I debated with myself all night about calling C back. My husband said that he probably couldn't. Adopted friends offered to make time over the weekend and hold my hand, to strategize. N called me and encouraged me to come to her house, to forge ahead. I still didn't know if I had the resolve to hear C's rejection delivered from her own voice.
I drove to N's lovely house. We talked, I cried, she held my hand. I dialed C's number what seemed like a thousand times before actually placing the call. I told N that it felt like I was jumping off a cliff. Then I pressed dial, and the phone rang at C's end.
C picked up. I said who I was, and she said she knew. She was angry, that she'd told the agency everything possible, and that she wanted nothing to do with me. I told her that I would gladly leave her alone if she told me who my father was. She told me that she didn't know. I said that there was a name in my file; she responded that she or her mother had made it up. She'd been drunk at a fraternity party and couldn't remember. I became upset and told her that that wasn't good enough. She hung up on me.
Then N, the angel and wonderful friend she is, immediately took the phone from me and redialed C's number. When C picked up, N said, "I am N, one of Kara's friends. We have all watched her suffer while trying to figure out who she is. Can you please give us her father's name, and we will leave you alone?" C responded that her friends found the way I treated her "heartbreaking," that she'd lost 10 pounds and was on anti-anxiety medication since I sent the letter to her last year, that I'd ruined her relationship with A, and that she didn't know who my father was. N told her that I'd almost died thanks to lack of medical information, and that C needed to think again about the party. Who was my father? C said, "Stop making this into a Lifetime movie. I was drunk, and I don't know." C was angry: "I don't know who he is; I can't remember; I feel nothing for you." N asked if she should take a trip to visit Mimi, my grandmother, who might have a better memory. C then screamed, "I wish I'd aborted you!" I couldn't help but agree: "That makes two of us!" Then C hung up.
It was surreal. In a different world, I could have sympathy for C. If she really didn't know who my father was, that was one thing. But it was no excuse for treating me like human garbage. How could a mother talk to and treat her child as such a millstone? To have no sympathy for my illness, to feel no responsibility to help me? I couldn't fathom it. As for ruining her relationship with A, she had accomplished that quite handily, all by herself. She had lied to him and then used coercion to have him end his relationship with me. I was numb and stunned. Where was there to go from here?
N had an appointment shortly thereafter and had to leave. I walked out of her house, got in my car, and called my dear friend Linda for a debrief. I was recounting the conversation when I saw C's number on call waiting. I told Linda I didn't want to pick up, for fear of repeat insults. Linda insisted that I take the call, and I did.
C immediately apologized. "I am calmer now. I do not wish I had aborted you. That is against my religion." I didn't know what to say. I started to cry. I told her that I loved her and that all I ever wanted was for her to be proud of me. She said, "I am proud of you. A told me about all the wonderful things you've done and what a lovely person you are. You all can do what you want." I asked if she meant that A and I could renew our relationship. She assented. I begged her to let him know, and she said that she would when he returned from Afghanistan. I told her that I was very sad not to know who my father was. She said, "I can understand that you are sad. I am ashamed. I wish I could help. I remember nothing. I made up details so that the social worker wouldn't think badly of me." I asked if she could recall anything about his looks. She said she couldn't. She said that my message to my aunt had outed her to her brother, that no one in the family had known about me except my grandparents; she only gained nine pounds during the pregnancy. I wondered to myself if she were relieved to have the secret out. I told her how much I loved A and how much I wished I could have him back. That I was raised an only child, and that he was all I had. She said that she would do what she could, that he was raised an only child too, and that I was his only sibling, but that any relationship would have to be his decision and that her husband "wasn't thrilled" about me. I asked if she had seen pictures of me. She said, "Yes." I then asked if she thought I looked like her father. She replied, "Don't feel bad. I don't even look at pictures of A. I am not a warm and loving person." What a terrible indictment of herself. I was sobbing loudly through all this; she was even toned and sounded numb. I felt that she was trying to take some of the sadness and weight back onto herself at last, to let it be known that none of this was my fault. She left it thus: "I have your number, and you have mine. I will try to open my heart to you. I will try to remember. If I do, I will let you know." And then we hung up.
I still haven't heard from my brother. I doubt that I will. Guilt and shame run deep in my nfamily. I hope against hope, but I am afraid to open up too much.
Even with all the sadness I feel, my conversation with C has helped me to ground myself in a way that was impossible before. I had spoken to my first mother. I had roots. She had acknowledged me, to me, as her daughter. I wondered what it would be like to meet her; would things be different? Would she be able to feel anything?
I have only one real regret. There are two questions I wish I'd thought to ask her, but that I didn't think of in the heat of the moment. I have always wanted to know if she held me and if she named me. Two innocuous things, perhaps, but two things that are of enormous importance to me in knowing my story. Perhaps someday I'll get the chance.
I cannot tell you the number of times I've replayed that conversation in my head, and how grateful I am that N was with me that day. N is not adopted, and I think that her distance from the triad helped her to push through boundaries that my adopted friends would have considered inviolate. N is the friend I wrote about four years ago when I began this blog, the person I called my long-lost twin when I met her. I couldn't love her more; she is precious to me. She loves me with all she's got, and was there for me in my hour of deepest need.
I dedicate this post, and my heart, to her. She is family.