The Past And The Present

Back in September I wrote about my being adopted and shared something that my birth-mother had written about her alcoholism. It had required some explaining before I shared the poem she had written. Part of that setup I’ll repeat here….

I was given up for adoption at birth by parents who were unmarried and alcoholic. For the first six months of my life I was with foster families and then adopted by a loving couple who wanted a son and raised me properly in a good home. I’d always known I was an adoptee and never thought to search out the truth of where I’d come from until I had a health scare in 1994 at the age of 30.

When the pieces of the puzzle came together and I’d learned the identity of my birth family in December 1994, there was a sad and tragic revelation. My mother had died six months earlier, exactly the time I’d decided to look for her. I can’t fully describe the grief that hit me in the chest immediately upon hearing the words. I grieved hard for a woman that I’d never met and never would meet. The sadness of the missed opportunity to meet and know my real mother opened a floodgate of tears and dropped me to my knees, sobbing. She’d died too young and I’d found her too late.

Back then, the first person that I was actually able to contact and meet was my mother’s first daughter, Sandy. She was wonderful to me. She accepted me right away as her brother and introduced me to more of the people I’d found. Sisters, half brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews…my family had doubled in size really fast. Sandy was, and is, my half sister and I’ll be forever grateful for her loving acceptance and the compassion that she showed me.

Sandy and her husband moved away to a distant state some years ago. I hadn’t seen her in several years but we managed to stay in touch through Facebook and there were a couple of times we’d talked and texted. She’s been aware of my recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous and the changes in my life as a sober man. To me it’s seemed a little strange because our mother had eventually gotten sober through AA also. There really are no coincidences.

The knowledge that my birth-mother (and birth-father) had both been alcoholics was actually very helpful to me in having my moment of clarity. When the light bulb finally came on, it was like, OF COURSE. It only makes sense that I am alcoholic too! I think about what it must have been like for them often. It’s been enlightening for me to have this greater understanding of who my mother was, the decisions she made, and exactly what she must have gone through. Her story had always seemed tragic and painful to me. I’ve come to realize that her later years in sobriety were certainly happier.

Last week Sandy was in town. She called me and we arranged to have dinner together at a fancy new restaurant near my apartment. She and her husband both met me there and we were seated next to a big window with a nice view. I was hungry and looking forward to the meal and some long overdue catching up with Sandy. It was going to be special and memorable. I had no idea.

First thing, before we even looked at a menu, Sandy said she had something for me. Something she wanted to give me. She pushed a small blue book across the table. On the cover it said, “Twenty-Four Hours A Day”. Under that was the name of a hospital famous for alcoholic recovery, Rosary Hall.

“This was Mom’s,” she said.

Again, emotions are difficult to describe adequately. Surprise. Gratitude. Joy. Love. Connection. The mixture felt warm and right.  It felt like a circle was being completed. This was my mother’s book that helped her get sober in her beginnings. This was her book of daily thought, prayer, and meditation. I’d never had my own 24 hour book and now her book was mine. My heart felt light and yet immensely full. I still don’t know how I didn’t cry right then and there.

Inside the front cover was an inscription.

Nancy,

If you want to be happy- follow the instructions in this book every day.

Father John

A small piece of green ribbon was inside. It was a bookmark with what I’m sure was her sobriety date handwritten on it. May 19th, 1974.

The three of us had a really nice time. The food was good and we sat and talked for almost two hours. Lots of stories and catching up. I couldn’t stop smiling.

After I got home I texted Sandy to thank her again for the unbelievable gift. Something so personal and significant to me that it was beyond anything that money could ever buy. I realized that only now, at this point in my life, could it be something that I could truly appreciate. If I’d been given this book of Nancy’s more than just a few years ago, it would have meant nothing to me. It would have gone into a drawer as just a book that had belonged to her. But now I get it. I deeply appreciate what it means. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Sandy texted me back that Mom would have been pleased that I like the book.

I told her that I’m very sure that Mom is pleased. Right now. Right this moment.

24 hour book

 

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