Monthly Archives: June 2007

Mom & Dad & hearts and minds

It’s funny. I can be resentful or angry at my parents. I can blame them for difficulties I have. But as soon as someone else badmouths them, or faults them I am reminded that they were always doing their best.

My niece recently challenged my brother, about why her grandparents “banished” me when I was pregnant, instead of letting me stay with them and keep my baby. He was only vaguely aware of my pregnancy and loss. He kind of remembered visiting me, once. It just now struck him that I may have been lonely.

Why did they do what they did? What were they thinking? Who were they trying to protect? Was it me? Was it themselves? What did they think would come of it?

I think I know. They consulted their pastor. They consulted the youth pastor. They talked to a couple friends who were at the top of the county social worker ladder. They sent me to a counselor. All the experts agreed. It would be for the best if I gave my baby up for adoption. The innocent babe deserved a better start in life than I could possible offer.

By the time I was showing I was clean out of town, a two hour drive. They told me it wouldn’t be acceptable for my grandparents, who were coming out for the winter, to see me in that condition.

How weak were my grandparents to not be able to see their pregnant teen granddaughter? I’ll never know what their reaction would have been at the sight of me. Banished. Grandpa wrote me weekly letters for the three months they were nearby. Lovely long letters about his walks through Appalachia and the characters he met. He was a good storyteller.

Not only were my grandparents spared the sight of my belly, so were the neighbors. People I had never felt accepted me were spared knowledge of my immorality. No one outside the family was to know, except the ones I told. And I told everyone I met. I think that’s why they wanted me out of town. I never developed an adequate sense of loyalty or appropriateness or discretion. They were trying to protect me from myself. If they could just keep this hushed up, until it was “over” (as if there is such a thing as “over”!) then I could “put it behind me” and “get on with my life”.

Did they really believe that?

The experts were all lined up with it. Just stick to the “plan” and she’ll get over it and start living up to her “potential”. Hmmmmmm… (What was my potential?)

So yeah, we were doing what we thought was right. Cleanly separating our hearts and minds. As though I could simply recover from such a tragedy if I could just keep a secret.

I was the second of three tragedies in the lives of their children. Their third child died of pneumonia at five years of age, having never even learned to lift his head or focus on another face. They’d never exhibited any shame about him. It was tragic, but not something to hide or deny. Their community supported them throughout that experience.

But my pregnancy was a source of shame. I was a source of shame. God, I’d started out so well. Lots of good marks until puberty when everything went to hell. They tried to corral me. They did everything they knew how. But this thing that I was was an uncontrollable mystery. After giving birth, I returned to their house for a couple months before setting out to find my way on my own, and through the kindness of strangers.

Roughly four years later they encountered the third tragedy in their children’s lives. My brother had a three year “psychotic episode”. Now that kept them busy! But they never tried to hide it. They were open with everyone, again consulting all the experts and wannabe experts. Looking in every corner for a solution. They campaigned. Once his life was “back on track” they stayed with the cause, researching, writing, lobbying and reaching out to other families with similar issues. They didn’t back down from public scrutiny unless there was a chance it could infringe on my brother. They were very aware of the stigma and discrimination towards the “mentally ill”.

So I wonder, how is it they were so open and supportive regardless of social stigma in the mental health tragedy after being so closed off and hidden with the pregnant teen? Was it just because my brother was the golden child? And what happened with him was through “no fault of his own”?

I feel a tinge of resentment about that golden boy status he resided in. And hey, that’s twisted, to be jealous of the one that had a 3 year psycho trip. Amen.

I’m sure they learned something through the tragedy of losing our own flesh and blood and the grief that followed ~ that was SO expanded and compounded by secrecy.

That fierce loyalty to what they THOUGHT was best, pledging allegiance to their minds over their hearts burst after a while. Their hearts were so big and full. But back when their teenage daughter fell pregnant, their minds overruled them — trapped them.


It’s vacation time and Buster is home for a couple weeks. Last night we were eating a great salad with some pitas and roasted red pepper hummus and some leftover lamb kebabs, just the two of us. I reminded him of how he helped me find the portrait of my grandma a couple summers ago and we lugged it around town trying to get it copied for Joy. And I told him that six months later when I completed that project, and sent it to her, that she was really happy about it! He smiled so big. He’s got a smile that really lights up a room. He said, “See, that wasn’t so hard. I mean it was a little bit hard. But not much.”

The hard part is dealing with my emotions.

I said, “Remember years ago when I told you the worst thing that ever happened to me was ‘when I put her up for adoption’? Well the next worst thing was finding out that was the worst thing that ever happened to her too.”

Then I started talking about Tomtom, my grandson, and how he and Buster have some similar expressions and interests. I told him about Tomtom’s painting and Joy’s parenting. Buster liked what he heard. He’s pleased to hear how she is loving and caring for Tomtom. I got a little carried away, the way grandmother’s are prone to do.

It was really easy, this long awaited event, bringing my family together in baby steps. So much of how they see each other is dependent on how I see myself and how I see them.

Lyrics for: Respect Yourself
if you disrespect anybody that you run in to
how in the world do you think anybody’s s’posed to respect you
if you don’t give a heck ’bout the man with the bible in his hand
just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing
you the kind of gentleman that want everything your way
take the sheet off your face, boy, it’s a brand new day
respect yourself, respect yourself
if you don’t respect yourself
ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
respect yourself, respect yourself
if you’re walking ’round think’n that the world owes you something
‘Cause you’re here
You goin’ out the world backwards like you did when you first come here Keep talkin’ bout the president, won’t stop air pollution
Put your hand on your mouth when you cough, that’ll help the solution
Oh, you cuss around women and you don’t even know their names
Then you’re dumb enough to think that’ll make you a big ol manwritten by Luther Ingram and Mack Rice