Editor’s Note: Pat Goehe is a lifetime teacher who’s worked in all facets of communication and related arts. She teaches students at the secondary and university level. Perhaps the most meaningful communication of her life, however, occurred when her daughter Linda, after a 32-year separation, contacted her. In recognition of National Adoption Month, I am republishing her story.
In Pat’s Words:
I Knew The Day Would Come…and It Did. When I made the decision after much
thought, to give my child up for adoption, I felt I had done the best thing for her and me. Because I taught Public Speaking, I would hear speeches of persuasion on the topic of why closed adoptions should now be open. I also heard from a student who was so upset because during her parents’ divorce she found out she had a half-sister somewhere. But it was not until one of my week long experiential workshops that I was forced to look at another reality.
I can’t tell you the workshop topic; I did so many over the years. But, in one of these we were doing an exercise in threesomes, exploring some concept. There were two women and one young man working together. How it happened I can’t remember, but at one point I was the apex of the triangle with the man next to me. The two women came each with a story. One was trying desperately to get pregnant and couldn’t. The other…. Hers was a story of “foster-care,” “adoption,”and one kind of abuse after another. It was at that very moment that I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t be so smug. Who was to say that perhaps my daughter had or was experiencing this horrible life as well? Just because I did “all the right things” and felt assured she would be in a good home with parents who couldn’t have children, how did I know for certain that this was true? From then on I was haunted with this possibility.
No one in my family knew that I had a baby and had given her up at birth to Catholic Charities. I didn’t want to have my parents have the burden of this news. I felt I shouldn’t try to track my child, but I knew that if she were trying to find me, I wouldn’t interfere. Within the next several years I found myself thinking that the day would come. There would be a knock on the door or a phone call, whatever. But it would come. Before long every cell in my body said this.
I had a major role in a play in a neighboring town. Because my Mom always wanted to see the things I acted and/or directed, I was trying to get my sister or sister-in-law to agree to drive her. I wasn’t having much luck and was somewhat irritated. I called to try again, and my sister-in-law answered. Before I could get into the “drive Mom to see the show” thing, she said, “Are you calling about that student who talked with your brother?” I had no idea what she was talking about. Later my Mom called me to tell me “Michelle called your brother and you are to call her tomorrow in California at ten a.m. their time.”
Who is “Linda”?
I had no clue as to who this might be. I searched my brain thinking I never ever had a student named Michelle. Oh well, I’ll call tomorrow from my office at school. Our offices were tiny ones surrounding a big open space. We often gathered there to chat. I was watching the clock the next day and waiting for the ten a.m. exact time when the secretary answered a call and said, “Why yes, she’s standing here close to me right now. Pat, do you want to take this call? It’s Linda.”
“Linda? Oh well OK.” I was upset because it was the time I was to call California and because there were two “Lindas” in my life then. One was a niece who would never be calling me at work. The other, someone who was dating my ex-husband.
I went into the office and with a gruff “Hello” was greeted with the following: “Are you in a place where you can talk confidentially? I need to ask you some questions which may be difficult for you to answer.” Well this wasn’t Linda for sure. I said “Anyone who knows me knows I’ll tell them anything.” So then she asked me questions about where I lived now; had I grown up in this Illinois town. All along I’m trying to figure out who the devil this is. I decided it could be a bill collector for my daughter who had been in California a few years back and probably did leave with bills uppaid or something. So I stopped and said, “You know, you really are getting personal now, and I don’t intend to answer another question until you tell me who you are and what this is about?” Bingo!
Part Two: tomorrow