My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Archive for April, 2009

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found….

We have a sweet, sweet basset hound by the name of Beau. Unlike our other doggies, we got Beau in a unique manner.

Me and Beau - 2008

Me and Beau - 2008

On the 4th of July a few years ago, we were invited to go to a friend’s house to celebrate Independence Day. As usual, Bud and I had forgotten to pick up something we needed to take with us so we decided to stop by Oaktree and pick it up. As we drove up to Oaktree, Bud saw a basset hound sitting under the flower rack at the front of the store.

As we walked up to where the dog was, we noticed that something was going on with the dog. He seemed to be panting hard and foaming at the mouth. We were concerned that the dog might have rabies or had been struck by a car or something.

Besides all this, he was a really sweet, friendly doggie. He interacted with us. But we could see he must have been a stray for awhile because he was extremely thin, his coat was unkempt, and he was dirty.
I started crying and Bud sent me into the store to get the things we needed and to try and find some water for the dog. I quickly picked up our stuff and found a worker who brought a bowl with some water out for the doggie. By the time I got back outside, the dog seemed to be calmer and over whatever was wrong with him when we first arrived.

Now we could really see what a sweet personality this dog had. We tried to call the humane shelter but they were closed (thank goodness!). Bud and I decided at this point to take the dog home and at least take care of him until we could get in touch with someone at the humane shelter the next day. So we took him home, into the nice cool air-conditioned house, put him in our bathroom with some blankets on the floor to sleep on, and brought him some food and water. We then had to leave to go on to our friend’s house.
All day I thought of this poor creature. On the way home that evening, Bud and I wondered if this dog would even be alive when we got home, but we were glad that no matter what, at least he had some food and water and a comfortable place in which to rest.

Beau in his usual sleeping position

Beau in his usual sleeping position

When we got home, the dog was still alive and actually seemed to be in much better shape. Bella had returned home by that time and she and I decided that we had to do something to clean him up and get rid of the fleas we could see on his skinny little body. So we filled up the bathtub and started to give him a bath. As soon as we started washing him with flea shampoo, dead fleas begin floating in the bathtub. We determined that there were a lot on his tail so I set about washing that. As I held it up and scrubbed up and down, blood was pouring down his tail as were thousands of fleas. You could tell that the dog just loved the bath. And as soon as we started drying him off, he seemed to feel so much better. During his bath, we also noticed some signs of abuse, including an area of skin that no hair would grow on from where he had apparently been chained up.

After his bath, we took him into the living room with the other dogs, to start getting him acquainted with everyone. He seemed very shy and kept hiding behind the recliner, but we persisted and soon our other two basset hounds Bailey and Blossom had started the slow process of friendship.
That night we fed him again and then put a doggie bed in the corner of our bedroom and let him sleep with us. In the middle of the night I woke up and decided to check on him. He was sound asleep on the doggie bed on his back with all four feet straight up in the air. I think that is when I fell in love with him! In the morning I told Bud to go take down all the “Found Dog” flyers he had put up the night before while we were giving the dog a bath. He was ours and we named him Beauregard.

Beau, as we call him, is a wonderful dog. He is so happy to be here and loves us so much. He really brings us so much joy everyday.

So…why am I telling you all about Beau in my post? Because Beau is such a picture of God’s seeking and saving us. Like Beau, we were dirty, sick, and helpless. But God, in His wonderful mercy, saw us in our dirtiness and our need and loved us anyway. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Like Beau, we could do nothing to help ourselves. Like Beau we would just lie in our dirtiness until someone came and helped us.

Bella & Beau - Merry Christmas

Bella & Beau - Merry Christmas

Every time I see Beau, I think of this wonderful truth. And think of the words to a well-loved hymn….”Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

Legacy of an Adopted Child…

This is a poem that someone once shared with me. It sums it up well.

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other
One you do not remember
The other you call mother
Two different lives
Shaped to make yours one
One becoming your guiding star
The other became your sun.
The first gave you life
The second one taught you to live in it
The first gave you a need for love
The second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality
The other gave you a name
One gave you the seed of talent
The other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions
The other calmed your fears
One saw your first sweet smile
The other dried your tears.
One gave you up –
It was all she could do
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me through your tears
The age-old questions
Through the years;
Heredity or environment
Which you are the product of?
Neither, my darling – neither
Just two different kinds of love.

My Adoption, Part VI…

The day after the funeral Ruth and I had set up a lunch meeting. The day of the meeting, my brother was so nervous for me (worse than I was) that he insisted on going with me. I think he was really worried that I was going to be hurt. When we got to the restaurant he didn’t want to intrude, so he sat at a table a few tables away from mine and Ruth’s table.

