Fathers’ Day or Father’s Day?

On this father’s day, I celebrate my dear old dad. He lived a “charmed” life but even lives of the very fortunate have some heart ache. My grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after my grandfather passed away. The children were divided up amongst friends of the family while she was institutionalized. Her heart was broken. Dad was an attorney in Hartford for a successful law firm that became one of the biggest (and some would argue, best) in the state of Connecticut. He was admired and respected. I didn’t really understand who he was until he was gone and people shared some of his stories with me. Stories that he never did share.

In dad's writing ...

It was a secret he and my mother kept until their deaths. 

I found this cartoon among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her house. I didn’t understand it except that we’d always heard the story that dad wouldn’t marry mom (a legal secretary) and he was dating others so mom moved to California to get away from the heart ache. Today we know that the truth was a bit different – mom had become pregnant with my father’s child and moved to California to conceal the pregnancy. Once the baby boy was born  (on Mom’s birthday, May 28, 1956) and put up for adoption, she returned to Connecticut and in September of 1957 my parents were married.

The cartoon above now takes on special meaning in our family. This must have been when mom was returning to her life in Connecticut. My future parents had me in July of 1958 and my two brothers in 1960 and 1963. We, too, lead a charmed life according to most. I’m quite sure that their secret burned a hole in my parents’ hearts and in their marriage, too. Neither of them ever “forgot” that baby boy. It was a secret they kept until their deaths.  When my father died from a heart attack, they were in the process of being divorced. My mother followed him in death in 2008 after ten years with Alzheimer’s Disease. Is it possible that their secret had an affect on their lives and their deaths?

My dad was born in 1922 and if he was still living today he’d be ninety-four years old. I miss my dad today. I miss him often. I wish he was here to see my kids “adulting” and to see all four of his kids all together. I would love to be able to introduce him to my big brother who I found nine years ago and who has been integrated into my family with my “new” (and only) sister. How fortunate we are to be add siblings in our 50s! I think dad would be proud of us all and he’d be thrilled with his ten grandchildren. He’s missed so much in the thirty-plus years that he’s been gone. I still think about calling him when I have questions or challenges. He was a wise adviser, a great provider, a good man. I have fond memories that I hold dear of Saturdays at his office, automat lunches, watching for the church steeple on Sunday mornings for a penny. Smelling the “root beer trees” in the woods around our house and his battle with squirrels who always won. I cherish the memories.

rrsailingHe was only three years older than I am and I sure know that I’m not ready to die yet. I imagine he felt much the same. I hope that those of you who still have a father in your life take the time to spend time with your father today and as often as you can. (Your mother, too, if you’re that lucky!)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I sure do miss you.

Gone knitting.



Last night we watched the movie “Philomena”. It touched my heart and offered me a perspective that opened my eyes to what my mother must have felt when she, too, had a baby boy taken from her.

I’ve written here before about my big brother who I found out about after my mother passed away. I wonder what my mother thought about her baby. Did she, like Philomena, think about him every day? Did she wonder if he was happy and healthy?

Mom’s cousin was the only other person to know about my brother. She said that my mother was fearful that he would try to find her and upset her life. The world is such a different place today … and such was the shame placed on pregnant and unmarried women in the 1950s. Philomena Lee was powerless when her son was sold by the nuns. My mother felt compelled to “go away” and give away her firstborn child so that her life wouldn’t be destroyed by an unwed pregnancy. I’m certain that a girl from a poor family from “the wrong side of the river” (as my father not-so-kindly reminded her on a regular basis) felt that her reputation would be ruined and she had no choice.

My mother loved her family, loved children and animals and I’m certain that she thought about her baby boy every day. She thought about him when the seasons changed, wondering if he was warm when it snowed, when the forsythia bloomed; on Easter and Christmas and his birthday. On his first day of kIndergarten. When he turned 16 and learned to drive. I’m sure she wondered what color hair he had. Who he looked like. What he loved to do. (One of his passions was shared by mom – tennis!)

When Alzheimer’s Disease began chipping away at her memory in her late 50s, was it a relief? Did the pain of wondering and the fear of discovery lessen with the progression of the disease? Were my parents’ diseases physical manifestations of their secret? Dad suffered from depression, alcoholism and heart disease. Was his heart broken that this first son was given away? Did he drink to forget? Did it help to lessen the fear that their lives could be “disrupted”? Was it easier for my mother to just slip into her failed memory?

My parents took their secret to the grave. I will never have an answer. I can only imagine how they felt. Seeing “Philomena” last night helped me see the situation a little more clearly despite the similar and dissimilar situation.

