for the day I finally had enough and decided the only way we were truly going to move on from each other was by putting physical miles between us. When I originally moved to New Jersey, it was with the thought that Jersey would be just a pit stop; ultimately I would make my way to Boston. Though I visited Boston a couple times, I never made the move there. Interesting, it’s where Eric chose to attend university.

By the time I was finally ready to leave Tony, I had neither the money nor the emotional stamina it would take to start over somewhere new, so instead of moving to Boston, I moved back home to Phoenix even though the desert has never, ever really felt like home to me. Those divine plans being what they are, it still took nearly 10 years for me to disentangle all the tentacles from my relationship with Tony so that I could finally be open to meeting John. We met though a blind date via Craigslist in July 2009 and have never looked back.

And just as there were all those signs that Tony was not the right guy, there were many signs that John was. For one thing, he had a cat. A single, 30-something guy had taken it upon himself to head to the Humane Society in search of a four-legged friend. He told me he had originally intended to adopt a dog, but when he saw Libby, she told him she was going home with him, and she did.

He was also the first one in our relationship to give the other a greeting card and a gift. Long was my habit to be the first to make such a bold move, but on our third date, John brought me a card and some flowers. He’s sentimental like his grandmother was. When she passed away in June and we cleaned out her house, we found what appeared to be every greeting card she’d ever received, going all the way back to high school. Whether it’s his birthday or Christmas or our anniversary, John sets the cards out on the coffee table or his desk in his office and displays them for a while.

Most importantly, though, John was where he said he’d be when he said he’d be there. He had a job that required him to be up before dawn, so even on weekends he went to bed early. I remember going to his apartment one Friday night around midnight to leave a surprise on his car. I wrote messages on a couple pads’ worth of heart-shaped sticky notes and stuck them on the back windshield of his car in the shape of a large heart. As I made my way over to his place, the old doubts started creeping in. Would he be home? Would his car be in its regular parking space at his apartment complex? Man, what a sigh of relief I breathed when his Corolla was right where it was supposed to be.

Over the years, he has surprised me with concert tickets, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, jewelry, and seemingly countless other thoughtful gifts, big and small. Today will be no different, I am sure. The best thing about Valentine’s Day with John is that it’s not that big of a deal because every single day with him is special.

One of the best relationship books I’ve ever read is The Surrendered Single, by Laura Doyle. In it, she explains that the right guy will never make you wait for his call or wonder if he cares about you. He will treat you like a queen, and you will always know how much you mean to him. I spent a lot of years giving the wrong guy the benefit of the doubt. He was the right guy for just long enough, though, or our son would not be here. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier that I moved on and gave the actual Mr. Right a chance.

The Cure, Cathartic Writing, and a Berkeley Parking Ticket

The Cure, Cathartic Writing, and a Berkeley Parking Ticket

I’ve begun a habit of occasionally dancing for exercise. Was at it fairly regularly for the middle part of 2017; then the holidays hit, we moved, and I’ve been having trouble reestablishing any sort of routine. Recently, I was re-inspired by this article about how beneficial dance is for staving off the aging process. Today, I finally picked it up again, and all was well. Then I heard a song by one of my favorite bands, “In Between Days,” by the Cure.

In Between Days lyrics

Immediately upon hearing the chorus, I was transported back to exactly two weeks, to the day, after my son was born. That was the day Tony, my son’s birthfather, moved out. A man of few words, he didn’t disappoint that day. The one comment I still remember as if it were yesterday was, “I know this is the biggest mistake I’ll ever make in my life, but I’m committed to it, so I’m going to see it through.” And with that, he was gone, back the apartment we had shared with his best friend, Mike. I know Mike wanted to throw him out on his ass when he showed back up – but that’s not what best friends do.

It wasn’t the end of our relationship – we managed to string things along in the same push-pull pattern we’d perfected before Eric was born for another five years. But his leaving was devastating, nonetheless.

I was still recuperating from the birth – waiting for the last of my milk to stop trickling. That night, I sat alone in my apartment, watching a movie called The Client, about a little boy who witnesses a mob attorney commit suicide. Susan Sarandon plays a character called Reggie Love, the attorney who defends and shelters the little boy. More than anything, I wanted a Reggie Love in my life at that moment, someone whose shoulder I could cry on, who would help me make sense of all the grief and loss and leaving.

My mom really wasn’t a candidate. My sister who lived in New Jersey would have been no help. My younger sister had her own life to deal with. So I turned to the only other person I knew would be there for me, my friend Jane. I called her up, weeping, and she immediately invited me out to visit with her in San Francisco. I booked a flight the next day, and made my (thus far) only visit to The City by the Bay.

