Corazon and I went out to lunch with her mother today and we had a good time. Her mother and I have an easy relationship and Corazon is pretty comfortable around both of us. She hasn't gotten to the point where she has too many questions about her mother. Perhaps because of the fact that she doesn't have any conscious recollection of living with her, combined with the RAD, she seems to accept that she doesn't live with her mother as perfectly "normal." Her mother and I caught up on our lives much as old friends would. I heard about her job, health, husband, her two adult children and the one still in foster care and in an RTC. I heard about her extended family, her mother's health problems, recent issues with her sisters, money issues and future plans to move out of state. I saw recent pictures of extended family member and she handed us recent pictures of family gatherings along with some horror stories involving some of those folks. I talked about all our new home, the kids, school, my consulting work and C. who couldn't make the visit because of an orientation to her new job (that's a whole different story to save for another post). We even discussed whether we should "have" more kids. She thinks Milagro shouldn't be the only bio-kid with so many adopted ones so she has her heart set on us "having" another one. She is also the one who has pushed us to consider adopting her granddaughter who is currently in foster care. This visit she shared more bad news about that situation. Her granddaughter's mom is still having a hard time sticking to her rehab program. Her 21 year old son is the child's father is currently on probation. It is a question whether either of them will get their 3 year old back (they arent together) and we are letting that process evolve before we commit to taking her. Corazon's sister is turning 20 in a few weeks and has an 18 month old. She just moved back from SC to MA with her husband. It seems that has become an abusive situation but she insists on staying with her husband. I had called both of Corazon's siblings about our visit to the area but neither of them was able to schedule time to see her. She did talk to both of them on the phone while we were having lunch with her mother. We were not able to get the 12 year old social worker to arrange a visit with her brother who is in residential treatment.
Corazon's mother showed me her tatoo which has the initials of all 4 of her children and she talked about being "resolved" and happy that Corazon was with us. She explained that her other children and even her husband think she is "crazy" that she can be so accepting of a friendship with me and they accuse her of not loving Corazon enough to hate not having her with them. She says she cannot explain to them that she loves her more than they can ever understand AND that it is because of that love that she has accepted that she believes Corazon is exactly where she should be. She misses her child tremendously but doesn't believe she could raise her and knows she messed up her child's life in many ways. She knows Corazon is loved and she knows I will always make sure Corazon knows that. She also knows she can call Corazon whenever she wants and that if she really needs to see her I will help make it happen. She said all of this to me in our conversation today and we both easily accepted the fact that we are both Corazon's mother and always will be. It is painful for me to see her in pain over the lives of her other children and also resolved to let those things be as they are. She doesn't believe she can do much to help or change her other children's situations and she feels she is helping Corazon's by supporting and developing the relationship with our family. It is an awkward position for me because I see the love, the pain and the sacrifice she makes and I hurt for her and the love it must take to believe this is the greatest love I have ever seen and experienced. It is also an awesome responsibility to be entrusted with raising another woman's child.
She brought a most precious gift. It was 3 pictures of Corazon as a baby. One taken when she was 6 months old and the other two when she was about 13 months old. I cried. We have no pictures of Corazon as a baby except for a faded group photo of a baby group she was in that the social worker found in her file. I think about the fact that I probably have over 1000 pictures documenting Milagro's less than two years of life but I have almost none of my other three children before they came to live with us. These 3 pictures are her ONLY pictures of Corazon and she gave them to me with the trust that I will keep them safe and copy them and send those back to her (which of course, I will!) These are her ONLY pictures of her baby girl and she trusts me with them in the same way she seems to trust me with her daughter. I was so very grateful and so very humbled.
We said goodbye as we dropped her off at home and I could see the tears in her eyes and the sadness and joy mixed together on her face. That image will stay with me for a very long time.
We pulled up to our house about an hour later and my cell phone was ringing. It was the paternal aunt who Corazon lived with on and off for 3 1/2 years. THIS is the person Corazon had some attachment to and the one she has abandonment issues with. I had called her as well to tell her we would be in town and to encourage a visit. She doesn't usually return my calls and we have seen her only twice in the last 4 years. She was excited to talk to Corazon on the phone but I encouraged her to come over and see us right then and there. She hesitated. I told her I knew she was still at work and we were only 10 minutes away. She caved and agreed to come over. I wish I could capture the sheer joy on Corazon's face when she saw her aunt. She was beaming and so was the aunt. We were supposed to be at a friend's house for a party in our honor but how could we leave? We visited with the aunt for about an hour and it was heartwarming and heartbreaking to see how happy they were to see one another. At the end of the visit we once again invited the aunt to come visit us in Texas. She ended the visit by slipping something into my hand--two pictures of Corazon as a baby. The first one shows her as a 7 or 8 month old sitting on a bed and the other is one taken of her at 5 months of age with her birth father. Both pictures are worn and show signs of being handled hundreds of times. They look like they have been carried inside a backpocket or wallet and looked at often. In fact, I believe it is the same two pictures she showed me but wouldn't part with three years ago when we first made contact with her.
But today, without another word, she passed them into my hands. I have no words to share what this act meant to me. I have no words to explain how much these five pictures mean.