Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's now been almost two weeks since we learned of Rosie ... .

I can hardly imagine what kinds of changes she (and her father, my son, Bob) are living through in these tumultuous days of discovering one another after all these years. So much -- so fast -- and after so long! Such care must be taken to protect her life as it was before these momentous developments occurred. There was/is an existing family to incorporate along with adding our huge extended family to the mix. Figuring out the configuration of this brand new family tree will call for a stepping back and taking into account a brand new set of dynamics.

How on earth does one do all that, and move forward at the same time? Maybe you don't. Maybe we just tread water for a little while and allow our psyches to catch up to the new demands.

And for me? A strange and unexpected development in the proceedings. I've experiencing a freshening of the grief over my son, Rick; something I'd never ever have anticipated. Woke to unexpected tears last night and an unaccustomed feeling of great fatigue -- then relief. Strange.

Why? Not sure, but after reading Rosie's story ( of her obsessive search for her father over the past years since she was 21, I understand for the first time, I believe, the downward trajectory of Rick's life -- ending in an early death. One cannot possibly fathom how visceral is that pain -- the empty space where identity, parentage, legacy, heritage, should be. We adopted Rick at the age of 9 days and loved him dearly for his entire star-crossed life.

He was the eldest of my four kids, and our only child until Bob came along when Rick was 5.
I loved him so, and still mourn his passing.

Unlike Rosie whose dedication to finding her father led her in time to reunite with us only ten days ago, Rick never questioned his adoption and never expressed any wish to locate his parents. It was the practice at that time to seal such records and it wasn't until he was applying for a passport and needed a birth certificate that he became curious; at least that he allowed me to see. I recall his describing how -- having gone to Sacramento to try to get a copy from the Hall of Records, how the clerk brought some papers to the window upon which he'd caught a glimpse of the name, Galvin, before she discovered her error and seized them frantically from him with the comment that these were records she could not release. There was no attempt at explaining; only a curt apology. She then issued some kind of legal paper that would suffice. He told the story only once. Never again.

For a short time he appeared curious, but he was only 21 (the same age that Rosie started her search, incidentally), and was about to leave on a trip to Amsterdam with a friend, and was entering a new phase in his life as an openly gay man (with my blessing). The search for his roots must have been diverted by the excitement of experiencing Europe for the first time.

We were always close, but there was no time when I ever saw that ember of curiosity re-ignite.

But he was gone far too early after a long ... slow ... descent into what can only be described as a thinly-veiled suicide from alcoholism and disillusionment in an unsympathetic world.

I'm afraid that I've never fully understood the nature of the loss that Rosie describes surrounding the long search for her father. It must have been so for Rick who never knew his parents. Having been given up by his biological mother at birth, he had to be adopted or live out his life in foster homes. We tried to give him the best life that adoptive parents could. I never knew that it might not ever have been enough... .

... And that it was never ever something that could have been fixed through love.

Rosie's addition to my life has presented a way to process Rick's death in ways that nothing else could have.

Maybe now I can finally let him go, maybe... .

There simply is no way that I, as his lifetime mother, could have been enough to protect him from the emptiness that I could not have known was there. I'm only now realizing that it was never about me. There has been a feeling since his death that somehow I'd failed him; that my parenting was in question. It was always about him; about the vacuum that I could never have filled. About the demons set in motion by unknown and unknowable aspects of his being.

There have been many successful adoptions, but perhaps Rick's had too many challenges to overcome; race, early parental abandonment, gender; far too many reasons upon which the world could and did base its rejection.

I've never not known just exactly who I am, and, upon just whose shoulders I am standing.

I am a Breaux, an Allen, and a Charbonnet ...

as is Rosie.

... and, like Bob she is also a Reid ... and, and, and ...

and there is a loving husband and a mother who surely has loved her well -- and a host of new and old relatives and sisters and nieces and nephews and another Grandmother ... and a father, my son, Bob, ... for the rest of her days!

I cannot imagine a more bountiful time of life for us all ... .

I can only guess at the ecstatic turmoil being lived through right now as my new granddaughter begins to incorporate all these new elements into what appears to be an already full life.

Photo: Dale "Rick" Reid, Mel, Bob (standing in front of his father), David, and Betty holding 2 month-old Dorian on the occasion of her dedication. The year was 1957. Top center: Rosie with Bob's horses.

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