christmas, valentine’s day, mother’s day, my birthday. the four dread horsemen of the calendar. from a distance, wonderful and appealing. the moment of impact? horrific. well, maybe not the moment of impact. it’s the night before. i always think i will be forgotten by those i love. and everyone else. and i’ve had those years.
i was put up for adoption by my parents when i was three years old. after twenty two years, i used a private detective to track down my natural/biological parents justin and aleta. today there’s open adoptions. there’s tracking your parents down on facebook. or maury povich.
i thought i had a good (or at least okay) relationship with these new/old parents and it surprised me that both forgot my birthday the first year we were in contact. i would like to say that i didn’t mind that justin and aleta didn’t remember. but i did. i howled and whined. i was a petty, sniveling, blotchy faced wreck. but in private. a few days later, justin reminded me that my infant half sister casey’s birthday was coming up and i said it was interesting that we shared the same astrological sign. a dozen roses showed up the next morning with a belated birthday greeting. as for my mother aleta, the matter resurfaced in october. she called me in a fury. i had forgotten her birthday.
“but you never told me when your birthday was!” i wailed. “and besides, you forgot mine!”
“how was i supposed to know yours?” aleta countered.
“because you were there!”
as you can imagine, this interaction didn’t help our relationship. i think i hold aleta responsible for my adoption although since aleta and justin were married it must have been a joint decision at some level. i know if my ex-husband had ever asked me to put up joseph or eastman for adoption, i would have balked. not that he ever would have. eight years after this conversation, aleta terminated our relationship over an issue involving my payment of her health insurance. justin and i have our ups and downs–and some years he remembers my birthday and some years he doesn’t.
on july 22 every year i have a massive anxiety attack slash pity party. this year was no exception. it started at five o’clock with the shakes and chest pain. it ramped up with crying and shaking. i was utterly and completely convinced that i was forgotten, alone, without purpose, and about to die. it would be months before anybody would notice my demise.
and then something odd happened. a facebook friend posted a picture of a birthday cake on my profile page. another posted a link to a recording of mickey mouse singing happy birthday. then a link to youtube showed up, and it was my friend jose’s youtube post for my day — you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VluSLAGdwY&feature=youtu.be
and there were messages and pokes and comments and postings. and i started to write thank you’s. and more thank you’s. i rifled through an album of fifty two pictures created by my friend nit, whom i had traveled to visit in las vegas — the messages embedded within the pictures are really wonderful and there’s one for every year of my life. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2284501568258.62614.1720445328&type=3&l=5d25bd20fa
i needed to say thank you to each person and that took me most of my birthday but it was a wonderful way to notice, remember, reconnect with each friend. because even if facebook automatically puts a notification on your page reminding you of which friends are having birthdays, it still takes thought and care to write out a greeting or post a picture or photoshop an image just for me!
i realized that i had cried because i thought i was forgotten and i sure as heck wasn’t. in fact, all told, i wrote eleven hundred notes of thanks yesterday and today and i’m still behind. sending each thank you changed my perspective, and turned me around.
thank you facebook!
and also thank you to facebook for an interesting feature: every time a friend posts on your wall, your mutual friends are notified. so, for instance, when my son eastman’s friend will (who was the 176th facebook friend i met with) sent me a “happy birthday mrs. presser” eastman would have been informed. and in a remarkable coincidence eastman called me about twenty minutes after will’s message. he says he’s sent me a package but that it won’t get to me for a few days.
meanwhile, my other son joseph (the sixty first facebook friend) sent me a present that will change my life. i will assemble it today!
July 24th, 2012 at 5:44 pm
A belated happy birthday, ArLynn! Sorry I missed the actual day.
July 24th, 2012 at 6:16 pm
totally cool! you’re just making the party last a little longer! i just assembled joseph’s birthday present and i think it involves you! i’m trying to figure out how to present it and then i want YOUR expert advice!!!!! much love from the back of the car!
July 24th, 2012 at 6:17 pm
Hi ArLynn, Relationships and how you sit with your own conscience are infinitely more important than tic marks on the calendar. I think that you’ve done quite well with your life and accomplished quite a few things that many people never even got to tee up on.
I lost both of my parents very early in life and grieve for them everyday. I became a single parent early in the lives of my children who are now grown and have children of their own. When I look at my grandchildren 5 and 10, I can’t imagine anyone else raising them; the kind of pain that you’ve spoken of and experienced through adoption is not something I’ve could have stood on the other end (giving up a child).
But having said all that, you’ve done productive things with your pain (I think that we all need our pain in some way to drive us on). Owing to reading your grandfather Fritz’s writings as a kid, I’ve taken to following the doings of the Leiber family (and a number of SF writers) over the years. I’ve read some of your father, Justin’s writings, too (I think that he has the most abandonment issues). You’re dealing with things in a very positive and adventurous manner.
You always seem to chose mercy instead of justice when dealing with others. Shed no more tears and continue the journey.
July 24th, 2012 at 6:23 pm
don, you know what i feel like and it’s an interesting observation about justin and i want to mull that over. maybe you’re helping me understand and love him better. and i have to say that even if i had some millionaire offering to adopt my kids and give them a better life, i still wouldn’t do it. i can’t. i am truly sorry for the grief you have to endure. many many thanks.
July 25th, 2012 at 7:12 pm
Reblogged this on Notes from a "Closet" Writer and commented:
Arlynn, Once again, you strike a chord with me. I, too, have experienced loss of my birth parents & some siblings & have had thise g=dreaded days of being “forgotten”, so I understand the dread. I am also sending you privte message re: Marie Antoinette reference. Hope all is well….Kat-Alex