Saturday, January 4, 2014

Help Me Find the Words I Need to Say

Two years ago, a young mother lost her life to cancer, leaving behind her husband and five year old daughter. I'll call the young mother, "Evelyn." We were co-workers and I would like to say we were friends.

This past October, around the time of the second anniversary of her death, I visited Evelyn's parents' farm. They open up the farm at Halloween to guests for hay rides, a pumpkin patch and corn maze. I wanted to take my kids to a pumpkin patch, so it worked out that we could do that while patronizing Evelyn's family farm. I recognized Evelyn's mom when we bought our tickets.

"Hi," I said, reintroducing myself, "I was a friend of Evelyn's, we worked together." I introduced my sons, the oldest who was just six months younger than Evelyn's daughter, and asked how Evelyn's daughter (who I'll refer to as "Grace") was. The mom's face fell, her hand covering her mouth, and she stepped out of the room. I looked up at the girl at the cash register, alarmed and confused. "It's a sensitive topic," she explained.

A few moments later, Evelyn's mom came back out and explained that Evelyn's husband hadn't allowed the family to have contact with Grace since Evelyn's death. "What?!" I said, "That's awful!" Evelyn's mother went on to explain the trials they had been through (literally and metaphorically), and said she desperately hoped he would change his mind.

I know Evelyn's husband, he worked for the same company in a different department, and he seems like a nice guy, a great guy even. I imagine there's more to the story, that he has his reasons, but whatever they may be, I can't imagine why he would choose to do this to his daughter. Especially considering that with the devastating loss of her mother, that side of her family was the only connection to her mom that Grace has left.

As an adoptee, it hit home, and it hit hard. Here was a girl who had family but it was ripped away from her. I can imagine what she's going through and what she will go through as she gets older and can push back. Taking someone's family away is damaging, devastating and disorienting. It just doesn't make sense. Doesn't he know? Doesn't he realize that Grace is half Evelyn, and that half is a compilation and combination of all of Evelyn's family? Why doesn't he realize that's important, crucial to her identity and individuality?

I want to reach out to him, to explain these things that somehow he doesn't realize on his own. It's been three months since I found out about the break and I still haven't found words non-judgemental enough so that he will be able to hear me. And I want him to hear me. I want to explain why it's worth it, that whatever is going on for him, whatever his reasons are, that they're not more important than allowing his daughter to know her family.

I feel Evelyn's ghost looming over me, asking me to help. After all, this is why I write about adoption and reunion, this is the point - to help people understand what it's like to be separated from family, why it's important to have that connection, and that we need to make changes to allow that to happen. I am hoping that in connecting with you, you who actually understand, I'll find the words I need to say.