Sunday, April 06, 2008

Peace be with you

It’s over. I’m home.

Today there were two bits of unfinished business to attend to.

The first was gramma’s grave. It was rather lacking in the flowers department, but I’ve rectified that. The most beautiful purple tulips I’ve seen now grow there. And hopefully will again next year too.

Neither mom nor I are flower people, but after seeing the house gramma grew up in when she was a little girl, where relatives still live now, I believe that gramma was. As it’s my great-grandmother’s grave too, I thought the purple tulips were fitting for both of them.

On the way back, mass was in service. I had briefly considered going to mass, but had decided against it after the creeped out feeling I had gotten when the church was empty.

I looked at the parking lot as I sat at the light in the intersection. It was a full house, and cars were parked up and down the street as well.

I looked at the red light; I looked at the parking lot. Red light, parking lot. The light turned green.

Oh what the hell.

I pulled in and parked in a no parking zone.

If you’re going to go where you’re not wanted, might as well break a law or two while you’re at it.

The church is massive, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. The back vestibule was full of people too. They really pack ‘em in at my church. I asked a woman in the back if it was always this crowded. She said it was, all four services every Sunday.


It was a whole different feeling when the church was full.

Truth – it’s kind of nice in there.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Catholic mass. I was so surprised during Peace that I wound up first shaking the hand and saying “Hi” to the first person who wished it to me. I decided to throw myself into it though, all nine yards. I even did a hasty Act of Contrition and took Communion. This is such an old church, you can still do Communion the good old fashioned unsanitary way – open mouth and all. I like tradition, you know.

I was really getting into it. I don’t know if the priest who gave me Communion ever had anyone smile at him like that before, but honestly, I was having a blast.

When the church was empty it was oppressive and frightening, and had whispers of unhappiness and secrets. When it was full today, like it was for noon mass, it was something different entirely.

Or more truthful – I was something entirely different. Because just for that moment, I was there as Real Me. I was there as the Me who, if things had been different, would have been baptized there. I would have gone to school there. Real Me would have been in the Legion of Mary there, Real Me would have processed every May Day trailing flowers through the streets behind the Blessed Mother. Real Me would have had her First Holy Communion there, her Confirmation there, gotten married there.

Real Me felt real comfortable with everyone there, as I made small talk in the back of the church, because Real Me most likely knew the person I was talking to. Maybe Real Me was even related to her. She was my age, so Real Me would have been friends with her. Maybe even best friends. Real Me would know the people there by their first names. Real Me may not still have been Catholic at my age, but Real Me probably would still be involved in the church. Because living in Philadelphia, Real Me would know, the entire world is: your block, your family, your parish.

So Real Me felt very peaceful there, and was genuinely generous at collection time. I know they were grateful when they opened my envelope.

When Mass was over, I made my way out. I wanted to visit the Rectory briefly. Real Me knew there was a little chapel in the back that she wanted to see.

A very old man touched my shoulder as I made my way through the crowd, and I turned around.

“Hey…. It’s good to see you here again!”

Without a beat – “It’s good to be home”

I look like somebody.

I look like somebody.

I look like somebody so much, I made someone happy to see me.

I look like somebody.

Oh god, if you’re real, you’ll never know what that means.

Right now what happened freaks Ghost Me out twelve ways to tomorrow, but unfortunately Ghost Me wasn’t at the church today to have acted on it. The old man said that to Real Me, who grew up there, who attended church there, so of course he would miss me. I hadn’t been there in a while. But it was really good to be home.

There was a woman heading up to the rectory.

I called to her asking her where the chapel was.

It’s over here, I’m going there, you come with me. There’s stairs up the rear but I can’t manage them so I go this way. I have a bad back

“Oh I do too”

The chapel is small and narrow. Only two seats on the left and one seat on the right. I sat off to the right.

She came in and sat across from me.

There’s a little basket up front where you can leave prayer intentions.

I went up and wrote one for my mother.

And when I sat back down, Real Me left and Ghost Me came back, and the weight of what I have lost came crashing with it.

As embarrassing as it was, out of nowhere, huge sobs that I couldn’t control came, sobs that bent me over in half, sobs that took my breath away. I sat there bent over, my forehead pressed against my knees, my mouth wide open but no sound came out, just this wrenching in my stomach that I felt would never leave.

And there was this sweet hand on my back, and this sweet voice that said, “If you need an ear, I’m here

And Ghost Me who apologizes for everything started apologizing, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you came here to say a rosary and I’m sorry, I’m sorry to interrupt you, I’m sorry

It’s OK, if you need an ear, I’m here

I looked over at her. She was maybe a little older than my mom, not by much.

I took a breath, she was a real kid. I couldn’t say much to her. No matter how sweet they are, you just can't trust real kids with the full truth.

“This was my family’s church. I came here from New York. I wanted to see it. Seeing it makes my loss that much more real. I never knew my family”

Oh sure, sure, oh yeah sure, oh you never knew your family

“I just wanted to say a prayer for my mother. I didn’t want to cry like this”

Oh sure, sure, of course, you miss her, you only have one mother.

Oh sweet nice person, you have no idea how true that can be.

