Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Response to the Parents Response

The picture threw me for a major loop.

I had started seeing a counselor (a first) when
I realized that every relationship I had failed.
The time had come when I knew it had to
be me. My marriage was in shambles and I
was all mixed up. Would I ever marry
again? Would I ever have children? Did I want
children? Had Bryan been my only chance?

Was every moment of grief I ever suffered
going to bring up all of the pain of losing him?

When I wrote the initial letter I read it to my
counselor - she suggested I mail it. As it turned
out she had given up a baby for adoption too.
We went over all of the possible outcomes.
Hearing back from them was at the end of the
list, as I recall it fell somewhere after
Restraining Order.

For several days the photo made me weep.
I would stare at it so hard trying to know him
from looking in his eyes. Trying to recognize him.
Trying to feel him. Trying to feel better about
giving him away...

I wrote feverishly about all that I was
experiencing - sounding, I am certain, like a
mad woman.

And then I felt a little better after about the 5th
or 6th day. I carried the photo with me wherever
I went. And then I wrote the response that I
would send.

Dear Mr. Lawyer for Parents of my Birth Son,

Thank you so much for the letter and please
tell Bryan's parents how grateful I am. If you
don't mind, I am going to write the rest of
the letter directly to them - it is just easier.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parents of my Birth Son,

I can't thank you enough for what you have
given me. It's an odd thing to give a child
away and hope for the best. If a picture is
worth a thousand words, this one is worth
a thousand times that. Bryan looks sweet
and healthy and happy and very well loved.
It's all I ever wanted for him.

I have enclosed the medical records release
form Mr. Attorney sent me. I'd be happy to
answer any other questions you have.

My husband Mr. In-The-Wrong-Place-At-
The-Wrong-Time knows all about Bryan.
He has been very supportive of this. He
sends his best too.

As for further communication - I'd be
delighted. I will follow your lead, however.

Please rest assured that I understand the
delicacy of this situation - I only want what
is best for Bryan - as I always have.

My best to you all,



And then there was silence...

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do you thank a dog like that?

[Melba with pig's ear - around one year old]

I am sitting in the waiting room with a very sweet young 
thing who rushed from behind the counter when I told her, 
with a cracking voice, what I was there for. She hugged me, 
hard and long, a good hug, a real hug, the kind I like to 
give. She led me over to a bench in a quieter place 
and murmured with me while we waited.

Her office mate reappeared from the back and said, 
'she's beautiful.'

Yes, yes she is...

'We put dogs in a box kind of like a coffin, you can bury her 
in that if you like. It makes it easier to carry - she is a big dog.'

The techs come out the back of the building (they kept her 
overnight till we could prepare the grave) and roll her out to 
my mom-van on a folding cart - the kind they move coffins with.

thank you, thank you, sorry for your loss, thank you

I get in the car and tell Melba

'we are going home sweetheart'

I drive home and back down the driveway all the way 
to the gate to the back yard - I get out and open the 
rear hatch and remove the lid from the coffin-box. 
She really is beautiful   She looks peaceful    
She looks comfortable

I bought Melba back in 1995. I had been divorced nearly 
five years and had just broken up with a man I dated 
for 4. I purchased a cute little yellow farm house 
on a fairly large piece of property for an in town lot. 
Perfect for a dog – a BIG one.

I had looked at several puppies but never came home with 
one. Then one day my friends K and K called and said they 
had gotten a male labrador from a local breeder and there 
was one chocolate female left. I got the number, called 
and rushed out there. The mother was a sweet black lab 
named Miss Julia – she had 11 in her litter – 8 yellows 
and 3 chocolates. There were just 3 puppies left – 2 yellow 
males and one chocolate female. Apparently they were not 
chosen because they all had pink noses and lips and eye 
lids – they were adorable little fat things. The little 
chocolate female was very light – more milk chocolate 
than brown. I asked if they would keep her until she was 
9 weeks old. They agreed and I paid them the money 
and went home to prepare.

We had a dog when I was growing up but nothing in the world 
could have prepared me for raising a spirited lab. She was CRAZY! 
She clearly never got the memo that she was supposed to have 
a soft mouth (so as not to damage the kill when retrieving it) 
I had little tiny green bruises EVERYWHERE from those little  
teeth. Nor did she get the retrieving memo – she would do it 
two maybe three times and then lay down and chew on it.

