I am sitting in front of the huge windows overlooking Frost Fish Cove in Harpswell, Maine at the home of my birth mother’s husband with whom I have remained close friends since her death. There is an unseasonal snow storm, a nor’easter blowing outside. The trees are still fully leafed and yet the wind rages and thick wet snow blows in from the sea. The ducks have sought shelter along the seaweed covered rocky outcroppings and ledge that make the Maine coast so beautiful and wild. The tide has just turned and is running out. We are now without power, though I can feel the faint humming of the generator.
I have come to be with my birth family as the great patriarch dies. The decision to come when I got the call that he was dying was made from the simple mind. There was no thinking or worrying or planning. I would wait until the weekend and I would go. After the decision was made, I had several difficult moments as I realized I was to stand at the death bed of the man who forced my adoption, against the will of his 18 year old daughter and his wife. A man larger than life always, he has reigned as the patriarch in this enormous, fraught family which I somehow stumbled into, the lost traveler, the child found. My aunts and uncles have gathered at Uncle Frank's to make the simple pine box that he will be buried in, a tradition which began with the death of my birth mother. I touch into the deep grief of the many losses. That I can feel these things now and sit with these feelings is a relatively new and momentous thing, a product of my willingness and my work. I stand at his bedside, he knows he is dying. He is 94.
A short story:
“She is so sweet, can’t we keep her?”
“No. If you come back here with that child, you will not be welcome in my house.”
My mother names me. The judge tells her that he hopes that she has learned her lesson. The birth certificate says “unknown” for the father. This is not true. Trauma happening. Gunshot wounds to the heart. Souls shrinking.
At 19, reunited, my face begins to appear in family photos and there can be no doubt. Yet, I live in multiple families, with two names. Who am I?
Dream: I am in my car and I realize that I am simple minded. The car is parked and I realize that I have forgotten how it works. I get out and walk around it, but I it has become a mystery. I am parked on a huge plaza. There is no one else around. The light looks strange. Across the plaza and down a side street, I know there is a man working. He is a mechanic and I know He is working there now. He is my care taker because I am simpleminded. I look up in the sky and I see a huge red moon or perhaps it is a planet, I do not know. It is impossibly huge and red. It is like there is an eclipse or something because it is semi-dark out and I can see stars. The moon looks like a huge red planet. My vision becomes disoriented and I feel like I can see multiple moons. I feel disoriented and dizzy, like the world it tilting. Then I am struggling with a sweater. I don’t know if I am taking it off or putting it on. I cry out. I know the man will hear me and come because He is my caretaker. Even though He is very far away, I hear Him say my name softly. “Beth”. I cough and 4 colored marbles land on the ground. I realize that He is right beside me. We look at the marbles which have now doubled in quantity and then the plaza cants and the marbles roll away. I know He will catch me if I fall.
And now another name. How many names do we carry in us? On this trip, I return to my homework, which is to feel into being the simple minded girl, with the world tilting, feeling that He is there to take care of me, to cry out and feel Him whisper Beth in my ear. Feel into knowing He is always right there for me. And, to let myself keep dropping to this other world, down to the underground, to the light, which is connected to His light. When I feel that I am hanging on or climbing out into the mechanical mind, let myself drop. I return over and over to the knowing that my world is tilting. I am hanging in the tunnel. I do not know what I hang onto, something above me or perhaps it is behind me. I see the gold light below my suspended and bared feet. When I let go, I am the simple-minded girl in a tilting world that no longer makes much sense but sure is amazing. I can be amazed because I know that He is there to catch me if I fall.
I stand at my dying grandfather’s bedside. He looks at me, one of many faces that have passed across his fading vision in the last few days. His eyes light up. I know he sees his daughter, my mother, in me. I look so much like her. When I leave, despite the others in the room, we have a moment to ourselves and he tells me he is glad I have come and that he is glad he has known me. I tell him that I am glad to have known him too. There is nothing left to say. We look at each other and I understand forgiveness. In the end, there is really nothing else.