loss and found

Parts of the first email from my Sister. October 28, 2012
Hi kSea,

I’m Mendocino, your sister.  I don’t want to impose or in any way interfere with your acquaintanceship process with mom; I feel that I should give the two of you space to get to know one another.  If and when the two of you are cool with each other and have had a chance to start developing a relationship, I’d love to throw myself into the mix and get to know you, assuming that’s something you’re interested in.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“…The thing I want to tell you is this: my brother Quincy and I have known about you, in the abstract, for as long as I can remember. Mom started talking to us about you when we were just kids, but the conversations tended to end with her in tears. Knowing her, I know that she has always wondered about you, always worried about you and hoped you were doing okay, and always thought about you with a profound sense of loss and sadness. I’m so glad you found her.”

Stories & Scar Tissue

10.24.12

Stories & Scar Tissue

 

I drink in the pages in the same way that not too long ago I drank pints of bourbon, always hoping to escape the noise in my head or give it reason. The words are much more effective.

This is the storm before the calm as the internal battle rages inside of my head, rational against irrational, and though I am well aware of the difference and which will eventually be the victor, when something has had forty-five years to seed, grow and seethe inside like a poison that forgot its purpose and instead keeps me alive, it doesn’t give in to easily to the new way of thought.

At times when I feel that the only true escape is sleep, I turn the light off by my bed I use to read, but it makes little difference, as secretly, silently, while my attention was in a different world written by someone else, quiet light has leaked through my window shades. The Sun is giving the hushed alert that it will soon light up the City again, making San Francisco into hundreds of thousands more stories – some plots linked together with a multitude of characters and events, others just very, very alone and nearly completely solitary. I already know pieces of the story that I will be a part of today after I sleep for a few hours, but all the rest is yet to be written…

I briefly look for something to bookmark the page I decide to leave on, laughing to myself a second later when I remember that I’m reading from my Kindle. I laugh because it feels like I’m going crazy. Crazy with fear, with love, with hope – all of these ding battle inside of my heart. Head crazy is one thing, but when it stems from the heart… it’s different. More powerful, less accessible to make right.

Fortunately this isn’t a fraction of what I felt the fourteen years ago when I began this search in earnest – when for the first time in my life I found someone who not only asked the right questions, but was the first person I truly felt could identify with what was inside of me. There was no sympathy – she didn’t try to fix me, didn’t say the words that I had been hearing from others all of my life – she just read the words that came from somewhere unknown inside of me, and was silent, or cried along.

I miss her. I always will – and I’ll always be grateful for our lives crossing… as they needed to.

 

 

I often wonder what builds character in a person, builds strength in their heart. I once think I believed the old saying “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” – but I’m not so sure of that anymore as a general rule. It comes with its caveats. When that which doesn’t kill you lands you in a hospital for upwards of two years, watching the life you love, the people you love, and all the heart you’ve so happily invested in it pass you by, leaving nothing but a feeling that you’re too old, too weak to ever catch up again, leaving a feeling that this time is done… it’s harder and harder to get out of bed every day and face it, fight the scars and the irrational thinking that this is the end of what you loved, and now it’s just a matter of time.

You want to go out, to start again, but where? I still haven’t been able to figure that out. I feel that I’ve lost the way back through the looking glass.

Last week I went to visit my doctor. Not an appointment, he just wanted me to come by, & set a few minutes aside in his busy day to catch up. I told him about finally finding my birth mother, and of waiting to see where that went. Briefly, we talked about that, a few other things, and then as I was preparing to leave he gave me an incredibly warm hug, looked at me with wet eyes, and told me that he has never known anyone with a heart as strong as mine.

I could have said that it’s because of all the scar tissue. I could have said that I would give anything for the opportunity to have it broken again, just to feel it, to know that it is still there, waiting, wanting, beating out a message of its desire to share itself with someone else, to feel full once more. I’ve got it in my head, however, that so few that I would want to offer it to would want the flesh wrapped around it. It’s a very difficult thought to overcome when so much time and energy has been put into making the flesh whole again – but I must, and hopefully soon, I will.

Then again, maybe he just needs a better stethoscope.

