Free Writing Friday: Kellie Elmore: Abandoned

Little Fingers!

Little Fingers! (Photo credit: jmccauli)

Abandonment is like a second skin, it rolls up slowly on my arms like old-fashioned gloves, soft, sleek, black, elbow length. My teeth sink into the word “abandoned’ and “insecure” as if I was in the middle of eating a piece of double- layer chocolate cake. I not only taste but feel the delicious, sweet frosting rolling around my lips; it lives there, it feels at home. I was always a scared child, anxious, what was I picking that up that no one else was? I was always called “over-sensitive” by my mother but I fought hard, independently for everyone to hear my voice. When I was young my voice was low, I was always the good girl, after my father died, the dynamics all changed.

It was the first time my parents had been to a party; my mother borrowed a maternity outfit from her friend Ann. When they got to the party, six weeks before my due date my mother wasn’t feeling well. Her friend Claire made her sit down, she timed the contractions. “It couldn’t be, it’s too early” but sure enough, they called the doctor and he said he would meet them in the hospital. Claire drove my mother and my Uncle Teddy drove my father, I don’t know why, either does my mother, the last survivor of the four of them.

When I was born hours later my mother looked at me and said I looked “like a plucked chicken.” My father said to Teddy” How cute can you get?” Since I was born six weeks pre-mature and only weighed 4 lbs and 6 ounces I was not allowed to leave the hospital. I was in an incubator until I could reach 5 lbs. I was in the hospital for 4 weeks. Back in the 50’s they didn’t the knowledge they have now; I’m sure no one held me except the doctors and the nurses. There were no advanced techniques back then. Moms and Dads weren’t even allowed to enter the room much less caress their little one’s tiny hands. I knew my father had visited every day, after work, he knocked on the glass that separated us, and smiled. My mother’s story has changed a little over time, she had my older sister to contend with and she felt “there was nothing she could do.” I think the error in judgment was telling me the story. What purpose did it serve?

My parents traveled a lot when I was a teenager leaving me alone in the apartment building. I would cry when they left and cry when I saw them wait outside for their taxi but as soon as their taxi left, I felt fine and strong. Being left is not one of my favorite things; I’m better at leaving. Even now, when my children, age 18 and 20 leave for college, I still cry.

When I was a child, every night, I would ask my father questions “Will anyone go to the hospital?” “Will there be a fire?” and plenty more. I needed that nightly repetition of answers to feel safe. That lasted until I was in the third grade when my mom did have to go to the hospital for a small surgery. I was hysterical. I remember pounding the blankets with my fists and screaming “We can’t play the question game because one of the answers is yes!”

When my dad died, eleven years ago, my greatest fear came true, he left me, he left us all forever. I had a very tough time letting go, he and I were so close but I got through it, no one really has a choice and with the slow passage of time I healed very slowly and it took a long time.I grieved openly, never one to hide my feelings. My children were very young, 7 and 9, years later my son confessed he thought I would always be that way, crying endlessly and being sad. I felt terrible and guilty but there was no way that overwhelming grief could have been hidden. He also got to watch me heal and recover, a life lesson.

Life is all about leaving, my children will constantly leave as they grow up, even their first step, as toddlers grinning proudly, they show us they need to leave and it is our job as parents to encourage them. They will leave me or we will leave them. It’s life, and death, sadness and happiness, insecurity and hope. Abandonment feels so familiar, like a dress, perfectly fitted to my body. I know love, I know pain, but abandonment is not only familiar, it feels like my skin.

Carry on Tuesday: Once Upon A Time

Miss Haxby is holding a newborn baby that is i...

Miss Haxby is holding a newborn baby that is in an incubator at the Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto, Ont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1956 there was a child born six weeks premature, it was the first time the child’s mom had worn a borrowed maternity dress to a party. Doctors back then were strict about weight gain so she wasn’t really showing at all. After every appointment with her Obstetrician, she treated herself to a chocolate ice cream soda, a delicious, frosty treat that she looked forward to every two weeks.

Once at the party she wasn’t feeling well but had no idea she was in labor until her friend, Claire, suggested she sit in the chair and she timed the odd cramps, soon it was off to the hospital. Claire drove her to the hospital while Claire’s husband, Teddy drove her husband. Her husband hadn’t even tasted his favorite German potato salad yet, I’d imagine, he was a bit disappointed.

They arrived at the hospital and the mom was rushed into the delivery room, she hadn’t expected to be giving birth six weeks early. The labor was fast and soon, a 4 pound, 6 ounce tiny baby girl was born. The mother said she “looked like a plucked chicken.” Dad apparently said to “Uncle Teddy “how cute can you get.” Uncle Teddy told that part of the story every time he saw the little girl until he could no longer speak. It was “their” story.

It turned out that the dad visited the little girl in the hospital, on his way home from the subway every night. He looked through the window and tapped the glass, it was in the late 50’s and he couldn’t do much more than that but him telling her that he was there every night made her feel good. Mom’s story was that she never visited because “there was nothing she could do” a story she changed recently when speaking to the child’s older sister.  She hadn’t visited; why would she have told the ugly truth so many times before? Did she want to rewrite history? Maybe. All of a sudden she was feeding that baby, bottles every other day. The sister just wanted to help but the child knew her mother was lying. It was okay, it just seemed pointless. Why bother now? Maybe it was guilt or she wanted to right a wrong or maybe in her mind, she decided that she wanted to remember it that way. One’s history is really made up of interpretation from others and ourselves.

Once upon a time had happened already, the child had accepted the parameters of her relationships with both her parents, with her Uncle as well. You can’t rewrite history. You just have to accept it for what it was, like she had done, all those years ago and then slowly, quietly, tiptoe, on soft, gray, stocking feet, walk away.