When you’re not -quite- family

I received a message from my birth mother this morning, informing me of the rather unexpected death of my Aunt Lorraine.  Except that I was unaware of Aunt Lorraine.  And I’m not entirely sure that she, or her family was aware of me.

I may have mentioned this before, but if I didn’t here it is now.  I was an adopted child.  As a baby.  3 days old as a matter of fact.  Born on a Saturday morning, shipped off to NYS (USA) on a Tuesday.  My birth mother was finally able to relate to me the story of how I came to be with another family in the same geographical area where she grew up.  Even if she was unaware of it at the time.  Since it was a private adoption, neither she nor her family was allowed to know where I ended up.  They could have made some guesses, due to the lawyer that worked the adoption at one end (he was local), but other than that, it was private, closed, and she wasn’t permitted to know more details than basic ones. (Loving family, had one child already)

Anyway, after ‘Mom’ told me about Aunt Lorraine’s passing (via text message, I was asleep when she sent it) I did a little digging and came across Lorraine’s obituary.  Then her FB page.  I didn’t do much digging after that, because what I found out was nice, but a little disconcerting as well.  But not wholly unexpected when you think about it.

Lorraine lived a long life, was much-loved by her family, and had several children of her own (my cousins).  She was very active, even into her 80s (84 when she died last week).  Lots of activities, some travel, interactions and she was religious, or so it seemed from the posts from her church and in reference to church related activities.  I do have to mention here that Lorraine was not my direct relation.  She wasn’t my mother’s sister, she was the sister of the man who my mother married in the 1970s.  NOT my birth father, so Lorraine wasn’t a direct relation.  Sort of an Aunt once removed.  But the thing that irked me a little was how the obituary was printed and shared in the newspaper.  To be blunt, I wasn’t listed.  My half-brother and half-sister are there, but no mention of me or my wife.

Now, I can understand how it came to be, even though its been 2 years since my mother and I were reunited, I’m still much of an afterthought when it probably comes to familial interactions on her side of the state.  To be honest, it took my Mom all of about 20 months before she listed me as her son on her FB profile.  She said she hadn’t really thought about it, and I can understand and appreciate that, but now it’s corrected and out there for anyone to see if they care to look.  My conception, birth and adoption in the 1960s was one of her family’s things they didn’t discuss, considering the fact that when she was found to be pregnant in 1964, she was shipped off to live with an aunt in Indiana.  So that the neighbors in their little town wouldn’t know that an unwed mother was living in their midst.  While nowadays that can be considered normal, 50 years ago it just wasn’t.  Too, this was 8 years pre Roe v. Wade, so an abortion wasn’t legal.  Not that they weren’t done, but getting one required extraneous or extraordinary circumstance.  No Planned Parenthood, nothing of that nature.  It was considered (and was) illegal, period.

So, Aunt Lorraine has passed on.  Obviously, we’re not going to the funeral.  I offered my condolences to Mom and her husband Ron, and wished them safe travels (they’re flying up from Florida for the services, staying a couple of days then flying back to resume their winter layover that they do every year) seeing as it’s snowing here in NY currently.  I expect my half-brother and his family will be at the funeral as they live locally.  Fairly certain my half-sister won’t be driving up from VA, since they have 2 small children and travel might be a little problematic, too they’re both teachers and would more than likely have a little difficulty getting the time off from work to travel.

Having this to think about the last day has me wondering what’s going to happen when Mom does eventually die.  Is it going to be late in the planning stages when someone finally remembers that I need to be notified?  My half-siblings and I don’t have the most engaging of relationships.  When I visited the area 2 years ago, my half-brother couldn’t be bothered to introduce me to his wife.  I had to meet his children when they visited their grandmother, and then only for a few minutes before they wanted to go off and do things on the computer (they’re in their teens, I can understand the mind-set).  Sort of a “hi, here’s your Instant-Uncle, be nice to him!”  I haven’t had any interaction with either of them since.  And really, don’t expect to.  Too, I’ve only interacted with my half-sister and her family through a couple of video chats, her 3-year-old has no clue who I am, whenever he sees me on the video screen, his response is “where’s Grampa?”.  Thanks, kid, makes me feel really welcome.  [Yes, I know he’s 3.  That was sarcasm, fyi.]