 

found.

I never answer calls from unknown numbers. Ever… except this once, about forty five minutes ago.
I’m not sure why, I didn’t even think about it. Just answered.
“This is Casey”
“…Hi Casey, this is Annie.”
It took me a second to realize that “Annie” is Ann Stenerson, and that those five words were the first I had ever heard in my life
spoken by my Mother.

She seems kind of awesome… and I have a younger half brother (Quincy) and sister (Mendocino, aka Mindy).

Needless to say, right now I’m just about speechless with joy.

a storm’s courage

 

The rains come to San Francisco, this time not second guessing themselves and teasing with nothing more than a slightly uncertain shower only damping the streets, but with all the confidence, beauty and commitment that rain should have. They clean the detritus from the streets and sidewalks in the City, both human and otherwise, and I’ve seldom seen the Tenderloin look so rejuvenated and new in the months that I’ve lived here.

I wish that I could say the same for me.

I had the strength Saturday night to call her, but was greeted on the other end of the line with nothing but an automated voice asking me to leave a message. Since then, I’ve been searching for the perfect time, the perfect mood, or making up any other excuse I can for my lack of courage.

Irrational, I know, but common sense and strength are something I fall short of when it comes to giving my Mother yet another chance to leave me.

 

I should take my lesson from the rain, and wash as much as I can inside of me away, at least for only the moment that I need to commit to dialing her number again…

but maybe not at 3am in the morning on Tuesday. Maybe, just maybe, with the confidence learned from this storm, tonight…

“…With Love, Annie”

Just getting home from the Oddities -SF shoot, I notice that there’s something in my mailbox. I open it, and… not a bill, not something, as usual, addressed to a previous tenant. It’s a card-sized envelope, addressed to me in beautiful handwriting, the name on the return address… of Annie Stenerson.

I’ve sent enough hopeful letters out, had enough dreams crumble underneath me when there either was or wasn’t a response to know better, but still, my hands shake as I take the elevator up to the third floor, walk quickly down the hall to my apartment, and carelessly toss the envelope on my coffee table as I put the leash on Ruby to take her outside. I do my best to remember the previous letters sent, full of my heart and hope. Ruby is here, now, needing me, thrilled to have me home.

Ruby is real, and exactly what I need to rationalize not immediately opening the envelope.

I do well – I walk slowly, let Ruby play a bit with the few other dogs we meet along the way, do everything I can not to think and break into a sprint for my apartment and the card.

Up the elevator again, I look at the card without touching it, preparing myself as well as I possibly can.

In my hand now. It’s thin, flexible. Not much written, no photographs. In my mind I am already composing an email to Kevin Lynch, the person who did my search at OmniTrace, letting him know that, while everything seemed to be right, unfortunately, it’s not her. This is a feeling that I’m familiar with, one I remember with horrible clarity.

I’m wearing the knife that I always wear when I wear a skirt – not the folding Spyderco for daily wear, but the beautiful fixed-blade Buck that my girlfriend in New York gave to me for my birthday back in 1993. For my birthday. I think of how appropriate it is that I use this to carefully slice open the envelope.

I pull out the single page card, a beautiful watercolor of  white orchids on the front, then turn to the back and, ever so slowly, measuring the weight of every handwritten word, begin to read:

“Dear Mr. Casey Porter,

Thank you for your very nice letter and pictures…”

I pause there, afraid to read more. This is how all the others began as well – but I push on. I need to, even though I know what must be coming…

“The information from CHS is certainly my information, and the pictures show an amazing resemblance in our features, so…

I am extremely happy to tell you that I am your Birth Mother, and that you are my Son.”

Wait. WHAT??! This isn’t right, this isn’t what I was expecting, this isn’t, can’t be… I read it again through tears, each word and the spaces between, making certain that I didn’t misread “happy” for “sorry” miss a “not” in there where is should be – where it always has been before.

Where it has been in my heart for forty-five years.

It isn’t there.

Not anymore.

My Mother’s letter to me goes on – feel free to call or write her anytime, and she will try to answer the questions I probably have… and she would like to know more about my life, if I wish to tell her.

