Friday, March 21, 2008

Ghost From My Past

This may be a bit long - just warning you. There's a lot of back story...

My family has always been very tight. We typically saw our cousins every weekend when we were little. But my mom's oldest brother & his kids lived in FL - way far away. We didn't know them. The parents eventually divorced and the mother (my uncle's wife) abandoned her children when the oldest (of four) was only about 10 years old. The whole situation was very tragic. My uncle ended up moving them all back here a few years later and my grandparents tried to help raise the kids.

The oldest was a year younger than me. She was trouble. She immediately started running away. They put her in my school so she could be friends with "my" friends. They were good kids - they would surely change her. (dumb) It didn't work. She flocked to the trouble makers. She was a rebel. She finally ran away at sixteen and we didn't hear from her for two years.

In 1991, she called from Florida. She was pregnant and needed help. When she needed help and called home, it meant that she was calling me because I was really the only person who kept trying to find her every time she left. My parents cared too but other than that, I really think people just forgot about her.

So one day she called. We sent her a ticket to come home. She was 19. I was 20.

When she arrived she informed us that she wasn't going to keep the baby. This would be my grandmother's first great-grandchild and it caused quite a stir in our family. She was eventually guilted enough to keep her and even still, I'm grateful every day. Her reasons, however, were very real. She wasn't ready to be mother. Her example had been terrible. I think everyone hoped that would change when her baby was born but it really didn't. She had big issues to heal. Big.

But she had the baby. A beautiful little girl. She moved around a lot and eventually moved in with me when the baby was around 2yo. Still, she would say that she didn't feel a bond. She felt more like she was her little sister. This little girl was so fantastic. I mean, she would literally talk to anyone. She was so completely brilliant that people would constantly ask her to read and write and sing and dance - she was amazing and she was just a toddler.

One day, when she was just barely 4, my cousin called and asked if I would watch her for the weekend.

And she never came back.

After two days, this amazing little person started to tell me that her mother told her good-bye. "She's not coming back. This is where I live." As the days went by it became obvious that she was really gone. I called in a missing person report but she had been known to run for years. And her parents were long ago disinterested. No one cared.

I kept this little girl for the next year. She was the light of my every day. I was very young and in my first relationship. She added a whole new world to our world. We loved every minute of her. I always believed that her mom would come home so I never really let go in a way that you would if you adopted a child. She would ask if she could call me "mommy" and I would tell her that I loved her more than the stars but that she had a mommy who was going to come home one day. I regret it now. If I had known she would really stay gone, I would've done everything differently.

A year or so later, my aunt filed a petition for custody of her. She was married and hadn't been able to have children. As a young person, I didn't have a clue what to do. I was crushed. I had every intention of keeping her until her mom came back. I was also only 1/2 "out" and was certain if anyone (dcfs) knew, they'd take her from me. I didn't fight. And they came and took her away.

I'll never forget it. I'll never forget her little voice telling me she promised to be good if I'd only let her stay.

Luckily for me, she hasn't gone far. She was raised right here by me and I've watched her grow into an amazing sixteen year old. I still wish I had made different decisions. I wish I wouldn't have been so scared back then. But she's had a happy life and she knows she's loved by me and everyone around her.

I spent years looking for her mother/my cousin after she left. I tracked her to Florida then to Arizona. She changed her name and probably lived on the streets for a long time. She can do that. She can survive through anything. I've always stood up for her and said that she made the right decision by leaving Mercy with me. If she hadn't, we would've lost them both. My family obviously holds angry feelings for her but they didn't know her like I did. (way more to that story - another day)

So here were's been 12 years since she left - almost to the day.

My friend was showing me around myspace today. I'm embarrassed to tell you all how un'hip I am but I had no idea I had a page. I log in sometimes to read another friends blog but that's all I knew. So I pull it up and what do you know? I have friends! She starts showing me around a bit and I see that there's a person that I don't know on there. And I delete her.

We dig around further and there it is! A message from my cousin - from little Mercy's mother. Four of them. She left them between November and January. The last one finally says her name and asks if I'm her cousin and says she's looking for her family. But the worst part? I had deleted her. I can't get her back. I sent her a note but now I have to wait and hope she gets it. Can you stand it?

After all these years she reaches out. I kept my land line until 1 year ago just for her. I've paid online searches for her a dozen times. I've written down stories about her so Mercy could one day read & learn about her mom. And there she was - on my myspace page I didn't know I had.

I gasped. I held my breath & kept re-reading her name. It felt like a ghost was talking to me through a dream. 12 years. Many times I have thought she must be dead. Why wouldn't she ever call? How could she not wonder if her daughter was happy & healthy? At the same time, I have dreaded telling her that it wasn't me that raised her.

I'll sit here and refresh my email a hundred times this weekend.

After all the times I searched for her, she found me.