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dog walk

I was the child who climbed up into the cradle of tree branches with a book, a pen and my journal and observed the world from a safe distance. Maybe it’s time to come down and tell people what I saw. ~ Maery Rose

Within the up-down weather confines of February, there is nothing to stand in the way of the twin emotions of anxiety and depression, who run around the room like children who have had too much candy.

And my birth mother died.

I wish I could just say that my mother died but that would be confusing as my other mother has been dead since 2007. It strikes me as funny how I could refer to these two women as “A Mom” for adoptive mom and “B Mom” for birth mom, and so I shall.

I only met B Mom in 1998. With her living so far away, I only spent maybe forty hours total with her. Having to continuously deal with my own anxiety, I didn’t deal very well with being around a similarly agitated person. She made me so nervous and uncomfortable and fearful that we rarely spoke.

So perhaps one would suppose that her death would barely be a blip on my radar for numerous reasons. And yet it has sent me into a tailspin during a month of tailspins that are making it difficult for me to function properly. So forgive me if I say something odd or disturbing or if I seem to be withdrawing from people who have done nothing to make me feel the way that I’m feeling. I sometimes fear I will shatter if you touch me. Perhaps I am just afraid of crying.

Certainly, I will put on my best face, my best funny act, my best macho strut, but there will be breaks in what I can maintain.

horse

 

I was listening to Peter Rollins on the RobCast this morning. He’s written a number of books, including his most recent “The Divine Magician” and “The Idolatry of God.” There were many interesting points in the interview but my ears perked up when he began to talk about why people come to his live events rather than just read his books or listen to a podcast or YouTube video.

“Primary reason people are there is because they feel really alone and they want to be in the room with other people who are on the same journey.” ~ Peter Rollins

With losing my B Mom, I wonder who I can talk to or relate to about what it feels like to lose the mother who gave you up?

My A Dad died when I was 28. My A Brother died when I was 37. My A Mom died when I was 50. And that was the end of the A list.

My B Dad died when I was 51. And now my B Mom has died.

What got me through the loss of the A List is that I had something to do to prepare for the memorial service and I had people to grieve with. With the B List, that hasn’t been the case.

dog

So all the struggle and processing goes on inside at the same time that I’m finishing up a book that includes some of the story of being an adoptee and finding my birth family. But very little of the details of that are actually in the story. The way that the story is about being adopted is what it did to me. How I grew up believing being giving up was about me — about being a worthless, unlovable child. And nothing in my life contradicted that belief. Or maybe there was something, but I couldn’t see it.

Peter Rollins also talked about how we can grow up believing something and then later, as our experiences and our maturing adult minds gather refuting information, we change our beliefs. Yet, when under duress, we don’t fall back on our new beliefs but instead, what floods back with a vengeance are those old minds patterns and habits that we thought we had replaced. I think that is the problem with me right now.

horse

And so I go off into the world, reaching out a hand here and a hand there. Taking a walk. Riding a horse. Making an appointment for a massage. Making hot chocolate with marshmallows. Buying essential oils and teas that promise relaxation.

Thank goodness for Steve who is busy in the kitchen making some kind of something (he’s been into cooking lately and I certainly will not complain). For Luke who is the epitome of calm and quiet and passes that on to me. For Java, another animal friend who does the same. For Latte who does her bow-and-run dance for me and makes me laugh. For a friend handing out free samples of her Naan at Lunds, who has no idea that five minutes with her made me feel better. For a dear cousin who seemed to know I was thinking about her and gave me a call when I needed to hear her familiar voice. And another friend who listened patiently to me on the phone today and has invited me to visit her next week. And a couple other friends who have checked in to see how I’m doing.

horse

Oh, and there was the guy I passed walking his little beagle puppy — that puppy was was scampering through puddles and he made both his owner and I laugh. And one of the guys working at the barn, who told me what a great horse Luke is, “Never any trouble from him,” and who stood and petted Lukes face for awhile before returning to his chores.

Perhaps no one is on my exact same journey or knows exactly how I feel or even that I’m hurting at this time, but a smile, a kind word, setting a minute aside to chat — they do so much to touch a life and to heal.

So thanks to all the people I passed and spoke to in the past week. And for those people I haven’t had contact with, I’ll thank you also because I’m positive you have done something similar for someone else, perhaps without even knowing it.

horse

swans on Mississippi River

swans on Mississippi River

What is it about swans?
They make me think of fairy tales
And magic
And the ugly duckling
who discovers he’s a swan

“But the others did all the could to harass the ugly duckling. They flew at him, bit, him pecked him, hissed and screeched at him… He hid, he dodged, he zigzagged left and right, but he could not escape. The duckling was as miserable as any creature could be.”

swans on Mississippi River

I saw myself as that ugly duckling
so often as a child
I learned to fight
I learned to push away
I learned to hide too
To never show I cared
about anything

“A flock of creatures flew overhead, the most beautiful he had ever seen… Hearing their sounds made his heart leap and break at the same time. He cried back in a sound he had never made before.”

swans on Mississippi River

One would think
I’d be over all that by now
Most of the time
I am
But not always
It doesn’t take much to bring out
that outcast exiled feeling
I just want to belong
somewhere

“And for the first time, his own kind came near him and touched him gently and lovingly with their wing tips. They groomed him with their beaks and swam round and round him in greeting.”

swans on Mississippi River

As lovely as this finding your tribe
and being welcomed in is
it too may not last
There is always change
I’ve learned that the only one
who can give me what I desire
is me
I have to let myself take up space
and say, yes, it’s okay to be
an ugly duckling
a beautiful swan

To be a person who sees a river
that becomes a story
that hold so much more than swans
as beautiful as they are
There is darkness below them
Sometimes light above them
But right now there are only clouds
and snow mixed with rain
But doesn’t the dreariness
bring mystery and magic?