It’s signed “With Love, Annie”

With LOVE, Annie.

My Mother.

123 miles and a Lifetime

One Hundred and Twenty Three Miles North, in some place called Philo, California, is the woman who created me, the woman who I wouldn’t have existed without,
the Woman who made me into a little boy,
then a Warrior.

A woman I have only known through growing inside of her.

As I sit here trying to get my ass off of this couch and make it to the post office, I wonder
as I always have
what she is doing, today.

I guess that it’s time to quit wondering,
quit re-living the past through my older writing,
but, I must admit
it gave me the strength I needed to send this letter.

Digging up the Bones, Pt. II

3/24/99

 

because there isn’t anything

that makes sense anymore

 

because there isn’t anything

that i have to make me smile right now

and the pain of my impatience

has control over me

and i feel

futile like nothing will ever

be complete

and i hate it all right now

and i hate you all

right now

and fuck this place

and fuck this job

and fuck this morning

and fuck you people

and fuck this page

fuck the moon

fuck the sun

fuck the stars

fuck this life of nothing from nothing and

i would love to open myself up

and feel this poisoned blood

leave me

watch as it stains the sheets

a final crimson

watch this morning

and everything else

 

disappear

 

as my eyes slowly close

 

but wouldn’t that be

just so fucking

redundant

 

and what if tomorrow is just

 

a little bit

 

better

 

 

 

3.24.99

i look out the door to the gray sky

same as it is inside

when there is nothing left

and nothing matters today.

 

i look to the gray sky

the color has faded from this boy

dead eyes and an empty heart

and nothing matters today

 

i dream of the peace in draining

on top of my bed, eyes slowly close

and i feel as there is nothing left to give

i’ve never been able to see it so clearly.

 

a dream of over and done with

i just don’t care anymore

and it doesn’t matter who she is

i never knew her anyway.

 

erase forever and always

never have they made much sense to me

when the beginning of the story is nothing but a myth

the author gets to choose his own end .

 

3.25.99

hoping the people

are alive enough tonight

to save me from myself

and these thoughts that scream,

making me afraid to think at all.

 

innocence lost when

ignorance was pushed away

and i opened unknown doors

and hated who i saw

 

how can this

pitiful romantic

this lost little boy

so infatuated

with the tragedy of the heart

find it so hard

to believe in love?

 

i want to go back

to the magic and beauty

seen through the eyes of

the child full of wonder that

i once was

 

lost so beautifully in the dreams

of what i once believed

could be…

 

3.27.99

i watch it start to happen

in a way i don’t want it to

i have no need for that right now.

but i don’t have the energy.

the fuck is all i give

and nothing is true

so i float

watching it all happen

and not even caring enough

to change the things i don’t want

because nothing really matters

and in this absence of life

 

i so often wish for death

 

and nothing means anything

in a story without a beginning

and as the fire slowly dies away

i hold nothing against anyone

i can only blame myself

when i feel like i’ve cheated

the man staring back at me

from the glass.

 

3.28.99

sent another letter today

to another someone else

to another vague maybe

another empty hope

to give me a beginning

to make this life valid.

 

sent another letter today

this one was so much harder

as the words didn’t come

it feels like wasted time

and in the hopelessness

i felt my heart being torn

until the letter was folded, sealed, and stamped

and i didn’t feel anything again

 

an emptiness so perfectly complete

nothing matters

it’s all fucked anyway

it’s all fake anyway

and everyone i am

and everyone i’ve been

were all fake anyway

 

3.29.99

i search inside

for the passion

the rage

the anger

that i have found

and hold so dear

but these past days

the deeper i go

the less i find and

the less i find a reason

to be.

these thoughts lately

i see so clearly in my mind

all actions to the end

and for the first time

i feel only the peace it would bring

and these past days

i feel as if the game is so much over

has been, for a while

and maybe the only thing

that keeps these thoughts from action

the only thing is that

i know if i act

i have lost

and I am not willing to lose.

