When my birthmother did not reply to my letters asking for one meeting, was she saying yes or a no? When after a year she did not answer, I traveled from California to Duluth and knocked on her door. It was Mother’s Day 1998, and I stood knocking with a basket of African Violets in hand. A neighbor watching approached and said, “She never answers the door. Not even for her ex-husband.”
Is there a difference between yes and no when neither is spoken? I learned after knocking that my birthmother had become a recluse, was ill with an autoimmune disease, unwilling to see anyone other than her ex-husband who brought medicine and groceries. When he went to her the next day after I knocked, he begged her to meet me. She replied, “why hadn’t I come sooner?” It was then she finally said no.
The ex-husband called me a year later to let me know that my birthmother had been admitted with pneumonia to the hospital. It was my last opportunity to meet her, he said, and her refusal to meet me on her deathbed no longer mattered to him. And so I came to stand by my birthmother’s side, and after I told her who I was and that I loved her, she died three hours later. While the nurse was sponge-bathing her for the morgue, she turned to me and said, “Oh! It was you she was waiting for.”
Note: This is a remembrance for the anniversary of my birthmother’s passing this coming Sunday, February 21st, 1999. Same day and date as it was 22-years ago.