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Dearest Velma,

You are gone now, but this is what I want you to know.

Velma's Home

Velma’s Home

I found just one photograph of us in my albums, an 1980s snapshot that I titled “mother-from-far-away and daughter-raised-by-someone-else, and it reminds me of what was good about our few reunions. It speaks to what might have been.

When you first wrote to me half a lifetime ago, I was living overseas and had just given birth to my older son. I wanted to open the door, figuratively speaking, and welcome you with open arms. For so very long, I had yearned to be in communication. My husband at the time said, “We don’t want to end up with HER on our doorstep,” and I meekly submitted to his wishes.

After that marriage ended in divorce, I was free to meet you. The first and only time I travelled to visit you in San Francisco, you showed me to a small corner room with dormer windows, and we shared a pot of tea. You told me about your school days, about growing up on a farm in Iowa. You brought out your school pictures and your Valedictorian certificate. I think you may have wanted me to help you with writing a memoir. Forgive me for not picking up on that. Still reeling from the failure of my marriage, I was too self-centered to think of any but my own needs. In fact, I was only partially there to see you, as I combined our reunion with my running the famous 10-kilometer “Bay to Breakers” race. Though you didn’t come out to cheer me on, you guided me toward the right city busses to reach the starting point. You welcomed me with hot tea when I returned to your lovely Victorian home in the Mission District. Did I remember to thank you?

Please believe that I was excited about the promise of this new chapter in my life. In the ensuing years, you came to my older son’s graduation from boarding school and to my younger son’s wedding. Every January, you remembered my birthday. You wrote detailed letters about your home and gardening projects. During our twenty-year correspondence, you tried to bridge the gap between us. You were never able to tell my half-sister about me, and I am still hoping, when the time is right, to meet her. I think it is what you would want.

Even though you had to give me up, I realize that you loved me. I believe you relinquished me because you loved me. We met just a few times, but I finally grasp that you wanted to make our relationship successful. I appreciate how hard it must have been for you, and I send you my love. It is never too late…
Your daughter Elaine

Elaine with her birthmother Velma before their separation.

Elaine with her birthmother Velma before their separation.