I have this theory that I’m adopted. Whenever I bring it up to my mother she reminds me about the 42 hours of labor she was in when giving birth to me. She tells me about the first time that she felt me kicking in her womb, about me being born not breathing, whisked away from her immediately after hitting open air and not seeing me again until hours later in the NICU.
I love to hear these stories and can’t wait to have the opportunity to tell my own daughters the story of their birth. Even so, looking at the faces of my family, I cannot find my own. I don’t look like any of them. I don’t look like my sister, my father, or my mother. I’m the same coloring as most of my cousins but that’s as far as the resemblance goes-they look more like their mothers.
It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind-in my heart I know that I’m not adopted but lately I’ve been feeling like a bit of an orphan. I’ve been thinking about this more and more because as I continue to get older the realization of life and death and the aftermath of both is becoming more evident.
I grew up with a large extended family. My father has four brothers and two of them lived in or around Toledo. Our weekends were filled with BBQs, family gatherings, food, laughter, dancing, music, and fun. I don’t have a single childhood memory without my family. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends and friends of friends-they’re all in each photo and each photo reminds me of that time when nothing mattered and living life was only for fun.
Around 6th grade one of my favorite uncles died. His name was Roy. He and his wife were in the park on their morning run-they got into the car and he had a massive heart attack. He died at the wheel and crashed their car into a tree. It was the first time I experienced death. I remember willing myself not to cry at his funeral in New Jersey. Everyone was crying around me and I wasn’t going to be one of them. I held it in as much as I can until I found myself bawling my eyes out uncontrollably into my mothers arms.
My second favorite uncle died about 4 years ago. His name was Leslie and his laugh was infectious. He was a whiz on the grill, he loved life and always made me feel like I was his favorite niece (I was) He died after a long battle with cancer. He was always a larger man and in his final months the cancer ate him away to nothing. The sparkle left his eye, it was like a light blew out there.
My third uncle died just over a year later. His name was Eric-I am not his namesake. Eric was the rebel son-he was always in trouble. When I was younger I thought he was the most exciting and fun uncle-he was the youngest. As I got older I realized that his “fun” was always drug induced and as I entered high school I grew to despise him. My father found him dead at his kitchen table; a note and a jar of pills.
Of the 5 Davis boys only two remain; My dad and his older brother Mike. Mike is…not my favorite and the one I felt the most distance from. Mike has always been an odd duck, he’s mentally unstable, and kind of a lose cannon.
On my mom’s side of the family things are a bit more fuzzy. My mother didn’t know she had other brothers and sisters until she was into her adulthood. On her last trip home, about two years ago, she found another brother she never knew she had. Her mother, Minnie, died three months before I died-she was the grandmother I never knew. My father’s mother, Barbara, was miles away in New Jersey when I grew up. She never picked up the phone, never sent cards.
So my cousin came last weekend for a visit to the city and at Le Monde over an amazing meal I asked her about my Grandma Minnie-what she remembered. She told me that our Grannie was a wonderful woman who was always helping people out-she always took people in who needed a home, needed a meal, needed anything. She was always looking out for her grandchild, my cousin. When she’d “run away” from home and her mother called looking my Grandma Minnie would say she hadn’t seen her-even though she was sitting at the kitchen table crying. My favorite Grandma Minnie story and the reason I know I’m not adopted is one of my favorites. My Grandma Minnie was in the hospital, dying of cancer, and my mother was by her side. My Grandma woke up and looked at my mother and said, “You know, I always thought that you’d have a light-skinned baby, but Erika’s going to be a brown baby.” She told my mom this prediction of my birth and fell back asleep. My cousin told me that the day my Grandma Minnie died, the hour she took her last breath, her watch stopped.
I’ve been struggling, wrestling with these thoughts. My family. Me. Who I am. There is so much that I don’t know and limited resources to find the answers. I’ve started to close up a bit, especially from Mirs and that’s what the hardest thing is. I’m feeling resentful at her life. Her grandmother on her father’s side is in her late 80’s or early 90’s and just had a pacemaker placed to keep her ticker tickin’. That grandma’s husband is right at her side. She still has her grandmother on her mother’s side too and an extended family that’s bright, alive, and vibrant.
I look at her, and all of her luck. She’s so lucky. Not only to have grandparents who are still alive and relatively well, but also lucky that her family is such a close-knit one. She talks to her grandmother on the phone at least twice a week, her mother daily. Ever since coming out, the conversations my mother and I used to have are painful memories.
I’d blame my excessive weepiness and sudden boxing up of feelings on PMS, but I just had my period last week. It’s just the question that keeps nagging me in my quiet hours-Who am I?