It’s Mothers Day and I have no kids so I thought I’d post something a little different today. It’s kind of a Mom story, and kind of not. I moved to Oregon 10 years ago today and this is how I got here.
Waaay back in the late fall/early winter 1997 (time before the Internet was such a big deal and we had to make fire by rubbing two sticks together) I was living with my now ex-husband Hawkeye. (we werent married yet then) We had such a terrible winter that year, it started snowing 2 weeks before Halloween. It may be Iowa and all, but that’s ungodly early, even for Iowa. Anyway, he was adopted at 6 weeks. His Mother was only 17 and couldnt care for him. He always knew he was adopted, but never had the desire to look for his birth mother.
He got a card in the mail saying “If you are the Jim Clark born on 02-11-73, please contact me I have important information for you” He started shaking and broke down saying “It’s from my Mother”. What we found out is the card came from an intermediary with the State of Oregon. His adopted parents were none to pleased with the developments when they found out. Even though Hawkeye was 24 at the time. I can understand their feeling threatened. After all, they did adopt Hawkeye, raise him, and support him throughout his life and now, there was this woman who gave him up, out there looking for him. What I cannot understand is their reaction later. (That part is coming.) Even with their feelings, they did go ahead and get Hawkeye the papers he needed to send to the State to verify his identity: a notarized copy of his original birth certificate, copies of his adoption papers, and a few other things. He sent in the papers and a couple of weeks later got a call from the same woman who sent his card asking how he wanted to be contacted. Did he want a letter or a phone call. The prospect of a phone call was a little too much so he asked for a letter.
A couple of weeks later he got a letter and pictures from his birth mother, Donna. She was a hippie and a trouble kid who was sent to WA to live with an Aunt. She started hanging around with a boy got pregnant. She talked about her time being pregnant with him and how because she was so young, her Mom forced her to give him up, that it was the best thing for both of them, even though she didnt want to. She talked about how she would take a bath and splash water over her belly, poking where ever he would kick or poke to “play” with him. She saw him but didnt get to hold him after he was born, she could hear him cry, and was heartbroken when he was taken away. A few years later she tried to do what she was raised to believe was the “right thing” to do. She got married to a very Christian man and had a little boy, Jay. The marriage didnt end up working out and they got divorced. She went on being a single mother before eventually getting pregnant and then getting married (by a justice of the peace) again. Again, she had another little boy, Trevor, who is the brattiest boy I have ever known. She included pictures of herself, her husband, her two other boys, and her folks. She talked about how she always knew she would search for him but waited until after he was 18 to do so. That way he’d be an adult. She talked a little about the different searches they did. A couple on their own, and the last one, the one where he was found, through the State, and how she and her family named him Jeremy though the search. She decided to find him on Christmas. She is not a religious woman, more pagan and pantheistic, than anything else, but had gone to mass on Christmas, saw a woman with 3 boys, and felt it was the right time to search for her boy she had given up so many years ago. She included her phone # if he wanted to call, and her address if he wanted to write.
I think he ended up calling, after receiving the letter. She was thrilled to hear from him and he cried. We ended up exchanging letters and phone calls over a few months. She worked at the Oregon State Bar (lawyers) and some of her co-workers helped pool money together to buy us plane tickets to come and visit in March, 1998. We left Iowa, it was cold and snowy. We landed in Portland, after a long and arduous flight (being late because our ride to the airport was late and couldnt drive the speed limit, we ended up getting re-routed on a different flight because I almost flipped out on the lady behind the counter [um I hate to fly, it freaks me out.] the flight from MN to Portland was delayed because of ice and break problems, finally got on the plane and sat on the runway for nearly an hour because of problems with the breaks on that plane) got to Portland at midnight. Donna had gone to check our flight and almost wasnt able to get back in the terminal. It had been locked. The only reason she was let back in was because the woman working was an adoptee and had always wanted to find her birth mother. When we were leaving the airport it was 60 and everything was green. I was pretty much sold then.
We got to the house, she was renting an old farm house on a hazelnut farm, outside of Sherwood. A couple of days later they had a party and her folks were there. We learned at first her Mom didnt approve of her finding Hawkeye, but then was grateful. Her dad is a dyed in the wool liberal and one of the first things I heard him say was “Bill Clinton is the best President we’ve had and they should sew his zipper shut and run him through for 4 more years!” We met her sister and brothers, their kids, her neighbours, which were her husbands ex-wife, her husband, their daughter, and her son from her previous marriage to Donna’s current husband. (FYI, this is why it’s referred to as the family bramble bush). We got away to the beach for a few days, and spent some time in Portland. Portland was the first large city I’ve ever been to that didnt feel claustrophobic, and once I saw the Ocean I knew I didnt want to live anywhere else.
