Archive for the ‘Abandonment’ Category

Finding My Marbles

May 25, 2010

From my journal of 2001: All my life my mom has used the phrase ‘losing my marbles’ as a metaphor for going crazy. At 90, Mother says it about as often as I call her on the phone. Her memory is what she’s losing, and it’s sad to witness. But while Mother is losing her marbles, I’ve been finding them!

It all started when my neighbor Sheila invited me to see John Edward, the famed medium; she had tickets to his local talk. It was about a year after Sheila’s husband Richard died, and we had had several discussions about the After Life and whether we believed in connections with those who’ve gone ahead. We both held hope, but professed a healthy skepticism.

At the event in Scottsdale, John Edward scooted around the room like a psychic Phil Donahue, microphone in hand, foreshadowing his performance on his TV show, Crossing Over with John Edward. At the end of the evening, he said to the audience of about 750 that we might be disappointed because no one had come through to speak to each of us, then he led us in a group relaxation exercise, then advised us to think of a loved one who had ‘crossed over’ and ask them to give us a sign: something concrete: something to hold in the palm of our hand. He said it could come within a few days or a few months, but we would know when it happened. In the exercise I tried to think of various people, but the first person who popped into my head was my dad, who had died in 1984. I put on my standard skeptic role and went on with my life, not telling a soul of this experiment.

Several weeks later I stepped out of my car at mid day in the parking lot at Costco, and spied an iridescent marble on the ground. I picked it up and put it in my purse, thinking of 8 year old Shon, whose mother had told me that the Big Boys took away his pouch of marbles when they moved to a new apartment complex. When I came back out of the store, I found another marble like the first, and put it with the first, confirming mentally my plan to give these to Shon to start a new marble collection. Within a couple of weeks I had lunch with Shon and his mom; afterward, he played with the marbles, allowing his mom and me to talk in peace.

I thought nothing more about marbles. For awhile.

Then about a month later, I pulled into my driveway in a rental car, pending a business trip the next day. Because I parked behind my own car in the driveway, when the door swung open, I was in a different location than my usual place. In the dust next to the cement was a half-hidden piece of glass. Still sitting in the car, I reached down and picked it up. When I saw that it was a cat’s eye marble, blue in color, sitting in the palm of my hand, something clicked.

When we were little, my sibs and I played with a toy from Daddy’s childhood: a big cat’s eye marble about 1 ½ inches in diameter. It was chipped by the time we were around, and flat on one side, but we liked to heft it and look at the swirl of colored glass captured inside the globe. Sitting there in the car, I thought, “Could this be the sign from Daddy?”

Since then, finding marbles has become a regular thing. I found a marble in the parking lot next to my car at work. I found a marble while on the way to pick up lunch at a conference. I found another one alongside the roadbed while on a walk.

When I next visited Mother in Texas, I opened the kitchen drawer to look for a flipper to turn my fried egg, and a light blue marble – the color of Daddy’s eyes – rolled loudly from the back to the front of the drawer! When I went to Alaska (a state my dad had wanted to visit, but never did) I woke at 3 AM to see the Big Dipper framed in the door of the tent where we slept – exactly like the Alaska State Flag! When I got to the bath house to relieve myself (the reason I had awakened) there was a bud vase on the counter that held not flowers, but cat’s eye marbles. A week later, after meeting with a new client, a Mexican National whose husband had perished as they crossed the border in the 120° heat, leading her to make a voluntary adoption plan for the baby she would not raise alone, I was astonished to see a lone marble lying on the floor of her kitchen. When I asked how come it was there since there are no children living in her apartment, she commented (through the interpreter) that it must have been left there by the little boy whose mother was her friend and lived in another apartment nearby.

When I find my marbles, I always feel loved, and like my dad is sending his approval. Sometimes, I keep them. So I have marbles tucked away in my purse, in my desk at work, in the container here at my home desk that also holds paperclips. Sometimes I leave them alone, like the one in the client’s kitchen or the one in my mom’s kitchen drawer.


My friend Diana suggested I start a ‘marble journal’ so I can record these reminders that I am loved. Here goes . . .

11-26-04 At Mother’s, in Texas. The clock next to Mother’s chair hasn’t been working; the reason was that the extension cord mounted next to her chair was plugged into itself. After she went to bed, I found that to fix it, I had to pull Mother’s chair away from the wall to reach the wall socket. There, buried in the carpet under Mother’s chair, was a light blue marble—the color of Daddy’s blue eyes! I was comforted by a sign that he’s watching over her.