Not for nothing, but it all reminds me of when my estranged brother got married for the first time 30 years ago.  He wanted the wedding announcement to be put in the New York Times, (at the time he wanted to be known as an ‘up and comer’) and whoever took down the copy at the Times got the names mixed up.  If anyone bothers to look in the Times history, my adopted father is listed as the groom.  Nice going, NYT.  And one wonders why copy editors are so highly prized.

RIP Aunt Lorraine.

Another of those ‘holiday traditions’

Christmas cards.  The bane of anyone that doesn’t plan ahead.  Every year it’s the same question.  Should I get them done before the 10th, or wait until the last-minute and pray that the post office doesn’t let me down for being procrastinatory?  Usually it’s the latter.

Every year we get in the mail a pile of free cards from one charity or another, so it’s not like I have to go to a stationery store (like there are thousands of them nearby) to get cards.  Sure, even dollar stores nowadays have a small selection of cards for those of us that don’t really give a rip how much the things cost, though I fondly recall my mother going all out to make sure the cards were done every year and sent out across the country to the relatives.  But then again, our relatives for the most part were in two Northeastern states.  Post 1975, two parts of the Ohio contingent relocated to Virginia and South Carolina respectively (due to marriage), but it wasn’t putting a bind on the USPS to get the cards to them in time.

As the years passed on, my mother became less enthused with getting the cards out.  I think it had a lot to do with her becoming bored in her home life, and the more that happened, the more she was drinking. The consequences of that became very obvious.  More things tended to either get pushed aside, or forgotten completely.  Certainly this seemed to have an effect on my brother and I in various ways, but one major effect was, when we’d get birthday or Christmas presents from my paternal aunt, we’d have to be browbeaten into sending thank you cards.  Finally, it came down to a halting thank-you phone call, because we were just becoming too lazy to send a card.

Fast forwarding 30 some odd years, for the most part my wife and I don’t send out cards every year.  Only in the last couple of years has that changed a little bit, but that’s been due to the reconnection between myself and my birth mother.  She still sends out cards for all occasions.  So over the calendar year we get cards for Easter, my birthday, my wife’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Each one has a personalized note and it arrives on time.  So to counter, I’ve been trying my hand at doing something similar, just not as prolific.  The last couple of years I also sent out cards to my cousins in Syracuse.  To be honest, they are the ones to which I still have addresses.  I have 3 other cousins who live elsewhere in the US.  One of which I’m in touch with via Facebook.  But we were never so close as to be exchanging more than pleasantries.  So she’ll just get a message on FB.  Seems a good compromise.

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Christmas Cards from the web

Tree trimming conundrum

My wife and I go through this every December.  When is the best or most convenient, or proper time to trim the tree?  For a couple of years, when the cat was a bit younger, we didn’t have the 7 foot tree set up, because he (the cat) decided that the lower branches needed fixing, and desired to pull them down and lay on them (we have an artificial tree).  Consequently, my wife purchased a smaller (predecorated) tree and we set that up on a box in front of the large window in the living room and used that as our Christmas tree.  After enduring that for a couple of years, we tried again with the larger tree, and for the most part, kitty has left it alone.  Sure, he occasionally bats at some of the larger balls on the lower branches every now and again, but at least he hasn’t tried to climb the tree, or worse yet dismantle it.  A 20 lb cat can be rather murderous on an artificial tree, no matter how good a base it has.

Getting back to the question at hand, when’s the optimal time to decorate your tree?  From my youth, I remember vaguely doing it on a Saturday or Friday night usually, since Dad was home from work and didn’t work weekends (he was an engineer at IBM).  We’d get out the Christmas albums from his record collection, cue up the stereo, Mom & Dad would troop up to the attic to fetch the decorations, and my brother and I would, either with or without Mom or Dad, go to the basement to get the lights and garland.  We always had a live tree, cut fresh at a Christmas tree farm in Red Hook, NY.  The place is still there today, though the price of trees has gone up significantly.  The last time we bought a tree was probably 1984, and then we paid $25 for it.  I believe the farm is selling them for $75 presently, though there are a lot more people from NYC buying trees and either using them in their Hudson Valley secondary homes, or shipping them down to the city to use in their over-priced apartments and townhouses.

