Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Before I moved to Ohio, I had no idea how much it rains up here. (I say "up here," you understand, because I was born in Florida and have spent the bulk of my adult life in DC and Arizona.)

I love being in a house with open windows and gentle breezes flitting through. I loved living in Tucson, and hated that day each year (approximately May 15) when I knew the air-conditioner had to go on and would not be turned off until–probably–October.

I hated the Ohio winter of 2014. I grumbled, I complained, I added five pounds to my physique. But I lived through it.

One can always layer on more sweaters.

But this interminable wetness. Ugh!

Today I am envying all my friends and acquaintances who have central A/C. (We have two window units we bought last summer. But one has to leave the bedroom/family room at some point during the day. Window ain't Central!)

Everything I own is damp. My clothes. The sheets on my bed. All the furniture, hard or soft.

Even the basement–my hidey-hole to which I escape when it's too hot or too cold upstairs. The dehumidifier is running constantly and cannot keep up with all this moisture.

The upside? The high temperature today will only be 74°. Sure, the humidity is 92% and it's going to rain all day. (Oh, look. I'm writing this on the back porch and I just noticed it's raining now.) But it could be 99° and 99% humidity.

This ain't all bad.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Your Moral Obligation

That's me, on my first birthday. I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. To my utter delight, 70-or-so friends sent wishes on Facebook. One son wrote a beautiful tribute to me on Facebook, the other (who lives nearby and talks to me almost daily) texted me. Close friends mailed cards. My two closest female friends sent lovely gifts, and the Jazzman gave me hugs and kisses and a fabulous Bose Bluetooth device to connect to my iPhone and iPad for playing music with Bose playback quality. I had a wonderful day. I felt loved and treasured by my friends.

So who didn't I feel loved and treasured by? Why, my mother, of course. I hadn't spoken with her since my trip to North Carolina at the end of May for her 101st birthday. That's three weeks. Sometimes I get busy and forget to call. Sometimes I'm so discouraged after phone calls with her that I just don't put myself out to call, as I don't want to feel that discouragement again.

Let's be clear here. The woman's brain is in great shape. Her hearing is dicey, but her mind works fine. She—understandably—gets discouraged with not being able to hear conversations around her. And so she won't attempt to carry on a conversation. But she is perfectly capable of doing so when she's willing to put forth the effort.

But she is and always has been a narcissist of the highest order. You know the saying, "It's not all about you"? Well, everything is all about her. Even fifty years ago when her hearing was fine, thankyouverymuch, she wouldn't listen to the conversation. She would just say what she wanted you to hear without paying any attention to you or what was going on with you.

She has two beautiful grandsons (my two sons) and two incredibly beautiful great-grandchildren (again, my offspring). But she is not one whit interested in them or their lives. My older son neglected to thank her for a Christmas gift about 22 years ago and she wrote him off then and there. She never asks me how they are or what they've been up to. Here's the thing: She. Doesn't. Care.

To give you an example, I can remember many conversations where I'd say, "I have a performance this weekend with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus" or something to give her similar insight into my life. She would not respond with questions about what we were singing or how I enjoyed that activity. She would say, "My neighbor's daughter sings in her church choir." Hey, Lady, I don't care about your neighbor's daughter. I want you to care about your daughter. Oops, your adopted daughter. I forgot, momentarily, that I don't matter to you.

But back to the topic at hand. Amidst all my birthday greetings, I heard nothing from my mother. She couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone and call me. I refused to call her, mentally challenging her to call me. #FAIL. Monday afternoon, after returning from the lovely birthday weekend on the shores of Lake Erie, I called her. She sounded glad to hear my voice. She asked when I was coming to visit again. (I wanted to say, "Why should I?" Instead, I told her I have rehearsals twice a week from the second week of July through three September performances, after which the Jazzman and I are heading to California for a week's much-needed vacation.) She asked if I had a nice birthday. (What? You couldn't pick up the damned phone and wish me a happy birthday?) When I would try to carry on a conversation with her, she would sing or hum into the phone. The nurse walked in to test her sugar and then to give her the required insulin injection, and she kept me on the phone while talking to the nurse.

After a whole lot of nothing, I was able to get off the phone. As I pushed the End button on my phone, I yelled—to the no-one who was listening—"just shoot me now."

And in the middle of the night, awakened by a hairballin' cat, I lay in bed, listening to the thunderstorm and thinking about Mother's attitude toward me since I was six days old and she brought me home from the hospital to adopt.

Here's what I would say if she and I were ever in therapy together:

When you adopt a child, it's your duty to enable that child to feel loved, to feel secure, to grow up as a person who matters to her family—the family who chose her.

It doesn't matter how much or how little love you have to give. It doesn't matter how your parents treated you. Whatever amount of love is swirling inside of you, you have to give this adopted child more. You have to give more than you have to give, as difficult as that is. You chose to adopt her; now you are saddled with the inadequacies of her genetic line. It seems hard? Tough. Your inability to love her makes it even tougher on her.

You cannot and must not just write her off when the going gets tough.

I asked Mother one time, shortly after my first divorce, why she didn't give me more guidance in some aspect of life that was troubling to me at the time. She made a statement I can never forget:

"When you were 14 I didn't know what to do with you, so I just washed my hands of you."

And after another conversation at a later date:

"All you adopted kids had problems."

I was raised by this woman to believe I was dumb, ugly and incompetent. I'm now 64 years old, hold a B.S degree and a J.D., have two children, two grandchildren, and a DBF—all of whom love me deeply and unwaveringly—and I still struggle daily with the thoughts that I don't fit in anywhere, don't belong, am not a person that anyone wants to have around. I fight these thoughts Every Single Day. Don't tell me to go to therapy. I've had years of therapy. And in my mind, in my mental baggage, I still don't fit in.

Okay, it could be worse. It could be so much worse. But these are my feelings and this is my blog, so I'm going to tell you:

When you adopt a child, you have a moral obligation to pour love and security and the tools for self-worth into that child. You have a moral obligation to enable her to develop into a grounded member of society.

If you can't do this, then don't do it. Don't adopt. Don't further cripple this baby or child so that, as a 64-year-old adult adoptee, she still struggles with daily pain.

Don't keep breaking her heart over and over again.

Be responsible.