Chapter 19. A Casket and Clues – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 19.

A Casket and Clues

While my kids stayed in Kentucky with the twins grandma, I hit the road in November of 2010 and arrived in Waterloo, Iowa, on the day of Eileen’s funeral. I was entirely out of my element, being the adoptee outsider feeling invisible. Yet, I knew I was born at St. Frances Hospital in Waterloo, where my birth mother was. Waterloo always gave me an eerie feeling, one I have difficulty describing in words.

I have had dreams my whole life off and on about Saint Frances Hospital. I was five years old in the dream when I discovered I was adopted. I’m at St. Francis Hospital on the maternity ward where I was born and the last place I was with my birth mother before we were separated for life. I’m a little girl in the dream, wearing nothing but a small hospital gown with bare feet.

Everything was white, crisp, and had a paranormal feeling about it. It was the feeling of being misplaced, as if you are a little kid at the fair and you turn around, and your parents are gone. Like they left, never to return, a feeling of terror and panic comes over you. That’s how I feel every time I have this dream. I was frantic, searching for HER.

I take off running down the maternity ward hallways in search of her! The hallways never ended, and I ran in and out of every room, going on forever and ever. As I ran, I saw a giant clock, and time was running out. I kept running forever, but I never found her! I would wake up from these dreams in complete dire straights, completely inconsolable. Please believe me when I tell you that adoption is torture, and it’s a mental mind fuck for adoptees.

I had no idea how my trip to Eileen’s funeral would go down, but one of my main reasons for going was to learn more about her and possibly my birth father. It wasn’t long ago that I was told he was deceased, which never sat well with my spirit. I felt in my heart of hearts that was always one more lie, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. First, I wanted to stand over his grave and see if he was deceased. Second, I wanted DNA to connect me to his family tree. I was never giving up until I found all of my people!

I will never forget reading Eileen’s obituary online and feeling a knife stab me straight in the heart when I saw I wasn’t listed in her obituary. This is another time I have difficulty finding the words to explain how this blow made me feel. I am thankful I was sitting in my car; otherwise, I think I would have collapsed. Logic would say, “Duh, of course, you weren’t listed; she gave you away!” However, the little girl in me couldn’t acknowledge that at all.

I could feel my heart ripped into shreds, and it took my breath away that I didn’t account for shit. I didn’t even exist or matter even a little bit. I was non-existent, invisible, still, hallow, and empty inside—a walking dead woman. So while reality seemed like the more straightforward solution, I was deeply hurt that I was not listed in Eileen’s obituary. It cut like a knife.

However, I needed to put on a smile to show up for her funeral service to be surrounded by people I didn’t know and search for more of my adoptee truth. One more example of me being vulnerable and putting myself “out there” to gain a glimpse of my birth mother’s life and learn more about her.

I was dying to talk to her closest friends and meet biological family I had never been allowed to meet in this lifetime. Would someone be able to share who my birth father was? Soon, I would discover more than I ever had about my birth mother and her life, but much of what I learned rocked me to my core.

I remember seeing my birth sister for the first time in over a decade with her children and husband. She gave me a card with sisterly sentiments in it, which was nice. She talked about wanting to pick back up where we left off and apologizing for disappearing. Even when sad circumstances brought us back together, I was happy to see her again. I was elated to move forward and open the door back up at a chance at a relationship with her.

We met before the funeral service and rode together to the funeral home. We walked in, and Eileen was lying in a casket dressed in a denim button-up shirt with a Christmas print on it. I thought that was odd because it was November; however, they said she loved Christmas, so she wore that shirt year round. She looked frail, wrinkled, and old, yet she was one month before her 63rd birthday. Lifelong alcohol, COPD, and cigarette consumption did a number on her.

As I got closer to the casket, I thought my emotions might take over me, but I felt disconnected and hallow, which I wasn’t expecting. We stood over Eileen’s casket for a moment, and I knew this was it. This was the last time I would ever see her in my lifetime.

I went to sit down with my birth sister and her kids and husband. I was handed a funeral program, and the service for Eileen started. It seems her funeral was planned down to every little detail, which I thought was interesting. She had the funeral home paid for, and her service was simple and short. After the service, she was cremated, and her urn was buried.

