Procrastination

I took a break – a fact some of you (gently) brought to my attention. I’d like to say I was writing something else. I was, in a manner of speaking,  though the words have yet to actually appear on a page. I would be a great writer if I didn’t have to print my words (I’m going to let the joke about eating them move on down the road). I’ve spent 3 months, more, researching the Lizzie Borden murder case of 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts – the trial transcript and newspaper accounts from all corners of the globe. Growing up in Massachusetts, we skipped rope to the popular rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” Nevermind that the rhyme is wrong, on at least four counts. We sang it, and we believed it. Lizzie Borden was creepily guilty. We didn’t need to read about it. Who would make up a rhyme like that if it weren’t true? We didn’t learn about it in school (it would have made a great college course). We knew of it solely from the playground, and no one questioned whether or not Lizzie was guilty; no one knew she had been tried and acquitted; no one much cared.

It is generally referred to as the Lizzie Borden case. In fact, the victims were Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby (Lizzie’s father and, alas, stepmother – a distinction which were among the first words to come out of Lizzie’s mouth when the police sought to question her the morning of the murders). It was apparently important to Lizzie that dear Abby (dear Abby?) not be confused with Lizzie’s real mother, the one who counted in Lizzie’s eyes (though her “real” mother died when Lizzie was barely 3 years old; Abby had been around for about 27 years).

The police investigation was slipshod, even given the forensic limitations of the times. Fingerprinting, though dating back to the times of Hammurabi,  was not yet considered reliable. In the same year of the Borden murders, an Argentinian police chief obtained a confession from a mother to the murder of her two sons after he confronted her with evidence of her bloody thumbprint at the murder scene. No attempt was made, though, to obtain fingerprints from the Borden house. The premises were not even formally searched until several days later (there was a more cursory search when the police first arrived on August 4th), while Lizzie and Emma were at the cemetery for internment services. The (remaining) occupants of the household (Lizzie, Emma, the maid, and a visiting uncle) were allowed to come and go as they pleased, though they were closely followed if they left the house. On the Sunday after the murders, Lizzie was seen burning a dress on the kitchen stove, quite possibly the dress worn by her on the morning of the murders. A friend (with raised eyebrows) suggested to Lizzie that perhaps burning the dress was not an appropriate thing to do, particularly when there was a police officer standing sentry in the backyard. Lizzie’s response? She stepped to the right so as to be out of view of the police officer.

With all of the police bumbling, there was still one seemingly inescapable conclusion: the only people in or around the house at the time of the murders (which were committed approximately an hour and a half apart, between 9 and 10:30 a.m. on August 4, 1892) were Lizzie and the maid, Bridgett Sullivan. Suspicion quickly centered on Lizzie. In the following week she was summoned to testify before a private inquest. She was not permitted to have the benefit of her own counsel and was subjected to a lengthy questioning that was more in the nature of a cross-examination – indeed, a badgering. Upon the conclusion of the inquest Lizzie was formally arrested. Rather than incarcerate her with the other women prisoners, Lizzie was permitted to take up residence in the matron’s quarters in the police station, from which she regularly sent out for dinner and other perks to make her stay more enjoyable. She read Charles Dickens, and she entertained visitors. The police themselves seemed conflicted about whether a woman of Lizzie’s social standing (and prior unblemished record), a regular church-goer, could possibly be guilty of such a horrific crime.

The “did she or didn’t she” part doesn’t much interest me (I think she did). For the record, though, it was not 40 whacks, and then 41 for her father. Abby received 18 or 19, while poor Andrew suffered 12 or so. In both cases, more than enough to get the job done. Dead is dead. The fact that it was more than enough (I think), points to the rage of the murderer. While not conclusive, many hackings of that sort are the result of personal relations (many times family members) going woefully adrift. It seems preposterous to suggest an unknown intruder snuck into the house, hacked Abby to death, then hid for an hour and a half, hacked Andrew to death, then made his (her?) escape in broad daylight from a house fronting on one of the busiest streets near the center of town.  Even so, and assuming the culprit was Lizzie, the police were gloriously inadequate in constructing the necessary circumstantial case against her.

There is a new book just published, Parallel Lives, which purports to provide an in-depth look at Lizzie (she changed her name to Lizbeth after the murders) and Fall River in the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age is a term coined  by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in the book they co-authored: The Gilded Age: A Tale of TodayInstead of a Golden Age, Twain and Warner saw the societal excesses (read Newport mansions) brought on by the exponential growth of the modern industrial economy as “gilded,” with all of the ostentatious wealth nothing more than a thin veneer of gold. The same might be said about other periods in American history that spawned McMansions on places like Nantucket Island and the sale of $20 million apartments in Manhattan.

Parallel Lives is 1000 pages – that should keep me busy for another 3 months. I want to read it (and I would if it weren’t so damn expensive). There is something fascinating about the Borden case and the times in which it happened; about the fact that a gruesome double murder became “news” not only across the rapidly expanding United States, but throughout many parts of the world – all without benefit of television, Internet, e-mails, cell phones, fax machines, cars, and for the most part, telephones. It is true that the first official notification of the crime was made (not from the Borden house but a nearby commercial establishment) to the Fall River Central Station Police Headquaters by telephone. But that call resulted only in the police sending a junior officer to investigate, by walking over dirt roads the short distance to the Borden residence at 92 Second Street. Once there, the officer was shown the body of Andrew Borden, hacked to death on a sitting room settee, one eye-ball split in two. It wasn’t pretty. There was no mention, indeed no thought, of Abby, except that she perhaps was out because (according to Lizzie) a note had been received that same morning about someone taking sick. Neither the “note” nor the “sick” friend was ever found. The police officer dutifully walked back to the Central Station to report the murder of Andrew, saying something to the effect: “He’s dead.” Following instructions, he then returned to the house, whereupon the body of Abby was discovered in an upstairs guest room. It also was not pretty. Once again the police officer again walked (well, let’s hope he was at least trotting) back to Central Station to amend his report: “She’s dead too!” And thus begat the most intense of police investigations, seemingly unrivaled (at least to that point in our history) both in thoroughness and incompetence, with a little corruption thrown in for good measure (see the “Trickey Affair”).

