"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom" Albert Einstein

"A dame who knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." Mae West

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Disappearing Act - Part II

Word came to me last night that my best childhood buddy has less than two weeks to live. Her only family, her brother & sister-in-law, were as shocked as I. Purposefully distancing herself from her family and friends (or perhaps forced to by her husband we didn't care for), we would only get snippets of information from her over the years, but this was totally unexpected. She didn't want any of us to know and she still refuses to answer phone calls. Cancer has been eating at her for eight months, most likely due to the packs of cigarettes she has smoked since before she was 16. She is said to weigh 80 pounds. We were as different as night and day, but there was a bond more like sister than friend between us.

In November, I wrote a post about her, and after recently viewing the movie "Juno" my thoughts again turned to her. So in her honor, I am reposting the story that I deleted when I purged posts from last year:

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In 1969 my closest friend got pregnant. She was 19 and had a low paying job as a waitress. The father was someone she had only dated a few times. Her mother did not drive and lived miles away; her own father had long abandoned her.

We had been best buddies since grade school. She had even followed me to my college town, and we were still close though our lives were beginning to go in different directions. She needed help and I was glad I was there to do what I could.

Although she wanted the baby, she knew there was no way she could give it a decent life, so early on she made up her mind to give the baby up for adoption. Since she was Catholic, I contacted Catholic social services and drove her to their offices. I sat with her as they explained what they could do. Once she entered her fifth month, they would find a local family who would provide her room and board in exchange for babysitting and light housework. They would find a family for the baby and her medical bills would be paid. All she needed to do was to take care of herself and relinquish the baby.

I went through every step of that pregnancy with her: her morning sickness, her body changing, the baby kicking. I took her to her OB appointments and took her to the hospital when she went into labor. In those times, no one was allowed to be with the mother except for immediate family. She told me to go back to my dorm and she would call me. She did it alone.

It was a girl with beautiful red hair. Perfect in every way. My friend got to hold the baby for about fifteen minutes and then they took her away. Papers were signed. That was that. It was done.

I picked up my friend from the hospital three days later. She was noticeably anguished. Reality had tempered her normal fun, out-going nature. I was grieving, also. I wanted to see that baby girl. I had invested all those months too, and there was nothing to show for it. The atmosphere was not celebratory. A deep loss had occurred.

My friend and I drifted apart geographically and otherwise, but we still talk to each other every few years. She has been married now for about 30 years, and her son just returned from Iraq. I don't know if she has ever searched for her daughter. I've always felt I shouldn't be the one to bring up the subject.

But I think about that baby almost every year in late fall. I'd like to know where she grew up and what her family was like. I wonder if she has that same beautiful singing voice that her mother had. Is she intelligent like her biological father or is she like her mother, more personality than book-smart? I know she must still have naturally red hair; her mother had auburn tones and her father brighter pumpkin color.

I want to tell her how her mother could sell several cases of Girl Scout cookies in the same time I could only sell five boxes; how her mother could get me laughing so hard I would spit food out of my mouth; how her mother had screamed when her own mother was being beaten by her dad.

Adoption records are difficult enough for birth families and adoptees to obtain, let alone an unrelated friend. Yet persons outside the birth and adopted families can be just as affected. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never know what happened to her. And so, every time I pass a woman in her late 30's with red hair, I look just a little longer to see if I find any resemblance to my old friend.
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Jen had a great deal of devilishness in her, but she had the voice of an angel. As my mother said, "She could sing like a bird." I am saddened that the woman with the red hair won't ever get to hear it.

3 comments:

Amishlaw said...

This is very sad. Distancing herself from her friends is the saddest. What do you think would happen if you showed up at her door?

Prairie Gourmet said...

We are all wrestling with that. We know she's somewhere along the west coast of Florida. We just don't know exactly where (the hospice facility).

rdl said...

wonderful post. i bet this one didn't take long at all- must've just flowed out - my guess is it was just in there waiting to come out.