You miss her so much


I bet she was your best friend


“I never knew her, but yeah, she was in my mind. I always loved her”

You never knew your mommy”, and she started to cry

She gave me a peppermint.

I sat there for a bit. I could see out the window the parking lot was now empty, except for my bastard car parked blatantly out front in the no parking zone. I started to feel…. like a bastard. And I had one bit of bastardly business unfinished.

I thanked her and told her I had to go. She gave me another peppermint for the road.

In the back of the church, I left copies of this quarter’s Pennsylvania Adoption Reunion Registry newsletter on the table with the other literature.

And a few doors down from the church is the neighborhood grocery store, where I left the other stack.

This quarter’s newsletter features an article on the Donaldson report.

It features search tips.

It features a review of The Stork Market by Mirah Riben...

And it features your truly.

I look like somebody.

There's a wedding in August I need to go to Philly for.

I think I'll be back.

Pax vobiscum

23 complaints from ingrates:

Gershom Kaligawa April 7, 2008 at 4:10 AM  

I am bawling. YES THERESA!!! You clever clever bastard!!! To leave the paper WITH YOU!!! WHO YOU LOOK LIKE, THEY WILL SEE YOU. YES!!!

Mia April 7, 2008 at 6:26 AM  


You really are very very very brave. You didn't just take a step forward, you ran a marathon! I'm so proud of you. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Third Mom April 7, 2008 at 8:44 AM  

Et cum spiritu tuo.

Theresa, this is just overwhelming to read, so I can only imagine how overwhelming it was to live.

Deep bow to you for your courage. And (((((hugs))))).

Anonymous,  April 7, 2008 at 10:35 AM  

Tulips are my favorite flowers.

Love you, girlie.

Lindsay April 7, 2008 at 11:33 AM  

I about cried reading this....but way to go with leaving the newsletter with YOU in it!!!! Absolutely BRILLIANT (and cunning of course - like all of us)!!

Kudos to you for braving all that!!

Anonymous,  April 7, 2008 at 11:41 AM  

Crafty bastard!
The newsletter idea was perfect!
Best of luck to you...

Anonymous,  April 7, 2008 at 2:42 PM  

Oh, you are so brave, and smart,(and PRETTY! based on that teeny little picture from the newsletter).

I'm blown away by you.

Peace be with you.

Erin April 7, 2008 at 4:43 PM  


praying for you.

Sunny April 7, 2008 at 5:47 PM  

What a good storyteller you are! I was on the edge of my seat!

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous,  April 7, 2008 at 7:26 PM  

Oh T. I am sobbing too. Just, sobbing.

Jesus, that took guts.

Amyadoptee April 7, 2008 at 11:46 PM  

I am with you in spirit my friend.

Anonymous,  April 8, 2008 at 2:58 PM  

Oh T... I have absolute chills. What a fabulous post. You are one amazing woman, I stand in awe of you.

Anonymous,  April 8, 2008 at 7:20 PM  


That was amazing (and very brave of you)


elizabeth April 8, 2008 at 9:15 PM  

I was crying so hard yesterday reading this that I couldn't leave a proper comment.

You are amazing, brave, and beautiful. xx

Heather April 8, 2008 at 10:57 PM  

This post has been on my mind since I read it yesterday. I'm so moved by your courage and your honesty and all the emotion in this piece. Here's hoping that newsletter brings a response.

Peace to you.

Anonymous,  April 9, 2008 at 7:19 AM  

This is in response to your "Thank You" post.

Sometimes we don't realize -- or we forget -- how very much we're loved. There are times when I think that cancer has brought me nothing but pain, but I'm wrong. At the very least, it has reminded me of how very much I'm loved. I'm glad that your posts have given you just a small glimpse into just how very much you're loved, and deserve to be loved because you're a wonderful, strong, beautiful (inside and out) woman.

Your posts are amazing and I doubt anyone was able to read them without feeling like they were actually on that journey with you. With love. Oodles of love, Theresa.


Anonymous,  April 9, 2008 at 7:21 AM  

T - I have been reading this all and have not had the strenght to comment. I makes my heart hurt so freaking bad and ny eyes well with tears.

I still have no words to offer but know that I am here, I find you amazing, and I would gladly call you my daughter.


Anonymous,  April 11, 2008 at 9:26 PM  

i don't know what to say. that was amazing and very brave.


Anonymous,  April 12, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

I've said it before elsewhere and I will say it again here you are just AWESOME
I am Just in awe you are so grounded
Fantastic on the newsletter and Just so brave xxx

Being Me April 13, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

Thank you. My favorite color of tulips too. Brilliant move with the newsletter. I hope you hear from someone there.

Anonymous,  April 22, 2008 at 3:11 PM  

That was incredibly moving. I know how it feels to be the one on the outside looking in...even when you are inside. You do have another her name is MARY and when she holds you in her arms you cannot help but feel you are home you are loved and that you are an important part of the family. god loves you and it wasn't you who decided to go to mass that day...It was God nudging you to come home.
No longer ungrateful, now blessed.

h2o girl April 23, 2008 at 2:59 AM  

You rock. I can't stop thinking about this.

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