 

but i can see it all so clearly

the slow drain as the white of my bed

turns to a beautiful crimson

the cold

the peace

 

these thoughts

terrifying me

because for now,

and forever

 

it’s the only thing

 

that may feel

 

real

 

 

 

 

 

Digging up the bones

And… older scratchings that were much easier to decide not to send as the first words my Birth Mother heard from her “baby boy”…

1/99

I began with a scream

a wail

thrust into this new life

pushed out of the comfort

and the warmth

and the security

in to a world that screamed back at me

and for a time

a very short time

I had the comfort of her arms

around me.

The arms that held me

and let me know

that it would be all right

because she was there

and my screams

subsided

soothed in the heartbeat

the voice

and the scent so familiar

and it started to get better

and the comfort was coming back

wrapped up in the nurturing arms

 

of my mother.

 

Then those arms

and everything that was peace inside of me

were torn away

no comfort no understanding why

nothing  made sense anymore

and the screams came back

got louder inside of me

and that gnawing pain

was something that I learned to hide

so shut away so that even I couldn’t find it

didn’t know it was there

at such an early age.

 

They said I was such a quiet child

seldom cried, seldom complained

so everything must be

okay, right?

Alone

in a way that so few can understand

the arms of my mother

the arms of the womb that

I became in

gone

handed around to so many

such a precious child

look how good he is

so quiet

adjusting so well

give him no history and call him theirs,

pay the money, sign the papers

and hand him over.

 

He’ll be fine…

 

Taught how to completely fucking

SHUT DOWN

before I even knew what it was

that I didn’t feel

kept away in a secret fucked up place

that I didn’t even know existed

for these thirty one years

Nothing was right

passed around and cooed over

patiently waiting for that comfort to come back.

My first taste

the time I discovered how to be who I am

the year that all of the actions in my life became what I became

and even as I grew

thinking so logically

in order not to feel

Past the “Baby Boy Mathern”

The “Baby Boy Stenerson”

of screams (an identity even then of no-one)

past the knowledge

of nothing but loss and anger

I came into this family

of a man, a woman, a little girl

but they didn’t know, though they tried

and the screams inside grew louder

they didn’t know

that to raise a child

it takes so much more than discipline

they didn’t know how to nurture

this new life in theirs

Or maybe it was me

in a subconscious solitude

in a subconscious anguish

that would never let me open

that could never let them

or anyone

become my friend

become someone who I could talk to about

anything

but I don’t think so.

I’ve never had

the words of wisdom

that a child so needs as it grows.

words that I could listen to

and remember

when things just didn’t seem right

inside of me

 

and things never seemed right.

 

Never words

of how to believe in myself

of how to love my Self

never words of strength

or words of how to know

that feelings of hurt

and pain

and confusion

and anger

were okay.

were normal.

So feeling alone

was all I ever felt

and alone

was all I ever knew

and the years went by

but even with the sorrow

even with the constant pain

by then so much a part of me

I learned

I taught myself

I dealt with everything fucked up inside

alone

I tried to make sense of it all

and I began to become me

 

I taught myself warmth

I taught myself love

and what I think it means.

 

I made myself

into someone I thought I could love and

I made myself

a king

in my own heart

in my own soul

in my own life

and even though at times I have forgotten

even though at times I have let myself down

and had my doubts

I KNOW

who I have the strength

who I have the power

who I have the love

and who I have so much passion

to be

and no one can ever take that

away.

I have this knowing

that has come from no one except myself

because I am the only person

I have ever

truly

had.

 

Casey ~ 1/99

Priority Mail/The Past is Still Inside

The letter to my birth Mother is finally written, sending it today. I’m including some photos, maybe something I wrote a while back… and I’m terrified, but regardless of the commitment I made to myself, so long ago, to never give ANYONE a second chance to leave me… I need to get this done. Put it either behind or in front of my life so I can get on with the rest of it…

This is what I’m thinking of including, which made an entire room of birth-mothers crumble in a group I was in to try to find answers while in San Diego, but… not sure if it is too much right now.

The Way It Was
10-06-01
When I was a child
it was just
the way it was
I lost myself in the secrets
that were lost in metaught that I should learn to accept
that where I came from didn’t matter – but
(who am I ?)
I was chosen
I was loved and
(this boy who never began)
I just was.