But the timing needs to be right.  Decorating it too early causes it to get stale (like overplayed Christmas music), and doing it too late doesn’t allow you sufficient time to enjoy the spectacle of a fully decked out tree.  Too, considering that you’re putting a lot of effort in getting out the decorations, arguing about how much garland (or not) to put on the tree and a dozen other decisions, you don’t want to spend too many hours before it’s time to separate yourself from your loved one(s), and just spend a little time with the pets, since generally they don’t tell you that you have too many red balls on the left side of the tree.  So it can be a bit of a juggling act at times.  A little patience goes a long way!

I remember one time that my Dad suggested after a contentious row amongst him, Mom and my brother and I, that it might be prudent to cut a hole in the ceiling of the family room, hook the tree to some sort of pulley system, and just hoist it into the attic and lower it every December.  Considering it was a live tree, that wouldn’t have worked out very well in the long run!  But it still tickles me when I think about him suggesting it.

I asked my wife this past weekend when she thought would be a good time to decorate.  Her reply was ‘whenever you want to drag the tree upstairs….’  Well, that certainly settles that!  I’m pretty settled on doing it this coming weekend.  Close enough to the holiday, but not too far away from 12th night, when we’ll be taking it down. (12th night for us is Jan 6, 2019 fwiw)

I wonder where the wreath is?

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Not a happy sort of anniversary

I’m just adding this as a bookmark of life, as I do on occasion.

November 22 is always a melancholy day for me.  For most people my age and older, it’s a memorable day in the way of remembering a great US President in that it was the day JFK was assassinated in Dallas, TX.  For me, it was the day I lost my adoptive mother.  She was only 59 when she passed away and I still remember the events of the day, at least starting around 10 am.  The day ended up being far more surreal than when it started, and the events in the coming days didn’t make it any better.

Just reminded every year around Thanksgiving that I have a lot more to be thankful for now than I did then.  Having relatives dying around the holidays is about the worst thing that can happen.  Losing people you love is bad enough, but throw in the build up to a holiday, and then have something negative like that occur, and it just blows it all out of the water.

Definitely put a damper on my day.  My girl and my wife did manage to keep my spirits up just the same, but by the same token they mostly left me to my own thoughts, which I appreciate far more.  Even 29 years after the fact, it still hurts.  And when you’re hurting, you do NOT want anyone giving you thoughts and prayers. Or offering condolences, or things of that nature.  Which, coincidentally, is why I stopped posting about it on Facebook…because you invariably get people trying to make you feel better.  When that’s the last thing that you want.  They mean well…but, they just don’t understand.  And I’m beyond trying to make them get it.

And yes, I appreciate whatever positive thoughts you, the reader wish to offer, if any.  But I’m disabling comments here as well…because…I can.  Thanks anyway.

The ‘other’ family

My birth mother is visiting here for the first time.  It’s a rather different experience for me, since when I met my wife, my adoptive mother had already passed away, and my adoptive father was in the midst of his Alzheimer’s, so he didn’t possess his full faculties when interacting with my wife (who at the time was my girlfriend).  So, in this instance the woman visiting is my mother, but she didn’t raise me.  When we first met a little under 2 years ago, there was a point where we had to decide what I was going to refer to her as.  Would I use her real name?  No, that didn’t feel comfortable to me.  Growing up, when I addressed my friends’ parents, I never called them by their first name, it was either Mr. Smith, or Mrs. Jones.  As I got older, one of my neighbors had mentioned that now I’d gained my majority, that I was in my 20s, it would be ok for me to call them by their first names.  I tried it, but it didn’t feel right.  So I went back to calling them Mr. and Mrs. It just felt better.

