Do you ever wonder where you came from?
I was listening to a podcast this weekend where a woman who was adopted wondered about the hardships of her birth mother, whether she was wanted, and what worth she had as an unwanted child. Eventually she came around to her own value –everybody has value, no matter what the circumstances of their birth.
Her story might have made me wonder about how I got here, too, but for better or worse, I figured it out a long time ago, with the help of a couple of family stories and a little basic math.
In the first years of my parents’ marriage, my dad traveled about half of any given year. It was really all over the world, but a lot of it was to South and Central America. He loved it. It gave him a chance to immerse himself in other cultures, even if the trips were just a few days.
One trip took him to Guatemala City just in time for an earthquake that measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. It struck at 3:00 in the morning, waking everyone from a sound sleep. When my dad got down to the lobby, the door was jammed. At 6’3”, he was the tallest person there, and so scared he basically walked up and yanked the door off its hinges. 23,000 people died that day.
I never asked when the earthquake hit until I was an adult: February 4, 1976.
(Seemingly Unrelated) Story #2
We suspect my mom had Crohn’s Disease since she was about 12. She was in and out of hospitals as a child and young adult with what they termed “treatable gastric distress”. Back then – the 60s -- no one really knew anything about it, and without a conclusive diagnosis, there was no definitive treatment. It didn’t help that she was a Navy brat, and they moved every few years.
By the time my parents got married in the mid-70s, she had been mostly in remission for years. (Well, there was the one incident when they were on their honeymoon. They called it “honeymoonitis”.) But just a few years in, it came back with a vengeance.
Also in early 1976, my dad was on another business trip. Mexico City, this time. In the midst of the trip, a family friend called to tell him that my mom had been admitted to the hospital. Dad rushed back, and my mom went into her first Crohn’s surgery. Luckily, one of the staff surgeons at the hospital had recently come from the Cleveland Clinic, and had some experience with the type of surgery my mom needed.
A correct diagnosis was offered shortly thereafter.
Putting the pieces together
Now, my mom had always wanted kids. My dad had to be convinced. The way I figure it, it was still a discussion up until then. But within months, they both realized their mortality. That was about a year before I was born. You do the math. It’s fairly easy to calculate – I was the product of disaster. And if you know me at all, ‘splains a lot.