Jane was working during my visit, but she went out of her way to make me feel at home. She lent me her car, so I had a crash course in hilly driving, something I revisited on my recent stay in Yonkers, NY. She was a coffee drinker (to this day, I prefer tea), so she told me where the cool indie coffeehouses were. She warned me about the parking police on the Berkeley campus – and I still managed to get a ticket because I forgot to feed the meter. I remember going to a Wells Fargo bank and asking for a money order so I could pay the ticket before Jane even found out about it. I blanched when they told me it would cost $14 – but I paid the fee and took care of the ticket. I also spent an afternoon wandering around Golden Gate Park. These are the details I remember about that trip.

The respite lasted only seven days, and then I had to return to my life in New Jersey, such as it was. Going back to work helped. Knowing Tony was there, even if he wasn’t really, also helped. And somehow I muddled through.

Maybe a year or so later, when I was speaking to one of my first groups of adoptive parents, one of the women told me I should write a book about my experiences. “Maybe,” I told her. But it had already been done, and I didn’t see how adding my story to the others I’d come across would help anyone. While writing my story would probably be cathartic for me, I wasn’t sure it would be of any use to another birthmother or prospective birthmom. I didn’t realize at the time that the few birthmother stories I’d seen were pretty much the only books by and for birthmothers available anywhere.

As it turns out, I did try to write it. I got out a couple of yellow legal pads and began writing my story – our story. I was moving along fairly smoothly, until I hit the part I described in today’s post: Tony’s leaving. That – even two years after the fact – was just too difficult to write. It was like crashing into an emotional wall going 150 miles per hour. So I slammed on the breaks, put those notepads away, and didn’t look at them again until several weeks ago when I was packing to move our house.

Turns out, 21 years makes a big difference, in terms of the triggering of emotions. I got a bit teary today when researching the name of the movie I was watching that night – but the writing flowed easily. And I’ve already written close to 20,000 words for this blog, which is well past the 80 pages of longhand I drafted back in 1997.

As for the book – it remains a maybe. There’s still a gaping hole in the adoption literature when it comes to birthparents. And yet, I’m still not sure how my story would help anyone. I chose to blog, rather than start with a book, because blogging would allow me to be random – describing episodes or discussing topics on a whim and at my own discretion, as opposed to the somewhat neat trajectory the contained vehicle of a book would require.

February 24 will be Eric’s 23rd birthday – and that will be day 53 in a row of blog posts, assuming I write the next dozen or so after this one. At that point, I believe I’ll take the same tack we did when deciding whether and how to continue contact after he turned 10. I’ll reevaluate things at that time and decide whether and how often to keep writing. Maybe, one day, a book. For now, I can only promise to keep dancing.

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do – So Why Not Drag It Out for Years?

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do – So Why Not Drag It Out for Years?

In spite of my habit of deserted friendships, I’ve never been one who can just cleave a romantic relationship, as one of my mentors, Chuck Trautman, refers to it. It would definitely be easier, but it’s just not my way to end things in one fell swoop. When it came to breaking up with boyfriends, every one of those splits was a long, drawn-out process. Not because the guys wanted it that way, but because I just held on and held on until I was finally able to let go.

New Age classic, The Celestine Prophecy, explains the reason for the difficulties in disentangling from a long-term relationship. Our aura – or personal energy field – becomes entangled with that other person’s aura, each one forming tentacles that intertwine and fold in on each other. Even though you break up – literally and figuratively disconnect from one another – it takes time, deliberation, and focus to peel back the tentacles in order to fully free yourself, energetically, from the other.

I continued this habit of prolonged good-byes with Tony. Good gawd – I dragged that out for a loooonnnnng time. Understandable, perhaps, as it was my longest-term relationship and we did have a son together. I finally managed to wean myself from trying to contact him after close to a year. Then 9/11 happened, and we started talking again. Before I knew it, I was making plans to go back to New Jersey over Valentine’s Day weekend 2002.

In the two-year interim, Tony had dated a woman named Molly. In a case of what I might charitably call “what comes around goes around,” she strung him along for a while and then finally dumped him to get back together with an old boyfriend. But not before he helped pay her child support for a number of months, took her and her boys on an expensive tropical vacation, and shelled out a lot of other cash for her and her family. I’m not saying she was a gold digger, but he certainly made life quite comfortable for her until the other guy gave her an ultimatum.

