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Mistakes I Made, and Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst
Vincent, My first Husband
Vincent was born in Cleveland Ohio, on January 2, 1959. He was put up for adoption, no one knows why, but his adoptive mother thought his mother died in child birth. She never told him that for fear he would think he was the cause of his own mother's death... So he grew up believing that his own parents did not want him. He grew up wondering what was wrong with him, why did they give him up?
Vincent did not go to an orphanage, instead he was put in a foster home. The place was overcrowded and as he did not cry much, he did not get very much attention. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as they say.
When his mother, Jeanne, got him he was six months old, 29 inches long, and weighed 8 pounds. He could not sit up, nor could he hold his head up. Jeanne had suffered through several miscarriages and had been trying to adopt for quite some time. She and her husband drove straight home and took their new baby to the pediatrician, having no idea anything could possibly be wrong.
When they picked him up the woman who handed him over said, "If he fusses at night, just give him an empty bottle, he'll be fine. They're not supposed to sleep with a bottle, bad for the teeth." She had thought that didn't sound right, but these were professional care givers..
The Dr looked at Vincent and thought he was awfully long for a newborn, but the weight? opening the infants mouth and seeing teeth he said to Jeanne, "How old is this baby?"
"He's just six months and a week!" she said, gushing enthusiasm, "Isn't he beautiful?"
The Dr performed some reflex tests, pressed on the infants stomach, and then wrapped him up handing him gently back to his new mother.
He sat down and looked her in the eye. "Jeanne, I am sorry to tell you this. I know it is going to break your heart. This baby is not going to live. You need to take him back before you fall in love with him. This was a huge mistake. They should have never given you this baby."
Jeanne asked questions and the doctor answered. She knew she could not tell her husband that they had to take him back. This had taken so long. This, she knew, was their only chance. They were already past the age of raising children from scratch, as it was his father would be retiring by the time the child was twenty-one.
In horror she listened, all the while cuddling her bundle of joy. An only child, she'd never been around babies. Vincent was suffering from malnutrition, his stomach was distended and filled with air. He could not do anything a baby his age should be able to do. He carried no fat, was dehydrated, soft boned... Medicine could not bring him back from deaths door, and he didn't know if love could either. "Save yourself the grief, Jeanne. Take him back. Tell them they gave you the wrong baby."
Jeanne would devote every waking hour for the next seventeen years, proving this doctor wrong. She would straighten his crooked legs by hand, stroking them stretching the bones and muscles every morning and night, so that he would not need braces. She would feed him every two hours until he was the correct weight. She would hold him until he knew she would never let him go. He would learn to walk and talk... She would see to that.
Later, when she found out he had learning disabilities she would educate herself, because the school had no teachers in the field. She taught him. Other parents talked to her about their children, so she held classes in her home. Eventually she got a teaching degree in the subject and was employed by the school to hold special classes with all of these students. She tutored them on weekends and in the summer, so they would not lose ground. She still received Mother's Day cards from these students, now grown with kids of their own, until she passed away, in 1990.
For Jeanne, You gave him Eyes to see and Wings to fly
Maybe you've read some of my story. I was born on October 18, 1961. Six months later my mother went into the hospital, and stayed there for six months. This would happen over and over again, so that by the time i was sixteen, I was more caregiver than receiver. She loved me and we were friends. But in her absence I had been raised by others, my father died when I was ten. My siblings had moved out, married or not. I had been abused for an undetermined length of time by a neighbor. My mother didn't know, no one really did.
I was broken when Vincent and I met. When he walked though the door, and turned to face me, I knew... I was shaken and had to turn away, for fear he would see. "That is the man I am going to marry." and then "God, Please, let it be."
That was August of 1979, two months before my eighteenth birthday. We were married January 26 1980.
We were advised against our marriage. We were so sure. We wanted so much to be together. We truly loved one another.
I wish, at times, that I could have it both ways. Go back and trust each other enough to tell each other the truths that existed between us. The truths I think would have made a difference. The truths that two broken people never trusted each other enough to share until it was too late.
But if those truths had been known, shared, then our lives would be different. My son might not have been born, my daughters would have grown up differently, their own children might not exist. Vincent might still be alive. And I would most decidedly not be sharing this story with you.
This story that may yet have the power to change your life.
Books by Judith Viorst
Necessary Losses, By Judith Viorst
Excerpted here, are passages of a book that perhaps entered my possession too late. In time for you I hope.
PG 10 "A young boy lies in a hospital bed. He is frightened and in pain. Burns cover 40% of his small body. Someone has doused him with alcohol and then, unimaginably, has set him on fire.
He cries for his mother.
His mother has set him on fire.
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of mother a child has lost, or how perilous it may be to dwell in her presence. It doesn't matter whether she hurts or hugs. Separation from mother is worse than being in her arms when the bombs are exploding. separation from mother is sometimes worse than being with her when she is the bomb."
The book goes on to describe how gradually we learn, through experience, that our mother will be there, or not. It is not until age three that we realize the truth that she is coming back, or not. I am paraphrasing here, but this is possibly why the fractured, like me, think that many of our childhood memories are from the age of three forward. Well, in my case this was not true. My earliest memories are from March/ April 1962. Finally verified by relatives as my first "Mother loss".
PG 19 "Severe separations in early life leave emotional scars on the brain because they assault the essential human connection: The mother-child bond which teaches us that we are lovable.The mother-child bond which teaches us how to love."
Without this bond she says that we may find it hard to be human... I have felt that way, have you?
The first chapter goes on to parallel my first marriage in every way. i did not trust him enough to give him my whole self, for fear he would hurt me. He never told me until he had effectively destroyed my love for him that it had been love at first sight for him too.
He saw me across a crowded restaurant and kept asking the waitress for my number. She hounded me for it. Said the customer was a good man, a security guard. When he left to return for his shift, she gave my number to his friend who was also a security guard. His friend called and asked me out. i dated his friend until this guy was sure he could hurt Vincent by setting up a double date, Vincent would go with us, and my best friend would be his date.
She ran into her ex-boyfriend at the county fair, and left the three of us alone. By the end of the evening it was time to tell my date, who I had barely kissed once in four dates, that Vincent and I were together.
Our relationship was already broken beyond repair, I always feeling like second best, Vincent always thinking i had just taken up with him because I felt bad my friend had left in the middle of the date. Trust would have brought this out at the very beginning. We did not trust anyone, even ourselves, when we met.
Vincent's song for me. (You ain't a beauty but hey you're alright)
Bruce Springstein Albums
From your Front Porch to My Front Seat
Sometimes you have to read between the lines, the door's open but the ride ain't free... Sounded like it was about sex. I'm still paying for the ride..
I'm sorry Vincent. I will always love you. I wish we'd known. I hear you laughing, and see your smile. "babe, I tried to tell ya."
No one ever calls me babe. I won't allow it. Only you.
Helping Mothers and Others
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