Questions Without Answers

Try as I might, my heart longs for answers to questions that I will never be able to truly answer.  I may have theories but they may be wrong.  For too many years, when we knew nothing about my adoptee parents’ origins, we made up plausible stories –

My mom had been stolen from her illiterate parents from the hospital in Virginia where she was born by a nurse in cahoots with Georgia Tann who transported her to Memphis.  There was no other way she could reconcile being adopted as an infant in Memphis when she had actually been born in Virginia and who could blame her for that confusion ?

Because my dad was dark complected and seemed so comfortable with the natives in Mexico, I thought that he must have been mixed race with a Mexican mother and an Anglo father and that she had crossed the border with her infant and left him upon the doorstep of the Salvation Army with a note that said – “Take care of my baby, Maria.”

So my maternal grandmother was exploited by three women in Memphis – Georgia Tann certainly but also Georgia Robinson the superintendent at Porter Leath orphanage who had agreed to give my mom “temporary care” and then betrayed her to the baby seller, Miss Tann, as well as the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley who was Miss Tann’s close friend and could be counted upon to remove any child from their parents for nothing more abusive than poverty and a lack of immediate family support.

And my dad wasn’t Mexican at all.  His dark complexion came from his Danish immigrant father who was a married man, so his unwed young mother went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers at Ocean  Beach California just west of San Diego.  His father probably never even knew of his existence.  More’s the pity, as fishermen who loved the ocean they would have been great friends.

I’ll never know why my maternal grandfather never came to my maternal grandmother’s rescue or why they separated after only 4 months of marriage with her pregnant already.  I’ll never know why she went to Virginia to give birth, though I suspect she was sent away to avoid embarrassment to her immediate family in a very conservative religious rural community.

I can only live with the questions that will never have answers while basking in the glow of knowing so much that over 6 decades of living never prepared me to uncover.

Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning remembering going to church with my dad after my mom died.  Growing up, my dad never went to church with us.  He worked a lot, often double shifts at Standard Oil Refinery in El Paso Texas.  After us kids left home, he started going to keep my mom company.  Somehow it fed something in him that he continued to go after he lost her.

I don’t know what caused this photo to be taken or how it ended up in the possession of my dad’s original mother.  I am intrigued by what appear to be several bed frames in the background.  My dad was born in a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in San Diego California.  After he was born, his mother was hired as a helper by the Salvation Army and transferred to El Paso Texas.  It may be that my dad’s adoptive mother took him to visit her there.  It may be that the look on his face is a disturbed recognition of his own mother.  I’ll never know.

I know that by this point, he had been adopted for the first time.  He would be adopted a second time after my Granny kicked her first husband, an abusive alcoholic, out of her home and then married a WWII veteran.  So my dad was already 8 years old when he was adopted for the second time and had 2/3s of his name changed – again.

My dad looks healthy but not entirely happy here.  I continue to wonder what that expression on his face means.  It is serious and perhaps puzzled.

My dad simply accepted his adoption and never showed any interest in knowing about his original family.  He cautioned my adoptee mom when she was seeking a reunion for herself that she might be opening up a can of worms.  I think this epitomizes his perspective.  Maybe he was afraid of learning the truth.  I know he loved and cared for his adoptive parents.

It is a shame he didn’t know more about his origins, origins that I am fortunate to know now.  He was so much like his Danish fisherman father and they would have had a great time in a boat out on the ocean doing what came naturally to both of them.