It’s been a few months since I’ve updated my blog. The summer was a whirlwind of excitement for our family, and the transition into the new school year is always frenetic. My list of potential blog topics is a mile long: watching old movie musicals with the kids this summer and discussing the demeaning characterization of people of color; confronting the local Boy Scouts organization about their patronage of the incredibly homophobic national organization; internalizing the continued insanity that is our country’s legalized murder of unarmed black men in Missouri this summer…the list goes on and on and I’m sure I’ll get to each of them in due time. Tonight however, we were dealt a new blow and I’m wondering how we’ll work this one out.
Last May, our daughter made a Mother’s Day gift for her birthmom in school. I wrote a little something about her experiences here. We didn’t get around to mailing it until the end of August though. Our daughter has a pretty limited interaction with her birthmom. We have a PO Box in another town where her mom can send cards and the occasional gift, and we sadly typically only hear from her when she’s incarcerated, which is far more often than anyone would like. The birthmom’s mother has always been a bit more consistent with her cards and letters, sending items a few times a year and always sending Christmas and birthday gifts. It’s through this maternal grandmother that we typically reach out to our daughter’s mom, sending letters and photos a few times a year, and last month, we took our daughter to the post office so she could mail her Mother’s Day gift to her mom care of her grandmother.
We only check the PO Box a half dozen times a year, and tonight my husband picked up the mail. The package we mailed in August had been returned, marked “deceased.” A quick Google search showed that our daughter’s grandma had in fact passed away in mid-August.
Now we have to find a way to explain this to a little girl, nearly eight years old, who finds tremendous joys in receiving letters from her grandma. She actually talks about her mom and grandma often, saying how much she loves them and how she wishes we could all be together. We’ve always held out the hope that someday a meeting might be possible, and I myself am pretty devastated that it won’t ever happen.
Our daughter is typically a pretty happy person, but she’s moved to tremendous tears when confronted with the type of things that make most adults swoon. When we broke the news that a dear friend’s dog has passed away, a dog she only saw a few times a year but that she loved to play with during our visits, she cried for nearly half an hour. I know she’s going to take the news of her grandmother’s dead particularly hard, and as she grows and matures she will grapple with the realization that this death represents a pretty significant loss–the loss of a loved one, the loss of a genetic connection, the loss of an opportunity.
We’ll try to reach out to our daughter’s birthmom; perhaps the funeral home where the services were held will have a current address, but I worry that she hasn’t reached out to us for quite some time now, even though her correspondence while she was in prison was always fairly positive and promising. In the mean time, my husband and I will find a day soon when we can break this news to our daughter and help her work through some incredibly complicated feelings that would be difficult for someone three times her age to endure. Through my web search, I found the site of grandma’s burial. I imagine we’ll tell her what little we know, and offer to drive her to the grave site where she can say goodbye, both to the woman and the dream. Maybe this can become one of our new family traditions, placing flowers on a headstone for a woman who we never had the chance to truly know but who each of loves in a very unique way. Until we can do this though, we’ll have to maintain the status quo, feigning the ignorance that was our reality until today.