Explorations of mind, paths, and life


Posted on April 6, 2009 - Filed Under self reflect

Barely four weeks ago, as I sat with my new Cubanita friend waiting to hear “Modest Mouse,” I plucked out my iTouch and scrolled through pictures, briefing her on each one:
“There’s my sister… I get to see her in a week!”
“There’s JP, I loved his little baby mullet…”
“Oh, I love that picture…”
“And, that is my big brother…” and with that always follows a deep gaze at someone I never imagined to know… and a familiar tug of longing and sadness.

As with most conversations like this over the last few years, I go through the story (or the pieces that I had) “My dad had a son… my parents used to go visit him with the adopted family, because back then men didn’t get custody of babies… then one year they were gone…” That is all I have had to say when the listener (this time my Cubanita) often gives a compassionate ruffle of the brow, and a tender flash of sadness. Something about the story resonates with others, because to imagine that kind of loss is almost too much.

So, my parents would take me to see him… not that taking ME was the goal, but rather, taking me meant that he and I got to play together. My mom has said before how much Shotzie (Chatzee) loved playing with me cause there were no other babies to play with. My mother would follow us around the farm where he lived, carting our bottles. I don’t have memories of any of that, but I DO know that there was a connection there… enough that when I was 6 and 7 I remember telling neighborhood kids that I wish I had a brother. I remember feeling jealous of Samson and Tricia (family friends) and when she acted like she hated her brother I would feel so despondent with her. I knew enough that there was a loss… and as I got older I would ask about Shotzie (seeing pictures) and hear stories, and I would feel so sad for my dad… and I would pester… “Can’t we find him?”

My mother and I, on many occasions, plotted how to make that happen. As the internet emerged I have often put in his name (what I knew) Roland… Cambell. There were too many. I even emailed some and asked if they knew anything about being adopted. I only heard back from one telling me I had the wrong person. My mother would, when I brought it up, say to me to go snooping in Dad’s stuff… and I was tempted, though he assured me I knew about as much as he did.

In the early 90’s I remember having a series of dreams about him. They were intermittent, yet similar, and were often followed by a week or two of obsessive “thinking” about him. In the dream he called… asking for me… calling me to find him. He needed “help” (is what I understood) and sometimes I would get scared that something bad was happening to him and I couldn’t help him. I remember crying one night after a dream… so frustrated that I didn’t have any means to find him, and then I would usually follow that up with more pestering of my dad… who again said he didn’t know what to do. I don’t know if that was a protection, if he was scared. He never made that clear to me… but I KNEW that there was a very painful heartfelt energy there… and yet it even made me LIVID with him for not explaining to me more, making it better.

In my Family class at Rollins, as I worked on my Masters in Mental Health with a specialization in Marriage and Family, I was required to write a strength based paper on my family Genogram. The Genogram was pretty comprehensive, including childhood relationships and both past/current dynamics. We were required to be truthful about our relationships to better understand family dynamics. Even in 2005, Chatzee was included in my Genogram, as I have always perceived that I did have an emotional relationship with him, although we didn’t have a physical relationship as families do. My professor at the time, Dr. Burtram, noted that what I experienced was the emotional undercurrent of having a “phantom child” in the family: when a child remains present in a family despite a loss through death or other circumstances. The impact can be profound on a family, and often young children pick up on the loss but don’t understand it, and work to accommodate the parents for the loss they express or often smother. Children subconsciously try to fill the hole they “feel” in the family. For me, a part of it was a strong awareness of the ways in which I was not him for my father… and a sense that I could never “be” for him what his son was. It was a sad feeling to me, isolating, … not really knowing my dad because he keeps himself so guarded and locked away, using his humor or sarcasm to cover up whatever else exists there. Even as I write this… I feel overwhelmed… because pieces are falling into place; all these morsels that never quiet coalesced in my heart until now.