'You threw it - you get it' she seemed to be saying. I actually 
think that is rather brilliant.

One day I had had it – she wasn't minding and I was pissed. I got 
angry and was dragging her up my back deck stairs when I turned 
around and saw that she was afraid. I gathered her up in my arms 
and sobbed. I WAS my mother – my absolute worst fear. I just 
wanted her to be quiet and behave and not bother me just like 
my mother. I vowed to Melba then and there that things would 
be different.

I hunted around and finally found a trainer who would start 
puppies at four months instead of the customary 6. And so our 
education began. Melba's brother Otis (K and K's dog) was in 
her class. When she would see him she would buck and leap 
for joy. She was clearly the most 'spirited' dog in the class. 
We went for the first level of lessons. Then we went for the 
second level of lessons. Then we went for the third level and 
they began teaching us tricks. I decided that Melba needed 
no instructions in jumping as she had demonstrated her 
prowess whenever she was overjoyed.

When class was over we had a little graduation ceremony. 
The trainer gave Melba 'Most Improved' and everybody shouted 
with glee. Her brother Otis won the top dog spot. And during all 
of this time an amazing transformation had occurred in me. I was 
bat-sh*t crazy about this dog. I took her EVERYWHERE. To my 
softball practices, to my games, to play dates, on vacation and 
on and on... I was committed to her and I didn't feel trapped. 
I never resented having to rush home after work to let her out 
or walk her in the rain or let her out in the middle of the night. 
I was totally and completely in love.

She was a year old when I met Gapetto. I tease him that he 
just liked me because I had such a magnificent dog. Gapetto 
and I had a rocky beginning and Melba was there. Gapetto and 
I broke up and Melba was there. We bought a house and 
Melba was there. We got married in the town square and 
Melba was there.

I finally had a steady, reliable pillar of love in my life and she 
was a beautiful, calm (yes calm) chocolate labrador. She was 
there through my miscarriages and through my fertility treatments, 
holding silent watch when I rested. Life was constantly changing 
and I went through many hard times and my noble Melba was 
always there.

Now things have settled down so much and I am in a really good 
place in my life. I am beginning to believe there are no coincidences. 
Melba hung in there until I was alright and all of the drama was 
gone. She hung in there until I didn't NEED her. 

She hung in there for me.

She was two months shy of her fourteenth birthday.

Gapetto has prepared the hole in the backyard.
The Dolly Llama has drawn a sweet picture of Melba and Josie 
(our young black lab) under a beautiful tree. 

I write on the bottom of the drawing

Melba we love you and we miss you

We take Melba out of the box and settle her comfortably in the 
hole. We place the drawing next to her and we all throw a shovel 
full of dirt on her. The Dolly and I are inconsolable – Gapetto 
and the Bunny Rabbit are stoic. Gapetto places two large square 
pavers on top of the grave and we go inside.

This morning is beautiful and as I walk out the back door 
to talk to Melba I notice a sculpture we bought years ago. 
It is 2 dogs dancing on top of a springy thing – it is pure joy. 
I take it to the very back of the yard and place it on top of 
the flat stones covering her grave – the perfect headstone. 
And I say:

Melba – you were the perfect gift and I love you and 
I will always miss you. I hope that wherever you are  
you are dancing.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Parents Response (1991)

[enclosed photograph]

Lawyer for Parents of my Birth Son
Attorney at Law
January 30, 1991

Dear Ms. Merrily:

The parents of the child you gave birth to eleven years ago have asked me to make their initial response to your letter of December 1990. I know that you understand the emotional impact that it has had on them: you anticipated it in your letter. They would like for you to know, however, that they appreciate your feelings. They have been continuously grateful for the gift you gave them.

Their son is healthy, strong, creative, and exceptionally bright. He is as perfect and as beautiful now as when last you saw him. Does he look like you? Yes, the resemblance is remarkable.

