The Caller

July 27-August 11, 1998

Once upon a time, there was a sweet, elderly woman. She had spent most of her life giving, and serving, and caring for others. She’d been a nurse, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and, of course, a daughter. She’d cared for her patients, her mate, her children, and her parents. She’d buried both of her parents, her second grandchild, and her husband.

After 8 years of widowhood, she met a man. When he asked her to marry him, he won her heart by declaring his desire to take care of her. Earlier in her life, she’d wanted passion and romance, but now, “being taken care of” sounded wonderful to her!

It was a good thing that these were the terms of their relationship, as shortly after the honeymoon, the bride suffered a debilitating stroke. Only after 18 months of daily therapy was she able to regain enough speech and motor control to be able to function semi-independently at home. Unfortunately, not long after achieving this accomplishment, a lump in her left breast led her to endure the rigors of chemo and radiation treatments.

One cold blustery day, she received a rare treat--a few moments alone! Her husband had gone to get a prescription refilled when her phone rang. It was a pleasant, professional female voice asking for her by her maiden name. She was then asked if it was a good time to discuss something of a “personal nature.” Confused, she asked what the call was about.

The Caller began a recitation of facts from the woman’s early life. She asked for confirmation that she was indeed speaking to the woman whose personal history matched these facts. Then, The Caller announced that she was calling on behalf of a person placed for adoption, a person searching for his birth mother. “Could you be the birth mother?” The Caller asked the sweet elderly woman. “My husband is coming in the house,” she responded. “Call me at 10:45 Tuesday morning. He has a doctor’s appointment then,” she stated as she hung up on The Caller.

When the phone rang at 10:57 on Tuesday morning, the elderly woman was exhausted with waiting. She picked up on the first ring and asked why The Caller was late. She then proceeded to tell The Caller that she had no interest what so ever in being in contact with the child she’d placed for adoption in her youth. Why had he waited so long, she demanded. Why NOW, she asked.

“I told my first husband about it,” she sighed. “He was very good, very understanding about it. He said it didn’t matter--it was The Past. I never talked to anyone else about it. What was the use? He was right. It was The Past!

“I just never thought to tell my present husband,” she continued. “It just never came up! But I don’t think he’d take it as calmly as Fred did. He doesn’t like surprises. He’s a retired pastor, did I tell you that? No--he wouldn’t like it if I told him. And what if he left me? I’m very ill. I couldn’t support myself! My kids certainly wouldn’t take me in after learning I’d kept a thing like this from them. Would this child I gave up all those years ago support me and care for me now that I’m old and sick? I don’t think so! No--you tell him that I said NO. Tell him I gave him up 46 years ago so he’d have a better, safer, more comfortable life. Ask him to please do the same now for me .”

HINT: Reunion advocates sometimes tend to paint birth mothers who refuse contact from their searching children as cold and cruel. Their refusal to accommodate an adoptee’s request for reunion is seen as selfish and inhumane. The truth may be that she is only being human and self-protective, not evil.

The birth mother in our story has given her whole life to the service and care of others. Now finally, she has found someone who wants to care for her, and it is doubly good because she really NEEDS to be taken care of at this point in her life. She’s old, she’s ill, she’s alone except for her second husband who knows nothing of the child she gave up nearly 5 decades earlier.

Would her husband have abandoned her? I don’t know. But SHE BELIEVED it. Would her children have turned their backs on her? Again, I don’t know. But SHE BELIEVED it. Her motives may not have been “noble” or “fearless” but they were HER’S. And, are they really so hard to understand?

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