She deserved an explanation, and I knew she would ask. The question she would pose, I thought to myself, would most likely be indirect. She would want to know the reason for her placement and of course the story about her birth parents’ relationship. And, quite frankly, didn’t we owe her that? Okay, I remember thinking, I better call him. After all, he was the other part of her genetic equation.
Throughout my years of marriage to the father of our three sons, there would be days of deep introspection—a searching, if you will—the kind of searching and longing and yearning that could not be addressed openly, or so I was programmed to believe back in 1966.
Tempered with great admiration and respect, my husband (who knew of the secret daughter placed for adoption) would on occasion reference the birth father and quietly whisper to me, “Susie, I think you should call him. Just talk about it with him.” Although my husband was trying to be helpful, a bone-chilling panic would vibrate through my body. It would put me squarely in touch with the here and now of my present day life. I would rebound from the shocking surge and put the matter back where had to stay, at uneasy rest . . . deep in my birth mother heart.
On one cloudy day, in March of 1993, the floodgate of emotions opened. The call came from Catholic Charities asking if I’d placed a child for adoption through that agency in 1966. Placed a child for adoption . . . the terminology was so abstract, so kind. Not at all like the perpetual negative inner voice I’d hear, making it very clear that I had “given up” a baby for adoption. It seemed different . . . but somehow okay.
I was stunned at first, then burst into tears. The woman who called was an adoption worker. She informed me of my daughter’s wish for contact with me. When I agreed, the woman told me that I would be receiving a letter and photos from her within a few days.
I hung up the phone and called my sister. She was the one in my life who shared in the family silence with my parents. My best friend, Nan, was the next person to hear the news and cry with me. And so on and so on. My husband came home, took off his tie, hugged me hello, and then questioned my swollen, red eyes. Nothing bad had happened to any of our sons, I assured him. But, something good had happened regarding my daughter. He held me close and repeated over and over again how much he loved me. “You’ve waited too long” he said. “You are so deserving.”
Deserving . . . it seemed like such a profound observation on his part. A great sense of relief immediately began surfacing from within me.
Okay, next, I must make a call to him, the birth father. Calling him was not as easy as I had hoped it would be as I touched each number of the phone keypad. After redialing and hanging up several times, I finally decided to call his sister instead. She was shocked by the call, to say the least. My “favor” was asking her to notify him. Reluctantly, she promised to do so.
The day of reunion with the birth father was unique. We hugged, we laughed, we cried. And, we processed the pain together. He had the last note I’d written to him (before leaving for my “vacation” with my aunt) stating I would love him forever. He had yearbooks with “reserved for Susie” pages plump with happy memories and lots of xo’s in my signature style. I brought to this meeting our prom pictures, winter ball pictures, homecoming dance pictures, his senior picture, and the photo charm necklace he’d given me for Christmas 1965 which held yellowed pictures of our faces. We were in love. We were then, and are now, her genetics.
As we hugged good-bye, he asked that I not tell her that he’d cried at this, our reconnecting time. I said it would be the first thing I’d let her know, because she must know that he has a good heart and soul.
She would be meeting me in the lounge of a lovely hotel. I was waiting nervously, my husband and oldest son at my side. The large glass lobby doors opened and my son knew her immediately. I, at that very moment, was in the ladies’ room. When I walked out into the hall, there stood my blurry-eyed son. “What took you so long?” he stuttered in a hushed tone. She’s here, I thought, and continued around the curved passageway.
Our eyes met, I held out my arms, and she came to me. We shared a trembling first embrace. It was long and complete. I was not allowed to see or hold her 26 years earlier. She stepped away for a moment, took a single red rose from her fiancée, and offered it to me saying, “This is for you. Thank you for the gift of life.”
We walked together, looking for the stairway. We both have a fear of elevators. We spent two days talking and questioning, and allowing emotions to flow tenderly and honestly. She knew at last that she was the child conceived, too early in life perhaps, but nonetheless conceived in love.
Yes, Katie, I loved your birth father.