Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finding Jamie

If you read the original post, Adoption Possessiveness: Looking For Jaime or Jamie, May 2 please jump tot he updates at the bottom of this one!

One again the strong possessive arms of those who adopt has struck out and slapped me in the face. swatted away attempts at telling an adoptee she is loved because of feelings of ownership shrouded in the politeness of "protection." This is a story of a family adoption of my best friend's child.

The Back Story

In the 1980s I lost my best dear friend Ellen. Ellen and I met upstate New York on a camping trip in the 70s and formed a close bond because of both being Brooklyn girls.  I was newly married and she dating.

When she met "the one" my husband and I were among the very first to meet Barry. Barry and Ellen were a "cute" couple - one of those couples who could pass for brother and sister both having curly dark blonde hair.  Barry also gave us reason for concern from the start because of his "partying" ways - code for drugging. But when your best friend is in love,  and says, "I know, BUT..." he's stopping, etc.. etc. all you can do is continue to be there for her and so we all accepted "Barry and Ellen" as an entity among our friends.

ABOVE: Barry (shirtless with beer) and Ellen, pregnant with Dayla
That's me in the red shorts and Afro!

Barry and Ellen wed and their first child, Dayla, was born three months after my daughter.

They called us from the hospital with the proud parent news. But a second call followed closely behind. Dayla was born with a heart condition and needed open heart surgery. We waited and prayed. We would do so several more times over the course of Dayla's too short life as she endured several operations and procedures. She was beautiful and petite (frail really) and so when she was well Ellen began to pursue a modeling career for the precious little angel.

LEFT: My daughter, 3 mos. RIGHT: Dayla, 6 mos. 

Barry was not coping so well. He claimed that Dayla's precarious health brought up old fears for him. Apparently he had a younger brother who was very ill and he was told that as the older brother he had to watch out and take care of him. His brother died and Barry blamed his drug use on that and said that Dayla's condition brought it all back up and so his attempts to quit using reversed and his drug use escalated from recreational to heavy use.

Dayla's first birthday. 
Ellen's mother is holding Dayla and my daughter. Stuart's sister on the left.

Ellen and Dayla

Dayla was about 2 or 2-1/2 and Ellen, pregnant again, began sharing with me tales of Barry's overdoses. Their second child Jamie (or Jaime) was born - healthy - but Barry's drug use remained serious. And the day came when Ellen phoned to tell me her "good news."  Barry had at last agreed to go into rehab and the family was taking one last weekend away before he went.

I was alone. My husband was out of the country with the National Guard when I got the call from Ellen's mother. I was so stunned I actually said: "That can't be true" when she told me that Ellen and Dayla were killed in an automobile accident. Barry was driving, and he and Jamie who was in her car seat behind him were OK. They had been hit on the right side as they made a left turn into a Wawa. I couldn't believe it! I had just spoken to her the day before. For the first time ever, I enlisted my mother-in-law to come and stay with my kids, so I could go to the funeral.

Their funeral was the worst funerals I will likely EVER attend if I live to be 100!  Ellen's mother had to be physically restrained from wanting to jump into the grave into which her only daughter and beloved granddaughter - who had endured so much to be alive - were being lowered. Her pain was palpable. In the days following their funeral, Ellen's father asked me about Barry and I protected Ellen's secrets, and protected her very elderly, aging parents from having to deal with any more.

Ellen and Barry who visited my family often, also visited Barry's Aunt Loretta and her family, who lived not far from us and we all had met on several occasions.  Barry's aunt was not much older than we were and so we all got along. And Aunt Loretta "knew." She knew about his drug use and about the times Ellen had to frantically rush him to the ER because he had passed out from an overdose - more than once. I was petrified for the safety of Jaime, now with just Barry as a parent, and I was not about to hold my tongue.  I spoke to Loretta and offered to raise Jaime and keep her safe while allowing Barry and Loretta's family to be a part of her life.

To my great shock, Loretta, though she "knew" seemed to be in denial of the seriousness and was more concerned with Barry's job finding out he went to rehab than him getting the help he needed and had promised Ellen he would get. And, she said, if anyone would adopt Jamie it would be her BUT she would NOT "do that" to Barry! I was dismayed, alarmed, angry and felt helpless by choices she was making that did not seem in Jaime's best interest. I feared for her safety but Loretta insisted that Barry could care for her. She eventually got angry with me. In the end, what could I do? They were family and I was nothing - "just" a friend.

I kept in touch. I learned that Jamie did go to live with Loretta's family at some point and then Barry remarried and moved out of state and took Jamie with him to their devastation. They had never legally adopted her and had no way to stop it from happening, had they wanted to.  Again, I lost touch this time for many years...... decades.

