October 28th, 2011

love a nerd

LJ Idol 8:2 - Three Little Words

Mom and I are sitting at Maggie's South Hill Grill on a summer day in 2006. I've ordered an iced tea and Mom has her usual diet soda, and we're examining the menu,trying to decide what looks best for a late lunch. I settle on a prime rib sandwich - the menu's use of the word "demi-glace" has won me over - and Mom picks a Chinese chicken salad. We sit together in companionable silence, sipping our drinks and enjoying the peace of the restaurant.

My divorce is nearly final. Almost all the paperwork has been filed, the papers have been sent to Connell for him to sign. I received a letter back from him telling me that he still loved me and he was sorry, and also requesting that I leave copies of all the mp3s that we had burned to CD. It seemed like a strange request to me. (I never sent him the CDs, either.)

"Do you remember," Mom says, "before you and he got married and I went on that trip to the Oregon Coast with the gals from work?"

That I did. Venita McPherson, Kathy Higgins, Terri Lundin, Sylvia Page (the nurse who delivered me and brought me red faced and screaming into the world almost thirty years earlier, still one of the most influential people in my life) and Joanie Bahn, who met the group of them in Portland from her home in Olympia and then spent the week together with them in the beach house on the Oregon coast.

"Of course," I say. I have a mind like a steel trap - I never forget anything. My parents can call me up and ask for the name of someone who we rode horses with during our Gymkhana days in the 1980's and not only will I know their name, I'll know what color their horse trailer was, how many kids they had, and what the names of the horses were. And on top of that, sometimes I could tell you their class ranking in which event, whether they were A, B, C or D. As an autistic, I am blessed with a mind like a bear trap.

"Did you know that Joanie was one of the nurses that checked your biological mom into the hospital the night before you were born? She had asked how you were doing and I said you were fine, engaged, working, going to school." Mom asks, taking a sip out of her drink.

I didn't know that. I think of Joanie for a minute...the memories I have of her are vaguely blurry, except that I remember a tall, dark haired woman with a big smile and curly hair. And tiny, tiny feet. Almost six feet tall with size six feet. Mom, Sylvia & Terri used to wonder how she could stay on them all night as she walked Nine South, the labor and delivery floor of Sister Mary Claver's hospital, Sacred Heart. The proportions seemed so off.

"And Joanie asked her if she had done any drugs during her pregnancy, or drank, and she said that she did. Not drank, but she did do some drugs. I guess she smoked weed, Maybe some mushrooms." Mom says, taking another sip out of her drink.

My head is beginning to spin. I had always held my biological mother up as some kind of martyr, the young hippie who knew she couldn't raise a baby up in the middle of nowhere. The Rainbow Child who made the hardest decision of her life, who gave birth to a seven pound, one-half ounce daughter and signed the papers and relinquished all her rights. I imagined her eating granola in a tie-dyed dress sitting on a log by a campfire, roasting marshmallows, chanting and singing songs. And she probably did all of that too - but taking a hit at the same time.

"And Joanie didn't tell me any of this until that day," Mom said. "She knew that your dad and I were going to take you home, but she knew how much we wanted a baby and she didn't want us to change our minds. And she started to cry when she asked me, 'Colleen, would knowing that have made any difference?"

"And I looked at her," Mom said, "and I said no."

I said no.

Knowing that I was a drug baby made things make more sense. It explained how when I was a baby, I'd constantly cry, all the time. How I walked like an elephant, heavy steps. Perhaps my strabismus, my cafe au lait birthmark on my right hip. The years of PT all through grade school, with Mrs. Al in kindergarten and Vicky Garza from first grade to eighth. I had always known that I was different from everyone else, but now it made sense.

Now I understood. For the first time in almost twenty-eight years, I got it.

Without a word, Mom picks up her napkin and hands it to me.

As I dab at my tearstained eyes, she reaches out and squeezes my hand.

There are no words.

We don't need them.