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"Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength." - Anonymous
When I ran our last story about my sister's decision to give up her son for adoption, it sparked many emails and stories about other people's experience with adoption. It really opened my eyes to how almost all of us are touched by this gift of love in one way or another. Today's story is by 2TheHeart beloved author, Kathe Campbell, known for her Montana mountain stories. This is a different side of Kathe and the perspective of an adopted child's viewpoint. Letters for the Letter Box can be sent to me by replying to this email. Have a great weekend!
by Kathe Campbell
Nine months had run into ten during those medically unsophisticated days of the devastating early 1930's.
"Oh, don't worry about it, Maudie," the doctor had avowed. "I've had several new mothers fill out a ten month term."
My anxious parents had been ecstatic over thoughts of their first baby, and now the doctor solemnly rendered my father a heartbreaking choice. "Either the child, or your wife, George," he had announced. Their lovely dark-haired daughter died at birth and mom and dad were left to grieve. Mom spent two months hospitalized, wrestling with the thought of never bearing a child to take home to the yellow nursery they so lovingly created.
Dad eventually found himself spending evenings at our state's children's home, and it's said they had to sweep him off their porch each morning. Although these were depression years, he had job security, babies were plentiful, and he aimed to start adoption proceedings immediately. They would have a child to take home.
On Christmas eve, 1932, I was adopted at the age of three months. Holidays were awesome in our home while family, young friends, and travels, filled legendary photo albums. Only once, in grade school, can I recall being teased about being adopted. I proudly told my friends that I was specially picked. Nor did I have burning desires to know who my biological parents were. It simply never mattered.
A copy of my adoption papers was found amongst my parent's belongings after their death. I was mystified to learn that my birth name was Hannah Lee Batchelder. At 58, I experienced curiosity pangs and the need for a biological search. A kind soul felt sorry for my endless searches on microfilm and gave me the name of the state adoptees rights league. This resulted in lengthy forms to fill out even though our state held adoption records closed. Nonetheless, it was a beginning and the league seemed confident in their search.
Several years passed and I was frankly on the verge of giving up, when quite unexpectedly my intermediary phoned. She had just come from a delightful visit in the apartment of my biological mother. I paced back and forth holding the receiver tight against my ear, devouring every word as she described the woman who gave me life. Wanda Batchelder Chalmers was a perky 76-year-old divorced redheaded woman who was still running her floral business while recovering from a stroke. So that's where my red hair came from! Pictures and phone numbers were exchanged, but Wanda needed time to contemplate a reunion.
Since I had instigated the search, I felt it was my place to contact Wanda first. I thought about calling her for days, but it never seemed quite right. A week passed, and while alone one evening, I simply took my heart in my hands, picked up the phone, and introduced myself. She apologized for her slightly impaired speech, but was the most gregarious stranger I had ever visited with. We discovered more about each other as people, our families, joys and sorrows, than could possibly be absorbed in one sitting. I was delirious!
Wanda had been placed in a home for unwed mothers, far from her home. An elderly maiden aunt made arrangements for her care, my birth, and eventual adoption.
"I held you just once," as Wanda's words faltered in a rush of tears. "Signing you away was the toughest day of my life and I've thought of you every day since, my dearest girl."
My insides were beset with shivers as my dream came true hearing her sweet voice spilling out her inner-most secrets.
"I have a lovely son and beautiful granddaughters," her words ringing proudly. "He must never know about you and I won't talk about your father who is long dead and gone."
Over the next weeks my husband I made plans to join her.
In early October I answered the phone to the sound of a polite voice introducing himself. "Kathe, this is your brother, Jack Chalmers."
This was not a fluke, this man named, Jack, was providence. I grabbed the nearest chair and crumpled into it, groping for words, my voice trembling at the wonder of such a miracle.