We came again during the summer. No humidity, no mosquitoes, I was totally sold then. It’s August, it’s 85, and you can go outside without feeling the atmosphere pushing down on you?! It’s summer, you can take a shower, go outside, and not immediately feel like you need another?! Totally sold.
We decided to move. We also decided to get married because we thought his adopted parents would take the news better if we were married, than if we werent. PSA moment: Never get married because you think the decision will please someone else or make a big decision like moving halfway across the country easier to take. It doesnt work. We got married on Halloween. Even before the wedding, I knew it wouldnt last. But I was young, and dumb, and did it anyway. Um, always listen to your instincts. We told his adopted parents we were going to move to Oregon. They were very upset and felt like we were making this decision to hurt them on purpose. His adopted Mom sought my Mom out at Target (where she works) and told her they all needed to get together and make us not move. Talk us out of it, do what it took to get us not to go. My Mom, (to this day, I’m still give her props for this) told Carol that even though she wasnt thrilled about us moving so far away, and she would miss me, and even though she’d rather have me close by, I was an adult, we were married, and it was our life to live. She couldnt and wouldnt tell us what to do. Carol was none too thrilled. Hawkeye’s parents refused to talk to him for several months after we moved. Donna sent his adopted mom Carol a letter thanking her for adopting him, loving him, and taking care of him (he has several medical problems: psoriasis, severe psoriatic arthritis which is a severe form of rheumatoid) giving him a good home and upbringing. That Carol was and would always be Hawkeye’s mother because she was the one who raised him and loved him throughout his life. Carol wrote a hateful letter back. When she passed away about 4 years ago, she died hating Donna. I dont know how someone could die with so much hate in their heart.
Hawkeye, me, and my Dad left Iowa early in the morning on May 10th, 1999. It took the better part of 3 days to get from central Iowa to Portland. After Lincoln, NE, until you get to the Rocky Mountains in WY, there is nothing. Seriously, the landscape is completely flat and there is nothing for miles. Driving through the Rocky Mountains was pretty dramatic. We drove around Salt Lake City, UT. When we were driving through ID we went through a canyon that funneled wind and rocked the truck so bad we had to stop or I’d’ve thrown up. Idaho has a lot of dramatic scenery. Oregon does too. There is a big difference between Eastern Oregon and Portland. Once you get to the Cascades and through the Columbia River Gorge, you leave a landscape of dry scrub and into lush greenery, waterfalls, rivers, and trees. It’s a dramatic change. Hawkeye was driving through the Gorge, I was in the middle, my Dad was on the passenger side. He could see a waterfall on the driver’s side, so he stood up, and tried to stick his head out of the drivers side window. At that point, Hawkeye and I were done with having him in the truck for 3 days and were glad to nearly be at our destination. My Dad stayed for a few days before flying back to Iowa.
Married life with Hawkeye didnt work out. We ended up getting separated then divorced. I stopped taking care of his every need and he didnt do anything to take care of himself. His arthritis got out of control, he was living with a very dark man, moved out of that place into one that was better, but still got very sick, and his adopted Dad, basically had to come to Oregon and rescue him. If he hadnt, Hawkeye probably would have died. When he got to Iowa he spent the better part of 2 weeks in the hospital and in the years since then has been doing what he can to get better. And in the years since then, he and I have discovered how to become the best of friends. If I had to go through everything my relationship with him put me through again to receive the boon of a wonderful, reciprocal friendship, I’d gladly go through all the hardship and heartache.
His birth mother is still in the picture. The two of them still talk. I hang out with her in her new home at the Coast with her new boyfriend. She says I was the boon that came with Hawkeye. That she’s so glad I stayed because she got a daughter. She only had sons and always wanted a girl. She says I’m not her ex-anything. Her mother refers to me as her granddaughter. Hawkeye wants to move back to Oregon. Donna wants all her boys close to her. It’s nice for me because in some ways she’s more like a Mom to me than my own Mom. And, she’s close by. It’s an hour and a half bus trip from Portland to where she lives. I’m glad she adopted me into her family and into her life. Her two boys look at me like a sister.
That’s it. It’s how I got to Oregon. Not the way most people end up in a completely different place, but it worked for me. I feel very fortunate things ended up the way they did. It could have been very different. My parents are glad things turned out the way they did, even though at first they thought it was weird. They are glad I have someone who defaults as family close since they are so far away. They are glad I have someone to spend the holiday’s with and someone who fills a parent role for me, who is loving and caring, and accepting.