Thursday, March 06, 2008


It worked

I don’t know why. It didn’t before. But this time, for some reason, luck was on my side.

Sitting next to my keyboard as I type are the death certificates of my maternal grandparents.

After my search was completed last May, I had requested them. And was denied, because under state law, as an adoptee I am not entitled to them. I don’t know why. Maybe their corpses would kill themselves or have abortions or rise up out of the graves and hurl babies into dumpsters if their cause of death were released to me.

Anyway, on a whim, I tried again last week. I filled out the exact same application, I sent in the exact same amount of money. But this time instead of a denial letter, I have their death certificates. Weird.

Tiny pieces of my elusive medical history finally laid out in black and white.

My son came in as I was looking at them. He read them over my shoulder.

“I hope we inherited her dementia.”

He’s funny like that. I like that kind of humor.

Gramma’s primary cause of death was lung cancer; contributory factors were dementia, cerebrovascular disease and oh yay, Parkinson’s Disease. Damn. I really should quit smoking.

Grampa’s cause of death was listed as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. He was also much, much older than gramma when she died.

I’ve decided I take after Grampa’s side of the family anyway. I’m still mighty irrationally pissed at the gramps, but for some reason I still have an odd genealogical fondness for his mom, my great-grandmother Mary, schlepping across the Atlantic with her entire brood in tow.

I like that kind of history.

My eyes keep drifting to the dementia on gramma’s certificate though.

Latin, from dement-, demens mad, from de- + ment-, mens mind

I’ve been demented for the past two months or so. Most likely I’ll be demented for a season longer. As stated previously, it is rather boring and unattractive, but I’m positive it’s temporary. I just don’t see a way out right now. I wish I could. I’m tired of feeling this way. I just have this demented belief in my abject worthlessness that has sunk into me on a cellular level, and won’t let go. It’s entirely irrational, I know, but so is adoption.

How demented do you need to be to turn your back on your pregnant teenage daughter?

How demented is it to raise your own children, and then give your firstborn grandchild away to strangers?

How demented does that pregnant teenage daughter become in her own life?

Demented enough to say, “You have the wrong number” to her own scared and stuttering flesh and blood when she calls on an August night 43 years later?

Is that demented, or is it just not giving a fuck? I'm not sure.

Yeah, yeah, I know the era, I know the history, I know the misogyny and the double standard.

But still.

But still.

But still I have these two death certificates, that the great State of Pennsylvania says I am not supposed to have, as somehow adoption severed my medical ties to these two demented dead people. And owning these two certificates makes me feel a little more real, while at the same time a nasty demented part of me looks at them with an entirely apathetic eye and thinks, “I hope you thought of me, and felt guilty, you shits”

10 complaints from ingrates:

Anonymous,  March 6, 2008 at 8:57 PM  

Here, here! (raising my glass)
They deserved to feel guilty and I hope they did.

I found out my mother continued to smoke while on oxygen the last ten years of her life and I still can't kick the habit. But I'm blaming it on weak willpower.

Anonymous,  March 6, 2008 at 9:51 PM  

How odd that it worked the second time -- I think that just goes to show how random and capricious any kind of adoption-related recordkeeping actually is.

Not that this will make adoption suck any less, but spring is just around the corner. Hang in there.


Anonymous,  March 7, 2008 at 6:35 AM  

Congrats that it worked!! You just never know I guess. It's a little something for the "never never give up" side, right?

*Hugs* and, for the record, i hope they felt guilty, too. You deserve so much better.

Anonymous,  March 7, 2008 at 6:50 AM  


Whatever your mother's excuses, they cannot justify her denying you.

I was treated horribly too - but I could never turn away my son because of it (and I didn't - he is a welcome part of my life now).

I always tell my group to keep trying - standards are never consistent with gov employees.
You would be amazed how different non-id is every time - always a new snippet gets in there just because someone different has handled the enquiry.

For the record, I hope those 2 demented people feel bad too.

(I found out fairly recently that my parents went behind my back several times and told the social workers to take my son. They kept denying they did this until the agency (under legal threat) sent me copies of the records that clearly stated that they did.)

We don't talk anymore - pointless as they now say "it was nothing".
Unbelievable that any parent could say that about their daughter or grandson - that we are "nothing".


Suz Bednarz March 7, 2008 at 9:45 AM  

How demented do you need to be to turn your back on your pregnant teenage daughter?

I dont know. Can I give you my moms number and you can ask her?

How demented does that pregnant teenage daughter become in her own life?

VERY. Based on my own experience, without help, support, therapy, losing your child to adoption and the resulting PTSD causing significant dementia. I admit I am totally nuts.


Eve March 9, 2008 at 6:55 PM  

I'm happy for you. So many times while doing searches, I've been denied and later found that persistence and either a sympathetic or unaware clerk was the answer to my prayers. I'm glad you have parts of your history in your hands now.

How demented do you have to be? Dementia running in the family... that's a good play on words and thought.

I know it's rhetorical, but still, my answer is: terribly. I never have understood how grandparents can do that. What? They were too tired? Too old? Too... what? To care for their own?

That's what starts it. Where it ends up, well... you know. And you have a child, and so you are healing it. Hopefully.

Being Me March 11, 2008 at 7:42 PM  

Hi Teresa,
Hmmmmm... I wish you health, wealth & happiness first.

The dementia. It is so pathetic that your mother can't recognize her own child.

It is easier for me to understand your anger at your grandparents, than it was to face Joy's anger at my parents. Perhaps that's indicative of my dementia. Hearing it from you, someone removed from me, I see the sense of the anger. So much hurt, all around. Rage on.


Anonymous,  March 13, 2008 at 12:52 AM  


I'm glad it worked, and I'm glad you know!

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