The three-day journey to Utah from Kentucky seemed like an eternity. The twins weren’t even a year old yet, and Keila was close to five years old. I was piled into a car with Patricia and my kids. We stopped every hour or so to tend to the kids and to use the restroom.
One of Patricia’s friends drove the U-Haul 1654 miles across the country, and it wouldn’t go over 60 MPH because we had it so filled with the belongings of two adult households and three kids. It was a grueling three-day trip, but in the summer of 2000, we made it to Salt Lake City.
In all fairness, we all had high hopes for a fresh start. Melanie did a lot of work finding us all a place to live. The plan was that we all move in together, and then in some time, we separate to find our own places to live. We moved into a three-bedroom home, and I shared the biggest bedroom with my kids. Patricia and Melanie each had their own rooms.
Thankfully, I was able to transfer my housing authority voucher to Salt Lake City, so as soon as I found a new place to live and set things up, I would be able to move out. But, even with this setup, it took several months. Living with Patricia and Melanie for those months with my kids was a sacrifice for everyone. We all gave a lot to try to make this work.
The reality was that I chose to have my kids and wanted to take care of them on my own with no help from anyone. But unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s job to take care of my kids but me, and after moving to Utah, I felt like I was back at square one with little to no resources available. The difference in Salt Lake City was that they didn’t have resources for young single mothers like in Kentucky.
There were no after-school programs, sports in elementary school, or organizations to help me out, so I felt like I was even worse off than when I lived in Kentucky. But unfortunately, Utah is mormonized, and the available resources are only available if you convert to Mormonism. They were centered around the family unit with a father involved, and the reality that I had my kids outside of the traditional religious sense and out of wedlock as a single mother left me shit out of luck.
Once again, I found myself depending on Patricia to help babysit at times, and I also found a wonderfully babysitter named Ms. Lora, who was a fantastic light for my kids and me. In addition, I was able to get a small amount of help to pay for her daycare services, which was a huge help.
I still had no car, but after getting a part-time job, I saved enough money to buy a $500 cash car. It was beyond a beater, but it was good enough to get me from point A to point B. Salt Lake City had its perks. I met my best friend there, and the city is surrounded by mountains. However, it wasn’t a place where I felt like I fit in with my kids.
I remember being in a city with no friends and how that experience made me feel like arriving in Lexington, KY, with no friends or family besides Patricia and Melanie. But, one thing was sure; I was going to make some new friends because it was in my nature. So, I got a job and started to meet people. Eventually, I found a three-bedroom duplex to move into with my kids, and we began our new life in Salt Lake City.
Keila started Kindergarten, and she started ballet classes. The twins weren’t ready for school yet, and with no pre-school in Salt Lake City, they went to daycare at Ms. Lora’s so I could work. I got a waitress job at Joe’s Crabshack and then Applebee’s. Then, I got part-time jobs at Smith’s grocery store and the state liquor store. I always worked two jobs and never seemed to be able to get ahead. I didn’t blame anyone but myself for my bad choices and carried a lot of guilt because of my decisions.
After we moved out of the home with Patricia and Melanie, we occasionally saw Melanie and her boyfriend, Nasser, having a meal together or having a picnic in the canyons. We saw Patricia much more, and in no time, I started to experience the same unhealthy co-dependent patterns developing in Salt Lake City that I had to deal with in Kentucky. But now, I had kids in the picture impacted by the toxicity.
With all these changes going on and moving even farther away from Iowa, it was obvious that my relationships with Eileen and Joanna were non-existent. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t try to reach out to Joanna in the hope of sparking some dialogue. I wanted her to know that I was no longer in Kentucky, and if she needed me for anything, she could find me in Salt Lake City. But, once again, I am “putting myself out there” only to get crickets. This continued to be a hard pill to swallow, and I would frequently find myself in tears mourning the loss of the family I had dreamed about my whole life.
One day while living in Salt Lake City, I decided I had nothing to lose and I called my birth mother to ask one last time about my birth father. She didn’t answer but her current husband, Keith did. I explained who I was, and was blunt in the reason I was calling.
At the time, Damond was in the hospital for childhood asthma, and I wanted to try to learn some medical history. After Keith shared that Eileen wasn’t available, I asked him if he could share my birth father’s name with me so I could try to gain my medical history; I also expressed that my son was in the hospital and needed this information. I didn’t give a damn about letting the secret out of the bag. They didn’t give a damn about me so why should I? I was concerned for my son’s health.
“I don’t know his name, but I learned several years ago that he was dead; he got shot in a hunting accident. He’s been dead for several years.” Keith said.
That was the first time I had heard anything about my birth father being dead, but my initial instinct was disbelief. This news didn’t sting a bit because I didn’t believe it for a minute. If he was dead, I wanted to stand over his grave and see his death certificate for myself. Keith refused to give me his name, even when my child’s life was on the line. Two words – Fuck em! I will get to the bottom of this, one way or another!
Being a mom now, things moved quicker, and I didn’t have as much time to sit and dwell on my birth family while in Salt Lake City. However, they were never far from my mind. One day, they might change their mind and open the door. So I waited and waited and waited. I was going to find my birth father if my life depended on it; even if I found a grave, I would stand over his grave one day. Until that day, he was very much alive to me.
In the meantime, I found a new circle of friends and continued my party life mixed with the mom life. I think I always made friends well because I was like a chameleon with a lack of identity in my beginnings. This created the ability to blend in with everyone. It’s impossible to know who you are when you don’t know where you came from.
Alcohol continued to numb my reality, and about a year after moving to Salt Lake City, I found myself in a new relationship. It was evident I lacked self-love, among many other things, because my relationship was very harmful and abusive, and I stayed in it for three years.
Those three years were filled with more physical abuse than I had ever experienced, but I kept it all a secret from my family and did everything I could to hide it from my kid. Moving to Salt Lake City was a nice thought, but I was still a walking train wreck. It was no one’s fault but my own for putting up with the abuse for three years, but I continued to make bad choices in the relationship area.
I tried to be kind, and I allowed a friend to stay with the kids and me with her four year old daughter because she had nowhere to go. I got a call at work one night while working at Applebees. The fire department called to let me know my house was on fire. She had left her daughter unattended, and she turned on the broilers of the oven, and it eventually started the fire.
Thankfully, all the kids were with Patricia; however, this was a huge ordeal to experience. I will always say things can be replaced, but our lives can’t if something happens to the kids or me. My friend left the next day with her belongings, and I essentially never heard from her again. I was left to clean up the damage and find somewhere else to stay while the house was remodeled.
One thing is for sure, you can leave everything behind, but all your old habits and patterns are sure to follow until you get to the root of the issues. Still, at that time, I never connected my low self-esteem and internal heartache, and lack of self-love with relinquishment and adoption trauma. Don’t get me wrong; I knew I was sad and heartbroken, but I didn’t understand the depths of everything and how everything was intertwined.
That didn’t happen until I reached my late 30s when I would start researching adoption and relinquishment to learn that it’s all connected. Then, I started uncovering the truth by connecting with other adoptees online. But unfortunately, I had a long way to go before I got to this point.
As I matured into motherhood, my wants, needs, and desires for my kids also changed. Then, finally, I started seeing them experiencing some of the same things I did with Patricia when I was a kid, and this was when I knew I had to make a move. This reality was a deal-breaker.
After spending five years in Salt Lake City, everything shifted. I wanted my kids to have a better life than I did, so I was forced to make one of the most challenging decisions of my life.
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