Illness

FOOTNOTE: This is the end of a semi-open adoption story that has been ran on this site in Chapters 1-20.

September 1, 2001
Tara asked everyone to pray for MacKenzie who was still struggling with eating. She got an email from one of the birth moms who wound up keeping her daughter after she was born:

“I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter,” she wrote. “I hope you get some good news. You and your daughter will be in our prayers. You have to be one of the strongest women I know to go through everything you have and still get up in the morning. I hope to hear some good news soon.”

Veronica wrote:

“I hope you have a great visit with your sister and mom and feel recharged when you come home. Frank and I are really looking forward to our trip to Albuquerque with the kids in October. It can’t get here fast enough. We love you.”

Tara saw her therapist that night and they had a good talk.

She got an email from Veronica:

“Soon you’ll be on a plane to see your sister,” she wrote. “I know you can’t wait to give her a big hug. I hope you have a few days off from work to show you the sights and visit. I’m so sorry about your financial problems. Seems like everything is going up up up in cost but salaries aren’t being adjusted to meet the cost of living. Remember ten years ago when we all got cost of living raises? Guess those are a thing of the past. But sometimes things seem pretty dark then you get a ray of sunshine. I’m glad you’re visiting your sister. You need some time to get away and you can deal with things when you get back.

My friend Angel had a hysterectomy three weeks ago. She’s done great except she only had two weeks of vacation being off the third and fourth week are very taxing for her family with money. So her doctor has agreed she can go back to work if she stays at her desk next week. That’s two weeks early. She loves being home when her kids get in from school, cooking and baking but needs to go back financially.

Money is the root of all evil!

Hey, maybe you’ll get a refund check from the IRS. I know we should get ours soon. Wouldn’t that solve some problems? I’ll say special prayers.

Thanks for the kind words about us being good parents. I really think God had this plan in the making with you and us in mind all along. Isn’t it amazing how things work out? We wouldn’t change anything about MacKenzie – well except that she’d like to eat but when she becomes a little pig think how excited everyone will be. This experience has changed my life in more ways than one. Meeting and getting to know you, learning how lucky I am as a parent that my children are relatively healthy compared to others. Having more empathy for people who have ill children, dealing with difficult family members at work has even changed. I try to think about what they’re going through with their ill family members and understand why they’re yelling at me. Plus, we have met some wonderful people with Early Childhood Intervention (ECI).

Getting to know them and each of their stories. Our occupational therapist with a child with lots of special needs who’s always positive. Our social worker that’s paying off student loans and trying to have a baby. Our nurse who recently had a devastating miscarriage – we have cried together. The nutritionist who is so proud of her two teenagers and their sports activities. I truly wouldn’t change anything. It’s really true that every life experience makes you grow – – as you well know. My pediatrician has become very interested in eating problems with infants and wants all the articles; etc. on MacKenzie’s therapy. So her minor problem has touched so many people. The first thing everyone always asks me at work is “How’s MacKenzie?” We love the support and concern.

Anyway, of course none of this could be possible without you. We love you and want your happiness. Please have a good time at your sister’s and I’ll email you in a few days.

Chelsea liked her birthday gifts Tara bought her – a Winnie the Pooh baking set and Mad Libs that they played when they were kids. Tara’s dad had sent Chelsea a birthday card and wrote a note inside it, which Tara was tempted to read since Tara and he were estranged.
Tara got to see Chelsea and her girlfriend’s new house, which was a lot smaller than their old condo but nice and had a pool. The colors were purple and green and it was all beautiful. The beach was just a block away. Tara was going to bring back some seashells from the beach as always, and some extra ones for her co-workers who’d never been to the beach or flown.

Tara drove to see her mom who she hadn’t seen since Christmas. She listened to her favorite tapes along the way, driving Chelsea’s new car, which she couldn’t believe she trusted her with. With each landmark Tara passed was a floating memory of when she lived in Chelsea’s town for seven years and was with Mark. She noticed many places had gone out of business and was sad to see the old theater Mark and she used to go to had shut down. That place used to be packed. She couldn’t believe it was closed.

Soon she was at her mom’s in the rural country. She recognized the well-manicured lawn and many flowers her mom had planted. Her mom told her she planted some flowers for MacKenzie and showed her the plant that Tara remembered her mom getting from Gladney’s greenhouse when she visited her last year.

“I call these Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½In Memory of MacKenzie,'” her mom told her.

Tara was touched.