Parallel Lives promises to provide us with another, more in-depth, view of Lizzie and the Fall River in which she lived. The authors, members of the Fall River Historical Society, do not try to solve the murder (smart), but promise new documentation of the life and times of Lizzie Borden. Okay, we know she was kind to animals (she left a part of her estate to endow the Fall River Animal Society), and sometimes had sticky fingers in the downtown department stores. Those hawking the book on websites and in other places promise that a reading of Parallel Lives is an “eye-opening” experience – a strange choice of words considering Andrew’s fate. Andrew and Abby have now been dead for close to 110 years; Lizzie and her sister Emma (they died within a week of one another) have been gone for going on 80 years. There is an economic benefit to many for keeping the murders a mystery. I don’t have a problem with that. It got me to read through all the newspaper articles, a fascinating journey. Without the mystery, there’s less to talk about and much less money for those interested in making it. But the idea behind Parallel Lives is a good one. What is most fascinating about the Borden murders and the trial of Lizzie is the times in which it occurred, in the waning moments of the 18th century. Yet it was a criminal case that mesmerized the entire United States, even the world. Crowds of people jostled to read the wall to wall newspaper coverage, as each edition was taped outside the newspaper offices fresh off the printing presses. Something like 55 reporters covered every day of the trial, along with telegraph runners to get each story published at the first moment possible. Sketch artists provided in-depth scenes inside the Court room, and both the Government and Lizzie were represented by the best available lawyers.

If the Borden murders happened today, Lizzie would get her 15 minutes of fame (whacking someone with a blunt instrument will do that). But she would probably not get much more than, say, Edgar Smith got back in 1968, when he wrote his book while on death row (Brief Against Death). Championed by William F. Buckley, Jr., (of all people) Smith argued his murder conviction was all a horrific mistake. I read the book and was convinced. I was on his side, one of the few times I found myself agreeing with Buckley. Edgar finally got a new trial. Just before the trial was about to start, he copped a plea to manslaughter in exchange for time served. Before he was off the Courthouse steps, Smith let everyone know his plea was a fraud, made only to guarantee his release from prison. I nodded approvingly. Who could blame him? We’d all do the same thing. That was all well and good, until Edgar went out and tried to kill another girl in 1976. He was caught almost red-handed. Whoops. It was all a lie, even though – in a brief showing of chutzpah – the now twice accused felon tried to defend the second attempted murder charge by citing the claimed injustices of his first murder conviction. Huh? The result: guilty and life in prison. So far as I know, that is where Smith remains, far from the public view, his 15 minutes on the scrap pile. And yet Lizzie, who was exonerated by a jury of her “peers” (translation: 12 rural male farmers), remains in our consciousness.

When Lizzie Borden confronted her “peers” in June of 1893, it was, perhaps, the first truly great “trial of the century.” That it occurred in a country courthouse in New Bedford, Massachusetts with the windows open (no air conditioning) and a cow mooing in an adjacent pasture did not stop celebrities from attending, usually arriving by train from Boston – the same train that Dr. Edward Stickney Wood, a Harvard University chemistry professor and the prosecution’s expert witness, used to travel back and forth from his Cambridge offices, sometimes with the severed skulls of the victims in a dark valise at his side. There was even a celebrity reporter, Joe Howard, infamous in his own right – an 18th century Dominick Dunne (or maybe it should be the other way around). He signed his columns Howard and provided the world with much of the flavor and atmosphere inside the Courtroom. Reading his articles is a treat.

Nowadays, a trial of the century seems to come along every ten years or so, but the Lizzie Borden case was from a different era. It was a link in the chain between rural America and modern communication. Word of mouth, newspapers, magazines, telegraph – these were the ways in which the news and gossip of that case was devoured by people all over the world. In 1892, people traveled by train and carriage, maybe a horse, or they walked. One day soon after the double murders, a man walked all the way from New Bedford to the  Fall River Central Precinct Police Station to confess to the crimes. He asked to be hanged immediately. It soon became apparent he was a little bit “off” from having served in the War Between the States. On the promise of his family to “look after” him, he was sent home. They were different times indeed.

There are parallels to O.J. Simpson. O.J. lingered in our public consciousness because he was already a star athlete (retired) and celebrity. There was nothing star-studded about Lizzie. In fact, because Lizzie was so “ordinary” – a churchgoing, Victorian spinster living at home with her father and step-mother – it made the accusations against her all the more extraordinary. But even O.J., in time, wore on our patience, to the point where his (incredible) feats on the football field were more an embarrassment than an accomplishment . Both crimes were grisly, and the evidence pointed to the guilt of each accused. In 2004, the public had trouble accepting that a celebrity, a national sports icon, known for leaping through airports in Hertz car rental ads (as a female helpfully implored “run O.J., run!”), could be guilty of such a horrendous crime. Many in the black community thought Simpson was being treated differently solely because he was black, an interesting twist for someone who had seemingly “made it” in white society. Others shook their heads as they watched O.J. hunkered down in the back seat of that white Ford Bronco, ominously followed by all those patrol cars and police helicopters. When we found out he had $10,000 in cash with him and seemed headed for Mexico, the tide of public opinion took a seismic shift towards guilt. Simpson’s days of superstardom were soon to be replaced by a lifetime of super ignominy.

In 1892 the public had trouble accepting that Lizzie, a Victorian single woman living at home (all of 32), could be guilty of splitting open the heads of her father and step-mother. Lizzie was a 9th generation Fall River resident and, yes, even distantly related to the same clan that brought us Borden’s milk. O.J. used a knife. Lizzie was accused of using a hatchet (which was never recovered – it may have been tossed in the slop of a backyard outhouse or the handle may have been burned on the kitchen stove, along with the dress which Lizzie wore the day of the murders). There were seemingly tense family relations in both instances. O.J., it soon became apparent, was insanely jealous and had a history of domestic issues with Nicole, his ex-wife. Lizzie barely spoke to her stepmother, and both she and her sister implored their father to move out of Second Street (which had no indoor plumbing or other modern improvements of the age) to a wealthier section of town. Andrew was a good businessman. He also was cheap. 92 Second Street was a house of locked doors.

Both O.J. and Lizzie had financial resources to pay for the best legal help. Each trial endured questionable judicial decisions and actions. Both trials attracted worldwide attention. The public ultimately came to accept  that both Lizzie and O.J. committed the crimes. Even though both were acquitted, they were convicted in the Court of public opinion. Lizzie went on to a relatively quiet life in the better part of town (motive?), save for a little shop-lifting and a dalliance with a lesbian actress (Nance O’Neill), with whom Lizzie may or may not have had an affair. She was also kind to animals.  O.J. went on to commit other nefarious acts, succeeding in falling even further from grace. In addition, Simpson was held accountable for the murders in a civil lawsuit (requiring a less stringent burden of proof), something unheard of in Lizzie’s day. There also did not appear to be anyone around in Lizzie’s time with either the money or fortitude for such a lawsuit. Lizzie’s sister, Emma (who was out-of-town visiting friends the week of the murders), moved with Lizzie to the house on French Street in the better part of Fall River. They called it Maplecroft. Whether or not Lizzie committed the murders, she and her sister (from whom she subsequently became mysteriously estranged), ended up with what they claimed was lacking when her father and step-mother were alive.

