No longer, “Mother’s Sue!”

You may have noticed, I am semi-retired from the roller coaster, as a choice.  Do I wander sometimes and get back on?  Oh yeah and with a full stomach!   But I also wait and watch, get in line and enjoy it with my hands in the air screaming, “Woo hooo.”  Better balance is finding me.  The deep realization that almost every aspect of my life will be exposed in about seven months is bringing growth.  It’s good, it’s a gift, and it is titled, Late Discoveries.

As I go through childhood pictures looking for the “similar to Kathy” photos, I feel so many things.  Some emotions  tsunami-up and out before I even understand why.  Seeing pictures of my mother made me miss her, and then frustration and confusion set in… the person I knew as my only parental unit since I was 19 refused to get past her choice of keeping my beginning a secret (and everything that goes with that.)  I know this is old news, but bear with me.

She kept me right where she wanted me her whole life, and yet I know she loved me and saw all the good me.  Her governing mind-set was stead fast in cement, even when she was given so many opportunities and time; living to 88 years old.  She is still a lump of confusion that finds its way into the pit of my stomach.  I have tried to dismantle her and understand, but today I realize that it’s okay for me to accept that I did not know her completely.  I can be more still now, staying off the ride to look through photos and see how they can be the same old pictures; yet carry new meaning.  Mother no longer controls anything.

She was simple to me, pre DNA, a lonely person who I felt connected to by love and responsibility.  That really is a great summation.  Many times I played the role of peacemaker between her and my kids, and with her and my brother’s family.  Mother could be so angry and hateful, and manipulative to the point of anguish.  Honestly, I just couldn’t stand it and rather than letting her “own” all of that and leaving her to it, I often spread the scene “Jif” smooth and creamy.  I never realized how exhausting it was – until it wasn’t.

Trying not to stain the pictures, I returned to the task of the moment – finding pictures of me at about one, eight, and fourteen years old.  I have three good childhood photos of Kathy and upon learning of our similarity, the publisher asked for pictures of me to illustrate our likeness.  While I love that I know who she was (to the best extent possible) it means so much to me that I resemble my mother, the woman who loved me first.  And that is apparent in our childhood, more so than any other time.

In her twenties, Kathy looked almost Italian.  The clothes, hair and terrific wide dark eyeliner would make anyone say, “Bella donna.”  We look nothing alike in those photos.  However, the most recent picture I have of Kathy, she was 49 and with her last husband.  There it is, I see me.

Kathy and husband

I see the “aging” face I don’t really care for, but yet I’m trying to care for it the best I can.

I hope when the random total stranger see’s our pictures together in my book, they can know a little bit of the joy I found in our same eyes, nose, cheeks, and lips.  And I hope the confusion is loud and clear when they see the Westby family portrait from 1968, as my mother pinches me with her white-gloved finger tips.  It’s not The Westby’s, it’s The Perfect’s.  For many years, our home was surrounded with bright green grass and a perfectly painted exterior-gloss white picket fence.  I remember the can vividly; my dad would pour some in a pie tin for me to do touch up.  Yes, even I had a part in the white picket fence display.

Many times, it felt like a perfect life, and I found joy in my brother and grandmother.  We all lived together; my grandfather was a grump, Mother worked and was busy, and Dad was basically foreign.  I think he was as uncomfortable with me as I was with him.  My brother is really the only family I have (outside of the one I created), and we are having ongoing challenges.  We’ve done a little “boxing” while both of us claim everything between us is fine and good.  Clearly, fine is deep frustration between his wife and me and good is the difficulty I am having dealing with both of them.  So, yes we are fine and good.  The things we’ve had issues with are just landmarks of a greater problem, but possibly his perception is different.  I think I choose to allow the landmarks to stay because I no longer feel the need to Jif-it over.  We no longer have to do anything on behalf of our mother; we’re all adults with our own perspectives and ultimately, our own choices.  I hope we can find our path and that we keep our connection.

The greatest observation I have is that I know I’ve changed.  Not all in one moment, over about a year or so and I purposely have been upfront and honest with him about who I am.  I embrace the truth about all of me, where I come from, the struggles growing up and always suppressing who I wanted to be.  I’m making up for lost time, and feeding the real person inside – not just covering up “Mother’s Sue.”  I hope he just needs time to see me, because no matter what – differences abounding – I love my brother deeply and will always accept him for who he is.  I know this has been hard on him, too.

His photos were another big emotional piece for me while I was sorting.

My brother, Bob holding me.

As I gazed long at this cute freckled blond boy holding me on what was probably my first day in my new home, my mind easily slips into the pages of the home study.  The social worker commented many times about how much he loved his little sister.  From the time I came into his life until we were all together at the final hearing when the adoption was complete, there’s story after story of his love for me.  There’s a sweetness about these reports, pages that fill my heart and help me to know The Westby’s and The Roderick’s while they were getting a new life added to their household.  Those are all things that were kept secret from me, and I sit taller as I write how much I love having all the treasures pertaining to my life.  There’s satisfaction in getting what is yours.  (“Ha ha, Mother!”)

*Side note:  Getting my original birth certificate is the diamond I am mining.

There are still treasures to be had, and I hope that anyone reading this can see how unfair it is to have all of the stories and events about your life kept hidden.  People who are adopted struggle with their identity, on a soul level because there is such great conflict between the two people who created you and the home in which you were placed.  And then if you’re a late discovery adoptee, you were raised in a swarm of deceit-bees.  A child feels it and has to adapt and find ways to calm the noise.  (Sometimes by making louder noise!)  As an adult, we can get away from the swarm but we know that something is wrong and missing.  An adult adoptee tries to fill the hole and feel right. (LDA or not.)  I’ve tried to fill that hole most of my life and probably always will, but knowing what caused it is half the battle.   I can work to fill it within the frame of what’s best for me, my goals, my life.

Never underestimate the power of writing through your feelings, journaling, or creating art that speaks for you.  Do I stumble (often) and look in the mirror to see “Mother’s Sue?”  Yes.  But, it is less and less and I am enjoying life more and more. “Cheers!”