Eighteen’s Epilogue

There were a lot of great action television shows back when I was growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s. Programs like “Dragnet” and “The Streets of San Francisco” were great forms of escape, yet they still offered some semblance of urban life….although the grit was tamed considerably for the toothpaste crowd.  And in truth, they never did manage to portray hippies correctly, opting for the lampoon rather than trying to depict what was really going on in the youth culture.

What these iconic shows proved was the most fundamental rule of story telling….always offer a beginning, a middle and an end.   These guys went even one step further and offered and Epilogue…an extra bow on the package, a wee shaving of chocolate for the top of the cake.

Although my blog entry “Eighteen” seemed to sum things up, at least from the stand point of teen pregnancy, birth and the like there is more to the story.

On January 9, 1974 I went to the county court house and formally rescinded parental rights to my son, David Christopher.  In the weeks leading up to this momentous occasion, I was back at the family home, dutiful daughter by day….insomniac by night….nights too long for so many thoughts.

On the day of the hearing I got out of bed early.  Sun was streaming through my window.  The world mocked me by continuing to exist when I distinctly recalled putting in a prayer for it’s demise.  I prayed for an end to just my life too…either way would have been fine, I wasn’t particular.  But neither thing happened. The morning couldn’t have been prettier and I couldn’t have been more alive.

My memories of the hearing are hazy….like ancient, fuzzy t.v. kinnescope…I know it happened.  I was there…sort of.   I remember answering all the questions….most were simple yes/no responses that brought out the Inner Robot in me.

With each reply I felt bits of myself falling away until the last question…”Do you freely and willingly surrender all parental rights to…..”  I was quiet for a moment.  Maybe if I just said nothing it would all go away. Then…. The answer came from some place inside me, I know. I heard it….I felt the noise come up my throat and roll around in my mouth….when my lips parted, the word spilled out, landing on the air like a betrayal.  “Yes.”

Ed was too young to have a say in the proceedings, so his mother stood up for him and went through the same questioning.  Our parental rights were rescinded with a final tap of the gavel.  Done. Over. Ended. Gone.   I remember walking toward the courtroom door, pulling it open…then…nothing.  Then I was running down the hallway crying “I can’t…I can’t… I can’t”  ’til I found a bathroom.

Oh, I wanted to get sick, wanted to die immediately and was sooooooo pissed at God for not accommodating me at least this once!  My mother and Ed’s mother caught up with me, a rumpled heap on the municipal building’s marble bathroom floor.

I don’t remember the ride home.  A few weeks later, my Mom had to have an emergency hysterectomy so I became her nurse for about six weeks.  Ed and I saw one another regularly.  After Mom’s recovery was assured, I got a temp job at Dunn & Bradstreet in downtown Philadelphia.

Each morning the elevated/subway train went by the hospital where my birthson had been born.  I’d stare at the edifice as if expecting someone to wave and call out “Come and get your baby!”  But it never happened.

I requested and received a photo of my birthson through the foster care agency. I gave the agency a gold cross on a chain for him and they put it on him for the picture. I held this photo close to my heart through all the changes in my life. (And I still have it-in spite of everything)

After a few months, Ed and I became officially engaged.  We got married and tried to make a go of it, but I was crazy.  I was suffering bad side-effects from birth control, then started having false pregnancies. Then  I started loosing time.  

Our marriage lasted only two years.  Back then, my focus was only on my pain….but Ed was suffering too.
We tried to make things work but it was impossible.  I began to drink, often… then spiraled into a mental state that I’m still trying to understand.

I met Diane at a party at a friend’s house. We became fast friends and as my marriage ended we became room mates.  She knew me at my craziest.  I don’t know how she was able to cope…moving to California with a friend who was off their rocker and apt to change personalities like some people change socks….now that’s a friend!

California was the only place I could sort things out.  Back east I was too close to all the ghosts, too close to all the expectations heaped on kids by their well-meaning families….I needed time, distance and some real, live actual psychological help. None of that was going to happen in my hometown. People just didn’t have psychological problems, fer cryin’ out loud!  Least ways none that anybody would talk about in mixed company.

So in a very real sense, moving to California was an effort to save my life on every level.  I had to stop the spiraling insanity, had to restore a non-existent ego, had to face, sort and re-direct unexpressed emotions so they no longer did me harm.  It was a slow process, and I didn’t do it alone.

Call it what you will….Cosmos, Physics, Logic, Self-Preservation or God….I had help so that by the time my birthson found me, I was integrated, sober and sound.

Contemplation Ridge….rcw

When Ed and I were reunited with our birthson, a giant/huge weight was lifted from our hearts.  We were able to have our deepest, most burning questions answered….the baby boy we left at the hospital those many years earlier actually thrived and lived, grew into a fine young man who had hopes and dreams and had been given a good life. 

Knowing that made all the pain worth while.

These days I am just me…all me…no hidden characters waiting in the wings to take over when life gets too difficult.  I don’t drink like I used to….there’s an occasional sip-bourbon only please- but those days of all night boozing are a thing of the past. 

Why did all that have to happen?  One may well ask.  I can only answer with the thought that has sustained me.  Everything is as it should be.  Mark was destined to be here on this planet for what ever reason…he was apparently supposed to be raised by his parents and have his life and become the person he is today.

Ed was supposed to have his own life too, and he does….filled with purpose and happiness.

As for me?  I was destined to become who I am now, working on causes, hopes and dreams…It’s like I just had to go through an incredible baptism of fire to get to this point.  As for the future?   It’s a process… all of life is a process.  I’ll take my licks, learn my lessons and continue on my own path.  As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you strong.

Having Mark in my life is wonderful.  It’s hard getting to see him often, but we keep in touch.  He sees my folks fairly regularly and I’m glad of that   I know it must have killed my folks to follow the course they took back then, after all he had been their first grandchild.  I’m positive that seeing him has helped ease some of their longing, too.

So for today, Fifty Five Is the new Eighteen’s Epilogue because the story continues.

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