Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Little More Real

She asked: Who are you looking for?

Next month I’ll make one of my intentionally infrequent trips back to Philadelphia to attend a very special baby shower. It’s the baby shower for the wife of my beloved godson.

I’m taking the day before the shower off from work, and intend on making it a trip back to the neighborhood where I lived when I lived inside my mom. I want to see with my own eyes, not just via Google StreetView, the house I lived in as I grew from rapidly diving cells to birth. I’m going to visit the library and see if I can wade through some yearbooks from the 1960’s. After all this time, I still have been unable to discover what high school my mom or her sisters went to. A yearbook picture of one of them would be priceless to me. The closest pictures I’ve been able to find of anyone related to me are a tiny MySpace profile photo of a first cousin, and an old black & white picture of a very, very distant cousin from the 1950’s. That’s it. 

I’ve also decided to pay a visit to gramma 

Being six feet under, she’s unable to tell me to go away or lie to me and say I've got the wrong grave.

Someone on a genealogy list said to me once, “It doesn’t start to feel real, until you actually visit your first grave.”

The person who said that to me was a real kid, and I don’t think they knew I’m a fake kid, but hearing a real kid say the word “real” is a mind-boggling thing.

I have a hard time living in the real word. I’ve always been prone to daydreams. It will come as no shock to say the majority of my daydreams usually focus around my other family. Even before the often-griped-about event of last August, the daydreams usually were of being rejected in one form or another.

Sucks, but what can you do?

It’s hard to feel real when the world tells you that you have no right to it. From the sealed secret birth certificate, to the “you know who your real parents are, right?” comments by the ignorant, to the letters in the newspapers, feelings of disentitlement overwhelm. Overwhelmingly.

But I do want to see that grave. And I do want to leave flowers. If for nothing else, to try and make myself believe I’m a better person than she was.

So I called the cemetery. I realized I’ve never gone to visit a cemetery before. OK I take that back – I taught my kids how to drive in an old abandoned one because it was safe there. But I’ve never been to visit a grave before. I Google-Earthed the address.

Jaysus-Christ, it’s freaking massive. 

If it doesn’t have it’s own zip code I’d be surprised.

I called the cemetery office. And the minute the woman picked up the phone, like I annoyingly, frustratingly, irritatingly always do when talking to a real kid while thinking about my fake kid status, I started stuttering.

Damn.

“Hi, I’m g-g-g-going to be c-c-c-coming from out of st-st-st-ate (ok I’ll stop with the stuttering typing because I know it’s annoying) and would like to visit the grave of a relative. Can you tell me how I’d locate the grave?”

She said: “If you come during business hours you can just come into the office, or I can just give you the location now if you’re going to be visiting when the office is closed. Who are you looking for?”

And it took me a minute. It’s like her name had this powerful forbidden hold over me, I’ve never spoken it out loud to anyone other than a few friends. Why? To say her name cements me as one of them. It cements me as this is my family, dammit, I’m of this tribe, I’m of this line, this is who I am, even if you threw me away, even if you deny me, I am of this family. 

Even if deep down inside, I fight every day to believe that.

So there was this moment, this pause, was I going to lie, was I going to hang up, was I going to say never mind, and pass on this opportunity, and go to Philly yet never visit this grave? Was I going to be as weak and as spineless as usual, the things I hate the most about myself? Or was I going to just fucking do it for once.

“Who are you looking for?”

“My grandmother, A--. M.----“

And after a moment, “Section 4, Range 1, Plot 6. Everything is very well marked and there’s a big map by the front gate if we’re not here when you come to visit. Have a safe trip.”


Just like she’d say to a real kid.

7 complaints from ingrates:

Mia March 13, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

I logged on because I forgot to tell you that if you want some company on your visit to the cemetary and/or to look through yearbooks let me know. I'm there.

Mary March 13, 2008 at 5:23 PM  

I havent been to any family graves in person but just looking at the headstone pics was unreal. Good luck getting yearbook pics. Thats how I got some pics of my nmom and her siblings.

Ungrateful Little Bastard March 14, 2008 at 8:26 AM  

Thank you! It would be too cool to have lunch with you! Philly Cheesesteak on me

And thanks Mary... I'm going to be calling the library to see if they have any yearbooks

Mia March 14, 2008 at 8:40 AM  

Email me a date so I can put it on the calendar before my kids find a way to fill it. They're sneaky like that. lol

(((Theresa)))

Erika March 15, 2008 at 9:48 PM  

i drove thru philadelphia not too long ago and i thought of you.

this sounds like a very emotional trip - babies, old neighborhoods and cemeteries...

please take extra good care of your real self.. lol

Sunny,  March 28, 2008 at 12:25 PM  

U R real to me! xx

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