Monday, July 18, 2011
For twenty-four years on this summer morning I awoke not seeing the unfolding day. My vision turned inward as I wondered: What does she look like? Who is she with? Is she happy?
Did she miss me? Did she wonder where I was, what I looked like, if I was happy? Could she feel my love and longing from whatever distance separated us?
Happy Birthday, my daughter, I would whisper throughout the day. And while for the rest of the year I wouldn't allow myself to dwell, on this day my heart would open as fully as possible to knowing my child was out there somewhere. Blowing out candles on a cake prepared by another mom.
I imagined her at one: chubby legs, gleeful smile, reaching arms. A darker-skinned, curly-haired version of myself at that age. I imagined her at five, starting kindergarten: eager to learn, bravely facing a world away from home. I imagined her at sixteen: beautiful, spirited, on the cusp of an easier life than I could have given her.
On Kathleen's eighteenth birthday I imagined her beginning her search for me as she prepared for college and a career.
When she really did find me the spring before she turned twenty-five, I was certain we'd spend every birthday together from that time forward.
By July of that year she'd already begun the reaching out and withdrawing that would become the hallmark of our relationship. There was always a good reason she wasn't available to spend the day with me. One involving her children or her parents. One I couldn't argue against for the simple reason I had given up all rights to her and could only accept what she was willing to give. There were always promises of next year.
For her twenty-fifth birthday, our first in each other's lives, I bought her a ring. A ruby. Her birthstone. I wanted her to have something she could wear every day that would remind her how much I loved her. How much I'd always loved her. When she cancelled our plans at the last minute, I put the ring away, thinking I'd give it to her the next year. It sat in a drawer for a number of years before I finally mailed it to her. Still hoping that next year would be different.
Sixteen years of hoping. Sixteen years in which I could at least picture her clearly, and hear her voice or see her words.
Last year when she turned forty I wrote this and emailed her and told her I'd like her to read it. I meant it as an offering of understanding and love. A reaching out to embrace her. She saw only the acknowledgment of her mental illness and pulled even farther away.
I woke up this morning to a dawn in which I once more wonder where she is. What happens to the spirit of a young woman who feels too much pain to continue to live? As I send my heart out into the pinking sky, searching for some sign of her, I find only emptiness and sadness in the fog softened air. To have come full circle in this way leaves me spinning.
I wonder now how her daughter is, and her other mother, on this day. Her two sons. Her ex-husband. I wonder if she can, wherever she is, finally feel how loved she is. If she sees how much she's missed. If she knows peace.