1-13-05 Following Mother’s funeral, we sibs began to break up the household: boxing things to save, to take, to store for future retrieval. We family members were all working different rooms, different areas of the house. We found marbles in various places: in her bobby pins, in her junk jewelry tray, inside a drawer. Mid-afternoon, my sister Nita (who knew I was ‘finding marbles’) walked in and handed me a soft case meant for cosmetics. I opened the clasp, and inside there were about 40 marbles, many of them cat’s eye marbles. I carried them home, and they are near my computer in my home now.

5-13-05 When I was on Nantucket Island visiting a family I helped form, I was assigned to Tink’s bedroom. It was peaceful to sleep with windows wide open, a sea breeze blowing through the room and to hear the foghorn at night. On my first morning there, I was lazing on the bed, looking at my surroundings. There, in a small vase, was a bunch of marbles. Later in the day, I told my marbles story to Tink and her family.

4-12-06 I went to Missouri to visit my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday this year. We were at the Lewis and Clark exhibit in Nebraska City, and there was a bag of marbles for sale. I didn’t buy it; just seeing it there made me feel better.

6-24-06 Today Sheila wrote that she wants to get together when she gets back from her summer trip to NH. She found a marble and saved it for me. “I figured this time I am the messenger.” (I used to take her son Drew change I found, which Sheila identified as their message from Richard.)

8-31-06 My surgeon confirms that the gall stone she removed from my diseased gall bladder last week was round and black, 1.7 cm in diameter. “It looked like a big black marble,” Dr. Laura said cheerfully, with no knowledge of the meaning of that statement to me. I feel I have lost my ultimate (self-made) marble.

9-21-06 I met my Flagstaff friend, Janet at The Cheesecake Factory and we had a nice visit while we ate supper. I told her my marbles story, a followup to her forwarded email which incorporated marbles that appeared and disappeared in the text. As we left to go to our cars, we made a rest stop. Exiting the restroom, I noticed the graceful handle on the exit door that incorporated six or seven marbles in the design

7-10-07 Heather went with me to Payson on a business trip. While I worked, she took the car and explored the town which she had never before visited. When she picked me up, there was a marble she had found next to the car in the parking lot at the hotel that morning.

2-18-08 On a work holiday, I decided to pull weeds while the ground was soft from recent rains and the weeds were tender. Soon I was sitting on a palette of wilted weeds while I pulled the plants within arm’s reach, enjoying the smell of the earth and the sun on my shoulders, and a mockingbird sang from a nearby tree. I was thinking about my mom, who spent many hours of her last years contentedly pulling weeds in her yard. I spied a marble buried in the mulch. It was a blue cat’s eye marble, with one side sheared off so that it doesn’t roll. It was just the shape of the big marble that we used to play with as kids.

2-21-08 I drove to Casa Grande today, to meet with the family from Nantucket who had come to Arizona to visit Jackson’s birth family. Tink handed me four marbles from her collection, so I traded her two I had in my purse. It felt good to have my marbles story validated this way.

6-26-09 In Montana, at Gloria’s rental house, we were climbing the back stairs to go inside. From the landing, I noticed some color in the thick grass. When I investigated, I found a bright yellow marble!

8-5-09 At my new office, setting up new furniture. One of the lamps has metallic marble pulls at the end of each chain. An office suite-mate gave me a small, hinged-lidded trinket case, perfect for displaying the gift from Janet, from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.


Reviewing: “Without a Map, a Memoir” by Meredith Hall

January 13, 2009

The year was 1965; the place was a small town in New Hampshire. A 16 year old high school student with plans to go to college finds herself pregnant after a brief summer liaison. The ensuing unraveling of her life begins with the admission to school staff that indeed, she is pregnant. The swift reaction of her parents, her family, her church, her community is unexpected. She finds herself shunned, sent away and given no option but adoption for her baby. A casualty of “pretend it never happened,” Meredith Hall spent the next 21 years a lost and wandering soul. Although she never uses the word “forgiveness,”  she does recount the years of rebuilding her life. 

This intense memoir tells in poignant prose the extent to which an erasure of those nine months of her life affected who she became. And who she became is a strong female writer, a voice of that era caught in the cusp of social transition. It’s as if one of Anne Fessler’s interviewees in “The Girls Who Went Away” published in 2007 stepped out of the book to tell her personal story.

Halfway through reading this book, I did the math. Meredith Hall was 16 in 1965; so was my little sister, who also got pregnant that year.

