Friday, March 15, 2013

Chronically Aging

I was born fifty eight years ago yesterday, at a time unbeknownst to anyone but my birthmother ... who took it with her to her grave. This makes it difficult to see if my watery fish, Pisces, is on the cusp of anything other worldly, and I HOPE they got my birthday right. "They" being the State of New York. The Empire State. The city of my birth, New York itself. The Big Apple, and more specifically, Manhattan ... which never sleeps. While I don't suspect anything particularly sinister out of them more than I do out of any other form of bureaucracy, I'm not a fan. So they had me for two years when I was Constance Hasbrouck. And then, miraculously by the stroke of a pen and a rap of a gavel, I became Ruth. Constance ... be gone, and take your 24 months and unknown birth family with you.

Yeah. I've never liked my birthday.

But it shows up every year like clockwork, and every year I have to deal with it.

As a small child I suppose I was distracted momentarily with crowns and cakes, but not being a Princess type girly girl, it was all show for someone else. I can see it in the 50 odd year photos. A small ashy haired blue eyed girl in a sea of tall dark family members, staring into the camera perfectly still, at odds with the gaiety which surrounded her. I wonder if my parents ever noticed and I KNOW I tried to keep the pain of the day under wraps because I wasn't allowed to be publicly sad about being adopted.

Every March 13th, the night before my birthday, I cry myself to sleep. One would think I'd have outgrown that, but I haven't. It's only morphed into crying for different reasons. As I child I cried, "I miss my mommy" cries and "I hate not knowing" cries (which far outnumbered the "I miss my mommy" stuff.) As a teenager they were typical teenaged angst "But maybe she would have UNDERSTOOD me" cries. As a young mother they were "Does she remember labor? Did she know she was in labor with me?" And a couple of nights ago on my birthday eve they were cries of, "Did you know when you were dying? Did you grieve your children as you died? Did you grieve for me? Even then?" As one can easily tell, they're all just variations on a theme. The WTF theme of relinquishment from the child's POV. Even a nigh-unto-58 year old child.

Every March 14th I wake up crying. I try to list the things for which I'm thankful: I grew up in a very upper class environment with a mother who fed us well and a father who adored me. OK. I had a father who adored me. I went to a good school and went on to graduate from college. I married (badly) and have four sons I adore, two daughter in laws I love dearly, a GRANDSON on the other side of the country, and other coming from Ethiopia. I love my home ... it's comfortable and has great views (something VERY important to me.) I have a cat who both annoys and loves me. FB has provided me the opportunity to have "friends" I wouldn't have otherwise ... and disability gives me lots of time to think. But most importantly, I have G-d. My Abba. The Parent who will never leave me. I cry anyways. I cry because I miss my birth family. I cry because my maternal brother and sister are ill and another one won't talk to either of them. I cry because, WTF people!?! You've had each other your entire lives and tossed that away? I cry because my own adoptive brother, ex-con/womanizer/abuser that is is, won't talk to me. "Like you WANT him to?" you ask? Yeah, well ... maybe. I cry because I miss my earthly father, "daddy," the man who raised me, the man who "got" me, the man I trusted. I cry because on my birthday someone should CARE - really CARE and be THANKFUL that I'm on this earth. I cry because, and I don't mean to be all self absorbed and whiney, but it's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to. You can trust me on this. I cry because my ex husband of 20 years gave me sweatshirts on my birthday. Sometimes one from the college where he "teaches" and sometimes ones from Walmart or KMart if I was lucky and he took the time to make the trip. I cry because he was and is a jackass.

I try to be open minded. A good friend from college is always reminding me to have an "open heart and an open mind." And I LOVE her, INJF that she is!!! Another quiet reserved type who, given the opportunity and was, runs a large gov't agency full of males. Quietly and authoritatively. But I'd bet my life when she comes home she makes tea and sits for a good hour or two ... just so she can reflect the day away before she makes dinner.

Yesterday I got text messages from all four sons (one of whom told me I was a difficult person to get ahold of); emails from each of my DILS (women seem to be a bit more communicative); and a text of Mr. My Baby trying out flailing his arms and legs on the porch. That made me cry some more ... this little Bunny Boy nugget of goodness full of exuberance just because he is alive and kicking. Two people came to the door bearing gifts: a "birthday twin" I adore (but had forgotten we shared the same birthday) and a friend with flowers. Of course, I cried. Vito sent several emails throughout the day, a card in the mail, and promised to take me to a documentary to which I responded, "Thank you, but I really don't want to go." He acknowledged my response by saying it was ok and that maybe I'd feel more like it when he got there. I didn't. He arrived early with another card and flowers. Stoically I thanked him, put the flowers in a vase, left the card on the table (have I mentioned I don't like to react publicly?) and excused myself to go change my clothes (where I threw myself on my bed and sobbed some more.)

Having Lyme Disease is a GREAT excuse for all sorts of weeping as one can always say, "my eyes are REALLY sensitive right now." I'm sure I used that one ... it's tried and true. So off we went. First we ate at some BBQ dive that was actually great (Vito and I like food dives.) I had some sort of "Kentucky Hard Ass Red Necked BBQ" soup which was aptly named and came with some week old cornbread. But tasty in that "y'all step on out here and lemme show you my truck, and I mean Y'ALL y'all" kinda way. Vito had a sandwich which he throughly enjoyed and he's a harsh food critic. Together we shared some form of evil fries with pulled pork on them (I don't eat pork and will admit I shoved it to the side, but the BBQ sauce on the cheese fries et al was interesting, and made me thankful I didn't grow up eating like THAT!!! No tears were shed.

But the documentary, the Oscar winning "Rodriguez" blew my mind. Vito, a not very physically affectionate INTJ, actually held my hand through it except for when I was wiping my eyes (stupid Lyme disease) or blowing my nose because OMG, what a MUSICIAN, what a FATHER, what a HUMAN, what a FILM!! (I love documentaries.) On the drive home Vito and I discussed the merits of poverty (although he's healthy and employed so it was a bit more theoretical from his side of the car.) We DID decide to get pie because after all it WAS 3.14 and I'm a math nerd. So together we sat at my kitchen bar eating pie and talking about the film. He left at an appropriate time to go home and get a good night's sleep and I read his card.

"Once upon a time there was this PERSON who came into the world in the ordinary way. And every day that person LEARNED a little more and grew a little more.

That person had TALENTS and GIFTS and THOUGHTS and IDEAS like nobody else. That person had LOVE to give and HAPPINESS to share.

And that person made a DIFFERENCE in other people's lives every single day.

So, as it turns out, the day that person came into the world wasn't ordinary at ALL. It was the beginning of the unique and important life of extraordinary YOU.

Happy Birthday."

Then were were some lovely personal thoughts and a signature, "Vito."

I cried.

A few minutes ago the above mentioned son called to remind me that just because I don't like my birthday doesn't mean I don't have to respond to my children because they love me. And as we were speaking one of my birth brothers called through. I just got off the phone with him ... he called to wish me Happy Birthday as well, and to invite me to Bach's birthday party (April, if you're interested ... he'll be giving a lecture.)

The Ides of March have been teary. Be aware. Be very aware. Open heart open mind.


  1. Oh Ruth I meant to pop by (cyberly) to say Happy Birthday. Now after reading this i'm not sure if I should be glad I didn't. I understand where you're coming from. I'm reading a lot about adoption and can see how difficult settling your identity could be so hard and have such effect. I now have a year to pray on your next birthday you will feel differently! Praying for you dear friend xxx

  2. Thanks, Teri. I'm truly best left alone on my birthday.