Questions for My Mother

The story of my mother’s life is the saddest story I’ve ever heard.

I have pieced together a rough draft of her life, based on documents and interviews with family members and a close friend. I only have bits and pieces, not the whole story. What I’ve woven together is far from complete but the more I learn about my mother, the more I want to know.

Born around 1934 in rural Indiana, my mother had enough brothers and sisters to fill a classroom. She was one of about 14 or 15 children. Feeding and sheltering that many kids proved impossible for her parents who struggled through the Depression. My mother and her siblings were separated, sent to live as foster children in the homes of strangers.  One of my mother’s foster moms was a woman with a “wicked tongue,” according to her daughter. My mother cleaned the family’s house and did other chores. She liked to draw and read fiction. She also looked after her foster mother’s children and grew especially close to one of her foster sisters, who looked up to her. The girl wept when my mother left for Indiana University.

She never earned a degree. My mother married young and had several children. They all lived in a simple bungalow in a suburb north of Chicago. My mother was known for her great cooking and lively personality. People I talked to recalled how nice and sweet she was sober. After a few drinks, the sweet attractive woman morphed into someone who could be belligerent and aggressive, a woman who talked a lot and would not let go of a grievance.

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Courtesy of Flickr/Carrie Ann Images

My mother already had four children when I came along. Her husband had every reason to believe I was another man’s child so after I was born, my mother gave me up to a couple in their 50s. They adopted me and never told me I was adopted.  My mother and her husband eventually divorced and she raised her four kids on her own for a while. She worked as a waitress.

She married again and her second husband was said to be good to his stepchildren. My mother’s oldest, a boy, was born with developmental delays. Her second child was a girl. Her third child, a boy who did very well in school, helped keep the family together. Tragically, as a teenager, he took his own life after breaking up with a girl. The death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and suicide adds another layer of pain. My mother was never the same after that.

She was coping with breast cancer when her third son, a troubled young man, was seriously hurt in a motor vehicle accident. Divorced again, my mother took care of her injured son and herself at home.  I was told near the end of her life, she and her son lived in a rented cottage on a lake in northern Illinois, a place where my mother felt at peace. She was about 48 when she died. Left behind was her son, who eventually died from complications related to the accident.

My mother was gone before I even knew she had existed.  If I could talk to her, I would ask a lot of questions.

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Courtesy of Flickr/Mikecogh

What would you do differently if you could re-live your life? How did you and my father meet? What did you see in him? What’s his name and what is he like? How did you feel about giving me up for adoption? Did you meet my adoptive parents?

I don’t resent her at all for giving me up. She did what she had to do and I’m sure it made perfect sense at the time. It makes perfect sense to me now.  In that situation, I probably would have done the same thing.

My one regret is never having had a chance to look into my mother’s dark eyes and talk to her.

31 thoughts on “Questions for My Mother

  1. A wonderfully written story. I can understand your feelings and am, indeed, the fortunate benefactor of your birth mother’s decision to give up for adoption. However, I am relieved you will never have interaction with a woman who made many other bad choices in her life, damaging those she should have protected. Love you much sister..

  2. Lynne – I’m both amazed and stunned (once again) by all the detailed information that you have uncovered here. Although your biological mother had an extremely rough life, it’s clearly a testament to her perseverance despite all the hardships she had endured.

    Little did I know back in high school, that someday you would become the center of one of your own stories – figuratively and literally. On the other hand, you’re now aware of the breast cancer factor and the addictive component in your own gene pool – both a curse and a blessing in disguise, that should make you more proactive about screenings.

    Surely this has been an emotional journey for you. I sincerely hope some answers are becoming clearer and this gives you a little bit of peace of mind.

    Be well, my friend.

    Cara

  3. Hi Cara. I was also stunned and quite sad to learn about my mother’s life. It’s depressing. But in my heart, I thank her for making the decision she made to give me up for adoption. It was the right thing to do under the circumstances. I really want to find out about my father so I can complete the story in my mind. And it is very useful to know about my mother’s health history.

    Thanks for reading and posting a comment!
    Lynne

  4. I’m just curious…

    Are the two eldest children still living, if you know? Where did you unearth all this information from? This was quite a story to tell.

    This dispels my “Jewish roots” (Skokie/Northbrook connections) hunch….so, I think.