In both cases there was evidence of police incompetence, perhaps worse. The public was ravenous for information. What is fascinating is the manner in which the press met the needs of the feeding frenzy in 1892 and 1893.   One deputized Rhode Island private detective (Edwin D. McHenry) in the Lizzie Borden case sold phony information to the press (the “Trickey Affair”). Henry G. Trickey (Dickens would have liked his name) was a young star reporter for the Boston Globe. He arranged to buy information concerning the police investigation from McHenry, who had been deputized to help with the murder investigation (which had already grown well beyond the capacity of the Fall River Police Department). The information, the $500 payment for which was presumably authorized by Lizzie herself (to find out what the prosecution had up its sleeve), was scandalous. It claimed that, the night before the murders, Andrew discovered Lizzie was pregnant and confronted her, whereupon Lizzie refused to reveal the name of the man who had impregnated her. Andrew essentially threatened to throw Lizzie from the house. Armed with this information and the names of numerous witnesses allegedly prepared to swear to its truth, the Boston Globe rushed into print with a front page story. The case had been broken! Lizzie was pregnant! The only problem was . . . it was all a big fat lie. The story was concocted and Trickey (?) and the Globe were duped. With egg on its printers, the Globe rushed an apology into print and thereafter wrote generally favorable and sympathetic stories about Lizzie throughout the course of the ordeal. Trickey, for his part, took off, first visiting his family in Illinois, then heading to Ontario, Canada to escape indictment (a sealed indictment was handed down at the same time as the formal indictment for Lizzie). Once in Canada, he registered in a hotel, using the name Henry Meltzar. On December 3, 1892, Trickey attempted to board a moving westbound train in a Canadian depot when he lost his footing and fell to his death. The whole Trickey affair paid dividends for Lizzie in the court of public opinion, where a debate raged as to the true meaning of innocent until proven guilty.

You could say, concerning Back Bay Baby (oh yeah, the adoption story….), that I have been procrastinating. Guilty. I think anyone who has undertaken a search for their personal history, especially those who were in any sense abandoned, will understand. It is interesting to me that I chose this point in Back Bay Baby to take a break.  With the success in getting access to my birth records came both excitement and fear. The fear part had to do with having to accept what I already knew – somebody gave me away. Looking at the signature of my mother, Virginia, on the Petition for Adoption, somehow made things different. It was no longer what someone was telling me, following a script that even I recognized concealed as much as informed. Was that a good thing? One can say, and it would be right, that my adoptive parents did not wish any further harm to come to me. In time, I would come to see there was more to it than that.  But after that day at the Dedham Probate Court came the limited success of the Simmons Detective Agency, interspersed with my foray into the adoption reform movement.  The rap groups were filled with sharing and with pain. I felt for the others, but I also withdrew. I told myself I just wanted to find my mother, just wanted to know what happened to me. I was very lawyerly about it, removed almost, as if I were my own client. As Abe Lincoln pointed out, that is not usually a good thing.

In the Fall of 1972, after speaking with Emma May Vilardi, I took personal control of my search, with her help. It became quickly obvious this was not a search that was going to be completed overnight. That had, perhaps, as much to do with me as with the circumstances. I think adoptees, in general, search in relation to their emotional well-being. It’s no secret that many adoptees begin looking shortly after they get married, or around the time they have a child. While I began searching about a year after I got married, it was more a matter of coincidence because that was when I discovered I could see my adoption records. If I had found out earlier, I would have started earlier. But the pace with which I undertook the search was tied to my emotional well-being – there were plenty of times when, for whatever reason, I crawled back into the rabbit hole and hung out, my “search” suspended.  There were any number of ready excuses. In a pre-Internet age, access to records and public information was decentralized, more difficult. Further, I was in my second year of law school in New York City. I was commuting back and forth to classes, a half hour drive each way. And I also got a job clerking at a labor law firm in Manhattan. The firm was a short walk from the New York City Public Library, which runs along Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.

While the idea for the Library came out of the Gilded Age, the cornerstone was not laid until 1902. The building was not opened until 1911, a year after my adoptive father and mother were born and a year before the greatest ship ever built met an iceberg built better. The library building, facing Fifth Avenue, is graced by 2 enormous stone lions, originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after the  founders. Later the lions’ names were changed to Lady Astor and Lord Lenox, a nice touch which ignored the fact the lions were both male. Finally, in the 1930’s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia nicknamed them “Patience” (the one to the south)  and “Fortitude,” qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression. LaGuardia, considered one of history’s best big city Mayors, used to sit as a Judge in New York City Municipal Court while he was Mayor. He once presided over a misdemeanor case against a woman accused of stealing a loaf of bread. She said she stole it to feed her family. LaGuardia insisted on fining her $10, then announced he was fining everyone in the Courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where a woman needs to steal a loaf of bread to feed her family. With her fine paid, the woman left the Courtroom with close to $50.00. Not a bad guy.

In late 1972 I walked between Patience and Fortitude for the first time, turned right to walk through the great reading room (worth the trip in itself) and made it to the Genealogy Department. I was told to keep things quiet, not because it was a library but rather because I was looking for information to which some people thought I might not be entitled. All I was going to do was search the birth and microfilm records for any mention of Virginia Peters or Edward Yedlin. I searched birth records, telephone records, voter registration lists, starting in the 1920’s for birth records and in the mid 1940’s for telephone and voter registrations. There were adoptees searching there for their own information, sitting at large wood tables and pouring over birth record books.

Like almost all other states New York sealed its records upon an adoption, but hospitals were required to report births within 15 days. Those records were compiled in Birth Record books, copies of which were kept in the Library. Later, once adopted, the information from the original birth certificate would be “amended,” with the adoptive parents added and the original parent/parents deleted. All other information remained the same, including the birth certificate number. No attempt was made to amend the birth record indexes. Thus, if you were born in New York City, you could use the identifying number on your amended birth certificate to search through all the birth record books for the year in which you were born. It was like beating the system, a little known (at that time) fact that genealogists shared with one another.The records, however, were not chronological (for one thing they were compiled from among the 5 separate boroughs of New York City – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.) Thus, one needed to look through all of the thousands of births recorded for a particular year of birth (and sometimes overlapping into the following year). The typeset was small, and the searching tedious. One distraction and the number could be missed. Sometimes books were searched two and three times. Since I was born in Massachusetts and already had my identifying information, I didn’t need the birth record books for that purpose. However, I soon found myself helping others find their records, sometimes spending hours looking through the books, certificate number by certificate number, solely to see the look on the face of another adopted person discovering a crucial part of their identity. Painstakingly, with an emphasis on pain. Another form of procrastination, but one with a good purpose.

At the time, the word was that the professional librarians who worked in the genealogy department did not approve of people using their records to “subvert” the sealed records laws. Rumor was that they would not help. The aura was that it was wrong (as if adoptees needed anyone else to add to their guilt). Nevertheless I played the game, never divulging the reason why I was looking and, indeed, not asking for help unless it was absolutely necessary. If it was, I made up a story. Either I was a surprisingly effective liar or they really did not care, because I never encountered one bit of resistance.