"The family has just buried our mother, Kathe, she had suffered a second fatal stroke," Jack conveyed with all the care he could muster. "We found your letters and family pictures in Wanda's desk. It seems that you two were going to have a reunion soon and I suggest that we go ahead with those plans. I hope you are as anxious as I am for us to meet, for I'm an only kid as well and I've always known you were out there -- somewhere."
Wanda Chalmers had unwittingly brought her sweet and selfless 58 year old son into my 63 year old life.
Our reunion was a smashing success in San Francisco. Jack and Ginny and their lovely girls arrived bearing flowers and a gift album of ancestral photos. Our families spent hours reveling in stiff and staid forbearers. I am not Irish, as I had always surmised. I am English and Scotch. Our new nieces sat in awe watching me eat and talk. They could hardly believe I wasn't their beloved grandmother, right down to speech and hand gestures as we celebrated her life. Jack also revealed that unbeknownst to Wanda, her entire family had always known about me. Our mother was the spirited one amongst her siblings, and at 16 had fallen prey to the amorous attentions of the local postmaster, an older married family man.
Never having the chance to hold Wanda's hand was a great disappointment. Jack said Wanda had been unusually cheerful and energetic in the weeks before her death, but he knew not why. I pray she was relishing thoughts of our impending reunion. I still learn something new and fascinating about my heritage each time my brother and I talk. After 63 years, I've joyfully discovered my roots. But, alas, I'm proud to be the person my precious mom and dad raised me to be. I've been eternally blessed to have two beautiful families, one that I have cherished my life through, and one that I nearly missed. My circle is complete.
© - 2007 Kathe Campbell
Kathe lives on a 7000' western Montana mountain with her national champion mammoth donkeys, her precious Keeshond, and a few kitties. Three grown children, eleven grands and three greats round out the herd. She has contributed to newspapers and national magazines on Alzheimer's disease, and her Montana stories are found on many e-zines. Kathe is a contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul series, the book 2TheHeart: People Who Make A Difference, Classic Christmas, Releasing Times, RX for Writers, and medical journals.
The Letter Box:
Ohh, Dear Susan, I was so touched and loved the Today's Story about your Sister and her son, Tanner.. I bought an autographed copy of "Angel's Legacy" back when you first wrote it, and I was a subscriber when you were caring for her and thru all those difficult days, as Angel was dying.. As I read today's story, I just Thanked GOD, for Angel and the sacrifice she made in giving Tanner up for adoption, and Praised GOD for Tanner's adoptive parents. GOD DOES work in Wonderful , Marvelous ways for all that Have Faith and Trust In HIM and ... AMEN! IT was an awesome story, as is all the stories that you write, and I love all the author's that share their stories as well! God Bless' all, and have a Wonderful Spring and All Inspiring, Blessed Easter, In HIS WONDERFUL love, Karen Edwards
Susan, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL STORY - brought tears to my eyes. You see, my husband, John, went to Heaven ten years ago, because he had a brain tumor that the doctors had worked on for almost nine years. But, he had to go to Heaven to be healed. He is with your sister and oh how happy they are!!!! Thanks for all you do - some day you all will have a wonderful reunion in Heaven, to be sure. Love and God's blessings on you and your family always, Barbara Hoak
I love your story. May I please copy and share with my pen pals who don’t have a computer? We are all grandmothers and several are widowed. They love the stories, as I do.
I leave all the personal info with the stories.
Lois and anyone else wanting to share one of my stories - YES! Feel free to share them - that's what they are meant for! Blessings, Susan Fahncke
This is a beautiful, poignant tribute to Angel and her son, and of course it brought me to tears. You really know how to draw the reader in with details and vivid memories of your special sister. I know you miss her. I still miss my parents, plus my only brother who died too young, as well as Luke. We have to choose to keep on keeping on, and it makes us emotionally stronger to go through tough times, but it is still not easy; is it? Angel would agree, I'm certain.
Love you always,
2Theheart, I loved the story of Angel & Tanner. I had not read this one before but have read many of your stories abt Angel. Thanks for sharing such a sweet story.
Dorothy Ann Mize