I hope that mom is able to see him now, happily re-united with his brothers and sister. I hope she knows that he is happy, healthy and loved. Life is good.

Gone knitting.

Venomous Snakes

This is a for real sign that I found at a Florida rest area … welcoming, isn’t it? I didn’t even get my dogs out of the car here. I wouldn’t even have stopped if I didn’t have to pee wicked badly. Good grief, I get that they have to warn naive travelers but this is ridiculous!

And speaking of venomous snakes, I feel like one today – my daughter visited from Chicago for a few days and it was the most fun I’ve had for ages. And now, going into the Thanksgiving holiday with none of my kids being here with me again, I am feeling really sad and as if every word that comes out of my mouth is venomous. I don’t mean to be nasty but I can’t help it. I feel like I gave up everything to come here and it’s not worked out like I had hoped it would. It’s hard when you are not a risk taker and then at a crossroads in your life, you decide to take a risk and then it turns out not to be a good move. I guess I’ve learned a lot (always the one to find the silver freaking lining … ) but it’s feeling really crappy going into my favorite holiday of the year.

I’ve always been able to find something to be grateful for and genuinely feel grateful. This year I simply feel wounded and lonely. I certainly hope that my knitting takes off for me in the coming months and that I can find a great location to move to and start over again. Any suggestions? I’m feeling New England in the New Year … maybe 2011 will be the answer to prayers. I need an infusion of happiness. Thank you very much.

This is one of the pairs of “Cooked Lobster Claw” mittens that I packaged and shipped last week. Aren’t they cute as a button? I love them to death. They could also be called “Cooked Crawfish Claw” mittens for those who live in the southern regions … and, frankly it’s a reflection of my family – North and South!

I told you that I had a family miracle to share about my big brother, right? Here you go – this is something that I’m truly grateful for….

After my mother passed away, a cousin of hers contacted my aunt (mom’s sister) and told her that she had information about a baby. She had been sworn to secrecy and had kept the secret until my mother died. Rita shared that my mother and father had conceived a baby boy who was born “out of wedlock” in May of 1956 in California.

When I was a kid, I had heard the story about how my father had chased after the society girls but was dating my mother, a legal secretary. Mom, frustrated with the fact that he hadn’t proposed, moved to California for a year to get away. Dad couldn’t live without her and, ultimately, proposed and they were married in 1957.



My father and mother … circa 1956





Well, what was left out of that old story was that the real reason that Mom went to California was that she was pregnant and unmarried. In 1956 this was a shameful thing. My mother would have been considered “trash” if found out so she sneaked away. On May 30, 1956 a baby boy was born to my mother and was given into the hands of a loving adoptive family. Mom never held him nor saw him. According to Cousin Rita, though, she was very worried about Mom’s mental state. She was isolated and dreadfully depressed. Rita called my Dad who came out to California to visit and shortly thereafter, Mom returned to the east coast and they were engaged and married in September 1957.

So, in 2008, I got word that I had a full-blood big brother somewhere in the world. Against all odds, I called the California County office and was told there was nothing they could tell me. Adoptions from that time were sealed. The Internet was the place to search and I found several sites that are “Adoption Registries” and signed myself up. It didn’t take long before an angel (yes, Virginia, there are real live angels!) who volunteers to help adoptive families and birth families to find each other emailed me with some information about my brother. And then there was another email. And the third … I’ve found your brother! At the bottom of the email was a white pages listing with my brother’s name and address and phone number. So, I called.

A woman answered and I asked for Richard (an amazing coincidence … my younger brother with whom I grew up is also Richard, as was my father). She told me he was out and would be home in a couple of hours. So, I set the timer (yes, literally) for two hours and called again. The answering machine picked up. I started to leave my message and the woman came on … and she turned the phone over to a man. I told him my story (well, my parents’ story) and he asked me a couple of questions about my parents and then he said, “I think I’m your brother.” Wow! We talked for about 45 minutes that first time. Sharing about our children and our lives and our siblings. He had just lost his mother a few weeks prior to my call and was thinking that he only had one blood relative in the whole world … and now he had three blood siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins galore.

We’ve since had several opportunities to get together and we’ve started to get to know each other and our extended family. When our younger brother Rick gets married next month, all five of us will be there. Me, my brothers that I grew up with (both younger) and my new big brother and sister. Turns out my big brother had a younger sister and now I have a big sister too.

I think our mothers would be very proud. For that I’m very grateful.