I remember the birthdays –
presents, friends, all a child could want
and everything was so wonderful, so perfect
the doors inside of me locked up so tight
the walls built so meticulously
(mommy, tell me about when I was born)
I had taught myself so well.
I was chosen, and
(sorry son, I wasn’t there)
I was “special”.

School days,
always in on the outside
I could become almost anyone
pretend to fit in anywhere
and with nowhere to look
to find who or why I was
I became the incomplete chameleon
I pretended that I was them.

As the time went on
it grew darker each year
as the loss I had locked away so long ago
began to seethe
and the questions I had taught myself
never to ask
(who am I?)
remained unanswered.

As the pain grew,
I found my own ways
to numb it, to suppress it,
my best friends were the drugs and the escape they offered,
but always, a sense of loss would seep out
from unknown origins.

I’ve spent my life wandering
from city to city, coast to coast
looking for something, though never knowing what.
Always leaving the people that I loved behind
With promises of staying in touch.
(before they could leave me)

I could control
I needed to control
Who
left
Who

this time.

But the promises I had made
always turned out to be as empty as I was
and in the end
I disconnected so easily
detach and go on
(it was the first lesson learned)
and I always
went away.

Thirty three now
and just a few years ago
the doors that I had locked so securely
so perfectly as an infant
burst open.

Through night after night spent crying alone
and the days at work trying not to
I was finally able to welcome the pain I had denied for so long
to become a part of me.
I let myself remember
that there was something I had lost.

Now I knew where the anger that had been eating at me came from
and the emptiness that I feel
when friends talked about from which part of their family
they got their eyes, their hair, their temper
and all I can do is listen silently,
anger seething…

I began my search just a few years ago
for that piece of me that might come with answers
might fill the void inside of my heart
might help everything about me make a little more sense
but as soon as the search began
I found that, for some reason, someone decided
I am not allowed to know the things about me
that everyone else takes for granted
and I have no birthright
no right at all to my history, to my ancestors
to my heart
to know why I am
or how I became this way.

With each step I am turned away from trying
to give this pain answers
to give this pain a reason
to try and make at least some of this everlasting ache go away,
or perhaps even fill something inside
that has been empty for so long.

Around every corner
there is more red tape
or another dead end
as I try to find that piece of my soul
that has been denied me

I grow weary
And I want so much to be able to give up
shut those doors again
and go on with this façade
slowly destroying myself
as I drown in my own lies and denial.
(it was so much easier
When I didn’t have to care)
But I’ve torn down the walls inside of me
now that I know what I need
and no matter how many people may stand in my way
try to dissuade me
(“She’s probably already dead” my adopted mom once said)
I will find my mother.

Yesterday, I read about a woman
who, after years of searching, was finally able to find her father,
just a couple of days ago.

She found him seven weeks after he was buried.

Seven weeks.

Through all of this frustration
through all of this pain
through this profound feeling
of irrevocable loss
I try to keep on going
to find a reason,
a foundation to this life
and maybe, if I’m so blessed,
I’ll get my mother as well.

Though each small victory in this search
is met with a thousand more defeats and dead ends,
the search goes on, and the years pass by
allowing less and less time
for any chance there may be to make things right.

If I ever do find the woman
who gave me these green eyes
this crooked smile
a heart full of sadness
and my life…
I don’t want the flowers I bring to her the first time we meet
offered in thanks for what she has given me
for the life I have been blessed with
for the sacrifice she made

to gently be laid upon her grave.

When I was a child
it was just
The way it was.

It can’t be that way anymore.

-Casey Porter 4/6/01

but First things First

Printing out photographs of myself –

First two, then five, now seven

It’s not a simple task to decide

what I want to show her

how my Mother sees me

for the first time in her life

my life…

 

“Our” life?

 

I notice in which how few

I smile,

and wish there could be more

but can only pray

that there might be.

 

But perhaps this is a chore for another time,

maybe tomorrow,

maybe the next day

because now to the park for Ruby,

then to get cleaned and dressed

to re-become me

to see everyone at Decompression

to see everyone at Retox

and do my best

everything I can

to smile

at least then

and find somewhere inside

that offers a truth behind my eyes.

