How humbling and profound it has been to learn about my family’s true origins. If not for . . . so many things, I would simply not exist.
Had my Danish paternal grandfather not been allowed to immigrate, I would not exist. One could say he is an example of chain migration because his uncle came first and then his sister.
Had a superflood not complicated the possibility of my maternal grandparents reuniting, my mom would not have gone where she had to go to meet my dad. I would simply not exist.
There is a comfort in understanding that what may appear unfortunate on the surface of things eventually serves a good purpose. There is a sense of peace and rightness about the world that allows one to take a long perspective on everything that happens.
Parallels of Life – ART by Lena
The most fascinating thing for me about learning the truth of my family’s origins has been the parallels. Both of my parents were adoptees.
Both of my grandmothers lost their own mother at a young age.
Both of my grandmothers fathered my parents with a man much older, 20 years older, than they were.
Both of my grandmothers lost their children due to a lack of their family’s support and lack of paternal support.
There are contrasts as well. My maternal grandmother was actually married. Her father even signed the marriage license. Why then, did her husband leave her in her family home after only 4 months of marriage and her 4 months pregnant ? It is a question I will never be able to answer.
My paternal grandmother had an affair with a married man. I doubt that she knew he was married when she first began dating him but of course, he knew. His wife was over 20 years older than him and a private duty nurse. One can imagine he had the luxury of many nights when she was sitting at someone’s bedside. My grandmother was self-reliant and took care of the reality that she was pregnant on her own. He may have never even known . . . but she knew precisely and outed him in a photo album as a breadcrumb for me to discover many decades later.
These parallels may be a coincidence or they may somehow be part of the picture, the meanings, the reasons that things happened the way they did. I am simply grateful to be able to tell their stories now after 60+ years of not knowing about their actual existence.
In Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird near the end she shares this poem that makes me think so much about my grandparents. My mom was born in 1937. My grandfather certainly was not the young man portrayed in the poem, though Georgia Tann made both of them young college students. My grandmother, though never a college student, was that naive. I can’t regret what happened because my very existence depended upon it but I am left still with way too many questions that I’ll never be able to answer.
Here is Sharon Olds poem –
I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books on her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the
wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it – she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot image you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips like chips of flint as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.