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.