But, first, someone shared a short eulogy of her life, sharing she worked at Engineered Products for 16 years and was a NASCAR fan, especially Jeff Gordon. Then, they shared about her surviving one and only daughter, Joanna, and her only grandkids as Joanna’s three kids. While I had already read the obituary online, this still stung extensively. My emotions started to work on me.

After they shared a few short words about Eileen and her life, they played a song she picked out and requested to play at her memorial service. As the song began to play, this is when my tears started to flow. The words to the song struck a chord, and the reality that it was her last song somehow connected me to her at that moment.

Frank Sinatra – My Way

“And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend, I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much, much more
I did it, I did it my way

Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall and did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
Not to say the things that he truly feels
And not the words of someone who kneels
Let the record show; I took all the blows and did it my way.”

She did what she had to do, stood tall, and did it her way. Back to her learning, she was pregnant with me, in 1973, out of wedlock, with a married man who was a family friend. This song will always remind me of her; it has touched my heart profoundly. Not in a heartwarming way, in a sorrowful way. While I started to cry, listening to the words and incorporating her choosing to give me up for adoption, my emotions got the best of me.

I was sobbing, and just an arm’s length away, so was Joanna. While we both cried tears, we didn’t carry the same pain. I would learn in a few conversations that her pain was from a lifetime of loss of the mother she deserved. Eileen was an alcoholic who wasn’t present to support Joanna growing up. She had scars from her childhood and life and said it was challenging growing up as an only child with an alcoholic mother. I had great sympathy for her then, and I still do.

She mentioned multiple times that she wished she was the one given up for adoption. But, of course, this implies that an adoptee has a chance at a “better life,” although the reality is that it only provides a “different life.” In her mind, I had a better life, but the reality was that she didn’t know my life. So her conclusions were made on assumptions.

While the song “My Way” finished, there was a close to the service, and tears began to dry up. Now it was time to mingle and dig as deep as possible into every conversation possible, to learn more about my birth mother and find more information about my birth father and where he was.

Joanna took me around to meet everyone and introduced me repeatedly, “This is Pam, my sister that mom gave up for adoption.” Ouch, this stung in a wild ass way, but it was the reality of the situation. So over and over, I was introduced as “Eileen’s daughter that was given up for adoption.” I didn’t know how to feel, so I just tried not to feel.

I spoke to one of Eileen’s long-time neighbors, who shared that Eileen was disconnected from everyone around her when she passed away. She shared that they tried to bring her cookies and check on her in the winter months, and she wouldn’t answer the door. They reached out to her various times, and she became semi-hateful toward people trying to help her, even telling them to “go away,” so they eventually left her alone.

Joanna also let me know that several years before Eileen passed away, she and her kids and husband packed up and drove to Iowa from another state to see Eileen at Christmas time, and she refused to answer the door. So while Joanna and her husband and kids were stuck outside at Christmas, this was essentially the end of their relationship until she learned of her passing away. I am confident this was extremely hard for Joanna.

I was introduced to one of Eileen’s best friends named Janet, and we had a few moments of a one-on-one conversation. She let me know that she remembered when Eileen was pregnant with me. They both grew up together and had their daughters together around the same time. Then Eileen became pregnant with me.

Janet told me that Eileen worked up until she had me and returned to work the next day. She said she was never seen without a drink in her hand, despite her pregnancies. She said she had flowers delivered to the hospital the day I was born, but they were returned because Eileen used an alias when she gave birth to me.

I asked Janet if she knew if Eileen held me or named me? She said, “Honey, I don’t know if you had a name or if she held you. Maybe she named you in her heart if she did name you?”

I asked her if she knew anything about my birth father, and she said he was a pall barrier at my grandfather’s funeral and was a close friend of the family. Taken back by this, I started to ask more questions.

“Do you know where he lives or his name?” – I said

“She said his name is Jack Jennings, and he was from Leon, Iowa.” So I proceeded to ask more about him.

“Do you know if he had any other kids?” I said.

Janet said, “I’m not sure; he was much older than Eileen. He was married when you were conceived, and he knew nothing about the pregnancy with you. Eileen kept it to herself due to the nature of the circumstances.”

While I was eternally grateful for the information, I was only in a position to retain this information. Processing it all would come at a later time. So I kept digging, asking as many people as many questions as I could. Every little clue counts.

