Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out

There is a line in Oedipus that goes like this;

"Let all come out however vile
However base it be, I must unlock the secret of my birth.
The woman, with more than woman's pride,
is shamed by my low origin. I am the child of Fortune,
The giver of good, and I shall not be shamed.......
Born thus, I ask to be no other man than that I am, and will know who I am."

One of the things I am working on in therapy is dealing with my birth mother. It is difficult. I have known all my life about my birth mother's faith, the adoption agency only allowed adoptions from that faith to parents of the same. I never knew much else about my nirth mother. It would make me wonder all the time, I was the child with the fair skin that couldn't tan, blonde hair and blue eyes. The only other person on either side that had blue eyes was a paternal grandfather. My sister on the other hand, resembled both sides, and didn't get the kind of stares i got as a child. 

When I was 20 I had to go to court to open some records regarding a physical problem I had. I found out the problem was heredity, and that was that. And it was then I learned my birth mother was a child when I was born, a mere 13. And had it been legal in the year I was conceived, I would have wound up down the drain and not been born. As is, I was conceived on New Year's Eve by a drunken sperm that swam up the Charybidis, and hooked up with an egg that was drunk too. 

That was enough information. I didn't want to learn anymore. I recall going back from my mother's house , driving back to school and drowning my pain in a few brewskis we had in the dorm room.

I kept that information close to my chest, carrying it around like an albatross for the next score. It really was no one's business, and somehow the pain was my own and I didn't want to share it with another soul. 

I consoled myself with the Oedipus quote. It was my fault for finding out the secret of my birth, it was my fault for treading on the carpets after I was egged on to do so. I deserve anything and everything the universe would throw at me. 

Fast forward to September 16, 2001. I spent the night before in a hotel I love, 3 blocks from the Empire State Building. Lovely Art Deco, it was home to Tesla in his last years. I had a view of it all night long, from 4o floors above street level and sat on the bed with the window blinds open staring at it al night. Petrified that an airplane would hit it and I would be dust. Afraid to put on my pajamas in case I had to run down 40 flights of stairs to the street. It was strange being in the city so close after 9/11. Everywhere I saw missing people flyers. At Grand Central. On the street. Over the newspaper recepticals. But what was strangest of all was the city seemed to be going in slow motion. Normally it goes manically fast, but that day every thing was slow, people were smiling and talking to each other, and even the taxi I flagged down stopped and the driver got out to open the door for me. Is that a NY Miracle?

The social worker who greeted me that day was tall, elegant woman in her 50s. She shook my hand, and ushered me into a cramped office cluttered with papers and manilla folders.

She sat down crossing her long legs. I noticed she still had sneakers on, the fashion of working girls in the city. Go into the city in Keds, change at your desk to pumps. She obviously hadn't changed yet. She asked if I wanted a cup of coffee, I could tell it was an excuse for her to get one. I declined, but she went out, coming  back a moment later with a mug, and sat back down again.

"Ok, Susan, you asked a few months ago for the records your birth mother's social worker kept. I can not let you have them, but you can write anything you want on this pad here."  She passed me a pad and pen. And then it began.

"Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out', said the Emperor Claudius shortly before he died. 

I should have never gone into the city that day. I should have ran out the door and flagged the first NJ transit train back home. Ran , not walked. What she said grew more and move vile, more accursed to my shell like ears, as she put a box of Kleenex in arms reach and stopped occasionally as I sobbed. 

My birth mother's age was known to me for one score. There was no mention of the father, they were not sure who the father actually was. The social worker who checked on my mother when she was carrying me could not get anything out regarding that. 

But she interviewed my birth mother, and her mother, over several months until I was born. This is what I learned. My mother was the youngest  of 5, 2 sets of twins, identical and fraternal.  Almost everyone in the family tree had problems with drinking. The social worker turned around in her chair, and said "Alcoholism runs in this family. Do you have a problem with alcohol, dear?". I told her I was in AA and had a long run of sobriety. 

But I told her I wish I had known that since I was a child.  I would have never, ever, had one drink.

She paused for a minute, got me a glass of water and continued. On my birth mother's side of the family, everyone, except my birth mother had problems.  None of the siblings had graduated High School, but it was her dream to do so That was why she was giving me up. Noble. More things, it just kept coming out like torrents and waves from a hurricane. 

All the sibs had mood problems. The girls were considered "high strung" the boys were known to the cops for drinking and fighting. What struck me were the aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles. All who died, either died by heart attacks or their own hand. those who died by their own hand, all died by the time they were 40.  Most did actually die by their own hands. There were some great uncles and aunts and grand parents who had been lobotomized in the 1950s. 

She looked at me with those big brown myopic eyes and said- "I am so sorry. It says here that most of your family was schizophrenic".

She stopped and handed me another Kleenex. I didn't want to hear anymore. It was in my genes. It didn't matter that I learned that day my mother and her sibs were all blonde and blue eyed. That is where I got it from. It wasn't anything I could change, just like I could not change my eye color. I take that back, I can change my eye color and hair , but what was in my genes made up my soul. 

For a while when I was in college I use to imagine my life was controlled by the Greek Gods. (This is what you get for too many semesters with the Classics). They would play with me, deciding what turns my life would take until they tired of me and dropped me from their warm clasp. Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos cut the thread and I would return to dust and sleep. They alone would decide what would happen to me in this life. I don't believe  it anymore. You make your own fate, you control your own destiny. If my life was subject to the whims of something more powerful than me, I would be dead now. I would spend the rest of my life in an asylum measuring out my days by coffee spoons. 

I am blessed I had a good childhood and if there is a curse on my house, I have escaped it thus far. Nature vs. Nuture, I am proof of the latter working harder than the former. If there is a curse on my house, it won't catch up to me. But I will be running so fast it won't find me. 


prin said...

It doesn't seem to me that you are having trouble writing :) Most of the time when I stumble upon a blog I manage to stay for the one post, sometimes not all the way through. today, though is different. I have stayed on here for over an hour. Your writing fascinates me, leaving me wanting more....

susan said...


Thank you thank you thank you thank you. You have made my day.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have any problem with writing. I've read "A million little pieces" and compared to your writing that book sucks. Besides, he apparently made half the stuff up. What you write here is much, much better. If only Oprah saw what you write.....

susan said...

wow, thank you Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I kept checking back yesterday - the 8th - to see if you had written any more posts. Your blog is something that gives me courage and hope, even though I don't post comments.

Thanks you for that.

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