I walked up to the table and there they were…Ruth, my half-sister Shannon, and my biological grandfather – Grandpa Bill. Ruth got up and hugged me. To me it seemed a little like coming home. She told me that I felt exactly how she remembered me feeling when she held me that one time in the hospital. Everyone was really nice but you could tell that we were all very nervous.

Looking at Ruth I could see where a lot of my looks had come from. To put it as a former boss of mine put it….I had her same “squinty eyes, pointy nose, and thin lips”…hahaha! Really, there was a lot of me that did look just like her. It was very strange for me because I had never been able to say “oh I have my momma’s eyes, or my daddy’s nose” like my friends could. Now I could say that too. From the picture of himself that Jurgen had sent me, I could see where some features came from him as well. Especially my prematurely graying hair! He has this long mane of salt and pepper hair.
Another thing I could immediately see was that there were some features that Shannon and I shared too.

We spent a couple of hours just sitting there talking. It was a big relief for Ruth to be talking too. There was this complete void of years where in Ruth’s life I never even existed except for her. Ruth’s mother, my biological grandmother, had died of breast cancer the year before I found Ruth. Ruth and her mother had never talked about the fact that Ruth had had a baby in the 30 years since I was born. It was like it had never occurred. Ruth even went so far as to say that if her mother had still been alive when she had been contacted by Betty, she would never have agreed to even writing letters.

After Betty contacted Ruth and Ruth had decided to go forward with writing letters, she had talked to her father. He was very willing to discuss my existence and was very excited to meet me. Grandpa Bill had even written an “autobiography” after his wife’s death and ended up copying it and sending me one. It was so much information about where I came from and who these people were that were my physical relatives but whom I didn’t know.

The meeting was everything that I could have hoped for. I know some people who haven’t been through this probably were expecting me to say that we saw each other and it was just like a fairy tale. However, this is real life and there were a lot of considerations on both parts.

First, I still had a mother and a father. Ruth was never going to take their place, nor did she want to. Second, Ruth and I are very different people. I can so clearly see the grace of God in His putting me with the parents he did. I’m a very free-spirited person and my parents were the perfect mix of nurturing and strict. They kept me in line and my feet on the ground. Ruth is very permissive. She grew up in the 60’s and definitely has that type of values and beliefs. She allowed Shannon to go to school or not as she wanted to and even eventually allowed her to drop out. I do not see any way that I would have ended up a decent, hardworking individual, much less a believer, staying in the environment I would have been raised in. I do not say this to criticize Ruth; I say this to give God the glory in His perfect plans and ways.

I think the biggest thing I got from finding Ruth and Jurgen was a profound sense of gratefulness to my parents for the way they loved and raised me as their own and gratefulness to God for His lovingkindness in my life.

I look back at my life and can see that I would have never met my husband, had my children, became a Christian had I not been given up for adoption. So the second thing I got from finding Ruth and Jurgen was a profound respect for the decisions they made concerning me. There were other decisions they could have made: abortion or keeping me and raising me….but they choose to make the ultimate sacrifice and give me to a couple who couldn’t have children of their own. And for that I will always be grateful and love them for it.

In the years since this time, I have kept in touch with Ruth. We email back and forth some and I have tried to talk to her some about her beliefs but she isn’t interested in that subject at all. I enjoy talking to her and we both share a love of reading and books and that fuels a lot of our discussions.

Grandpa Bill died several years after our meeting. We corresponded until his death and I really enjoyed getting to know him. I do wish I could have known him better. He was an interesting and sweet man.

Shannon ended up dropping out of high school, getting a job, and finally ended up getting married. We had a pretty good relationship started for awhile but it has kind of just faded away. She knows I’m here if she needs me but I’m sure it’s as hard for her as it is for me.

I haven’t really talked to Jurgen in years. He is a very free-spirited person and it has been hard to keep in touch. Bella went through a time when she was in high school where she and Jurgen wrote to each other a lot. Bella enjoys writing poetry and that is primarily what Jurgen does now. They definitely had a lot to talk about.

The End!

My Adoption, Part V…

Ruth and I continued to write and talk on the phone from time to time. A year after I found Ruth, my Grandpa Frank (my mom’s dad) in Colorado died. I decided to go to the funeral and spent time with my uncle and aunt that lived there. My brother and my dad would be going to the funeral so I would get to see them as well. Once the plans were made for me to visit Colorado, I arranged for Ruth and me to meet in person while I was there. That was the most emotionally draining trip of my life.

I got to Colorado and was met at the airport once more by my brother and my dad. This was reminiscent of my trip back to California for my mother’s funeral. Of course, this being the first funeral I had attended since my mother’s death 11 or so years before, I was really nervous as to how my reaction was going to be. Add to that my impending visit with not only my biological mother, but also my half-sister and my biological grandfather and I was a basket case.