Eileen had planned a small funeral service to a tee, and she had paid to take everyone to a restaurant to have a meal together. This allowed me to sit close to her best friend, Barb. I met Barb 16 years earlier because she was at Eileen’s house during our first and final in-person meeting in 1995. She was a familiar face to me, and I was happy to sit next to someone I felt like I knew a bit.

Barb started to open up and let me know she was glad I returned for the funeral. She said, “You know, it never sat well with me how Eileen treated you after you all met in 1995. But I do know she had her reasons. One of them was that she was distraught when you met in person, and she found out your adoptive parents divorced a year after adopting you. She was also sad about all you went through in your life. She said if she knew that was going to happen, she would have kept you. But instead, she wanted you to be raised in a two-parent household and have a better life, so this hurt her and hurt her deeply. But I was still not okay with her cutting you off like she did.”

It was nice to finally have someone acknowledge that Eileen cutting me off and the way she did it wasn’t okay. When I learned Eileen had issues with how things turned out, it made me feel like she cared a little bit in her way, which comforted me and helped my healing. Still, I was taken back by the information regarding Eileen being troubled about my adoptive parents divorcing when I was one.

However, every little clue allowed me an opportunity to put myself in her shoes and try to feel what she felt. This helped me understand why things were the way they were. I imagine she would be upset that the dream she was promised, the “better life” I was supposed to have, wasn’t better at all. I would be more than upset. I would be heartbroken.

After the luncheon and the funeral, I asked Joanna if there was any way we could drive by Eileen’s house, so I could see a glimpse of what her life was like before she left the earth. She hesitated and said, “I don’t think you want to go, Pam. It’s not a pretty scene; it’s the opposite. It’s awful.”

I assured her I wanted to go, and nothing would be too much for me to grasp. So off we went on the drive to Eileen’s house, where she was found dead just a few days earlier. She was still an everyday alcohol drinker, a full-time smoker, and had severe COPD when she died. Whatever I was about to see, I had hoped it would bring me more understanding of why things were the way they were, but I was not fully prepared for what I was about to walk into.

Joanna opened the door, and we walked into a dark and gloomy environment that loomed with sadness and despair like a scene from the 1970s. It’s almost as if things were dead, and there was no life in the surroundings.

I noticed several windows had newspaper taped to them, with duct tape to cover holes in the windows—one on the front door and several on the exterior windows throughout the house. Curtains were drawn closed, and like the pattern on her old couch, the curtains appeared to be old floral patterns from decades ago, the kind they don’t even make anymore.

She had dust so thick that it had been collecting for years, and her empty oxygen tanks lined up along one of the walls in the dining room area. The water appeared to be turned off in the house, and empty alcohol bottles were scattered on the kitchen counter and table tops.

We went upstairs, taking each step and listening to the stairs creak. It was an eerie vibe, and darkness still loomed as we turned the corner to enter Eileen’s bedroom. She had a Garfield clock on the wall, and a box of Christmas decorations sat in the corner scattered all over the wood floor. All the curtains were drawn shut, and no outside light made its way inside.

We walked back down the stairs, grazed past the coffee table, and headed back outside. I saw a 2-inch by 2-inch green glass paperweight that looked like it might be an elephant shape. I took a chance and asked Joanna if I could have it, and she said, “Sure!.” As of this day, it’s the only tangible thing I had to hang onto that was a piece of Eileen’s. A small paperweight that might have a $5.00 value means the world to me, just because it was hers.

It would take me ample time to process this life-changing experience. However, during my healing process over the last decade, I read “The Girls That Went Away,” which was a pivotal read for me. I recommend it to any adoptees who might be tuning in. I learned that our birth mothers’ world often stops, and time stands still. They never recover from the separation; for many of them, life does not go on as usual.

I learned that life for them is never the same. In my situation with Eileen, seeing the surroundings of how she lived her life, it appeared to me that she was stuck in 1974 when we were separated, lost from one another essentially forever.

While Joanna was right, her home was not in good shape; I am eternally grateful to have been allowed to see this for myself. I will always be thankful Joanna included me in this life-changing event. It looked for any signs of life in Eileen’s home, but I couldn’t recognize any. Darkness loomed, and this was an eye awakening experience because it allowed me to see what the last days of her life were like. And likely, these weren’t only the last days of her life; this was her life.

Our next stop was to my Aunt Nan’s house, who I had also met in 1995. She was sick and couldn’t leave her home for the funeral, so we stopped to see her. She welcomed us again and allowed us to sit by her on the couch to ask how the funeral services went.

