Today is my husband’s birthday.
Below is a letter he wrote to his five-year-old self. I’ve been trying to tell the story below, but my husband does it much better.
Dear Mikey, You are five years old today, and the year is 1961. I am writing you from 2005, 44 years later, and I have a lot to say. Today mom and dad told you that you were adopted. They explained it to you very well. They said that mommy and daddy wanted you, and that a woman who had you in her tummy and couldn’t take care of you decided to give you to mommy and daddy. This was the greatest day in mommy and daddy’s life.
It all seemed reasonable, that no one was trying to trick you. But then you asked, “Mom, where’s my real mom?” This broke her heart, and she cried in her room all day and wouldn’t come out. She wouldn’t let daddy in either. Daddy slept on the couch that night. You didn’t know why she was crying, so now I’m going to explain it.
Mommy and daddy tried to have a child for seven years. One of mom’s favorite stories was when she went to a state fair and visited a fortune teller. She was Catholic and didn’t really believe in fortune tellers, but she went anyway just for fun. The strangely dressed woman read mom’s palm and told her in the future she would have seven children. Mom laughed, as her and dad hadn’t had any luck in having even one baby. And as it turned out, the fortune teller was wrong. Mom didn’t have seven kids. She had eleven.
After they adopted you, mom got pregnant almost immediately. There was some question whether they were still going to adopt you or not, since they were going to have their own. But mom told the lawyers, “That’s my baby.” So the lawyers made sure you were adopted. Shortly thereafter, mom had twins named Timmy and Jimmy. But unfortunately, they died at the age of one and two weeks. Then mom and dad had four more boys and four more girls. They all lived and became your brothers and sisters, and here’s a little secret for you. I think you were always mom’s favorite. She let you stay up later than anyone else and often made your favorite dinner, spaghetti, which you pronounced, “sketti.” You would say hello to anyone and everyone, and whenever mom or dad asked you to say a word, you’d always give it a try. You were also very proud of all your various potty training accomplishments in the bathroom. One time you stuffed wads of toilet paper in your pants just in case you “had an accident.”
As time went on you wondered more and more about your “real” mom. Who was she? What did she look like? Why did she give you away? Where was she now? These are all questions you never wondered much about your biological father, I’m not sure why. But when your adopted mom died of cancer in 1978, you started wondering about your biological mother even more. You were hurt, confused. I understand that.
But now Mikey, I’m writing you to define the word “real.” Your real mom was your adopted mom. She did everything for you: fed you, bathed you, stayed in your room when you had German measles and couldn’t hear for two days. Most of all, she loved you. She loved you more than life itself. If she were here today, she’d tell you that and you’d know you don’t have to wonder about your real mom anymore. The woman who gave you birth is an important person. She made a brave and courageous choice and gave you the gift of life. But your real mom was named Elaine. If there’s a God in heaven and I believe there is, then she’s up there with God waiting for you, your brothers and sisters, and your dad. Some day everything will be explained. Some day all will be revealed. But you should also know that some day you will have a child of your own, and you’ll love that baby as much as Elaine loved you. Imagine that. In a world full of rain, one drop will belong to you. That is something wonderful to remember. So work hard in school, have fun, and remember that love interlocks the universe. Nothing can ever change that. Real is a word. Real is a just a word. What is real is what you believe is real.