I searched the Internet, Facebook and such for Jamie who is now 30 or close to it.  I racked my brain to remember Aunt Loretta's last name but don't know if I ever even knew it.  But I knew that her husband owned a local exterminating business and tracked that down. I sent an email though the company website.

Today I Got A Phone Call

ME: "Oh thanks so much for calling. I wanted to know if Jamie is OK and to let her know I knew her mother and she was loved...."

Stuart - who identified himself as Jamie's "brother": "She's fine"

ME: "Where does she live?"

I then learned that Barry had died "a long time ago" of AIDS and Jamie was then adopted by Stuart's family (Aunt Loretta).

And that's where the niceties ended and the gloves came off. I was told I had no right to know if she was on the West Coast or East. It was none of my business.  Nasty accusations followed which I bit my tongue and ignored. I told him I just wanted her know she was loved and I never forgot her.

Stuart: "How can you love someone you haven't seen in all these years?" etc., etc. "You don't even know her. How can you claim to love or care about her?"

ME: "Because I loved her mother, that's why."

Stuart: "Ellen is dead and Jamie is loved by all of us!" he assured me and that was that. She needed no more additional love or words of care. Berating me very angrily, I know not why.

"Where were you all these years. Why weren't you at Ellen's parents' funerals?"

I tried in vain to tell him that I had no idea where Jamie was and that it was his family that chose not to tell me or keep me in the loop. No one had told me of Ellen's parents passing and that was on them, not me and with that, I finally blew it and could no longer remain calm in the face of repeated insults hurled at me. I tired to tell him that you don't stop loving someone after they die. After all, do I not sill love my daughter who is dead?

But is was all useless. I was talking to a well-programmed robot who kept repeating that I could not possibly care about someone I did not know.  I hung up in utter despair.

Why does love have to be so possessive? Why the anger and MEANNESS at someone else who cares for a loved one of yours??? What was so terribly wrong with inquiring about the well-being of a friend's daughter? I don't get it at all.

Jamie - if you find this blog post know that I never stopped caring...and that I have photos to share with

I'm here for you and always will be...You were ALWAYS in my heart.  I hope you are happy and healthy and wonder if you are the Jamie Lenner who was an attorney in Denville, NJ.

Poor young Stuart has likely never had anyone he loves die. If he did, he would know that you never forget and your love doesn't end when their life does.  Neither my former husband nor I could remember or ever knew my friend's husband's aunt's last name. Sue me!  I also never knew her parents names either and met them only once or twice after her death.

UPDATE: I went back to the business website through which I had located this young man, Stuart, and sent the following message:
I have no idea what I did to cause you be so angry and rude to me. What is so terribly wrong with inquiring about the well-being of a dear old friend's daughter???
I did not know when Ellens's folks passed away. I met them and her brother for the very first time at her funeral and knew none of her family. I was not a childhood friend of Ellen. I knew since the 70s. But we were close. I was one of the first people she called when Dayla was born followed by the second call about her heart condition. And she confided me about Barry's drug problems. I spoke her just days before she died. We were close friends. Why else would I have even thought of raising her daughter? I have many pictures of Ellen, Barry, Dayla and of Ellen pregnant with Jamie. Why is any of that threatening to you or to her or cause for you to have been mean and nasty to me on the phone??? I have no clue.
You don't stop loving someone when they die, Stuart. Perhaps you are too young to have lost someone you cared about. My daughter is dead 17 years, and I still love her. Ellen was a dear friend and I think of her untimely death and Dayla's - poor tiny thing -  often and wonder about Jamie. What is wrong with that? 
I hope your mom and dad are well and hope that I am not infringing on any boundary to say that. Perhaps you might tell them I send my regards if that is not offensive or wrong to do.

UPDATE 7/22: I believe I have located Jaimie Lenner. She is 31 and an attorney! this is who her brother Stuart thought needed protection from a dear friend of her mother! I am haunted by over-protective big bothers! What did his mother, Loretta, tell him to make him treat me as he did? Did she lie and say or infer I was part of Barry's druggie life???  In any event, I have written her a letter and hope to hear back...

UPDATE 8/9/12: Jamie got my letter and emailed me!  She is DELIGHTED that I found her and looks forward to seeing any photos i cna share with her!  

She writes; "I wanted to thank you for your letter I was touched to hear such warm sentiments about my mom.  It is very nice of you to think of me all these years later.  I would love to have some additional pictures of my Mom, Dad and Dayla." 

Why wouldn't she be?  How selfish of her "brother" to want to keep this from her.

Don't ever let anyone tell you your reaching out with kindness and love would be unwelcome!


Susie said...

How wonderful Mirah!!

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you. I am pleased, it gives me closure and apparently makes jamie happy!

It reconfirms for me once again that reaching out and letting someone know they are loved can never be a bad thing.... if you're not a stalker! ;-)

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