In return for the information they are giving you, Bryan's parents would like to know more about you. What is your Social Security number? Does Mr. In-The-Wrong-Place-at-the-Wrong-Time know about their son? May they continue to communicate with you? Would you be willing to authorize their access to your medical records at Birth Hospital?

Anticipating your response, I have enclosed a medical information release form which I would like for you to sign and return to me in the enclosed envelope. Please let me know how you feel about this letter; bridges must be carefully built to avoid harm to those that use them.

Yours truly,
Mr. Lawyer for Parents of my Birth Son

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

It is getting pretty deep around here...

So I thought I would lighten up today and I think that I have 
found the solution!

Gapetto and I have a graphic design firm together. Yes - together. 
It actually works out really well and affords us lots of flexibility 
with the Dolly Llama and the Bunny Rabbit.

However, just as the cobbler children have no shoes we have an 
ancient web site in desperate need of updating. Can't seem to find 
the time to get around to that. Well we have moved that up to the 
top of the priority list of things to do. Yesterday I was researching 
sites and came across a little gem that I think will save us all a lot 
of time. 

The. Perfect. Christmas. Gift.

I kid you not. Check it out for yourself. The company's tagline is

The Brown Corporation...a solid company. 

I can't decide who has more fun - these guys or my buddies over 

OF COURSE the gags are endless.


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Leaving a trail (1990)

Mr. and Mrs. Parents of My Birth Son,

You don't know me but you know of me..
My name is Merrily Down the Stream and I am the birth mother
of your son. I certainly don't want to frighten you - it has taken
me a long time to get up the nerve to even attempt to write
this letter. I hope I can do an adequate job of explaining
things so you won't be worried.

I would like you to know that I have never regretted what I
did when I was nineteen and I am grateful to you for taking
him and loving him and making him your own.

I just turned 31 in November and I find myself thinking
about him and wondering - is he OK? Does he look like me?
Are his eyes blue like mine? Is he creative? I don't even
know if he is alive or what his name is. I don't want to enter
into his life - if that is something that ever happens that
will be because he chooses it. I would just like to know for
my own peace of mind. Until very recently I always thought
of him as a baby - it's hard to imagine that there's an
11 year old boy walking around somewhere that I gave
birth to - a person!

I've been married for four and a half years and am getting
around to thinking about having children of my own. Maybe
that's why I am finally writing you. I will never try to contact
him. If he ever asks about me I hope you'll tell him that I
loved him with all my might when I carried him and when
I saw him in the nursery he was absolutely perfect and
beautiful and I knew I couldn't give him what I felt he needed.

I would love it and be so grateful if you would let me know
about him - a picture would be fantastic to have and anything
you would like to tell me about him would be greatly appreciated.

I thought maybe you would like to know something about me.
I've lived in Atlanta for 10 years now but am originally from
Minnesota, where I grew up in a big Irish-Catholic family of
7 kids - 3 boys and 4 girls! I am a graphic designer (I enclosed
a press release with my picture - its 2 years old) and am
planning to go out on my own as a freelance designer probably
in April - eventually I hope to have a design studio with real
live employees! I married a wonderful man named Mr. In-The-
Wrong-Place-At-The-Wrong-Time when I was 26 - he is a
designer too - and we have 2 great kitties.

I hope that I have not frightened you - I wish your family
all the best and send much love to you all. Please give your son
a kiss for me and have a wonderful Christmas season.

My address is:
Merrily Down the Stream
Fabulous Deal of a duplex


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Friday, November 7, 2008

Later Halloween night...

The Bunny Rabbit.

Dang, I love this kid!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baby Jay

I took my twins to the dentist in July and both needed fillings 
(which the Bunny Rabbit and the Dolly Llama call 'feelings'). 
I left promising I would call and set up the appointment when 
I was in front of my (mythical) calendar. 

The family calendar is something I clearly can't master. 
Perhaps it is more my expectations of the family calendar.
Gapetto and I definitely fly by the seat of our pants - all the 
time - with VERY mixed results. I imagine this large color-coded 
calendar with a key at the bottom (like on a map) and who's 
cooking when and who's cleaning up and when we bring snacks 
to school, and on and on. Now being graphic designers that 
probably isn't that far-fetched but it is what I expect the 
calendar will provide...