They went to see Tara’s aunts and uncles who she hadn’t seen in seven years. Her Aunt Shayla was Tara’s favorite. She used to sing in nightclubs and still had a great figure at her age. Her husband, Tony was suffering from arthritis and Hepatitis C but still ran his own construction business. Her Uncle Richard was still drinking like a fish and looked worse than ever. Her Uncle Chet was still working at an old age in construction. They were all teasing her Uncle Richard about a letter he got from a woman who wanted to move in with him and her two teenage sons and mooch off of him. He swore he wasn’t going to let her move in but Tara’s Uncle Tony said – “You watch, this time tomorrow you’ll call up and he’ll have her moved in.”

“I am not either,” Tara’s Uncle Richard argued. “She’s ugly and I don’t like the way she dresses.”

“When you coming back?” Tara’s Aunt Shayla asked.

“I’ll be back at Christmas. I’ll be able to stay longer then,” she said.

Tara’s Aunt Shayla had always taken care of everyone. Tara didn’t know what her kids would do once she was gone from this earth.

Tara helped her mom set up an email account so they could write each other on her computer. Her mom was skittish when it came to computers so Tara had to go really slow and reassure her all along the way. Soon Tara’s step dad was home from work and they went out for seafood at their favorite restaurant.

Tara kept them entertained throughout the lousy service with funny stories and jokes and they did the same.

On the way back, Tara’s mom showed her the local State Park, which was massive with a lake and lots of picnic areas.

They exchanged more funny stories and Tara’s mom told her about the time her cousin accidentally got in the wrong car with her grandma, drove to a station for gas and got congratulated by the attendant for just getting married. Puzzled, her cousin finally got a good look at the back window of the car he was driving which was decorated “Just Married!” and realized he’d gotten in the wrong car.

The attendant thought Tara’s much younger cousin had married the elderly lady in the car – Tara’s grandma!

“He didn’t have the heart to tell him she was his grandma and they’d gotten in the wrong car so he just let him think he married an old woman!” Tara’s mom said, laughing.

Then Tara’s step dad told her about the time he got in the wrong car and drove four miles down the road before he realized it – only after looking around the interior and not recognizing anything.

The next day Tara helped her mom with her resume and cover letters for job hunting. She decided to surprise her and got on her computer while Tara’s mom was out watering the lawn. She came in and was much appreciative as Tara continued to help her sort her job paperwork and give her some job hunting tips.

She was glad she’d come for her mom even though financially it was going to kill her and she didn’t know how she was going to pay the rent. She kept all this from her mom of course. She wanted to be there for her. She knew as she worked on her mom’s resume she had truly forgiven her for the past.

Her mom gave her some things of her grandma’s and showed her some pictures her grandma had had of Tara and her sisters. Tara saw a
picture of herself as a baby she’d never seen before although she’d seen other baby pics.

“God, I was fat,” Tara said. “I thought that was Chelsea or another sister.”

“No, you were just a little chubby,” her mom told her.

Her mom gave her a jewelry box and music box along with some jewelry that belonged to her grandma. Her mom was sending a broach to each of her daughters that had belonged to her grandma.

“Are you sure you don’t want this stuff?” Tara asked her mom.

“I’m sure,” she said. “I’ve got to donate all her clothes.”

Tara knew her grandma was in a better place and happy. As she thought about the condition of that old trailer, she was glad her grandma no longer had to feel the harsh effects of such abject poverty and deprivation.

Tara liked to think her grandma could look down on MacKenzie now and see her grow up as she smiled upon her.

The trip back to Chelsea’s was much quicker than the trip to her mom’s. Tara listened to comedy tapes, which made the time fly. At one point it was pouring rain and she couldn’t see to drive. She hated driving in the rain and she’d had some wrecks in the rain. But soon the rain passed and the sun came out.

“We’re the brokest we’ve ever been,” she’d heard her mom’s voice echo in her head from earlier that day.

That night Tara’s stepbrother and his new bride were meeting Tara’s mom and step dad for the first time. They were staying a few days before heading home to Florida. He’d met her in the Cayman Islands on business and she was much younger than his 39 years.

Tara remembered her step dad saying to her about the adoption: “Well, you did the right thing. And I say that because you feel you did the right thing. You never know, they might let you have her some.”

Tara was reading a book about one family’s adoption and ironically the child was MacKenzie’s age and had the last name of MacKenzie.

December 3, 2001
A lot had happened in four months.

The September 11th destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, two days before Mark’s 35th birthday made Tara realize even more she still love him and she attempted to find him.

Tara got to see MacKenzie on Halloween and got pictures made with her and Veronica. Ben came along and they went out to lunch and exchanged gifts. The four-hour visit flew by but Tara was grateful for every minute of it. She got to hold MacKenzie’s hands and walk with her and Tara’s adopted friend came along, too.

Tara gave MacKenzie, Veronica, Ben, and Frank some of their Christmas presents early along with her senior book for MacKenzie to look at one day.