My parents — with Sis in tow — appeared unannounced at the office to take me to lunch. Overjoyed to see them, but wary because they had never driven 50 miles to meet me for lunch, I drove the family car off the lot of the business where I worked as a secretary. In the backseat, my mother burst into tears. “Your sister has to get married.” “Be careful,” said my dad, “she’s driving.” (Like I couldn’t see this coming, I thought to myself.) My sister piped up: “But we wanted to get married anyway. This way, we just hurried it up a little.”

My mother was mortified. Raised on ‘what will people think,’ a generation of girls had come to put our parents’ reputation first — their standing in the community. “What must her mother think” my mother would say every time another peer got married and had an eight pound premature baby less than nine months later. “Her Mother!” I would silently think to myself. “What about HER!”

It’s hard to remember the binding morality of those days. Teenagers today hardly believe those seering days of control by image, although as I did private interviews of prospective adoptive parents through the years I would hear them say, “I never misbehaved. I wouldn’t have dared to; it would have killed my mother!”

So, are we better off as a society without that crushing burden of protecting our families’ reputation? Is the trend of pride about being a parent at 16, at 15, even younger — a healthier attitude? What about the fatherless boys and girls growing up wondering what they did to drive away an absent parent?  When I started doing pregnancy counseling in 1979, in my mind the student had four options: marriage, abortion, adoption, single parenthood. “I’m too young to get married,” my startled students would say, realizing the magnitude of sustaining a relationship over the years. Why didn’t they also think, “I’m too young to be a parent”? But they didn’t. These young women would blythly step into parenthood, more often than not to be disappointed by the friends who promised to ‘help’ them. I began to suggest to my clients: Ask them How will they help? Will they provide a ride to the 24 hr pharmacy to pick up ear-ache medicine at 3 AM? Will they buy formula for your baby? Will they provide diapers? Shoes?

The teen pregnancy recidivism rate is high; I pressed onward, informing the students of their options. Maybe in a few years one would say to me, “I remember you. You came to my school with a panel of teens who had placed their babies for adoption. I didn’t want to listen to you then.” And she would drop her eyes to her hands in her lap and say, “I never thought I would be where I am today.” She would explain how deserted and alone she felt with the decision of what to do with a second, a third or a later baby. All their ‘helpers’ were going on with their lives; had new boyfriends, were going away to school — these young women had learned that ‘helping’ meant ‘come and talk to me when you’re blue.’

The decision of adoption is still a lonely path. Getting to know other women who have made the same choice somewhat eases the pain, but it’s still an isolating event. In my new career as counselor to people with adoption-related issues, I listen as women in their 30s, 40s and even older — recall the baby they never met. As they prepare to search, as they wonder if they have the audacity to interrupt a life they said goodbye to years ago, I encourage them to open the door and seek the child, now grown. I have a new quote for them, from Meredith Hall:  “He looked for me.  I didn’t realize I should have been the one looking for him. He needed to know I loved him at least that much!”

And onward we travel that path, finding a few friends along the way to share the journey.

Safe Haven in Nebraska ??

October 14, 2008
Today’s news brought the story of a mother from Michigan who drove her thirteen year old son to leave him at a Nebraska hospital because “I got tired of him.”  Months ago, when I first heard of Nebraska’s Safe Haven law, I thought:  “Whoops!  This is tragic!  They’ll have to fix that law!”
Safe Haven laws have now been passed in all 50 states, but Nebraska’s is unique; it’s the only one of the States to accept the abandonment of a child up to the age of 18.  Originally planned as a way to save newborns from being left in dumpsters, Safe Haven laws began to sweep the country fifteen or more years ago.  Most States limit the age of the child that can be left at Hospital Emergency Rooms, Fire Departments and other ‘designated sites’ to seventy-two hours old.  “No questions asked!”  It’s a ‘safe way’ to abandon a baby, and the mother cannot be prosecuted for abandonment.
At first glance, this makes sense if all we care about is saving a life.  However, little thought was put into the future of the abandoned child, the frightened mother, or the potential adoptive family left to raise a child, nor is there recognition of the legal rights of the baby’s father.   Most definitely, the saddest part is the legacy of a child growing up knowing not a thing about its past except the fact of abandonment. 
I contend that if the same energy had been put into educating the public about today’s adoption practice — how much it’s changed, and how non-judgmental an ethical adoption agent is — better outcomes for all would exist.  For more information, see Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, who thoroughly investigated the issue of Safe Haven laws in America.
As the news gets out, many parents of teenagers could be tempted to make that drive across the prairie to Nebraska!  Yep, now the word is out and Nebraska needs to change their law!
Beth Kozan