In time, I located a number of families named Yedlin (the surname of my mother’s husband) in the phone directories, the last one in the 1950’s. There was one address in particular on the upper West Side, which happened to be in the same neighborhood where my wife’s uncle lived with his family. I made note of every entry and, of course, searched all the current telephone records as well. After discussing this with Emma May, I then expanded the search and located other Yedlins (fortunately not a common name) throughout the country. In particular, there were a number in New York, some in Florida, and in a few other places. After I compiled the information, which I accumulated over the course of several months, I did absolutely nothing with it. I was not really sure what to do, other than to call. The few numbers I did try were no longer in service. Also, I did not like lying, at least not about this. I didn’t think I could pull it off. It was one thing to go see my birth records, another to have a detective agency search, a third to gather information from public records. But now I needed to act, and that was difficult. It involved picking up the phone, actively engaging people in my search. I felt like I was betraying my adoptive parents and, in general, doing something I was not supposed to be doing. I had it pretty good – grew up in a nice house, summer-house in New Hampshire, good friends from high school and college, married to a nice person, in my second year of law school. Was I just opening a can of worms? Was it fair to my parents to go behind their backs searching for the persons and the place from which they saved me? As much as I felt guilty, I also felt compelled to proceed. My head could not register the conflict among feelings that I did not seem able to control. The result? Procrastination.

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My Driving Wheel

To say that Emma May Vilardi had a gravely voice is not to have known her. For years I only knew her by telephone, along with a steady stream of lined, 3 x 5 inch, orange note cards. The note cards contained search suggestions she mailed to me, all patiently hand-written in blue ink. Each one gently prodded me forward.  A professional genealogist, Emma became interested in helping those disconnected by adoption while seeking answers for her own medical issues. She was stymied by the fact of her mother’s adoption.  Not for long. Those fighting for sealed adoption records got more than they bargained for with Emma May Vilardi. She was unstoppable. That she also knew what she was doing was a huge resource for many adoptees, like myself, who did not yet have a clue about how to proceed.

After attending the rap session at BJ’s apartment, it was clear the next move was up to me. Good news or bad, Virginia Peters was not going to appear on my doorstep. Unearthing her was going to take some digging. I had mixed feelings about it. It was both something I wanted to do and something that gave me fear. I never spoke about the fear. In 1972, there were not a lot of other male adoptees armed with their sword and sandals. At that time, there were just 4 states that allowed adult adoptees access to their birth records. In the wake of the Baby Lenore case, fearful that adoptees might (God forbid) actually exercise their rights, legislatures throughout the country quickly bequeathed the Tupperware treatment to adoption records, once again sealing them airtight.  The records that I saw at the Dedham Probate Court in July, 1972 were sealed not long after I was there. Even though I know all of the information in the file, the law now prohibits me from seeing them again (¨Look Donny, Kenny if you must, run along now on your stick pony. There`s nothing for you here¨). Whoever said what you can’t see won’t hurt you was clearly not adopted, plus they probably didn’t watch Jaws.

The reason often cited for ensuring the sealing of adoption records was that mothers relinquishing their children for adoption had been promised confidentiality. Allowing adult adoptees access to those records (so the argument goes) would breach that promise (ah, okay – we get it. So it’s a question of morality – you’re just being good guys – honoring your word, so to speak). In truth, it was a promise rarely given. And, as Pam Hasegawa pointed out in her succinct testimony before the New Jersey Assembly on June 14, 2010 (in support of the NJ Adoptees‘ Rights Bill), it is a bogus excuse. Pam researched the legislative intent behind various NJ Sealed Records laws dating back to 1940 and found the real reason: the records were sealed so that birthparents would not later show up and make things difficult. Later, it was said the reason for the laws was not to protect natural parents from being contacted by a child, but to protect them from making rash or abrupt decisions regarding relinquishing their child for adoption. In fact, Pam went on to document that years ago, once an adoption was formalized, many adoptive parents received both the child’s birthname and the name of the birthmother. (www.vimeo.com/16277015). Let’s face it. The records were sealed because they (whoever they are) believed that open records would be a deal breaker for people looking to adopt, as in we’ll have so many little orphans running around we won’t know what to do with them. It took a while to perfect the spin to justify the secrecy, but in the end that is what it was – an excuse. If, in the Baby Lenore case, the media coined the phrase ¨torn from the only parents she has ever known,¨ they also seem to have hopped on the bandwagon with ¨we have to keep our promise to the birthmother.¨ Adoption by sound bite.

My sister, who ratted me out to our parents after I saw my adoption records (¨you’ll never guess what that ingrate Donny did¨), never got to see her own. It was as if the adoption gods were somehow punishing her for her lousy betrayal. But they didn’t punish her for long (okay, maybe for another 15 years or so). Carol never searched, but in one of those quirky twists of fate, her mother appeared on her doorstep, or – more accurately – the milkman did. When we lived on Paul Revere Road, fresh milk was delivered to our back door several times a week. The milkman, it turns out, was Carol’s birth uncle. You can’t make this stuff up. Carol came from Needham. Her mother lived with her parents near town. The parents rented a room to a young guy (whoops). The young guy, from Poland, took a fancy to Carol’s mother, who soon enough became pregnant with Carol. The mother was very young. A private adoption was arranged to a Needham family. The family took Carol shortly after birth (I wonder if they changed her name?), but things did not work out. Carol was returned. In isolated moments not quite approaching brotherly love, I have conjured up explanations for why my sister was returned to sender. No amount of sibling rivalry, though, could wish that on anyone. It must have been excruciatingly difficult, even for an infant – maybe especially so. I read recently about some adoptive parents who were not happy with their Russian adoptee. They felt they were misled, like they had a warranty or something. The child was put on a plane, alone, and air mailed back to the Russian adoption agency. A note was attached. He didn’t just get left in a grocery store – he was also returned, like spoiled milk.

Carol wasn’t air-mailed and she was just an infant. Her return was surely due to the inability of the first adoptive parents to care for any baby, let alone my sister. It would have been nice if they first figured out it’s not really cool to take babies for a test drive. After that failed adoption, Carol was adopted again, this time by our parents. This all happened in 1941, almost 6 years before I was born and 8 years before I showed up on Paul Revere Road with only the clothes on my back. Apparently, my mother and father knew not only the family of Carol’s mother, but also the first pair of adoptive parents. They all lived in Needham. What must it have been like for my mother to walk into Rimmele’s Market in downtown Needham with Carol by her side, while the mother or the mother’s mother were shopping there as well, not to mention the mother for a moment who gave Carol back? It was never mentioned in our house. So far as I know, Carol did not know. I certainly didn’t. Whatever chosen baby story my parents told Carol, they did not choose to share with me.