In December Tara got a call from Mark in the middle of watching “Bridget Jones’ Diary” just when she realizes the guy she’s known for years is the one she’s supposed to be with. They talked for awhile and he gave her his number.

“I just realized after Sept. 11th that life’s too short for stupid mistakes,” Tara told him.

He was now living in a recovery house and had 90 days clean and sober again. Although he’d lost everything, he sounded great. They’d known each other 12 years now.

The next day Tara got a letter from her mom that made her cry with gratitude. Her mom had written her many letters through the years, but nothing like this one:

“I hope that things are going okay for you,” she wrote. “You know I told you earlier that I was going to write a long letter to each of you, a Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½life letter’ I call it. Well, I’ve written to all you now with this one. I’ve gotten a response from Chelsea and Danielle, but not Janet yet, hopefully soon.

You see when Mother died and even before, I did a lot of reflecting and thinking about my relationships with each of you. As she lay there not able to speak, I thought of so many things I wish I’d said. I didn’t because she couldn’t respond, and there were many things I wanted to ask her and now I’ll never get the chance.

First I wanted tell you about my childhood and I believe that reflects the parent role. I was raised, as you know on a farm – nine children. We were very poor. We raised our own food. I can’t remember when I didn’t have to work or assume responsibilities; babysitting, my brothers and sisters when I wasn’t much older than them. I handled tobacco when I was only seven, standing on a box to reach the table. That was expected of people back then. I don’t blame my parents as they were brought up that way. My parents were always fighting over money, as there was never enough to provide even the barest essentials.

I don’t remember being a normal teenager. There was no prom or dances, as my parents couldn’t afford them. The upside to all that is we talked with each other around the table. There was no TV. or video games for children and I think that’s good. I dropped out of school in the 11th grade. I could see that my dad couldn’t afford a gown rental, ring, or the necessary graduation costs. That really hurt my mother. I don’t think she understood my reasons.

I didn’t date much as my dad was very strict so when I met my first husband he was older than me and a farmer, which impressed my dad. He pressured me to marry and after I promised I wouldn’t go back on that. My parents had to sign for me as I was under age. I kept
thinking why they never asked if that was what I wanted. If they had, I probably wouldn’t have married. Anyway, the marriage was short-lived – no job and no child support. The attorney told me I couldn’t get that because my husband was a farmer with no consistent income.

Can you imagine?

Anyway, I struggled with Grandma Hooker’s help. She babysat for me to work long hours in a restaurant, which was all I knew how to do. There were constant legal battles over my son from my husband. The judge allowed visitation and every time he took him and left the state were I couldn’t find them. It was a black period for me for years.

I met your dad about this time. Up until then I had nothing in my life but work. He was very upbeat, loving, and fun loving, all the things I’d never known. He was a good dad to Janet, which was unusual. Most men didn’t want a woman with children. He took me to New York to meet his family and asked me to marry. We had to struggle very hard, as he was only an airman 1st in the Air Force, and right away I got pregnant with Danielle. Birth control wasn’t near as effective as it is now. We really couldn’t afford another child but we managed.

You and Chelsea came along when things were much better. Your dad got a good paying job with Lockheed and we bought our first home. We could buy about anything we wanted. Isn’t it strange that underneath all this prosperity that there was decay worse than any termites ever! All the years I lived a lie! My sister lived with us in Jacksonville and babysat for us. She told my other sister that your dad made advances to her and that’s why she went home so suddenly. My sister also told me that she was a victim. When I asked why no one told me, she stated they were afraid of hurting me and she knew he would convince me they were lying. He was very manipulative but I think I would have known. Anyway, it would have put up a signal for me to observe more.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not aware of what this has done to all of you. Janet has shared with me so many things that I never knew. I guess when you’re raising four kids and there are so many distractions, it’s hard to focus on one or two things.

I also made some mistakes in my decision about each of you and your lives. It’s very hard being a parent and trying to do the right thing. I never should have let you go in that home. That was a very bad mistake and another one for you was the hospital. I know that was a horrible experience for you to go through.

I am so amazed at what a survivor you are in spite of all you’ve been through! I know, too that many people don’t understand your giving up MacKenzie. You put her needs before yours. That takes so much courage and so many mothers don’t have it. I know what you went through and still am going through because I did the same thing. I finally realized that I was pulling my son apart like legal hamburger. I’m not sure even today that he understands it all mainly because of what he was told by people.

You are a very talented young woman. I can still see you there at the library on the computer. You’re such a whiz at it and then there’s the writing talent you have. That’s a special gift.

I love you very much and I’m so proud of you and all you’ve accomplished! I’m so proud to call you my daughter.

All my love,

Mom”

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