Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Family

Family has been in the forefront of my mind lately. This January my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Perhaps this is why I am quietly reflecting upon family and family history now. I know that I am not alone in the experience of step parenting. I married a widower with three children when I was 22. The children have always felt like my own. How could they not? Most of my life I felt like I was hatched and not actually born; leaving me with a sense of belonging to those who chose me. When I got married I felt connected to this little family because I chose them. The people around the family saw my attachment and bond to my children much like they saw my attachment and bond to my adoptive family: there was always something not quite “true” about it. This included my adoptive family who, bless their hearts, never totally embraced my family as they did their biological children and their offspring. This too I learned to accept and excuse with the faith that they “didn’t mean” to exclude or to support their biological children more than me. Later in my adult life I came to accept that, even if unintentional, that this was a dismissal of my place in the family; just as my role as mother has been dismissed so many times by mother and father in-laws, and other biological relatives of my children. When I was 14 years old my niece, my sister’s daughter, came to me on her own when she was 5 years old and said, “You’re not really a Sampson are you?” Truth, as we know, flows freely out of the mouths of babes and there was no exception here. I would always prefer the truth because at least if you have the truth you can settle on a committed response to it that is real. I got a clue to the whole adoption deal early on as a result and decided that bread crumbs, and at times whole loaves, were better than the lot I began life with in my biological family and acceptance came along with the hurt that this experience created. Now, at the age of 47, I realize that I have had to try and find my place in the world through family where the recognition of my place has always been questionable. My commitment to belong and my need to be recognized has brought me much lamenting. I wanted so much to be recognized for my belonging, my effort, my love of my families and it has been long in coming. I have lost the dream that I will ever be wholly invited in. The grieving for this lost place has been deeply felt. My age and years of experience have taught me acceptance, but mostly I recognize that my history with both my adopted family and my stepfamily has given me the right to a place in both of these families. Perhaps each member will not fully recognize my place and that is indeed their right, but I recognize my place and this is where the healing lies. Years ago I was in a women’s group and it was there that I got it for the first time that I belonged. I realized that I got an invitation to the party of life from the man upstairs just like everyone else and I didn’t have to say I was sorry for existing and beg to be embraced and included. It was very freeing. I still grieve about my children though. They are older and I have 5 wonderful grandchildren. We are closer as a family than ever before, but there is still this unstated piece around my place as mother. A few weeks ago I ran into an acquaintance. She knows my husband and me through my husband. She asked me how I was doing and we caught up on surface doings. She then asked me, “How are Fred’s kids?” I wanted to melt into a puddle. Why would she ask this? Would any human being ask a biological mother how her kids are by naming them as their father’s children? I think not. Invisible. Invisible. Invisible. My insides were crushed and for the first time I got angry about it instead of feeling powerless and nonexistent. I know that this woman simply did not understand what she had said and I excuse this behavior to a certain extent. The healing work is changing the button inside my heart and grabbing my belonging like the oxygen mask on a descending plane bound for some disaster. I told my son that he truly was my son; not through birth certainly, but that I had only known family through my heart connection to them and not a blood connection. I have little positive emotional knowledge of that experience. How could these children not be my children? We have loved each other for a quarter of a century. I have tended, embraced, encourage, taught, loved, and wept for them. What is a mother if not these things? I am clear about how I feel about my birth mother…there is an aching…a longing…unsatisfied in my case…but real and emotionally tangible. Even though my birth mother did terrible things to me and my siblings, I love her desperately. My children must feel this about their mother who died when they were all very young. Two of them have no memory at all of her because they were so young. Can the heart make room for two mothers? It must be such a dilemma for them to try and place their loyalty when society and family do not embrace my place in the family. My answer is to keep on loving. Somewhere, somehow there will be a day of recognition. These have come in many ways through the love given to me by my children…they speak of my place in their hearts without ever knowing they are giving it away. This is what I hang my heart on; this is where my belonging lives.
Grampa and Owen
Owen is our oldest son's little boy and Miranda is his daughter from his first marriage. Owen is now going on 9 months old. Fred plans on marrying his partner, Jennifer, next fall. Looks like we will be making wedding plans asap!

Summer Boating with grandkids

This has been my absolute favorite pass time in the summer. We anchor off the coast line in our special spot and play in the sunshine and water for hours, then grill burgers and goodies, and as the day comes to a close we watch the sun set and feed the seagulls. What a complete wonder and balm for the soul this is!

Two granddaughters Miranda and Alyssa

This is Alyssa and Miranda. Miranda's mother lives in Florida and my son has "custody" of her. The cost of adoption has stood in the way of this process being completed. I wish that there was more monetary support for kinship adoptions. My son met Miranda's mother when she was pregnant with Miranda and stayed with her through her pregnancy and delivery. They married and my son has commited himself as a father to Miranda. Their marriage lasted several years and then they grew apart. Miranda's mother simply hasn't been able to solve the challenges in her life, but we stay connected with her and Miranda and I talk about her mum and this relationship. I watch my granddaughter struggle in her life with all of these issues of belonging and wanting to know who she is and where she belongs. She and I are tremendously close. She has been the biggest gift in my life and she has taught me how to receive love as she offered it so unconditionally and freely ever since she was a small baby. She is an absolute wonder with tremendous inner strength and the greatest sense of humor.

Natusch Family 2004

Sadly, we don't have a more recent family photo. We all have such scattered lives these days and when we do get together we don't remember to get a family photo. I am thinking we need to schedule a studio session and that way it will get done.

Three Siblings - Alyssa, Brendyn, & Bryan

(Our daughter Carrie's children)

Carrie has been married close to 13 years now. She and her husband own and operate a fencing and landscaping business here on the island. They do quite well. Her husband's family, like Carrie's father, have been long time residence of the island. Bryan is particularly gifted with telling stories of island people from current and from the past. My husband was born and raised on the island and his ancestors date back to the first whaling captains some 300 years ago. He and I couldn't be any different in this regard and I often wonder what it must feel like to be so deeply rooted in one place...and in the world as a result. Alyssa is very interested in costumes and acting and art! This grammy's dream come true. My grandson is thrilled by improv acting and we have begun to explore this arena together. It will be such joyous adventure watching our two newest grandchildren blossom into individuals as well!

Uncle Adam with Brendyn

(lovingly known as "Unc")

Side Bar: Adam is in Vietnam right now. He is actually living in Thailand for the winter. We have been traveling along with him via his My Space. It has been so cool to be a part of his travels in this way as he regularly posts photos and writings of where he is and what he is up to. In Vietnam he and his girlfriend are having clothes tailor made for them for the price of a song. How amazing that they are seeing such a different kind of world. Adam is into studying the Vietnam War right now and plans on visiting the Vietnam war tunnels and other places in the area connected with the war. Adam is a devout bachelor and claims that marriage will never suit him. All we want is for him to find happiness and satisfaction from the choices he makes. He is really one of a kind!


Blogger Rebecca said...

What a beautiful family! I admire your son's commitment to his daughter. Regardless if he has the right documents, that is what his heart knows to be true. :) Rebecca

3:45 PM  

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