Monday, May 14, 2012

mom, mama and mother's day

One thing you might not know about me, and one thing I'm pretty sure you didn't... (1) Did you know I was adopted?  I am.  Not in the usual sense, like being a child from Russia or Ethiopia or Pakistan or Chile... but yes, I'm adopted.  Oh, and (2) my name has not always been the fabulously awesome d$.  My birth surname?  Creech.  Like, "Screech", but without the "S". 

This Mother's Day, I mourn the passing of my Mom, who raised me, who took care of me and who loved me immensely.  However, I'd also like to celebrate the reunion of me and Mama, who let me be raised and cared for, with a love as equal, perhaps greater than what I was raised with. 

I'd like to share with you a story.  I won't be too personal, and I won't reveal too much because I haven't actually talked to the parties involved to get their full-on permission to share the story, but I don't think they would mind.

My biological mother, Jan, had me when she was very young, mid-teens.  One of those baby taking care of a baby things... she took care of the as best she could, as we all lived in lower class neighborhood near the Orlando/Winter Garden/Apopka, Florida, area... I actually want to say trailer park, but I'm not confident of that, so I'll just say "lower class".  Anyway, she did what she could.

In one of my favorite all time pictures, this is my mama and me,
late 70s.  I was a cutie... and wasn't she a dish?
But as a young girl, she had a hard time because as I've really learned in the last five months, newborns are a handle.  And we aren't talking 2012 with gadgets and gizmos to help babies sleep and eat better and specially formulated baby foods that deal with gas and spit up and so on... this is 1975.  Bottles came in a few colors, and that was it.  Diapers didn't have "wetness indicators", they were just cheap diapers. 

Bottom line, it was hard.  And it got even harder when she dated and eventually married a dude named Bob.  Bob?  Jerk.  To me, anyway.  Jan had another three boys--Shawn, Chris and Bobby--over the course of the years, and Bob sorta kinda liked them--me, he wasn't a fan of.  And he showed it. 

At some point, my granny, living in Austin, TX, with her husband John, heard that I needed some help, and she flew down to get me.  My biological mom didn't want to, but she had to... let me go with Granny.  She gave me up.

I lived with Granny and John for a few years in Austin, and the idea came about that they would adopt me as their son.  This was done for a variety of reasons, but mostly to be able to make legal decisions for my care and my upbringing, as by this point, it was apparent that I wouldn't make a permanent return visit to Orlando.  Thus, my name went from Creech to the popular d$ that you all know and love today.

This is me, with one of my all time favorite t-shirts, with Mom and Dad.
Taken in Austin, TX, a year or so before we moved to Alabama, I
can assure you that in the background, yes, that is a velvet print of a
deer standing in water. 
And in 1984, we moved to a little town known as Samson, Alabama, population (at the time) of 2,100.  I called Granny and John by the more appropriate names of "Mom" and "Dad" and I in October of '84, I started at the brand new Samson Elementary School.

This was life at 301 North Johnson Street.   Until 1985.

One day, on our doorstep was my real mom and her three boys... my brothers, actually.  Well, legally, they were my nephews.  My three aunts had become my sisters, and my cousins became my nieces and nephews... okay, so imagine a family tree... my grandparents adopted me, so I move up a level on the branches... suddenly, my parallel family members (cousins, siblings) go a branch below, and my one-step-up family members (aunts) become my parallel branches and... okay, if you don't get it, I don't really know how to explain it.

Anyway, Jan showed up in December of 1985, with Shawn, Chris and Bobby in tow, having left the old, disastrous, even dangerous life of Bob down in Florida, and ready to start anew.  Start anew they did, as over the next few years, they got back on their feet, and I was able to get fairly close to my brother nephew Shawn (we were only separated by a year or two) and had lots of fun with my brothers nephews Chris and Bobby. 

Jan, at this point, is my sister.  Imagine calling your own mother your sister, and calling her by her real name... Jan.  But really, this is how I knew her... I mean, I hadn't called her "mama" or "mommy" since I was a toddler, and here I am going on 11 years old, so this is all I know.   She, however, could never really look me as a brother--I was her oldest son.  But she had to deal with it, knowing I was being taken care of by other people--yes, those other people were her parents, and yes, she knew they were doing a great job, but other people nonetheless.

The four of them eventually moved to nearby town, Opp, which was about 15 miles away from Samson to the west, Jan eventually was remarried, and the boys went on to middle school and high school at Opp High.  (her new husband, Johnny, unfortunately passed away several years ago)

And my story is simple... I graduated from Samson High School in 1993, went to Troy State University and graduated in 1998, moved to Birmingham in August of that same year, lost my Dad in August of 2000 to being just plain
Both the top and bottom pictures show Chris on the left,
Shawn in the middle, and Bobby on the right.  Though
the pictures are separated by about 25 years or so.
old, and a decade later, its 2011 and The Lovely Steph Leann is pregnant and its summer and its hot as can be.