So the Valentine’s trip back East was eye-opening. Seeing the apartment I’d shared with Tony looking so different was startling. It was clean and neat and organized. When I lived with him there, we’d had a third roommate – his childhood best friend, Mike. Mike was one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known. We had the most amazing, hours-long conversations – discussions that Tony and I could never have. But to call Mike a slob is like calling a marathon a casual jog. At the time he lived with us, he was a VP at American Express. And it wasn’t unusual for him to need to dig through the empty pizza boxes littering his bedroom floor to find his tie or suit jacket. I’d never seen anything like it … until I met my husband, John. The interesting thing is that I found in John a guy who seems to embody the best parts of both Tony and Mike.

As I write this, John and I are preparing to move. I was packing today and came across a slew of old journals, written on yellow legal pads. The following undated entry was the top page on one of those notebooks – but based on the contents, it must have been written the first week of February 2002.

Was thinking about Mike B. on my way to work today. I asked Tony the other night if he’d talked to Mike lately. “Not for a few weeks,” was his answer. I asked him if Mike knew about Molly’s departure. Negative.

So then I got to thinking about how much things changed over the years. I went East. Tony followed. Then Mike showed up. Followed by one year of hell living with him because I couldn’t find the voice to tell him that we didn’t live in a fucking pigsty and my title was NOT maid! Then I moved out. Got pregnant. A few years later, the whole Gwen thing. A couple more years and I moved back to Phoenix. Oh yeah – and somewhere in there, Cecilia and I fixed Mike up with Annette, and they got married.

So now Mike’s got this life out there. Wife. Kid. House. Real job. I’m not sure it’s what he wanted. Envisioned – yes. Wanted? I kind of doubt it. She makes all the rules and he follows them.

Then you have Tony and me. Tony got started down the treacherous path toward a normal life – and I could tell the house of cards wouldn’t stand for long. Gee – how many different ways have you said, “I told you so?” Another unflattering realization.

And what about me? My life? What does that even mean? I’ve got so much enthusiasm and so many ideas, and yet I feel like I’m moving through mud trying to achieve them. Here I am with a ticket to go back to NJ/NY next week. Why do I have this sinking feeling that I’m moving BACKWARDS??

Things were OK until last night, when Tony wanted to chat with someone named Kelly more than talk to me. But why am I jealous? I don’t even know if I want to consider seeing him again, but I’m still upset at the thought of him talking to someone else.

The only thing I know is that I don’t want to stay single. But I’m not convinced that my partner is lurking anywhere in my immediate vicinity. Back to trusting the Universe, I suppose. Nothing else ever seems to work.

Come to find out that even though the two of us had done a bit of growing up over our two-year break, Tony and I were together for one lovely night before we began pushing each others’ buttons in all the same old ways. I continue to think that if I were to run into him again tomorrow, he and I would find that same initial, comfortable simpatico we’ve had since we met in 1989 – but long-term, it was never meant to be. Fortunately, we both moved on, married other people, and seem to have embraced our respective lives.

Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

I’m pretty sure it was Newsday, a daily newspaper in New York that now primarily serves Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York City borough of Queens. In the mid-90s, it was also published and distributed throughout Manhattan. She must have gotten my name from the adoption agency, the reporter who called and asked if she could interview me about my adoption. I think Eric might have been two by then.

I don’t have a copy of the story and remember only the faintest details – particularly that this reporter got two things wrong. One might have been a spelling mistake, but the other was an error in a factual detail. Although I’d come out of a journalism minor and nearly eight years at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, this was early training that reporters twist words, whether out of deliberation, laziness, or carelessness.

The thing that stands out most to me, though, was my desire to protect Tony’s identity. He didn’t want his family to know about the adoption for any reason. And though it was unlikely that anyone he knew would read the 20 lines of my story in a full-page article about adoption in a New York City newspaper, I spoke only on condition of anonymity and revealed only our first initials.

I shared his trepidation about telling my parents for a while, but I got over it before he did. And it wasn’t too long after this that I decided that I didn’t owe him any protection or anonymity from the facts. At the time, Oprah was the biggest thing going, and I had dreams of her interviewing me (about what, I have no idea now). Damned if I was going to stay silent if Oprah asked for details about my son’s father!

I suppose this nonchalance about sharing personal details is still at play in my decision to reveal as much about Tony as I have in the posts on this blog. I know there are libel laws and that memoirists must take care about whom and how they characterize people in their true stories. While my aim is not to tempt fate here, I also know that Tony couldn’t – and probably wouldn’t – take issue with any details I’ve revealed about our past thus far. And what I’ve shared to this point is really as bad as it ever got. No further skeletons (from his side of the family) are likely to be uncovered.

Again, it’s not my goal to instigate or rabble-rouse. Just to share my side of the story. He certainly has his side, and if he wants to, he can start his own blog.

