I’d imagine you have your eye on the current goings on of our family– especially Mom. We all made the trek to Indiana yesterday for this bizarrely wonderful introduction to her birth family, and I couldn’t stop being overwhelmed by you. Granted, every time I’m in Indiana I think of you, but this time was strange and uncharted. All of us were there, Sara, Lara, both my parents– it had been a while since we were all together. We knew the life story of the woman we were to meet was devastating; that the home was going to be rough, and that she was very sick. Turns out our expectations were realistically set.
Watching Mom meet her birth sister was moving. They hugged, for a minute or two, outside the front-door that was covered with peeling blue paint and decals of puns. Tears were audibly shedding from each woman. My mom is a year older; but, looks like a picture of youth compared to the actively decomposing body of her sister– seeing them together was shocking. Both had the same thick hair, same nose, chin, and hands. They stood at the same petite height, and nature versus nurture kept monopolizing my brain.
For as similar as these relatives are genetically, one is alone and dying; while, the other is prospering with healthy daughters and grandchildren to boot. Mom rolls up to this tiny house flanked by her family with love and support because of you. You adopted her into your family and saved her from the abuse and poverty she would have otherwise been sentenced to. My family exists because of you, and I felt you present throughout this whole adventure.
As my family huddled into this woman’s living room, we planted ourselves in folding chairs, and met the man who is taking care of her. He sat with us, and watched as we passed her family photos around so we could lay our eyes on Mom’s birth-mom for the first time. Again, I thought of you. The woman in the pictures looked like my mom, but felt so unrelated. You were her mother. You were my grandmother, your family is my family. But, we were all there for the story– to put together the pieces that delivered my mom to you.
The last time my family was sitting together with someone so near death, we were sitting with you. We sat together while this woman had a seizure in front of us. We sat together while she detailed how her husband beat her, and how her only child keeps her grandchildren from her. We sat through the clouds of smoke that filled the room as she chain-smoked the cigarettes responsible for her only daily pleasure. However, despite the trauma she relayed, and the tumors she pointed out, she managed to joke– like you. I remember visiting you in your nursing homes or all of the times we were told you were going to pass, but you persevered. You would crack all of these dark, yet hilarious jokes that have since seeped into my own sense of humor. When she joked about death, I heard you delivering the lines.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of your passing, I find myself in an eerily similar supportive role to my mom. I will never forget the moment that she and I locked eyes after you exhaled for the last time– holding her while she held you. It was heavy and painful, but it was also beautiful. That memory is coated with gratitude for experiencing your transition rather than pain from your leaving. You and I had a really odd relationship– namely in communicating to each other through other people (sorry I was too insecure about myself to speak, and you couldn’t hear my mousy mumbling). But, since you gave my mom and I the gift of holding you while you left, my relationship with each of you blossomed. I think of you all the time, and today I ooze thanks for you. Thank you for the life you made possible for my family and me, and for raising the badass woman who has made me who I am.
Looking forward to continuing Mom’s genetic identity odyssey with you. Love you always.