What do these events have in common?
1. Grandpa (my dad) ended up in the hospital on Thursday – he failed spectacularly at his scheduled cardiac stress test, leading to a jolly trip by ambulance to the hospital, an angiogram finding two arterial blockages in the heart, a successful angioplasty, and a three-night stay at Chez Plaza Hospital. Zoe was naturally very upset, worried that Grandpa might die. At one point she said, “The heart is really serious – it’s not like brain surgery!” (Apparently I was quite successful in playing down my brain surgery, and Zoe puts it on the same level as having a hangnail removed!)
2. Zoe tells me Monday that she had a bad dream the night before. She dreamed that I was driving and sideswiped a car and the police came and took me to jail.
3. Zoe tells me I’m not her real mother, as I blogged about before.
4. I dyed my hair, after 5 years of gracefully going gray. I used to color my hair regularly – I started going gray when I was 18! I had reddish hair when I adopted Zoe, and now I’ve gone back to that color (I can’t say my natural color since I have no idea what it is anymore!). Anyway, Zoe says the new hair color makes me “stranger mom.” [“Stranger mom” = “not-real mom”?] She also said, after I reminded her that my hair is the same color as when we met, that it makes me look eight years younger!
5. After our “you’re not my real mom” dinner, Zoe said, “Can I ask you a question about adoption?” Of course, I said. She started crying and asked, “Will I ever understand why my first family gave me away?”
Wow! That fear of abandonment is always there, and all it takes is an event like Grandpa being in the hospital to move it from background noise to the forefront, from chronic to acute. The dream, the real/not-real/stranger mom talk, the perennial why question, say the same thing: "Never leave me. Never let go. Even when I push you away (you're not my real mom), never let go." I can't promise not to die, but I can promise to never let go.