 

If only I were working

had something to do,

had a purpose to be there…

but first things first.

First things First.

Falling away & flying into…

“It was my survival from the very beginning. Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; there is an absence, a void, a question mark at the very beginning of our lives. A crucial part of our story is gone, and violently, like a bomb in the womb.”

from ‘Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?”

by Jeanette Winterson

I don’t know if it’s strange or perfect that the writers whose words I fall in love with I occasionally find are adopted as well, long before I know, reading their books over and over, finding my breath in words that they have written long before I realize why, even and especially when it isn’t mentioned.

With Jeanette, the words were of love – but there was always something inside that resonated in me in my favorite books of hers.

Give me nothing, wish me everything. Give me away. Give me the power to love first, to leave first. The slightest hint and I am gone, always, forever. Forever with a yearning that I didn’t have this inside me, this unwanted education. A shell of who I could be, a story that I needed to invent, a book with the first chapters missing, save for one title page: ABANDONED.

Left for better or worse to fend for myself, left without the pulse, the scent, the heart and blood I became in. “Is either slow or extremely sober, for he does not yet smile.” Actual words of my birth and growth, only found recently. The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you; the feeling that something is wrong with me, that there is far, far too much that I don’t deserve.

Something missing – but… I’m all here. “I”? Where is “she”? A void that can never be filled, a door that opens to nowhere.

I remember, still, the dreams I had as a child, waking up covered in sweat, in panic. Over and over and over again, the same – my mom and my best childhood friend, walking away after I climbed the belt to the top, so high – and they always said the same thing, yelled it, as I stood atop the conveyor belt and they kept walking as it shook… no pile of coal or gravel or anything, and as they walked away, as

they

walked

away…A

I was alone, terrified, nothing to jump into to cushion the fall,

and I’ve been jumping ever since then

just hoping to fly.

to another Someone

 

Dear Miss Stenerson,

This is a letter that I have been writing, in my mind and on paper, for my entire life. Even with all of that time, it has never said exactly what I wanted it to. I’ve come close many times and sent those letters out to others in hope, but it is only now that I send it to the person who it was intended for, and as a result I’m at a loss for the right words.

Quite frankly, as I write a draft of it on my laptop, I am terrified – and in receiving a letter like this, you may be as well.

I have no idea if you ever hoped to find this in your mail, and I have no intention of complicating your life, though at this time, with this letter, it is something that I cannot avoid. For that, I am truly sorry.

 

I want to tell you everything. I want to share with you every moment of the life I have lived, but that can only come with time, and only if you allow it.

Please know that this is an extremely difficult letter to write – not only for the reason that my penmanship has deteriorated greatly since computers came around (an attempt at light-hearted humor there), but because…

I have very good reason to believe that you are the person I have been searching for. I believe that you are the person that I have just simply wanted to see for forty-five years, the person I wanted to know if I were so blessed, and – the person I wanted to thank, with all of my heart.

 

My adopted name is Kent Cavanaugh Porter, Jr., though as long as I can remember I have always gone by Casey. I have spelled it many ways, the most recent being kSea – but maybe we’ll get to the reason for that later. It’s a fun little story if you’re interested.

 

I’ve been searching off and on since I was Thirty-one years old, and with the amazing assistance of a search company I found and employed, I am quite sure that you are my biological Mother. My Birth Mother. If you are… well, let me tell you a tiny bit about me.

I was born on September 5th, 1967, and have known I was adopted as long as I can remember. Fourteen years ago, when I was 31, I realized how important finding my Mother is to me. Hoping to find an origin, I have searched – perhaps for you? I can only pray that this letter is not in vain, again…

 

The life I have lived has been amazing, and has made me into the person I am today. I have been blessed with love, understanding, incredible people, and many adventures. I would love to share the person that you created with you; if you are the woman who gave me this life.

To ME.

 

I am including every possible way to contact me, and I hope that you will as soon as possible.

If by some slim chance you aren’t my Birth Mother, please let me know – so I can continue my search.

If you are, know that I ask for very little from you – I only want to thank you, and be able to love you – again.

 

Sincerely…