Friday, August 28, 2015
The Two Mothers at Patrick's Wedding
This blog contains a lot of intensely personal stuff, so if you're not up for that this morning, or if you're tired of my sharing this sort of thing with you, by all means go on to whatever is next on your schedule, no hard feelings. In my currently quiet existence, you've all become my society, and it's your own fault that your easy affection and your total acceptance of all who venture here has made it easy to spill my guts.
Patrick is our middle child, our second son. At 51, he's gorgeous, sweet, stubborn, and charming, and has finally found the love of his life. (The reason it's taken so long is the stuff of romance-novel-hero back story, but not mine to tell. This comes from my perspective as his mom.) He and Jeane (say, Gina) were married last Saturday in their backyard, a woodsy setting in Oregon's Coast Range. But what was even more beautiful than the setting was the love Ron and I found there.
We've adored Jeane for years, so love from her was no surprise, but what happened at the wedding is that sweet, full-circle thing we hope we'll all come to but can't be sure about.
But, before I get to that . . .
You all know we adopted our three children as a family because their parents had had a difficult situation neither could deal with at the time. I don't know the details, just that they were good people caught in a bind. Anyway, Ron and I built our lives with the children and told them over and over (as the books on adoption advise) that their parents gave them up because they loved them and wanted them to have a better life than they could provide. When our daughter, Kathy, the youngest, was married and planning a family, she told us she wanted to look for her biological family because their health history could be important to her children's future. Made good sense to me. So we started a search with what we knew about them. This was 1988, just before you could find anything and everything with the right Google search.
We were blocked in every direction until Kathy found a website called Seekers of the Lost. It had a database of 2,000,000 names - really new online at that time. Within days, she'd found their biological father, who was still in touch with his ex-sister-in-law, who put them in touch with their mother.
Everyone was excited, including Ron and me. Eventually, we were introduced to their father when he came to Astoria to visit. The kids went to Washington state to meet their mother, whom we eventually met when she came here to visit. They were clearly lovely people, and who knows what any of us would do with our backs against the wall and no one to turn to.
Anyway, over the years, I know they've visited often. I've never asked questions and they haven't shared too much.
So, Patrick called about six weeks ago, telling me his natural mother was in the area and he thought he should invite her to the wedding, but wouldn't if it would in any way offend us. I assured him it absolutely would not.
Honestly, I'm trying hard not to come off as the virtuous woman who is selfless and noble. The truth is that motherhood was so much harder for me than I'd expected, and as I recall, I was often testy and my voice was several decibels higher than it should have been. To dilute the guilt I feel about that, I'm determined to make future family gatherings as harmonic as possible. I want the kids to know that both their families love them and are fine with each other.
I spotted their other mother before the wedding began and headed toward her. She saw me and by the time we met in the middle, we both had our arms open. She said how much she appreciated our willingness to share. My only proprietary message was that I was happy to share - I wouldn't relinquish anything - but the children she'd give birth to were remarkable and I was happy to share. She hugged me again.
With the casual nature of the wedding, the bride and her father were the only ones who walked down the aisle - a path made with tall alder branches decorated with mason jars filled with wild flowers. It was beautiful. When the ceremony was over, Jeane went to embrace her mother and step-father, and Pat came to wrap his arms around us. Then he turned to embrace his biological mother and she burst into tears. I was so proud and pleased.
When champagne was poured, Gina's step-father made the dearest toast to his wife and Jeane's father, stepping out of the middle to congratulate them on the beautiful daughter they'd made and how she'd enriched all our lives. Her family were just the kind of people you hope your kids will connect with to swell the ranks of your own.
Everyone was touchingly attentive to Ron, who would have had a terrible time in his walker negotiation the beautiful hillside. It was uneven grounds with roots sticking up and brambles to catch your feet. But Mike (our oldest), Pat, Gary (our son-in-law) and Sean, the bride's daughter's boyfriend (are you still with me?) literally carried him and his walker up and down and back and forth. He first apologized for presenting such a problem, and when they assured him they considered it part of their fitness programs, he just relaxed and enjoyed it, thinking of them as his personal sedan chair.
We have been intoxicated by the whole experience ever since.
This life lesson was about how freeing it is to love without caution, without fear that if you open up, you'll lose something. Nine times out of ten, you don't. You just find more to embrace. The kids' natural mother could have resented us, been suspicious of us, or simply disliked us because we had what had once been rightfully hers. But she didn't. She embraced us. Now we all have everything.