The first thing we did once we got settled in was to visit my grandmother in the nursing home. My mom’s mother had died of breast cancer when I was 4 years old. My Grandpa had married my Grandma Helen when I was in first grade. I just adored Grandma Helen. She would always play board games with me when they would come and visit us, and she once crocheted me this awesome afghan that is made up of about 50 different colors that I still have and love to this day.

My Grandpa is in the middle of the back row

My Grandpa is in the middle of the back row

My Grandma Helen had started getting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease around five years before my Grandpa’s death. My Grandpa took care of Helen for several years as her disease progressed. At the same time, my Grandpa was battling prostate cancer. He had been given chemotherapy for a few cycles, but the side-effects affected him worse than the disease so he finally elected to stop taking them. He was in his late eighties at this time and the doctors agreed that since his prostate cancer was a slower growing type, getting off the chemo wouldn’t make a real big difference anyway.

Once Grandma Helen’s Alzheimer’s started getting worse, my Grandpa decided that he needed to get them both into around the clock nursing care. He also wanted to get Grandma Helen settled before she got too much worse. He did the sweetest, most sacrificially loving thing I have ever witnessed before. Grandpa got both of them into the nursing home and got it all set up with their things. He sold their house and basically got their affairs in order. Then he slowly began to pull himself out of Grandma Helen’s life. See…he knew he was going to die and he didn’t want my grandma to become confused any more than she already was.

After they got settled into the nursing home for a few months, he moved out of her room and moved next door to her. After a few months, when Grandma Helen was used to things again, he moved down the hall. He continued to visit her but as she continued to forget things he just let her forget them. It ended up being a really smooth transition for her and my Grandpa was relieved to know that Grandma Helen would be taken care of once he was gone.

We went to see Grandma Helen the afternoon before my Grandpa’s funeral. At first she wasn’t really sure who I was but after I while I started talking about my colorful afghan and she stated that she had made one for her granddaughter Debey. I told her that Debey was me and she seemed to recognize me and become relatively clearheaded for awhile. She was very happy and chatty but seemed a little sad. When we asked her why she was sad, she replied that, “That nice man Frank down the hall had died.” She had no idea that Frank had been her husband of many years. Even though it was hard to hear that she didn’t remember that Grandpa had been her husband, I was also glad for her sake that she didn’t and also that she wasn’t confused or grieving.

The next day we went to my Grandpa’s funeral. It was really a sad thing to go through but I knew that my Grandpa was a Christian and that he was going to Heaven. Even though I wasn’t saved at the time, I knew that without a shadow of a doubt.

My Adoption, Part IV…

bella-and-debey1

Bella and I around the time of my search

Finally Betty called me. She had found one of my biological parents. I was in for a shock. The first one she found was my biological father. In all the years and years of thinking about doing a search, I never, ever thought about finding my biological father. I don’t know why but it had never even crossed my mind. Betty told me about her conversation with him.

His name was Jurgen. He was 16 years old when I was born. The thing was, when Betty called him and asked him if he had a child that had been adopted out, he asked which year. Apparently, he had had several children that were adopted. He was an ex-convict that had been convicted for armed robbery of a bank several years back. (Bud promptly said, “That explains a whole lot about you honey.”—not funny…) Jurgen was more than happy to talk to me but now I wasn’t so sure.

One thing that I was learning about doing a search for my biological parents was that it was totally a rollercoaster ride.

So I thought and thought about it and talked to Bud and my dad and finally decided to talk to Jurgen. We decided to start by writing letters to each other. It really was much better than I thought it was going to be. But it was just getting information, not much more than that. There wasn’t any emotional connection at all.

After some time, I got another call from Betty. She had now located my biological mother.

She had talked with her but there was a problem. My biological mother, Ruth, now had a 16-year-old daughter and she didn’t know I existed. Ruth decided that she was going to think about it and call Betty back when she made a decision on whether or not she wanted any contact.

After about a week or so, I heard from Betty. Ruth didn’t want any contact! I was saddened by her decision but accepted it. When I had started this process, I had determined that whatever happened I would not be upset or hurt by it. I would be glad that I had gone ahead with the search and that my biological parents would know that I had tried. They could always contact me later if they changed their mind. But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt…because it did.

A few weeks later, Betty called again and Ruth had changed her mind. She did want some contact but in a very limited way. I was thrilled just to be able to ask her a few questions. The way our contact worked was that Ruth would write a letter and send it to Betty. Betty would take it out of the envelope and put it into a new envelope with her own return address instead of Ruth’s and then send it on to me. I would answer it in the same manner. We would only use first names and no identifying information would be exchanged.

It really was a good way to begin. I was able to ask tons of questions and get all the answers I wanted but not worry about the awkward “we should have a relationship but we don’t” feeling I got during my contact with Jurgen. Ruth told me a lot about her life before, during, and after my birth. I questions and she answered them. She told me about her family and I told her about my family. She wanted to know about the two grandchildren she never knew that she had.

