The Truth Matters

It surprises me that in this time of connectivity telling the truth isn’t simply understood to be the only option.  Today, I was reading about a very complicated situation.  So, the woman was a single mom who worked multiple jobs most of her adult life.  She gave birth to a son at age 18 and he is now 11.  Happily, she is now married to a wonderful man who is a high school teacher.  Simple and common enough.

Here’s where it gets complicated.  She is now sharing custody of her best friend’s child with the child’s mother, while the mom sorts out some things going on in her life.  Her friend is pushing this woman to adopt her son but to her credit, this woman isn’t certain that is what the woman really wants.  So they agreed on a temporary custody situation with generous visitation for twelve months.  The plan is to revisit the situation then.  The little boy will be one year old in two weeks.

Another complication is that due to the Coronavirus, the woman is currently quarantined.  Therefore, the little boy is in the custody of his mom at the moment.  That could be a good thing.

From there, the situation becomes even more unusual. There is yet another child in her life.  He is two months old, and the youngest. She has had custody of him since he was born and the couple is in process of adopting him.

However – his original parents live with her.  They have unrestricted access to the boy and can see him whenever they want. They are for some reason very clear that they just don’t want to be his parents.  To that end, they also want her to pretend that she birthed him.  Again, to her credit, she isn’t okay with this. The parents do want to remain in his life as family.  They don’t want her to tell him they are his parents.

It is the reality that secrets rarely remain secret.  They have this nasty tendency to out themselves at some point.  Every adoptee will tell you one of the worst things about adoption is being expected to live a lie.  To not know who your parents are or important details about your life.  To have your name and birth certificate changed.

I would have thought society was moving beyond that but apparently not.

Coronavirus Orphans

This could be only the beginning of a new wave of orphans.  Sundee Rutter, 42, complained of feeling unwell on March 3 whilst recovering from surgery and thought she may have COVID-19.

The doctor’s told her she didn’t have it.  However, she self-quarantined at home for four days.  Then, she started having difficulty breathing and was admitted to a Washington hospital on March 7.  After one week of fighting, she passed away on Monday.

Sundee lost her husband some years ago and leaves her six children orphaned.  The six children range in ages from 24, down to 13.  Her children say she made it her highest priority to instill in all of them the highest values.  It was her hope that each of her children will make a positive impact on friends, family, and community.

Due to recently undergoing cancer treatment, Sundee simply didn’t have an immune system capable of pulling her through.  She had beat cancer but lost the battle for continuing her life due to the Coronavirus.

Sadly, I feel we will see more sad stories like this one.  I am heartened that there are two children that are 21+ in age plus one who will be in another year who can take over raising their younger siblings.  Though it is a big burden at such a young age, the children are old enough that they are unlikely to end up adopted or in foster care.

Orphans In An Epidemic

I became fascinated about a time in the history of Memphis Tennessee when I learned more about the circumstances of my mom’s adoption related to Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home.

Recently, the fact that few children get Coronavirus reminded me that something similar happened with the Yellow Fever that devastated Memphis TN in the late 1800s.  This caused a lot of orphans because the parents died but children continued living.

On August 13, 1878, Kate Bionda, a restaurant owner, died of yellow fever in Memphis. A man had escaped a quarantined steamboat and subsequently visited her restaurant. The disease spread rapidly and the resulting epidemic emptied and actually bankrupted the city.

Yellow fever was transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.  It came to the United States by way of West Africa and was brought here on slave ships. The disease required warm weather to survive.  It thrived in the wet and hot summers since that is when mosquitoes breed prodigiously. After a three-to-six-day incubation period, the afflicted person would experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever and aches. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it ?

After a very short remission, a more intense stage followed.  The victim vomited blood and suffered from liver and renal failure. Jaundice was a typical symptom (why it was called yellow fever). The victim usually died within two weeks. Survivors of the illness could still feel it’s effects for months.

Memphis, a city of 50,000, had outbreaks in 1855, 1867 and 1873, with each outbreak getting progressively worse. Those who came down with yellow fever were quarantined in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading. Often, they were made to wear yellow jackets as a means of identification.

In July 1878, an outbreak of yellow fever was reported in Vicksburg, just south of Memphis. Memphis officials reacted by stopping travel to the city from the south. However, William Warren, a steamboat worker, somehow slipped away and into Kate Bionda’s restaurant.

Most of the residents who were able to fled the city. Twenty-five thousand people picked up and left within a week. For the most part, it was the African-American residents who remained in town, although they died at a much lower rate than the white residents who contracted the disease. An average of 200 people died every day through September. There were corpses everywhere and near continual ringing of funeral bells. Half of the city’s doctors died.

The epidemic ended with the first frost in October, but by that time, 20,000 people in the Southeast had died and another 80,000 had survived infection. In the aftermath, open sewers and privies were cleaned up, destroying the breeding grounds for mosquitoes and preventing further epidemics.

Sister Constance of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral stayed in Memphis during the outbreak, going from house to house to care for the sick. Sometimes she found abandoned children amid the rotting corpses of their parents. She did eventually contract the disease and die.  Father Joseph Kelly of St. Peter’s Parish became known as the “Father of the Orphans” and “selfless caregiver among victims of Yellow Fever epidemics”. During the 1873-1878 epidemics, he evacuated all the orphans.