This journey started more than 40 years ago, when the decision to place me for adoption was made. The journey of my life took a left turn when I was born and I travelled down the new road that was put before me. Iris continued down her own road and it would be 31 years before our 2 roads would cross again.
For me, the journey to find Iris was a long and slow one that spanned more than 10 years. I would occasionally research things at the library or check out reunion websites, but mainly I waited for the Ontario Adoption Reunion Registry to get to my name on their list. That is what took 10 years. It took them about 10 minutes once they actually got to my name. They opened the file, looked up Iris’s name and made a phone call.
The reunion road itself was bumpy and bendy and hard to travel. After keeping me a secret for so long, Iris was slow to reach out. She did eventually and our relationship grew from letters to phone calls to meeting for lunch and spending time at her house.
Yet a real and open relationship could never be. Iris had never told anyone about the baby she placed in 1970, not even her daughter who still lives with her. For many years I respected Iris’s need for privacy, I followed her rules – I never called or sent letters to the house, I waited for her to contact me. After 2 years of silence, checking obits or having friends call her house, I decided enough was enough. I would not be kept a secret! I broke my promise and reached out to Iris at home.
While the mechanics of getting a letter to Iris were initially difficult, my friend Julie finally arrived at the house (with my Mom stashed in the car down the road!). She knocked on the door and told Iris who she was delivering the letter from. Iris was TERRIFIED. She kept looking over her shoulder (presumably to make sure Madelaine couldn’t over hear) and refused to take the letter or even let my friend tell her what was in it.
I was pretty upset initially. It felt like such a huge rejection. I decided to sit on things for a few days before deciding what, if anything, I was going to do next. I’m glad I waited!
2 days later I got a call from my Mom. She doesn’t often call in the afternoon, since she knows that I’m working. Well! It was quite the phone call. Iris called her.
Yes, Iris reached out and called. Unfortunately she had to sneak out of the house and call from a payphone at the grocery store. She felt horrible for what had happened when Julie tried to deliver the letter and wanted to explain. Madelaine is apparently suffering from a mental illness and can be very unstable and often suicidal. She is also very controlling and does not allow Iris the freedom that she deserves. Iris lives her life in fear of setting Madelaine off and having to suffer through the aftermath.
Iris poured her heart out to my Mom. She apologized for not contacting me and refusing the letter, but she did not feel that she could risk it. Madelaine had been laid off from her job a couple of years ago, and since then has been home every day, in essence cutting Iris off from anything that Madelaine did not approve of or was not a part of. Iris feels that Madelaine finding out about me at this point in her life would be too much for her to handle and Iris fears the consequences that could come of it. She even went so far as to tell my Mom that she had given away the wrong daughter.
My heart aches for Iris. I cannot imagine having to live in such an abusive relationship, and that at the age of 80 there does not seem to be any possible way out.
My Mom told Iris the dates that I was going to be visiting and invited her to come out or call if she felt that she could. Unfortunately I did not hear from Iris while I was there. I have no way of reaching out to her, so I can only hope that she is okay.
And so I’m letting our journey come to an end here. I don’t want to do anything that would put Iris in harm’s way or make her life any more difficult. I have accepted that the bit of time we had to get to know each other is all that there will be.
It’s still hard and it still hurts but it is the end.