So we settled on ‘Mom’.  She felt that was better, but she wanted me to be aware that in NO way was she interested in supplanting the memory of my adoptive mother, or replacing or disrespecting her.  She wanted that understood from the very beginning and I most definitely felt better when she said that.  She just wanted to be a part of my life now that she had finally found me again.  (Who can blame her, it took the better part of 50 years for her to be successful!)  Admittedly, after getting the message from my half-brother asking for information and trying to be sure I was the ‘right’ person, he did offer me the option of just telling her that I was ok, but I didn’t wish further contact. I thought long and hard about that…considering that both my adoptive parents were deceased, my adoptive brother is estranged and I don’t interact much (at all) with my cousins.  So in many ways, in a family aspect, I keep to myself.  My wife is much the same way with her extended (also adoptive) family.

After much thought and discussion with my wife, I decided to allow the contact to develop on its own.  Over the years I’d thought many times about taking the effort to go look for her, but was always stopped by the possibility that she didn’t wish for me to do so.  That she’d rather keep the distance the way it was.  I only had a basic understanding of what the circumstances were regarding the adoption, and certainly that was from the interpretation of my parents.  Their lawyer knew all of the details of course, but did he share them with my parents?  I didn’t know, and by the time I received the latter information from their lawyer’s office (after his death), it was a moot point.  There may have been details that he took to his grave.  In my adoption papers, on the cover, it said ‘Infant male baby Adams‘.  So, I had a probable starting point.  As it turned out, that was my mother’s maiden name.

As I always do, I’m getting off topic here.  If you’ve read me for a time, you understand that happens.  Long winded and get off topic….that’s me!  Anyway.

I was walking through the house this morning, and happened to look upon my (rather dusty) DVD display rack.  When I was cleaning house over the last month, I’d taken care to ‘sanitize’ the house of certain aspects of my kink existence.  Certainly there are hints (if one looked closely enough) that people are less vanilla than one might expect.  If my mother forayed into the back bedroom and snooped around, she’d find one or more of my toy bags, chock full of my BDSM paraphernalia.  Too, some of the larger steel items are tucked away in drawers and closets in one of the other bedrooms.  If she got really bold, in the back of my clothes closet is hanging part of my flogger collection!  But as I was looking at the display rack, I did a double-take and then an eye-roll.  Right there on the top shelf, between two Hollywood blockbusters were three kinky BDSM movies.  Oy.  Has she seen them?  I have no idea.  Should I remove them, and then she’d notice they were missing after looking over the collection again?  Well, I’m not sure, but I did remove them and put them elsewhere for safe-keeping.  Granted I haven’t watched those particular videos in probably 3 years, and by all rights I should have recycled, re-sold or just plain pitched them (they’re not original movies, just re-treads from a now defunct website).  But I just smiled a little to myself and thought “It’s an adult household”.  BDSM may indeed be becoming more mainstream, but not necessarily where my mother is concerned.  And no, I don’t wish to go to the spot in my mind (like every kid) where they think about their parents doing ‘the dirty’.  Or anything else.  Thanks.  Please pass the brain bleach on that one!

All in all, the visit with my mother is going well.  Two years ago I visited her at her house (I stayed nearby in a motel, I didn’t feel comfortable staying in her house, even though she VERY graciously offered her guest room) and we did some sightseeing in the area.  I grew up in the Hudson Valley, but my section was in the northern confines, and where she lives is a bit further south.  So, while being familiar with the area generally, she knew things that I didn’t and showed me places I was unaware of.  Too, she showed me where her childhood home was, and I did the same for her.  Showed her where I went to school, to college and where I lived at various points in my life.  She shared with me my family history that (naturally) I was completely unaware of, and certainly compared to my adoptive family, I have a far-flung off extended birth family that’s quite prolific.  Not to mention that I’m an Uncle four times over spread over two half-siblings.  And in contrast to my adoptive upbringing where I’m (by far) the youngest, I’m the eldest in this ‘new’ family.  Which is admittedly, weird.

Admittedly, I wasn’t looking forward to her visit, because we’re such homebodies here.  She’s going home tomorrow…and for some reason, I really don’t want her to go.