So here I am, last Saturday night. Gary and I had just finished up a round at Bonkerz (a comedy club) where I laughed so much I had forgotten how exhausting that could be, and how high I can get when laughter completely covers me like a pile of leaves in the fall… It is so rare that I go out “with friends” and here was my Cubanita… and her smiles, my husband just drinking up all my gleeful exuberance and cuddling me each opportunity… and we decide to get a bite to eat. As we finished up our meal at 11pm my sister calls, “with news.” Mom and her were trying to find me to tell me something important, and I asked if it was good or bad news (thinking someone had died, I wasn’t sure if I wanted anything to damper my good night.) Then… the words tumbled from the phone all over the table, and for a brief moment I was stunned and confused…

“Chatzee found Pito…”

I am sure my poor friends, for just a moment, weren’t sure what to make of the face I wore as I inspected those words closely and searched through the dictionary of my mind for the meaning of what she was saying. Then, I repeated what I heard… to make sure I had the message right. Across the table – I saw Cubanita turning to James to fill him in… “her brother, I think…” My eyes welled up. I am not sure what Monica was thinking on the other end with all this, but to me it was beyond anything I have felt. Something like bumping into a favorite childhood toy hidden behind piles of old remnants in an attic and riding a roller coaster. I have always HAD a brother… always.

I can’t even imagine what this is like for him. He has had years of wondering, but he was the lost one… I was not. I have had clients come in and talk about their feelings and fears and hopes in adoptive situations… I sometimes imagined what Chatzee would be saying to people he loved about what being adopted meant to him. So many ways to see the story, to imagine the story, of the other lives in that connection. I can’t explain, or my efforts just don’t seem to do it justice, how much my being has been hoping to find him. For the healing it would nourish in a father, who through my experience, has had one hand on his son’s little head from the last time he saw him… holding on.

When JP was born, my dad was ALL OVER THAT! It was like he had a little creature that laughed at his funny faces, pulled his beard, slept in his lap, and regarded him with all kinds of boy-ness. My dad would even announce to all who met them together that JP was his “unidentical twin.” (JP didn’t like that much after some time and announced at 7 or 8 yrs old that Pito needed to stop it!). Regardless, there was a change in my dad – he quite smoking, he started up with the hobbies he enjoyed in days past. But, I don’t think “playful grandpa” was long lasting, and I am only speculating, but when JP outgrew his toddler -cute – little guy stages my father shifted. I’ve struggled with his impatience and remarks to JP that include subtle passive/aggressive sarcasm. It is so unlike him, because I have always known my father to be such a gentle human. I’ve wondered about this a lot, and until piecing this blog together now, wonder if maybe subconsciously my dad’s emotional brain has worked to create distance to protect himself from a phantom loss similar to losing Chatzee at 5-6 years of age. (OK, so that is getting too deep… gotta put the therapist back in my pocket.)

Irregardless – to me, this is nothing short of a miracle. Every few moments I find myself reviewing the two calls I have had with Chatzee on the phone, checking face book for more pictures, and looking at his face (over and over) – not so far off from the little guy I have known in pictures. The distraction is stifling (Seriously, I taught my first class today and literally wandered through the material like I had been dehydrated in the desert for days, meandering to anything that even looked like water.) I know for him this is so much more about finding his father. To me, it is about him finding ME (as self centered as that may sound, I know this feeling as far back as I can remember… and it keeps making my eyes leak. So you all just have to let me see it that way!)

Early Sunday morning… still awake… Gary (Metal Head Adonis) kept holding me through waves of excitement and disbelief, then small sniffles…

I whispered to him, “I feel like I have won the lottery.” And quite seriously, today, as I struggled to get my head together for this class, I imagined I could actually HEAR little popping hearts floating around my head like on cartoons when Pepé Le Pew bumps into that slinky black cat who always manages to get a streak of white paint on her tail … Those little hearts were all over about my brother… We were found!


One Response to “Found….”

  1. Mamita Ruby on April 7th, 2009 2:14 pm

    Mi hija linda,
    Yes, your posting left me full of nostalgia, memories galopping around trying to make sense, too, of all those years of wondering about Shotzie’s where abouts, and your dad’s hidden feelings. I have known in the core of my soul, Paul suffered in silence and longed to know about the little boy he loved, but had to pretend to just be a special friend who he visited on designated occasion. You keep digging up more of your insight on this chapter of our family. I love you,