Shawn, Chris and Bobby all went on with their own lives, and because they were in different places now with their own families and kids, and I rarely saw or spoke to them.  Not that I didn't want to, not that they wanted to avoid me, but life is life.  Even with Facebook, which they are all on, it still wasn't much of a help to keep up. 

September 2011.  Mom dies.  I get the call at work on an already rough day, and spend two minutes in the backroom wiping back tears before composing myself and hitting the lattes again.  Jan had been pretty amazing over the later part of Mom's life, as she was the one who took care of Mom's doctors appointments and financial stuff and legal issues and power of attorney and so on... so when Mom passed, Jan only had to do a little work with the other three sisters to put everything in place. 

And this is where I wanted to bring you, the reader, to talk about my amazing mother.  Not the one who passed--yes, she was amazing.  But Jan. 

When I got off work the day Mom died, I came home to a quiet house.  It was a rainy, grey day, so inside my home with the blinds closed made for a dark living room.  I sat in my chair for about 20 minutes, no tears, no words, nothing.  Just sat. 

The woman I knew as Mom was gone.  She had raised me for about 15 of my first 18 years, and I had spent 33 years calling her "Mom".  But she was gone.  But I still had a mother.  I still had a mom.  I still had a Mama. 

I called Jan.  She answered pretty quickly and we began to talk "business", as in, funeral stuff.  When The Lovely Steph Leann and I were planning on coming down, where to go when we got there, how the ceremony would proceed, of course I'd be a pallbearer and so on.  And I was to give the eulogy, which I felt both honored and petrified at the same time.

Once the formalities were done, we began to actually talk.  Not just talk, but talk talk.  And I told her that now Mom was gone, without diminishing the importance of Mom in my life, that I felt it was time to start calling Jan "Mom" again.  There was silence on the other side, and for a second, I didn't know how she'd react, but then she started spilling her guts... on how much she loved me, how much she could have been there, how much she wanted to tell me all this stuff for a long time, and how she didn't want to "cut in" on the dynamic of mine and Mom's relationship, but how she never could see me as a "brother" but always saw me as her first born son... because I was.

Essentially, Jan was a scared teenager who was pregnant, and did the best she could with what she had at the time.  And when she realized that she couldn't give me the love and support, or the protection, that she knew I needed, she made a decision that affected my life to this day. 

She gave me up.  She didn't want to, but she did.  She gave me to someone that she knew would take care of me.  And I understand that fully now.  I guess I always did, but never put a ton of thought into it until that conversation on the day my Mom died.  Had she kept me, who knows?  I know, though, that I wouldn't be in Birmingham.  I would have never met The Lovely Steph Leann, I wouldn't be working where I worked, I don't know that I would have ended up at Troy, or anywhere--that's not to say that Shawn, Chris and Bobby had a bad upbringing because they remained with her, not at all... they are good guys who, like any and all of us, have made mistakes and have learned from them--but I just feel that all I have, all I have been blessed with, all I know wouldn't be what I have and know without Jan handing me over to Granny back in 1978 or '79, whenever it was.

And during the days leading up to, and following the funeral, I was able to sit and talk with Jan for a long time.  We shared thoughts, and personally, I was sad, mourning for the loss of Mom... but elated that I had a Mama again. 

What's more... I have my brothers again.  Shawn, Chris, Bobby, they are my flesh and blood, my siblings, my three younger brothers... and I am an older brother, which is a foreign thought to me.  After Jan and I talked, she talked to the three guys, and all three told her they were happy about me being the "older son" again.

I even talked to Chris at the funeral, and he said flat out that he never really saw me as an uncle anyway, he always looked at me like a brother.

Though I will get fussed at for posting this picture, as only a Mama
can fuss at her son, I love it.  (the pic, not the fussing).  This is Mama
holding her grandson, and her grandson trying not to spit up.
But its Mama that I celebrate.  She made a huge sacrifice by letting go of her oldest son to help him be who he needed to be.  The Heavenly Creator made the ultimate sacrifice by sending Jesus to the cross for all of our sins, and though I don't attempt to put Mama's sacrifice in the same ballpark, league or sport as God's gift, to me it meant a whole lot.  To me, it changed my life.

And now, I have my Mama back.  Because she's really not that much older than I am, I'll have her for a while.  We visited her and her husband Randy in Andalusia over Easter, and she held her grandson for the first time, and got to spent time with her oldest son and daughter-in-law.  Campbell got to see, coo over, spit up on and love his Granny Jan and Pawpaw Randy.  (honestly, I never though of myself as someone with a "pawpaw" in their life, but hey...) And I got to spend some time with my younger brother Chris, and though Bobby and Shawn couldn't make it, I was around their families too.  It was simple, it was wonderful, it was a yard full of Easter eggs and love, it was... well, it was family, country style.

So that's the story.  I love my family.  I love my three younger brothers and look forward to re-connecting.  I love and appreciate my Mama for everything she has done for me. 

Only in my family can I lose a Mom and gain a Mama in the span of a few hours.  Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story! Adoption is one of the most special things that has happened to us as believers in Christ and to see it modeled when a family adopts a child into their family is beautiful.

    What a gift to be loved by so many!


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