Both ALMA’s and BJ’s rap groups were predominantly female. There was one other guy at each meeting, but I did not connect with either. Not much had been written yet about adoptees searching for their roots. Florence Fisher’s book, The Search for Anna Fisher, would be published the following year. BJ’s perceptive and important additions to the adoption dialogue (Twice Born; Lost and Found; Journey of the Adopted Self) were still a few years away from making their mark. At home, my wife was supportive, though we were not able to discuss much beyond the facts – what I had discovered and what I needed to discover. Our non-commmunication had more to do with the fortress I had constructed for myself than anything else – my Nueschwanstein (Mad Ludwig apparently had a few birth issues of his own, taken to referring to his mother as ¨my predecessor’s consort¨). I was barely peeking out from one of the turrets. The drawbridge was still firmly slammed shut. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a drawbridge.

A few days after my evening at BJ’s, I called Emma May Vilardi. Sitting on the same love seat where I read the report of the Simmons Detective Agency, in our second floor apartment in New Rochelle, I was watching a Red Sox game – the black and white television propped on top of a wood crate, our early 70’s decor. The prior October, just a few weeks before D. B. Cooper went sky-diving, Boston traded away Jim Lonborg (Gentleman Jim), Ken Brett (George’s brother), Billy Conigliaro (Tony’s brother), Joe Lahoud (whose grandfather played in the Negro Leagues), Don Pavletich (nobody’s brother that I know of) and George Scott (the Boomer) – all to the Milwaukee Brewers, pretty much decimating the remnants of the Impossible Dream Team of 1967 (save Yaz, Rico and Reggie). I spent the summer of 1967 at Fenway Park, going to most games with my Needham friend, Jimmy. In that Spring we made a bet about who would make it to Fenway the most during the season. Known for always bargaining for strokes on the golf course (and for loudly whispering ¨trouble¨ whenever one of us hit an errant shot), Jimmy lamely fished for a Fenway concession. Admittedly, it was a lot easier for me to blow off school and drive up to Boston from Providence to catch a game, than it was for him to travel all the way down from White River Junction. ¨Life ain’t fair buddy – are you a fan or are you going to keep moaning about Crankin’ Dan Osinski giving up a few more shots over the Green Monster?¨ One day, I was sitting in our usual location in the right field bleachers ($1 ticket to sit on an aluminum bench), enjoying the afternoon sun when  Jimmy came chugging up the steps out of breath, mumbling (he was a professional mumbler) that his mid-week trek to Boston was only going to get him a draw for the day. We sat about 15 rows below where Ted Williams hit his 502-foot home run (knocking the straw hat off Joe Boucher, a Yankee fan) on June 9, 1946 (spurring my mother into labor and ushering me into the world). Now the spot where the home run landed is commemorated by a seat painted red. Back then, we only knew it was somewhere behind us, way ¨up there.¨ The Splendid Splinter’s home run was declared  the ¨longest measurable home run in Fenway Park history¨ – which, over the years, I have taken to mean if someone hits one anywhere near as far, they don’t bother to measure. I once saw the Boomer hit a home run so far, the packed Fenway crowd seemed as if it were on tape delay, collectively silent as the ball soared, and then clanged among empty aluminum rows far away from home plate. I didn’t see anyone running for a tape measure.

Listening through the black earpiece, Emma instantly put me at ease. It took a bit to get used to her voice, which sounded as if it were coming to me from a room where oxygen had been replaced by smoke. She immediately offered to help, and I explained to her what I had done so far. We agreed it made sense, for now, to concentrate our (not just me!) search efforts in New York, chasing after Edward Yedlin in the hopes of landing Virginia. I told Emma I did not want to let on to anyone else what I was doing. I felt protective of both of my mothers, the one I knew and the one who left me in the store. Emma understood. Apparently I was not the first adoptee to float that boat of hope and fear. She had heard it before. Emma suggested I start my search at the New York City Public Library on Fifth Avenue, just a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal. The library, she explained, had a genealogy room on the first floor, to the right, reached by walking through a massive reading room. There were records of New York City births (Edward Yedlin?) and old telephone directories on microfilm. Emma cautioned that I should keep to myself the reasons for my search because we were still in an age where secrecy trumped genealogy. Other adoptees had run into problems when they asked for assistance. I could start looking for the Yedlin family. Maybe my mother was living in New York, though I sensed she was still in Boston. It turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Emma also asked me to send her a copy of the report from the detective agency. Ensconced in the era before fax machines, computers and cell phones, we would communicate by letter and telephone. I thanked her and asked if I could send her some money (she declined). Reenergized, I hung up the phone  – both because the Red Sox were winning, and I had done something to get moving. Without realizing it, I had been feeling down since my rap sessions, like (courtesy of Tom Rush) some old engine that lost its drivin’ wheel (www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs/rush-tom/drivin-wheel-2243.html. But in one phone call, my little ¨I Think I Can¨ freight train chugged into second gear. I promised myself a trip to the library the following week and went off to mail a copy of the Simmons report to Emma. Once again the fantasy tugged at me that Virginia (maybe spurred on by my crackshot genealogist) would somehow come back for me, as if she had merely forgotten to pay her grocery bill.

An Unexpected Visitor

In the fall of 1972, I met BJ Lifton, spoke with Emma May Vilardi and began searching for Virginia Peters. Already a beacon in the adoption universe, BJ invited me to a rap group at her Central Park West apartment. Effusive and ever-smiling, she welcomed me like we had known each other for years. In one sense, we had. Hair framed her face like a crescent moon, and she spoke in rapid metaphors, one on top of another. It was as if she were taking me into her confidence, speaking with me as a co-conspirator. I liked her instantly.

As opposed to the ALMA session, only adoptees attended BJ’s rap group, most of whom had recently started searching for their birthmothers. Birthfathers were not mentioned. That night there were 4 or 5 other participants. The mood was different from the ALMA meeting. Here there were solely adoptees talking about being adopted. I explained my background, at least what I knew of it, and my trip to Dedham. Just the facts, man. I wasn’t  quite ready to unravel the feelings that were resurfacing, but I was fascinated to hear the feelings and stories of the others. A guy in his mid 20’s, soft-spoken, linked his feelings as an adoptee to his life as a gay man. In a brief homophobic moment, I silently pleaded with myself to confirm I was not gay. I found myself listening to the stories and experiences of the others as a means of somehow trying to figure out who I was. As each adoptee spoke, parts of their stories resonated with me. Each story was like trying on a different hat. One fit well, another a little too large, though never one that was exactly right. Is that me? Does that fit? Is that the person I am? Could someone please explain it to me, or was I destined to be like Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) in Five Easy Pieces, out-of-place everywhere, stopped even from getting a few slices of wheat toast with my omelet (www.brightlightsfilm.com/57/jack.html) .  

