She was mindful, sensitive. So caring. I find myself wondering how did she survive in this family?
This family where everyone only thinks of themselves.
This family that didn’t see her kids as a part of it.
My uncle, her brother, stated, “She died without issue.” When reading her will.
I didn’t even know what that meant.
Legal terms for meaning she didn’t have any children.
But she did.
She had two of us. Two of us that believed, felt and were her children.
I always knew we were adopted. But I didn’t feel that way until she died.
She had gotten sick as a teen. An auto immune disease they said was like Lupus, but wasn’t.
At the age of 18, she was seen as a medical abnormality. Poked, studied, prodded by med students, boys, she would have otherwise probably flirted with but instead were viewing her as a freak.
Something to figure out instead of a peer. Having to strip down in front of them so they could examine her rashes. Her face blowing up from the prednisone to a point she didn’t recognize herself.
Her identity stripped. Her self-esteem obliviated.
Her kidneys failed, then she was told she would never have children. A hysterectomy performed.
Now, her future, her hopes and dreams, what she thought she would be, a mother, stolen in a moment.
She could have given up. A part of her might have wanted to.
In all the uncertainty, my grandpa would whisper in her ear daily, “You’re going to be ok, Lindy.”
He would pray with her, over her, to her. Her fragile hands in his rough, calloused ones.
She lost her faith while he doubled down.
She saw his persistence. His determination. His certainty she would be ok.
Even though she didn’t believe, she began believing he did. She borrowed his faith. She relied on his beliefs.
She faked it till she made it.
Her body weak, but her will strong enough to not give up. To keep going.
She got better. Her disease went into remission.
She met a recent divorcee, Rick. He asked her to marry him 3 months later.
She was stunned. She couldn’t believe someone would want to marry her with her unknown health problems and inability to have children.
She jumped at the chance at a future that resembled the one she dreamed of and thought she lost as a child.
She became a teacher to be around children. Loving them, teaching them as if they were her own.
The throbbing ache deep inside her still not fulfilled.
She asked about adoption.
Again, she fought. She was strong enough to not give up.
They adopted my sister. Four years later, they adopted me.
My name in foster care was Amy.
She named me JoAnna. Giving me a fresh start. Soon, calling me by the nick name Josie.
She brought the same love, the same mindful teaching she had learned with her students into my life.
She told me daily how much she loved me. How much she wished and dreamed I would one day be hers.
And I was. In every way.
She vowed I would never see her sick as she was.
Her love, her safety, her security was like a magical shield. An impenetrable bubble of protection.
Shielding me from the view of the world. Even the views of the rest of the family.
Strong enough to love me past their inability to.
Her and my father, Rick, fought a lot.
It would become physical. Her love shield became a real one when that physicality would turn on us. When he would reach back, fist closed, and she would grab his arm, hanging all her weight on it, so he couldn’t hit hard.
When he would shake her off, dropping her to the ground, she would quickly crawl over to me. Lying on top and taking the blows.
She had her tail bone broken, stitches, bruises.
She was strong enough to keep fighting. To not give up.
When she turned 43 and I was 13, her disease came back. The auto immune that attacked her own body.
She vowed to fight. Determined I would never see her as sick as she once was.
She was strong. Taking all her medications. Leaving her beloved teaching job due to her disability. She prayed. And she fought.
But, so did they. Even at her weakest state.
When she could barely walk. Minutes after coming home from a hospital stay, he slammed her head into a mirror as I stood in the doorway.
Something in me snapped.
I screamed and lunged my body forward. As she fell to the floor, I laid on top of her. I became my sick mother’s shield.
I never felt his blows. I only felt her strength underneath me. Even as she laid limp. How much more courageous she was then he. How much stronger she was than he could ever be.
It finally stopped. He huffed out of the room. I crawled off my mother eagerly asking is she was ok.
Nervously wondering if she was conscious.
She slowly opened her eyes. I helped her up and supported her to the bed. Her lack of emotion rattling me.
I laid her down, repeating, “Are you ok? Are you ok?”
Her eyes were blank. She didn’t look back at me.
She said, “I want to go back.” “Back where?” I asked. “The hospital?”
At that moment, I realized her fight was gone.
She went back and days later she died.
I’ve been haunted by her death ever since.
After her death, I saw how much she was my shield. How much she hid from me. How sheltered I was in her love bubble.
I saw how much she endured. I saw what she faced, what she protected me from. Through the neglect, I saw her effort.
I broke. I became unrecognizable to myself. In the unknown, the uncertainty, in her loss, my identity was stripped. My self-esteem obliviated.
I wondered how she lasted so long. How she was strong enough to endure. I ran away. I stayed with other families, but I always ended back with him. In the same house, she managed to survive in for so long. Then, I realized, what she endured for a lifetime, I only had to for a few more years. I couldn’t give up. This family, this house, was only temporary for me.
She taught me how to keep going, but from her I also learned when to walk away.
I now carry her with me. She has taught me how to become my own shield. To recognize when I’m not valued or mistreated. To ignore the opinions that I don’t agree with. To stay true to who I am and what I want. But also, when to go.
So, as of now, my DNA is being "processed" with ancestry.com. The results should be here in 2-4 weeks. Maybe a story will come, maybe a discovery, maybe more information, maybe not. I'm hoping, no, I know, in this journey, that shield, that voice, will let me know when it is time to let go... for now my instinct is telling me to keep going.
I'm not looking for a replacement for my mother. No one could. I'm only searching for a puzzle piece of who I biologically am. This is something I want to know. I will continue to fight for that truth... or I'll listen for when it is time to walk away... just as my mother taught me.
We'll see what happens... and I'll keep you posted. =)