  5. Hi Lynne,
    What an amazing story and so detailed.
    It’s hard to imagine the life these women, our Mothers had to endure. I’m happy you have collected these pieces…it all helps. Have you done 23andMe?
    Namaste

  6. Sad how young she was when she died and that she lost two childre – one to adoption and another who predeceased her.

    You say: ” I thank her for making the decision she made to give me up for adoption. It was the right thing to do under the circumstances” yet it may not have been much of a “decision” at all if her husband rejected you as not being his. he made have forced the issue.
    Do you never think – if she was able to raise 4 why not 5? I think I would!

  7. The Adopted Child

    Somebody’s adopted child today
    Will linger all alone
    Hoping her birth mother will call
    Before the day has flown.
    Somebody’s adopted child will weep,
    Heartbroken and stunned tonight,
    Because her first mother gone
    Forgot to call or write.
    Somebody’s adopted child somewhere
    Will kiss with lips of grief,
    Portraits of a birth mother unknown
    And cry herself to sleep.

    Judith Land

  8. Melissa & Lynne – I think you’re both very lucky to have each other. All things considered, having known your parents, they raised you well to be two good women, spouses and mothers. They were kind, happy, stable and solid people who did their best. Gratitude is such a small word to type here.

  9. Let me know when you are ready to explore DNA testing. For now you might want to read Richard Hill’s amazing book Finding Family. I have been through Family Finder testing and I would recommend you also check out Bennett Greenspan’s video at http://www.familytreedna.com.

    Marilyn

  10. Lynne, that is such a sad story, but I’m so glad that you got some answers. I think the ambiguity and uncertainty is harder; the truth should at least provide some answers — and a million new questions. Your birth was a joy to your parents and your birth mother would have loved to see what a wonderful person you are.

  11. Lynne, you wrote such a moving story about your birth mother. It is amazing how you were able to piece together all that information. I remember when you first started this journey – you’ve come so far. I’m so happy for you and glad that we are friends.

    Mary

  12. Thanks for the kind words, Chris. You’re a good friend. You’re right. It’s better to know what really happened. I would rather know the truth even if it is sad. Lies don’t serve any purpose.

  13. Thanks, Mary. I’m glad I started this journey. I would rather know what really happened than to spend the rest of my life in the dark. Thanks for being such a good friend.

  14. Hi Marilyn. Richard Hill’s book is what motivated me to start my search. It’s great book. I had known for years that I was adopted but didn’t do anything with the information. Reading that book inspired me to take action. I would like to take a DNA test but I’m not sure which one would be best for my purposes. I’d like to use DNA to find my father and also find out about my ethnic background.

    I will check out Bennett Greenspan’s video. Thanks so much for sending the link.

  15. You raise a good point, Mirah. Perhaps my mother’s husband actually made the decision and my mother had no choice at all. How sad! But knowing what I know, I still believe it was a good decision.

  16. Hi Claire. Thanks for reading my blog! No, I haven’t pursued 23andMe. That’s the DNA test company? Have you used a DNA test? If you did, I would love to know how it worked out.

  17. Hi Cara. My nother’s two oldest children are still alive. All the information I have is based on documents and discussions with family members and a close friend.

    We can’t rule out your Jewish theory yet. I don’t know anything about my bio dad so stay tuned!

  18. I am very grateful to have all this information, Cara. It’s part of my history. When you are not adopted, you take your family history for granted and don’t have to go out of your way to uncover the truth. Adopted people, especially those of us who were never told we were adopted, face obstacles like sealed records. It’s a relief to have some answers about my roots.

  19. Hi Lynne! What a moving story you told us in New York! I am in awe of how much information you have been able to find about your mom! Please let us know what additional details you find out about your family. How wonderful it will be for Jake to know about his Grandma too! Keep on searching. Love, Deb

  20. I really feel for your birth mother, Lynne. What a wonderfully detailed, if a bit sad, portrait of you learning more about the life she lived. I wish you peace with everything you uncover and hope you can learn even more, hopefully happier, details about your mom.

  21. Hi Stephanie. Lillian had a hard life, no doubt about it. I feel sympathy for her. I also feel like I’m on a fascinating journey. It feels like I learn something new everyday about my mother and the people who were in her life.

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