And saying yes to it all
In that lies possibility
No one lives happily every after
We’re all in this for the roller coaster ride
The expectation of going up,
pausing for the view at the top
Then the race down
our stomachs in our throats
screaming as we hit bottom
Then starting the slow climb up again

Quoted excerpts from “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen
It’s been five years now since my birth father died. There are many times when he seems so, not gone. Times when I think about calling him — after I’ve run across his phone number or email address, still saved in my contacts. I can see and hear him as clear as if I’d just recently visited his home. 
Memories and wishes come fast and furious near the holidays, when I long for my family to gather together, for people gone to be there, just one more time. I’d ask for more, but just one more time would do.

My sister and I recently reminisced about sleeping in our dad’s motor home, parked on his property for visitors to stay in. We were so cold out there. The worst was when we needed to use the bathroom and discovered we were locked out of the the house. We did have some good, silly talks out there.

I’m not writing this to paint the picture of a saint or even of a good father. He left a mess of pain after he died and spread a great deal of hurt around before that too. But I can’t help but remember and miss the man captured in my photos…

the colorful shirts and kerchiefs,

his love for watching CNN and arguing politics,

the beat up cowboy hats and suspenders, 

the non-stop worker, who if you wanted to talk to him, you better work too, 

the attachment to his animals, 

his slow way of thinking and talking (I can relate to that), 

his tall cowboy boots and well-used half chaps, 

his smile, his laugh, and his hugs, 

I didn’t know my dad all that well. I didn’t meet him until I was 40 and because I lived so far away, I’d be surprised if all my flights to Arizona amounted to more than a couple months worth of days spent with my dad before he died of cancer.


What we shared was a gift for writing bad (but cherished) poetry and a love of horses and dogs. He only saw me ride once – one of his horses in his round pen. Sometimes when I ride my horse now, I imagine him watching and nodding in approval, seeing a bit of himself in me and being pleased by it. A fantasy, I suppose. A wish.

Why do I wish such things? Do I wish he might have regretted giving such a prodigy away? Do I long for approval from my father, like most children do? Do I long to be ‘known’ by him and believe some part of how I ride would be the best way to accomplish that knowledge?

For some reason, I feel more beautiful and graceful in a saddle. I become wiser too. I have to know every muscle of what I’m riding and how to make adjustments to balance my rather poorly built steed. It is the ultimate form of communication. Talking without saying a word. Maybe that’s what I feel I can do better on the back of a horse. I can communicate, I can calm, I can encourage, I can give confidence to Luke. If only I was as good with people…

Maybe it’s all of those things that I want or that I’d simply like to see his smile again, to hear that wonderful voice saying unforgettable words like, “Well, you sure can sit the trot,” which is what he said the one time he did see my ride.

That poetic statement was almost as special as my own words, the first time we rode in his car together. We were both stumbling with unfamiliarity. It was pretty quiet, save for the attempts by my sister to keep some sort of conversation going. My dad asked me what I though about Arizona. Besides meeting my family, it was the first time I’d been to the desert state.

I scrambled for something memorable and special to say but all I could come up with was, “It sure is dry.” Treasures, cherished treasures…

The last time I saw my dad alive, he didn’t see me as he was in a coma that he never came out of. After he died, and my siblings and I were looking through music and photos in his room, I saw a small piece of driftwood on the table by his bed. I noticed the hunk of wood because I had found it in the desert the last time I visited him.

I’m one of those people who are attracted to feathers, rocks, pine cones, fallen bird nests, and hunks of wood when I’m walking and will pick them up to set on a shelf or window sill. But I had a very full suit case and I was afraid the wood would just end up crumbled by the time I got home, so I left it outside on my dad’s deck. The twisted limb must have attracted his eye too, enough so that he took it inside and placed it by his bed. 
It’s not likely the case, but in my imagination, my dad knew that I had found the dried up wood and liked it partially for that reason. And he was keeping it for me, planning to give it back to me the next time I visited. And so I did take the desert memento home with me, where it reminds me of the little things we shared.

When I was feeling bad that I hadn’t spent more time visiting my Dad, my ex once told me “He gave you up! You don’t owe that man anything!”

But, you see, I do owe him and my mom. I owe them for the gift of these memories, for my brothers and sisters, and for giving me a start in this life. And for that, I am thankful.

And in my imagination, they both realized when they met me, that I truly was always a part of them as much as they are a part of me.

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