 I was struck by a white female adoptee, about 30, who talked about her difficulty getting pregnant. Talking with a New Jersey twang, she sat immediately to my left, explaining that she tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a number of years. She and her husband went for tests. There was nothing physically wrong. She knew nothing of the circumstances of her birth, only that she was adopted. And then she explained that she had a recurring nightmare that if she were to become pregnant, their baby would be black. The liberal product of an eastern college liberal arts education (though Brown had its own brushes with slavery and racism), my first instinct was ¨what’s wrong with a black baby?¨ That, of course, was not the point. Her fear seemed to make no sense, and yet, somehow it did – if she did not know where she came from, how could she know what she would produce? While, logically, what her mind feared seemed bizarre, I was beginning to see that the experience of adoption could lead down some pretty crooked roads. This particular woman eventually turned to adoption (something my sister did as well). And then, after the woman successfully adopted a baby,  she became pregnant. (p.s. the baby was white). Though not with the racial twist, I had heard of this experience before – an adopted woman, not able to conceive, adopting a baby and then becoming pregnant. It is as if the act of adoption removed a block, some inner fear that prevented an earlier pregnancy. It got me thinking about the power of the unconscious mind to suppress trauma, pain and fear.

After the meeting at BJ’s I began to think about sex and adoption – the ability, and the inability, to have children, and the sexual issues of growing up in a family that could not produce biological children of its own. It also got me thinking about some long repressed incidents personal to me. First, obviously, adopted or not, it took a sexual act for each of us to get here – just like everyone else (at least as of 1972). But there seemed to be something mysterious about the sexual peccadilloes of someone adopted – someone who, by their adoption, was cut off from their genetic past. Adoption, historically, erased the road map that detailed the journey behind. In its place was a new map (the chosen baby story), carefully crafted to meet the needs of the adopting family. In my case, the map was abbreviated. The past was symbolized by burning clothes. For my mother, perhaps, she was trying to comfort me, to let me know that they were going to take care of me, save me, get me better clothes – all of which, by the way, they did. But all I saw was burning clothes. If you lose your way, if you can’t retrace your steps, it is that much more difficult to move forward. Sometimes, maybe, the map from the past is not pretty, but it is not always about being pretty.

After the meeting, so many thoughts were swirling about as I walked down Central Park West alone. The air was crisp, and there were few people on the sidewalk. In that moment I wasn’t even thinking about finding my mother. Something unexpected took center stage, set off by the New Jersey adoptee, something I had not thought about in years. My own sexual history was confused – though not about being gay. I know more than a few gay men who were adopted and who believe issues surrounding their adoption were wrapped up in their gayness. That was not the issue for me, of that much I was sure. By the same token, my sexuality was all very confusing.

My parents were not physically close with one another – a kiss on the cheek at the end of the day was about it. They slept in the same room but in separate beds – for years. Many children have difficulty believing their parents have sex. I not only believed it, I was (and am) as sure of it as anything in life that I do not directly know from my own knowledge. Over the years there were muted incidents that raised questions about my father’s sexual orientation. There were also family secrets about my maternal grandparents, Oscar and Margaret. Both from Needham as well, Oscar was in the first graduating class of M.I.T. (and, coincidentally, a member of the cross country team). He had a successful landscaping business in Needham, adjacent to where Howard Johnson’s restaurant was for years. He was also a member of the Coast Guard. Word is that Oscar liked the ladies. One night Oscar and Margaret, who had 5 children between them, went to a local party – perhaps in the 1930’s or 1940’s. I don’t know exactly. Oscar was enjoying himself, Margaret less so. Eventually Margaret announced she wanted to go home and asked Oscar to accompany her. Oscar, still enjoying himself, suggested Margaret go on ahead, and he would join her later. She did. When Oscar finally arrived home, Margaret had locked him out of their bedroom – not just for the night, but for the rest of their lives. Oscar, being no slouch, took a mistress (perhaps he already had one). One did not get divorced in those days, at least that was the common sentiment. Oscar lived on his Coast Guard boat during the week, coming home for weekends with the family. When he passed away (in the late 1950’s, I believe), he died a la Nelson Rockefeller, in the arms of his mistress and apparently in the midst of a particularly enjoyable moment. Margaret continued to live alone, ultimately ending up in a nursing home in the last years of her long life. Towards the end, one day I visited her and asked the nurses how she was doing. Fine, they replied, except that each morning she jumped up and down on her bed and stripped off all her clothes. One can draw one’s own conclusions for that behavior, but perhaps Margaret should have been a bit less hasty in locking Oscar out of their bedroom for so many years.

Whatever the reasons,the simple fact is that my parents were not amorous with each other. They were also married for 53 years. Near the end of her life, one kidney totally failed my mother. She was told the other might last another month. She was in Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, near year’s end, 1988. I convinced my father we needed to do something, that Glover Hospital, as good as it was for many things, was not equipped to deal with severe kidney failure. That day we had her transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. My father was not well himself at the time. I drove down to Boston to meet the ambulance, and in the following days my mother had vascular surgery. The doctor used a vein from my mother’s leg to construct a new path to her remaining kidney – truly amazing, at the time and considering my mother’s already weak heart, a treacherous but necessary procedure. When she came out of the operating room, I saw her briefly as they wheeled her into ICU. It did not look promising. My father (by this point, my dad) was brought down to Boston. I went to meet him at the hospital entrance. He needed a wheel chair to get to her room, where she had just been transferred from ICU. I wheeled him into her hospital room, and then witnessed the most beautiful moment I ever saw them share. Once the wheelchair was directly in front of her hospital bed and locked in place, my father stood up, holding onto the rail of the wheelchair, then the metal rail of the hospital bed. She was barely conscious but knew he was there. I stood off his left shoulder, feeling as if I were intruding on their private moment. He struggled with the rail, but leaned all the way down, with all his energy. They shared the sweetest kiss I have ever seen between any two people  – so full of concern, love, and fear. I guess 53 years together will do that. In all, between 3 women, I was married 26 years (if you add them all together). I used to joke that, for my 25th wedding anniversary, I would invite all 3 and we could celebrate together. To tell the truth, the only one worth inviting is the first one.

Whatever sexual issues my adoptive parents may have had is none of my business. It is not for me to figure out, except to the extent it had an effect on me. There were not many physical displays of emotion in our family. My parents, so good in many ways, were still from the ¨children should be seen and not heard¨ school of parenting. There were not a lot of hugs or kisses., but there was a certain respect, a fidelity to family. My parents accepted me for who I was, even if I was not so confident myself of the answer. They loved me. There is no doubt in my mind.