During our conversation, I decided it was now or never and tried one last time to get some information about my birth father. Aunt Nan confirmed what Janet had shared about my birth father being Jack Jennings in Leon, Iowa. I didn’t press too hard, but she shared that he had several brothers who all lived off the land in Leon. She gave me the name and number of a male cousin who was close to the Jennings brothers and encouraged me to give him a call.

Aunt Nan was a pleasant person, and I felt drawn to her. I have always been thankful that she was willing to share the truth with me, and I feel that she could sense it was essential. Unfortunately, not long after this meeting, within months, sadly, my Aunt Nan passed away.

As this trip to my birth mother’s funeral ended, a whole new adventure was about to begin. Now that I had the confirmed name of my biological father, I was determined to find him, but how? So I put Leon, Iowa, in my GPS and hit the road. I was fearless and determined to see his face at least one time. It was now or never, and one thing was for sure, no one would do it for me. My life would be rocked in a new way in the next few hours.

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Chapter 18. Ulterior Motives – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 18.

Ulterior Motives

My first task after arriving in Lexington was to find a job and a new place to live. Of course, with no car, that wouldn’t be an easy task; however, I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to do. Thankfully, I could transfer my housing assistance voucher back to Kentucky, which would help me escalate finding a place to live. I was so thankful for this resource; otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done.

Waking up in a new place with new circumstances was scary, but my detachment from Patricia gave me a zest for life that I had never experienced before. I was finally free, but now what? I knew deep down I had so much to recover from, 31 years of traumatic experiences, to be exact. But I put being a mom first and foremost, and my self-repair work seemed to be on the backburner.

The reality was that I changed my surroundings, but deep down, I still had my deep-rooted adoptee trauma brewing below the surface. Being a mom with so many responsibilities on my shoulders created an escape from dwelling on my adoptee/relinquishee trauma as much as I had in the past. However, it was always brewing. I was still a drinker, and alcohol was still my escape from not feeling.

While I started drinking daily around twelve years old, my drinking career was a non-stop part of my life except for my pregnancies with my kids. It was a habit, a way of life. The world celebrates everything with alcohol, and I was for the ride. But, even with new beginnings in Kentucky, old habits die hard. I was able to connect with old friends and make some new ones. The party life was still prominent in my life.

After a month and a half of being back in Kentucky, we found a new place to live, a three-bedroom duplex on Whispering Hills Drive. We moved in just enough time for the twins to start 1st grade at Southern Elementary school, and Keila started 5th grade at Southern Middle school. We lived about two blocks from both schools, which was an excellent setup for a single mom with no car.

A grocery store and Walmart were less than a mile away, and a city bus stop. So I learned how to take the bus around Lexington and took the bus from time to time when the kids had doctor’s appointments. I got a job at a local grocery store, but I wouldn’t say I liked the job, but it did help with expenses I had coming in.

In October of 2005, just three months after making the most challenging decision of my life, I was offered a position in the home health field caring for an elderly stroke patient who needed a home health caregiver. So I quit the grocery store, worked in the home health field weekly, and made more money than I ever had. This was nothing I had done before in a career, but being Patricia’s caretaker for 31 years and a mom to my kids, I had all the skills to easily step into this new role.

This position was within walking distance from our duplex, a lifesaver! I was able to get Medicaid for myself and the kids. We established care with new doctors for each of us and settled into our new life. The kids all started to make new friends at school and in the neighborhood, and our house would soon become a kid-friendly home and a safe place for kids to gather after school and on the weekends.

I never had any friends come over during my childhood, so this piece was essential to me so that my kids could have friends to stay with all night and spend as much time with as they wanted. I loved making my house kid-friendly and hosting get-togethers with my friends and my kid’s friends. We cooked out, had game nights, had big birthday celebrations for the kids, had Sunday dinners, and slowly our lives became fuller and more normal than they ever had.

The kids could experience sports in elementary school and in private leagues affordable for young, single moms, which is something Salt Lake City didn’t offer. So Damond started playing football, and Damia started to cheer and dance. Keila was in volleyball, and we were busy!

Around five months after arriving back in Kentucky, I saved up enough money to buy a car, and finally, I had transportation of my own, so I didn’t have to ask anyone for rides or take the bus. This was lifesaving because taking the bus in the winter with the kids was not a fun task.

