My Own Long Lost Family Story – A Love Letter for my Grandmothers
This is a true story – from my perspective and from my understanding of the family lore that has been shared with me.
In the 1930s – my three grandmothers each faced dramatic and life-altering challenges.
My father’s mother prayed that she would one day hold a baby as she was facing difficulties with fertility and carrying a baby to term.
My mother’s teen-aged birth mother was praying that she wasn’t pregnant; knowing that the baby she carried would preclude her from attending University on scholarship – the first in her family.
My mother’s adoptive mother was praying for an end to the grief brought on by the unexpected and tragic death of her two-year old son. It was commonly held in those days that a suffering mother could be distracted and ‘cheered up’ by the needs of a new baby and one week after her arrival, my mother found her way into her forever mother’s limp and despondent arms. Those around this grandmother did the best that they could do at the time. What they didn’t know was my grandmother’s early Alzheimer’s onset would require a full-time caregiver for her while my mother was still a very young child and desperately in need of care herself.
A baby has the power to change things; for better or for worse.
In my case, my babies made so many things better and it was an effortless and joyful time. For my mother, who had been orphaned twice by the age of 14, they helped to close some of the gap that she felt in her family circle.
In my mother’s case, her own three babies served as a constant reminder that she didn’t really know who she was or how she had come to be. She had a hard time trying to reconcile herself as a person without a past that was known to her. When I was 18, my mother was inspired to join an organization that helped birth parents and adoptees find each other. My mother’s birth aunt was willing to be found but her birth mother couldn’t risk it. My grandmother had built a life with a husband and children who had no knowledge of my mother.
As time wore on and the older generation started to fade away, my mother’s birth aunt wanted her niece to know she had a half-sister. The truth was that my Aunty had wondered about my mother from the time she was twelve and an uncle, in a cruel moment, had said to her ” You don’t know about your mother and the daughter she gave away.”
No matter. The knowledge was better had late than never.
I remember the day that my mother and my Aunty spoke on the phone for the first time. It was an awe-filled conversation and one where they planned their first in-person meeting.
My Aunty is a practical woman; filled with a quiet strength and fierce sense of family that I admire beyond words. She called her two brothers and other important members of her extended family to let them know about the ‘new arrival’. When my mom went to meet her half-sister half a country away, Aunty had organized a family reunion to welcome my mother into the fold. It was extraordinary.
Coincidentally, my Aunty and my sister share the same name while Aunty’s daughter and I do too. My mother and Aunty have the same crooked baby finger, the same eye colour, the same kind of curly hair and sense of humour.
“Hands up if you have a sister.” these two middle-aged women would say to each other with a giddy laugh before waving their hands in the air and smiling.
Family in whatever form it takes for each of us; by birth, friendship or serendipity = PEACE.