In the winter of 1977, my wife and I drove up to Needham from New York to visit my parents, in the middle of a snowstorm – not my brightest move, because my wife was about 7 months pregnant with my first son, David. North of Providence, the storm was so bad we could barely see through the windshield. I had taken that route, reasoning the snowfall would be less severe along the coast. I was wrong. Route 95 was barely passable, one snow-covered lane. I plowed on, finally arriving at my parents home about 11 p.m. They were living temporarily in an apartment in Needham Heights, and shortly would retire to their home in New Hampshire. Snow was drifting in the parking lot, and I rammed the car into a snow bank and left it there, a tribute to both my persistence in overcoming nature and my stupidity (okay, mostly my stupidity). The next morning the storm had passed. After the parking lot was ploughed, my mother wanted me to drive her to downtown Needham for some errands. We left the apartment, a garden style unit in Needham Heights not far from the property my father always referred to as the ¨Sacco and Vanzetti house.¨ As we left the apartment, the neighbor across the hall opened her door. My mother introduced me as her son, to which the neighbor replied…. ¨the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.¨ I smiled. My mother smiled. We all smiled. As soon as the woman shut her door, my mother turned to me and said in a gloriously conspiratorial tone not unlike when BJ first spoke with me: ¨I just love it when they say that.¨

My own sexual beginnings were complicated by more than my parents physical aloofness. They were also forced upon me, by my sister, and this is what I was thinking that night after the rap group, as I walked down towards the subway station. The incidents happened when I was very young. It was on Paul Revere Road. There were 2 instances. So far as I know, there were not others. There was a tree house in the rear left corner of the backyard, a little enclosed space you reached by climbing up and crawling through an open doorway – not that high off the ground, but high enough for me. It was dark inside. I was maybe 6 or 7 (I’m not certain), which would have made my sister 12 or 13. It was the early 1950’s. One day she yelled out to me from the tree house. She told me to climb up. I did. She had a friend there, a girl, and I sat between them. My sister touched me where she should not have touched me, while the friend just watched. I knew it was wrong, taboo, dirty. I was also too young to do anything about it. It was forced, in front of the friend. I squirmed, tried to get loose, felt helpless. I didn’t like it, but I remember nothing else from that day. For many years I submerged it, as if it did not happen. Then, when it floated to the surface, I questioned it. Could I have imagined it? Was it a dream? No. It happened – brief, sexual, wrong. I was sad, withdrawn, and – later – angry. I never told anyone. Now, in 1972, fresh from my first true adoption rap session, it was all coming back to me, again.

There was another time. Later, though I don’t know by how much. I was still young, about the same age. It was in the Paul Revere Road house, in the basement. At the bottom of the stairs, the family room was to the left. For Sunday supper, we would have popovers on fold-up TV tables, or sometimes Welsh Rarebit – the traditional Sunday night save-a-penny supper (after a formal Sunday dinner in mid-afternoon). The other half of the basement was unfinished. In it was the furnace, storage and maybe a door to the back yard. It was also very dark, even in daytime. I am not sure if it was day or night, but she grabbed and forced my face, my mouth to touch her bared breast. I squirmed, but she was bigger and stronger. She held me there. It was awkward, even now it turns my stomach. It was also just a few moments in time, arousing nothing in me except fear. Again, afraid of her, I said nothing.

Those images are with me still. I never spoke about them with her, with my parents, with anyone. When they finally resurfaced (years ago), I questioned myself over and over. Did they really occur? Did I make it up? Were they dreams I had? In the end, I am sure of what happened. I was too young to dream that, too young to even think about it. When I was in 7th grade, probably 4 or 5 years later, one day I was walking through the Carter-Avery school yard (by the monkey bars) with a buddy, Gordon Bahr, now long since dead. A friend, Carla, was there, and she was light years beyond me sexually. She used a slang word to describe a lower part of her anatomy. In that pre-Internet time, when television itself was still relatively new, I was flabbergasted. I had never heard anything remotely approximating the word (a far cry from many kids today).  It was not only the starkness of the word that shocked me. It was the sexuality of it, the fact that girls were  different. What happened with my sister, for me, was not sexual. It was something entirely different. I never confronted her. I am sure she would deny it. I also know she is not a monster. She is, in fact, very talented. My father told me, shortly before he died, that he was sad because he felt, once he was gone, Carol and I would drift apart. He was right. We did not drift apart because of these 2 incidents, seemingly brief moments in time that she may have immediately dismissed as insignificant. But on my first trip to BJ’s, expecting to talk about my adoption and how to go about finding my past, a part of my past came calling  – just not the part that I expected.

