Even if the person who suffered the original trauma has died,
even if his or her story lies submerged in years of silence,
fragments of life experience, memory and body sensation can live on,
reaching out from the past to resolution in
the minds and bodies of those living in the present.
~ It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn
My grandmothers . . . both lost their own mothers at a young age. Both lost their firstborn children.
When I was growing up with both of my parents known to me as having been adopted, I didn’t know they had another family except for their adoptive parents. I thought they were orphans. I don’t know when they knew they weren’t orphans but they never knew their original families either.
For my mom, it probably started when the baby stealing and selling scandal of Georgia Tann, who was at the head of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, broke while my mom was a teenager. Her adoptive mother did her best to reassure my mom that she wasn’t one of those children who had been stolen.
Yet, she could not reconcile how she could have been born in Virginia but adopted from Memphis only a few months later.
My dad seems not to have wanted to know the truth of his origins. I believe he was afraid to find out. He would dissuade my mother’s yearning with “it might open up a can of worms”. Even so, she tried to find out. The state of Tennessee rejected all of her efforts in the early 1990s.
Finally, in 2017, I was able to receive her full adoption file, including her own letters and rejections from the 1990s. Her mother never intended to lose her and suffered the remainder of her life from having been exploited the way she was.
Motivated by success, I started trying to discover my dad’s origins. His mother was unwed, so I thought it unlikely I would ever know who his father was. But in less than a year, I discovered that as well – thanks to a newly discovered cousin on his mother’s side.
Now I know why I was born. Living in me were my grandmother’s desires to have the true stories known. What a fulfilling outcome to my life (not that I am ready to die yet).