After about a month of correspondence, Ruth decided that she wanted to have more contact between us. We started writing letters with no intermediary between us. She also decided to tell her other daughter, Shannon that I existed. The funny thing was that Shannon’s father had told her that Ruth had a daughter that she put up for adoption several years before.

So, we finally got to talk on the phone. I would love to say that it was wonderful but in reality it was more just strange. I realized that in all those years of wondering about searching for and finding my biological parents I had never even thought about anything after the actual first moment. We both were very perplexed as to how to go about this new relationship in our lives. I kept thinking that here was this person who gave me life and I should know her almost as well as I know myself but she is this complete stranger to me.

Another thing that I realized was that we are two totally different people. Whereas I might get my nose and my poor eyesight from Ruth, and my prematurely gray hair from Jurgen, it seems that my personality was pretty much my own (just as it had always been with my family). Apparently, God just made my unique.

There were a couple of funny things however. When I was writing letters back and forth with Jurgen I realized (and so did my intermediary Betty), that our handwriting was eerily similar. Also, as I was growing up I also seemed to name my baby dolls Marie. I just loved that name for some odd reason. When I met Ruth I found out that she had named me Marie Ruth – and that is what my foster parents called me for the first two months of my life. It could be a coincidence but I’m not convinced.

My Adoption, Part III…

When I was 30, I finally decided that I was going to go ahead and search for my biological parents. I had no idea even how to begin. I knew the first thing that I would need to do was talk to my dad. I needed to make sure that my search was not going to hurt him and to get his blessing. This was very important to me. At this time, I lived in Alabama and my dad lived in California, so I decided to write him a letter.

It took me several days to write the letter. I wanted to say just the write things. I wanted to assure my dad that I was NOT going to find “new parents.” I explained why I needed to find where I came from. I sent the letter off and spent several days extremely nervous as to my dad’s reaction. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be upset or mad or what. Finally, my dad got my letter and he immediately called me.

He was more than happy for me to do a search for my birth parents. He didn’t have any reservations or worries at all and was very encouraging to me. He also gave me some valuable information on where to start and who to talk to. He was able to tell me which agency I was adopted from and he also suggested that I contact my grandfather who still lived in Colorado. I called me grandfather who was able to tell me exactly who to contact and he also found out the procedure for me to begin a search.

Each state has different rules regarding a search for biological parents. In Colorado, the search had to go through the courts. I had to petition the court in the county in which my adoption occurred to open my case. After much waiting, and some money, my case finally came up. The judge ruled in my favor and appointed an intermediary to search my files and begin the search for my biological parents.

I had a wonderful intermediary named Betty. She was an adoptive parent herself so she had so much compassion for everyone in the process. She had helped many people to find their biological families, including her own child.

Everything seemed to move at a snail’s pace. I wanted to know right away and each step took time and money. Betty was wonderful at keeping me up-to-date and was working as fast as she could to get me some information.

So…the waiting game began.

My Adoption, Part II…

family1

My Mom, Dad, and me when I was about one

In the meantime, my adoptive parents were preparing for the adoption of their second child. My brother had been adopted in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1961 when he was two weeks old. Immediately after adopting my brother Mark, my parents put in for another child, this time a girl. They had received word in early 1965 that a suitable baby was due in February. When I was two months old, I was delivered to my parents and my adoption was completed.

Growing up, I’m sure my parents wondered what they had gotten into. Whereas my parents were both quiet and quite shy, I was not. I was boisterous, bubbly, and a great big flirt with the guys. My Dad’s father had died before I was born and his mother remarried Grandpa Louie. He had this great long beard and I LOVED him and his beard. When my grandparents came to visit, all I wanted to do was to play with his beard. I combed it, put bows in it, and braided it. Grandpa Louie was just as smitten with me as I was him, so he let me do whatever I wanted to his beard. When he died when I was still a small child, I was heartbroken.

I also adored my big brother. He was also a really quiet child but into everything. He is almost four years older than me.

My brother, Mark, and I

My brother, Mark, and I

As I grew…people would always say that my brother and I looked alike and just like my dad. Well, of course, that would crack us up since none of us were biologically related. I guess it’s the same old story of people living together growing to look alike.

I always had talked about one day finding my biological parents. I am a curious person and very much wanted to know all about them. My mother always said that she would be glad to help me search when I was a little older. When my mother got sick, I gave up any idea of trying to search at that time. I didn’t want to put any stress on her or on my father.

As time went on and I got married I just put the whole adoption thing out of my mind. I was way too busy to do anything about it anyway. But as I begin to start my own family, my adoption rose to the surface and stayed there.