Espadas y Sandalias

A la espera del informe de la Agencia de Detectives Simmons, comencé mi segundo año de la escuela de leyes en septiembre. El año antes de que alquilamos un apartamento del ático, con paredes inclinadas hacia adentro, a 160 Riverside Drive en Westport, cerca de una milla de la estación de tren. Yo conmutada cada día en Nueva Metro North Railroad línea Haven, luego de tomar el Lexington Avenue Express del metro de Nueva York para mis clases de la Escuela de Derecho de Brooklyn (mala idea). Tuvimos un gato llamado Teseo (inspirado en el viaje a Europa en el verano de 1971). Según la leyenda griega, Teseo fue engendrado por dos padres, Auspicios y Poseidón, en la misma noche. Poco después de su nacimiento Teseo fue abandonada por Aegis, el rey de Atenas (los padres sólo que nunca conoció?). Fue criado en la ignorancia de sus derechos de nacimiento (¿se imaginan?). Cada año en su cumpleaños de su madre, Aethra, lo mandó a levantar una gran roca, que finalmente fue capaz de mover al llegar a 18. Bajo la roca que se encuentran un par de sandalias y una espada, regalos de Aegis. Aethra luego lo envió a Atenas para presentar al rey. Al verlas el Rey sabía Teseo era su hijo. Más tarde, Teseo fue envenenado casi, mató al Minotauro, se enamoró de la hija de Minos, rey ‘(que posteriormente lo abandonó), se convirtió en rey de Atenas (tras el suicidio de su padre en el mar antes de ser llamado del mar Egeo), y luego fue asesinado por recibir un empujón de un precipicio. Por lo menos él consiguió su derecho de nacimiento. (Www.hmstheseus.co.uk / legend.htm; www.greeka.com / Attica / Atenas / Atenas-mitos / theseus.htm). Y yo pensé que eran sólo nombres de nuestro gato, que estaba también sin un derecho de nacimiento y le gustaba pasar el rato en el patio, durmiendo con quien estaba disponible.
En mi primer año en la escuela de leyes, mi viaje a Brooklyn (si todo ha ido bien) tomó alrededor de una hora y media – en cada sentido. Mi plan para estudiar en el tren se descarriló porque había demasiadas distracciones. Era imposible estudiar en el metro. Al final de mi primer semestre, me senté en el número 6 de tren expreso, en algún lugar entre la estación Grand Central y del condado de Hall, en mi camino a mi primer examen, los contratos. El profesor, Edward J. Fagan, infundió temor en los corazones de cada estudiante de primer año (a pesar de que una vez consiguió la mitad de la clase a reír cuando describió un marcapasos artificial como tener una ¨ garantía de por vida ¨ – la otra mitad de la clase al parecer, ¿No ‘t se obtiene). Mi libro estaba contratos sin abrir en mi regazo. Yo estaba demasiado agotada para estudiar más. Al otro lado del pasillo me di cuenta de un compañero de clase de revisar un libro de agravios. ¿Cómo podría ser el estudio de agravios en su camino a uno de los exámenes notorio profesor Fagan contratos? Incomprensible. Tenía que decir algo, grietas una broma débil sobre la planificación por delante (a la vez que rápidamente el cálculo de las opciones que un examen de agravios en mi futuro inmediato). Él no se rió. Él sólo le devolvió la mirada, sin comprender. ¨ Usted quiere decir que tienen contratos de hoy en día? · Estaba en la cabeza, y él apenas estaba la nota. Espero que no necesitaba un marcapasos.
Finley Hall, el nuevo hogar de la Ley de St. John’s School (cortesía de una importante donación de León Finley, un importante abogado de Nueva York), se inauguró en septiembre de 1972 sobre la base del campus universitario de la Universidad en Jamaica, Queens. No había forma de prácticas que podrían seguir viaje desde Westport – el viaje a Brooklyn era bastante malo. Y, entonces, comenzó a buscar un nuevo apartamento, finalmente alquilar la segunda planta de una casa en el Mayflower Avenue en New Rochelle, Nueva York, propiedad de la señora Miele, un corto dulce señora italiana que hablaba con acento fuertemente Inglés y deliciosa salsa hecha con tomates pasado de su jardín del patio trasero. También consiguió un segundo coche para poder conducir de ida y vuelta a Queens – New Rochelle era más o menos equidistante entre la Facultad de Derecho y el trabajo de mi esposa la enseñanza en Armonk.
Para llegar a nuestro apartamento del segundo piso se accede por el vestíbulo principal. Invariablemente, la señora Miele estaba allí para recibirnos. Viuda, su marido murió en el piso de la sala de un ataque al corazón sufrido años antes frente a la chimenea. Cada día se menciona a su marido y muchas veces escenifica sus últimos momentos. Me encantó la señora Miele y su Inglés roto. Ella vino a los Estados Unidos desde Italia en sus primeros 30 años junto con su esposo y los niños 5. Los chicos crecieron hasta convertirse en médicos, enfermeras e ingenieros. La Sra. Miele continuó viviendo en la misma casa, visitar a su esposo la tumba de la semana y tendiendo su jardín del patio trasero de hierbas y verduras. Nos quedamos allí dos años, hasta que tomé el New York State Bar examen después de la graduación de la escuela de derecho en 1974. Siempre se mantuvo en contacto con la Sra. Miele y la ayudó a una o dos veces, cuando se encontró con un inquilino recalcitrantes (después de que ella trataría de pagarme, yo me negaría, y entonces ella se presentaba en mi oficina en White Plains con 3 botellas de whisky irlandés nunca le conté a mi familia Inglés). Un día me detuve a su visita, y era evidente que estaba empezando a fallar. Ella me saludó con gusto, me mostró la repisa de la chimenea, y ofreció unas palabras sobre su todavía esposo partió. Entonces me senté en la cocina a la mesa de formica mismo, en una silla de metal con un colchón de plástico rojo. Había una enfermera negro que tiende a la señora de Miele ollas en la estufa, de la que la señora estaba visiblemente perturbado Miele. Sentado a mi lado, en uno de los momentos preciados de la vida, la señora Miele empezó a susurrar a mí en italiano (por lo que la enfermera no se entiende). A pesar de que no reconocía una sola palabra italiana, comprendí por completo. La próxima vez que pasé por comprobar, tanto la señora Miele y la casa se habían ido, ella para reunirse con su marido, la casa a lugares desconocidos.
Fue en ese apartamento que empecé mi búsqueda en serio. Cada día me esperaba tener noticias de la Agencia de Detectives Simmons, y cada día oí nada. Yo estaba buscando una solución rápida, esperando una llamada telefónica: ¨ Oye, Don, ¿tiene un papel y lápiz a mano. Ella es al 617-xxx-xxxx. Ella vive en Boston, no lejos de donde vivía cuando se adoptaron. Su dirección es tal y tal. Ella no sabe que sabe. ¨ espera que ella sea en Boston, o cerca de ella. Yo esperaba que su vida no había cambiado tanto como la mía. Después de todo, ella me mandó a una vida diferente mientras se mantiene la suya. Pero la llamada no llegaba. Después de algunas semanas, creció evidente que no era probable que una llamada. El siguiente paso iba a tener que venir de mí. Comencé a preguntarme si mi 125 dólares era una mini-sesión de shakedown, una falsa promesa diseñado para extraer de mí todo lo que pudiera tener. Por otra parte, $ 125 parecía una sesión de shakedown bastante insignificante, incluso para 1972. Luché para saber qué hacer, pues no quería parecer demasiado ansioso (por qué?). Yo estaba viendo a mí mismo actuar en una obra de teatro, y la parte que se llama el carácter razonable, intelectual interesados, aunque retirado de sentimiento. Yo hacía el papel con aplomo (que ayudó a que yo era el director), aunque con cada semana que pasa (día?) El papel se hizo más exigente, más imposible de representar. Yo estaba esperando a Godot. ¿Quién era Godot? Tal vez era yo, dando vueltas como loco tratando de mantener el silencio en la bahía. (Www.samuel-beckett.net/Waiting_for_Godot_Part1.html).
Finalmente reunido la voluntad de llamar al señor Simmons. A su favor, de inmediato respondió a mi llamada, me habló. Él era, como él decía, trabajando en mi informe, me lo esperaba por correo en pocos días. Se ofreció información concreta. Colgué el teléfono, creyendo que nada había sido realizado, pero espera que su promesa de un informe era cierto. Me recordó que había pagado sólo $ 125. También sabía que no podía permitirse más. No era como yo iba a pedir a mis padres adoptivos para un préstamo. Esta fue una de lleno en mí. El ir a Boston a buscar por mi cuenta no era una opción, como clases de la escuela de leyes estaban a punto de comenzar. No fue el regalo de Dios para la comunidad legal y necesaria para poner todos los esfuerzos posibles en el estudio (aunque a menudo parecía un éxito como abogado se predijo con exactitud en proporción inversa a lo bien que uno realiza en la escuela de derecho – por dicha medida, me gustaba mi posibilidades). Esperando el informe era la única opción. Fue también el más fácil. Mi espada y las sandalias eran opacas. Yo no tenía una copia del consentimiento para la adopción, después de haber sido demasiado miedo al riesgo de descubrimiento – aunque, por qué o por quién no estaba entonces seguro. Mi espada y sandalias, aunque definitivo, aún no se han descubierto.