The Folly of Proving “God” Wrong

The Folly of Proving “God” Wrong

There were a lot of signs that dating Tony was a bad idea. Things that, had I followed my intuition – or common sense – would likely have taken me on an entirely different path. Of course, I often come back to the premise of the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow doing her best British accent, where two very different paths lead to the same outcome.

The first sign was that I called him to check on the status of our first date. I’m not really one to dwell on what if’s, but I occasionally indulge and wonder how things might have been different if I’d just left the fucking phone alone. We worked together at the newspaper in Tucson. I was nearing graduation from the University of Arizona, and he was loafing in the sports department. Our flirtation began over his ridiculous taste in basketball teams (the Boston Celtics) and music, or so the pretentious 20-year-old me thought at the time. He had a stack of CDs on his desk which he listened to on a Walkman while coding agate for the sports section (e.g., game scores, stats, etc.). One was an AC/DC disk and another was Guns ‘N Roses. Now I’m still not really a fan of either, but having since married a musician whose current taste in music has some overlap with what Tony’s was then, I’ve learned to at least develop an appreciation for those classic rock bands.

So we flirted for a few weeks, and then he asked me out for New Year’s Eve, 1989. I said yes. And waited to hear more. Because of his job, he had a late schedule and typically slept till 11 a.m. or noon. But when I hadn’t heard from him by 4 p.m. on the day of our scheduled date, instead of making other plans, I called him. Plans were finally made, and we went on our first date to the movies – War of the Roses – another red flag, for those who are counting.

Things were fun for a time, but before long we settled into that horrible push/pull, chase/flee, clingy/leave-me-the-hell-alone pattern that so many immature people see as normal. Many years later, I read a book called The Surrendered Single by Laura Doyle, in which she spelled out very clearly that the right guy never makes you feel clingy or needy. He makes you feel loved and treats you like a queen. It was strangely reassuring to hear that no matter what I had done, all those years I spent trying to get Tony to notice me and to love me even half as much as I loved him were never going to create that result. It just took me the better part of a decade – a baby placed for adoption right in the middle, there – to figure that out.

The signs were so in my face that I remember going to sleep every night for six months or more hearing a little voice whispering, “He’s not the right guy for you.” Instead of listening to that angel, God, the Universe, or whoever you think might have been talking to me, I dug in, determined. “I’ll prove you wrong!”

someon lets you know how much you matter

Then one night, on my 28th birthday, the voice went from a whisper to a loud, clouds-parting, Charlton Heston bravado. We were living in New Jersey at the time, again working for the same company. Our son was a year old by then, though we rarely spoke of the adoption. At this point, Tony was still determined he’d never tell his parents. Things were definitely in the valley part of our typical peak-and-valley cycle. So naturally, he blew me off for my birthday. I went out to dinner with some friends (where were they on New Year’s Eve 1989?!) and had a few drinks. I’ve never gotten drunk in my life – personal preference – but this was the closest I ever came. A bit buzzed, I made the stellar decision to stop by Tony’s apartment on my way home and give him a piece of my mind. That went swimmingly.

I was around the corner, less than a block from his front door, tears streaming down my face, when I asked out loud, of no one in particular, “When are we going to fix this?” That’s when I heard it – the voice from ABOVE. Literally, as clear as day, I heard a booming male voice say, “It’s done.”

Of course, my interpretation of “It’s done,” and the Universe’s interpretation were completely different. Because it took me another two-and-a-half years to finally get my shit together enough to decide to leave. There was no other way to do the split than for one of us to geographically relocate. Otherwise, I could see, we’d just keep doing the same dance for another decade, or more. So in December 1999, I packed up my dog, my cat, my computer, and a few clothes and headed back to the desert. I cried most of the way – but they weren’t all sad tears. Every several hundred miles or so, I’d actually manage to be grateful, knowing this move was the best decision I could make.

He has since apologized for being such a shithead, but one of the most galling things Tony ever did was say to me, as I was getting into the car to drive away, “I don’t understand why you’re leaving. Things between us have always been pretty good.” The other was telling me, the day after I signed the adoption papers, that he would have stayed if I’d kept the baby.

It seems a bit unfair to pile on him now, after all these years have passed. But we lost touch and I don’t know that our connection will ever resume. I know he got married, and she seems like a nice enough person from the little Facebook stalking I was able to do. His sister also seems pretty cool now (we never really got along when Tony and I were dating). And if my husband is any proof that an angry, alcohol-fueled twenty-something can morph into a pretty great guy, I like to imagine that Tony might have made a similar transition.