As you know if you follow this blog - or if you know me - I am the mother of three boys and Gran to four more boys. My family is heavy on the "y" chromosome, and I like it! Although I think, deep down, every woman wants a girl (it's a doll thing - at least that's MY take on it), I was never disappointed when my obstetrician said "It's a boy!" I have many fond memories of being surrounded by tall, handsome young men and feeling like a queen. Besides, I also have vivid memories of what I was like as a young girl and as a teenager, and I was always quite certain I didn't have the temperament to raise a girl.
However, in 1988, when I was fundraising for hospice, I was put in touch with an 11-year-old girl whose mom was dying. Virginia was very concerned about what was going to happen to her daughter, and was actively seeking a family to adopt her. I didn't think about adoption, but I knew I could help by taking Tammey to visit her mom at the hospice inpatient unit and perhaps introducing her to my kids and giving her loving support during a difficult time.
Tammey and I spent many hours on the road going to visit her mom, and her joy in life along with the tenderness and adult-like behavior she exhibited around Virginia and the hospice staff endeared her to me. She could morph from mature, sensitive, caring young woman into a carefree young girl swinging in the park and scarfing down food from McDonald's in the space of 20 minutes. I thought she was pretty remarkable.
The Saturday I brought her home to meet my sons and my then-husband is one I will always remember. Before I took her back to the residence where she lived, each of my boys had come to me quietly and individually, and asked if we could adopt her. I was so proud of them (they were 18, 17, and 8 years old at the time), and so hesitant to make a commitment. My marriage was shaky even then, and I was afraid to think about embracing adoption - especially of a young girl whose life had been filled with difficulties that I, in my middle-class world, couldn't even begin to imagine. But there was no question that she had captured our hearts.
She began to spend her weekends with us, taking part in our family activities, going to church with us and meeting other young people who also embraced her and welcomed her into their activities. It was on a Sunday after church that I got the phone call that Virginia had died, and it fell to me to tell Tammey the awful news. It was a heart-rending day that lives vividly in my memory. She was a part of us by then, and I began to speak to my husband about the possibility of adoption.
Only a few short weeks later, Tammey's father - who had been absent from her life for many years - was located and came to Miami to claim his child. We were heartbroken, but she would be among people who had known her mom, who had known her as a baby, who had photographs and memories of her family. We cried more tears than I thought possible, had a party for her, and sent her with love and prayers and promises to stay in touch, to her family in Kentucky.
We were to see her only once more. She was miserably unhappy, her father died, leaving her with an aunt she didn't like (the feeling was apparently mutual), and she made many threats to run away to be with us. And so we were forbidden all contact.
Over the years, through changes in our family - divorce, marriage, moves across country, and the births of children - I would periodically try to find her. Every year on her birthday, my heart broke a little over the loss of this, the only daughter I had ever thought to have.
In 2004, just days before the wedding of my youngest son, I had a phone call from my son in the Midwest. Tammey had found him online and had contacted him! Almost 16 years after losing her, she was back in our lives and we were all ecstatic. She flew out to Oregon for the wedding and the reunion was as if the years had melted away. She was married and beautiful - and taller than I!
In the years since, she has had a baby - my fifth grandson - and we have kept our relationship alive. There is not the closeness of her childhood, of course, but there is a mature friendship and love that thrills my heart. We have visited her and her family, and it was Tammey who helped with my two oldest grandsons when their little brother was born. I am able to tell her that I know her mother would be proud of the woman she has become, and my sons and I remain the people who share the memories of that long-ago, most difficult time.
And so, in this season of giving thanks, I am thankful for Tammey, my almost-daughter, her husband (who never thought he'd have a mother-in-law!), and sweet Adin, who calls me "Gran."