Mother’s Day has always been my absolute least favorite day of the year. It always represented, to me, the one thing that I wanted so desperately that was so entirely out of my reach – a mother.
In all honesty, I could write an entire blog devoted to my adoptive family. For now, I will spare you those details. I will say that I had a woman in my life who I called “Mom”, and as hard as it is for me to type this, she did the best she could with what she had. She always battled with undiagnosed mental illness which caused a lot of strain in our relationship. She was emotionally unavailable in every way possible. I craved what I thought a mother was supposed to be, and Mother’s Day was always a reminder that I didn’t have one. Except I did have one.
Does she remember me? Does she think of me? Does she miss me? Can she possibly begin to understand the ways that I miss her? The worst pain I have ever felt is the pain of missing a person I don’t even know. I can’t even put a face to her name. But she is my Mother, and every Mother’s Day reminds me of the hole I have inside me that no one can fill but her.
Mother’s Day, 2011. It had been some time since I last spoke to my brother. The last I heard from him and Jenn, they had just found out that they were having another child – a baby boy. Shortly after that we lost contact for over a year. I was spending my afternoon at a local coffee shop working on some writing. I started to think about my brother. I wondered if he felt the same way about Mother’s Day as I did. I wondered where he was. I had tried to find a way to get in touch with him over the time that we lost contact, but after checking the whitepages time after time and searching the internet with no luck, I had given up for awhile. I decided to check one last time that day, because it was Mother’s Day, and why not? Shockingly, his phone number showed up directly below the search box as soon as I typed his name in.
I picked up my phone.
Dialed the number.
Hung up the phone.
Dialed the number.
Hung up the phone.
I probably did this about 20 times before I finally listened for a ring on the other end of the line.
A woman picked up on the other end of the line, and I instantly knew it was my sister-in-law, Jenn. I could finally breathe. I finally knew that, if nothing else, I had Kayliegh, Jay, and Jenn back.
I do not believe it was a coincidence that I found my brother again on Mother’s Day. In fact, since that day, I have given up believing in coincidence at all.
Growing up, every time I looked in the mirror, I walked away with a billion questions speeding through my mind. Maybe it is normal for a child to look in the mirror and be confused about why they look the way they look. I never really knew what was normal. All I knew was that when I looked in the mirror, I could not connect to anything or anyone. I did not know where my blue eyes came from, or whether my mother or father had the obnoxiously frizzy hair gene. I could not, for the life of me, fathom why I had so many freckles all over my face. No one I knew had as many freckles as I did. I would lay in bed at night, unable to fall asleep because I was afraid of the monsters that might eat me (I always had very frightening nightmares). Instead of sleep, I would stare at the ceiling and try to come up with some type of image in my brain of what my biological family might look like. I had thousands of different hypotheses, but seeing my brother for the first time was far beyond anything I could have fabricated in my mind.
Every little detail on his face was so incredibly similar to mine.
Talking to your long-lost brother on the phone and seeing him in the flesh are two different stories entirely. I, honestly, do not remember much at all from the day we met. I know we spent some time sitting next to each other on a couch, just staring. We were both in utter shock. Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like seconds. His girlfriend, Jenn, was there. She was so genuinely excited to meet me and to see us united for the first time. All of this was, without a doubt, amazing (to say the least). But, I could have never imagined what happened next to be as life-changing as it was for me.
This gorgeous little princess, who could not have been more than three feet tall, came leaping towards me as if I was her favorite friend in the whole world. Her dirty-blonde hair, which extended all the way down her back, was bouncing from side to side as she climbed her way across the couch to get to me. She hopped into my lap, looked me dead in the face with her sparkling, green eyes and said “Hi, Aunt Danielle. I love you!”
That was it.
Life, as I knew it, was a thing of the past.
It was as if everything I had ever known to be true – every bad word that was ever muttered about me, every negative thought that I had about my life, every horrible thing I had ever endured – ceased to exist.
The only thing that mattered was this beautiful, little human.
Almost instantly, Kayliegh was my priority. There was a major shift in my brain when I heard the words “Aunt Danielle” excitedly come out of her mouth. The amount of love I automatically felt for my niece was something I had never experienced before.
It was the type of thing you read about in books.
It was unconditional.
It was pure.
It was real.
It was the big day.
The majority of the day, prior to the moment I walked in the front door, was a blur. I’m pretty sure it was a Sunday in February. I know it was cold and I remember what I was wearing. A good friend of mine came along with me. I vividly remember that Don McLean’s American Pie was playing on the radio. When the song was over and I flipped to another station, it was playing on that station, too. When we stopped at Dunkin Donuts because I was so nervous I had to use the restroom, lo and behold, American Pie was playing on the radio in there, as well. The ride to my brother’s house that day was so short, yet so, unbearably long. My stomach had never been in so many knots. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or just stay quiet. I’m pretty sure I partook in all of the above.
Even though by the time I went to meet Jay I had already had extensive phone conversations with him, at that moment, everything in me was telling me that I was wrong.
This can not really be my brother.
There is no way he’s really waiting for me inside that house.
Someone is playing the cruelest joke on me.
There is just no way.
As we turned the corner onto his street, I saw a young guy (early 20’s) standing on the side of the road. I could not see his face at first, but when he turned around and looked at me, I could have sworn I was looking at the male version of myself.
He is my brother.
He is 20 feet away from me.
All I have to do is open the car door and get out.
The next thing I remember is just holding him, and him holding me. It may have been the best hug I had ever been a part of.
I did not feel awkward or strange.
I felt like I was holding someone I had known my whole life.
For the first time in a very long time
I felt home.
It was December, 2008. I had recently gotten clean for the umpteenth time in my short, twenty years on this earth. Every other attempt was feeble – half-hearted at best. I wanted so badly to have a normal life. I wanted to think, feel, and act like people my age. I tried everything in the world to change – to get better. The meetings were starting to help. I was starting to learn how to trust the few people that I had in my life from the program. I was trying so hard to let go of all the things that kept me down for as long as I could remember. I just could not seem to get past so many things from my past. The things I had shoved deep down inside me and had learned so diligently to avoid. The things that made me run. The things that, when brought up or thought of, made me feel as though a ten ton elephant was resting directly on my chest. There was one thing in particular I thought I would never let go of. Until I got the phone call.
“Hi, um…is this Danielle?” an unfamiliar voice said on the other end of the phone.
“Yeah. Who’s this?”
“Uh, this is gonna’ be kind of awkward, but this is your brother.”
The world stopped.
Everything I thought I knew about myself had instantly disappeared.
The weight that I was so used to carrying was suddenly gone.
I felt like I could have danced the craziest dance anyone had ever seen. I may have, actually.
After twenty years of
driving myself absolutely out of my own mind
in search for a piece of my biological family,
here it was on the other end of my cell phone.