A calm and orderly life.

Yeah, right.

So I forgot to make the follow up appointment for the 'feelings' 
till they left a message a few weeks ago. 


We went back to the dentist and found out that one of the 
Dolly's cavities had progressed to where the tooth needed to 
be removed by an oral surgeon. It was a baby tooth in the 
spot where someday a 12 year molar will grow into.

We went for the consultation and discussed the procedure 
with the doctor who was fabulous. The Dolly seemed pretty 
comfortable with him too.

The night before the procedure the kids called me into 
the bathroom during tubby time. Clearly they had been 
having a lengthly discussion because no actual washing 
had occurred yet.

'Mommy, do you think I should keep Baby Jay or give it to 
the Tooth Fairy?' Two expectant faces looked up at me. 

What the....?

It took me a moment to deconstruct this sentence. 
Hmmmm, tooth fairy - AHA! She was talking about her 
baby tooth which happens to be in position J in her mouth 
on the tooth chart. Who knew she was paying such 
close attention?

I certainly should have - not much gets by this child.

She had the surgery yesterday and after a rocky couple of 
hours was back to her (6-1/2 year) old self.

As they wheeled her out to our car I was struck by few things. 

Somebody help me if something ever really happens to one 
of my babies because I don't do so well even seeing them 
sedated. I thought of all of the mothers who are actually
dealing with something BIG with their children.

And I felt empathy and gratitude.

Then I thought of the privilege of being able to do a health 
procedure that is prophylactic. And I wondered about all of 
the people who have to wait until something is terribly wrong 
and then go to the emergency room and wait in pain FOREVER.

And again I felt empathy and gratitude.

I have high hopes for this new administration. 
I also know that the man is taking on one hell of a mess. 
And yet I hope.

I hope that one day every child will have health insurance.


I hope that one day every single person will have health 
insurance. But the children are a great beginning.

As for Baby Jay? She is resting comfortably [in the special 
little box that the nurse presented to the Dolly] up on the 
window sill in our kitchen.

And miracle of miracles, somehow the tooth fairy knew that 
Dolly had lost a tooth even though it wasn't under her pillow.

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Monday, November 3, 2008


To say that Halloween is a BIG deal in our house 
would be a gross understatement.

Gapetto and The Bunny Rabbit love it so much 
they can't see straight the entire month of October. 
They began talking of costumes several months 
prior to that. The Bunny decided he wanted to 
be a Clone Trooper this year. I, stupidly, asked 
what the difference between a Clone Trooper 
and a Storm Trooper was. After a lengthly explanation 
through which I instantly glazed over all I know is the 
helmuts are different and the Clone troopers have 
some red on them. 

(Please don't try to educate me further in this, 

So Gapetto got to work. After reviewing costumes 
at several discount places he announced that he 
could make a better one himself. And he came up 
with an idea for his own costume as well. So he 
began the all important and lengthly procurement 
phase of the project. First he ordered a helmut off 
of eBay - when that arrived the Bunny thought that 
it really needed to be battle-scarred and of course 
Gapetto agreed. There were numerous (at least 
once a day) trips to discount stores, hardware store 
and Michael's (area craft store). Gapetto may be 
the only straight man on a first name basis with 
the Michael's staff.

As the day approached things got rather hectic. 
What with the 8 million decorations we put up 
outside and the finishing of costumes but he 
made it just under the wire.

I give you my very own CLONE Trooper - 
the Bunny Rabbit.

But the piece de resistance was Gapetto's RocketMan 
costume. I mean the man donned gold lame' tights for 
crissakes! THAT is a dedicated Halloween Freak!

The fan inside the rocket blows the flame-like things
and of course light shoots out the bottom and from 
his rocket boosters.

(I just might develop a thing for gold lame' tights 
on Gapetto)

This is Bryan and me.

I like to tease him about the bullet he 
dodged in not having me raise him - 
I mean look at me - I'm a WITCH!

And here is the whole fam-damily.

That's Bryan, me, Gapetto, Fabulous Sister-In-Law 
and that is my Dolly Llama in front of her, my 
brother-in-law and the Bunny Rabbit.

May all of your Halloweens be Happy!

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