This is gonna take awhile

Fuck.  I’d forgotten how much I hate cleaning.  The last time I’ve had to do this much sorting/cleaning etc was when my wife and I moved into this place back in 2000.  As we all know, with procrastination, things get bad over a long period of time, and in your head you think “No problem.  I’ll do this, this and this, and it’ll be over before you know it!”  Yeah, well it doesn’t work that way, buttercup.  Even with my music playing in the background from my phone over the Bluetooth speaker, it was taking a frigging eternity to sort through the pile of crap that’s been accumulating over the last couple of years next to my computer.  TWO kitchen sized trash bags FULL of stuff, not to mention two paper bags full of scrap paper recycling and I’ve managed to reduce it to a pile of stuff that needs to be sorted again.  Old pictures, tech hardware, SEVEN old cellphones (I shit you not), and a host of other stuff.  I did manage to find the photo manipulation software I’ve been looking for since I recycled my desktop tower, so I got that installed so I can stop jury-rigging pictures with MS Paint.  That was a pain in the ass, for sure.

All of this effort is to get the house ship-shape for my birth mother’s visit next week.  I visited her 2 years ago, we’ve been sort of shuffling back and forth about how she was either going to get here, we’d meet in the middle or some other plan.  This summer she had hip replacement surgery, so she wasn’t able to travel for at least 6 weeks post surgery, so we had to schedule around that.  Even so, she’s not frisky enough to manage a 4-5 hour drive alone, so she’s going to be taking a bus here.  Naturally there’s no direct service between where she is, and here, but at least she was able to find a route that only had one small layover.  She’s going to be here for about 3 1/2 days, give or take.  So we have to make sure that she’s comfortable, I have sufficient things for us to do to keep her out of the wife’s hair, and so on.  There’s enough things to do in the area vis-a-vis sightseeing and so on, but as we don’t normally go out much in the evenings, it’s a matter of keeping her entertained in the off hours.

Just stopped in to kvetch.  Back to work.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it in spades!

Monday is due to be a busy day

karin-luttenberg-on-instagram-happy-monday-lettering-handmade-handdrawn-handlettering-typography-gra-1460889488kn84gI don’t always tend to make phone calls to schedule things in a timely manner.  It just so happened Friday that I did, and almost every single one of the places that I called, wanted to do their jobs on Monday.  Naturally.  So come Monday afternoon, there’s going to be a logging guy arriving to take down a dead ash tree behind our garage, the furnace people from the second opinion place will be arriving around 3:30p to do a CO test in order to determine if indeed we DO have a cracked heat exchanger (or any other potential problem with our furnace) and give us an estimate on how much (if anything) it will cost to get fixed.  I did take it upon myself to purchase 2 new CO detectors to see if indeed they could detect anything that the old ones were missing.  I set them up, placed them near the output registers and they’re not detecting anything amiss.  Which could be one of two things.  Either they’re not sensitive enough, or the fact that we have 2 windows slightly open is causing the CO buildup that was present before, not to be present now.  Either way, it’s going to be resolved.  At least for my pet’s peace of mind, if nothing else.

Finally, I had called a lawn maintenance person and asked for an estimate on having the large brush and lawn waste pile behind the garage removed.  It has been sitting there for the last 3 years and needs to be gone.  I’d contracted with someone to do it 2 years ago, but after having paid them, they never showed up.  When I contacted them this year, I was informed that they were no longer in the business, and wouldn’t be able to either refund my money (no surprise, he didn’t remember me paying it, and doesn’t have the business records anymore regardless) or come by and do the work.  With that, I chalked it up to me being lazy about getting him to do it, and let it be.

Last but not least, we have a week to finish getting the house in some semblance of shape for my mother’s visit on the 29th.  She’s going to be coming here by bus, and spending Halloween week here.  I warned her that we don’t do much in the way of celebrating the holiday, we just repair to the back of the house and let the kids pass the house by.  She said she was ok with that.  Nice to have a mother that’s easy to please!

At any rate, Tuesday should be a breeze compared to the day before.