I was amazed that I could never gain this type of momentum in my life with Patricia close to me, but within six months of choosing to move across the country without her, everything changed for the better. Finally, I was following my path instead of her path. I was paving my way instead of following her way.

Patricia and I spoke a few times on the telephone and occasionally shared an email, but our daily interactions were non-existent, which is exactly how I wanted it. I needed to detox from all interactions with her, and for the most part, that’s what I was doing until she started pressing me about coming to Kentucky to visit. This started happening about six months into our move, and of course, she said her primary intent was to see the kids; however, I learned otherwise.

I have always been thankful that my kids didn’t have to experience the full extent of Patricia as I did when I was growing up. However, this has been a challenging experience to navigate because they don’t fully understand the depths of why I made the decision I did to move away. They know bits and pieces but will never fully feel what I have felt my whole life due to my experiences with Patricia, and I am glad. But part of me wishes they could feel what I have felt for just five minutes, and then they would understand my decision better.

I am happy that they each have happy memories with her and will always have those happy memories to remember. My trauma with her is so significant that it overpowers any of the positives I experienced with her. However, I can take certain things about my childhood and use them for good, like my love for plants. Patricia had plants, and I think I started to care for them at a young age, and I now love plants. I was her caretaker for 31 years and am now a caregiver by career. But there is a big difference between a caretaker and a caregiver. I feel I was a caretaker to Patricia because I had to be, but now I am a caregiver by career because I want to be.

I want my kids to have good memories of her, so after about two years back in Kentucky, I agreed to let Patricia come to visit. I prolonged the visit as long as possible so we could get settled. I hoped she was somehow more normal and healthy than she had been when we departed, so in 2007 she flew to Kentucky for the first visit together since we left.

She arrived, and we picked her up. I hoped that she would be different and our relationship would be different. I was proud that she could see I could survive without her and that I was doing better than ever. I wanted her to see how happy I was and the kids were, but she never once acted or seemed happy that we were doing so well. She didn’t celebrate any of my independence because the reality was that my independence was leaving her narcissistic supply tank empty. Instead of getting better, she did the opposite and got worse.

I hoped she had found happiness in her personal life and put some effort into becoming happy and healthy without the co-dependent relationship between myself and my kids, which kept her alive.

So many hopes and wishes for something to change with Patricia, but she arrived, and reality set in quickly. First, of course, she showed up with all her pills which I hated, making me feel like she was dependent on them all. What was she even taking at this point? I had no idea, but I hated my kids seeing her taking all these pills and seeing her pills scattered all over my house! Then, she stayed up late and slept the day away, even visiting for less than a week. Couldn’t she pretend to be healthy for five days so my kids could see a happy, healthy grandma? That’s all I cared about at this point.

My lens on how I viewed her visit, different from how my kids viewed her visit, was apparent. While I am confident they enjoyed having a visit with her, I had a hard time navigating her presence in my life, even for a short visit. I once again felt like she had an ulterior motive, but I wasn’t sure what it was.

After two days of Patricia visiting, she wanted to have a conversation with me. She wanted me to know she was having heart issues and to ask me again if I would be her POA. She also set an idea on the table about moving back to Kentucky to be closer to the kids and me. I will be completely transparent, and I almost fell over.

By this time, her health issues were something I wholeheartedly feel she used to manipulate everyone around her. I am not saying she didn’t have health issues, but I never saw her put in work to make her health better; but back in my childhood, her health issues made me feel terrible! Like somehow, I was responsible for them. I had to disconnect from her neverending health problems long ago because I saw how she used them to make people feel sorry for her.

In 2007, it was a new day. I had to disconnect myself emotionally and mentally from all things to do with Patricia so I could survive. I had to put myself before her emotional, mental, and health issues and be her POA.

These conversations with her gave me great anxiety and fear. I hadn’t even started working on my deep-rooted issues yet because being a mom was my main priority, and here she is, wanting me to take on HER as a responsibility once again? I was nauseous and frozen, thinking about the possibility. After everything I had gone through to get away from her, and now this?

Patricia even went to the extent of asking me to drive her around to look for rental properties, and I refused. However, she was talking about places she could work, and it was apparent she was planning this in her mind.

Patricia started telling me how she and Melanie weren’t getting along, and Melanie mistreated and was mean to her. Once again, trying to stir the pot with Melanie and me even when I hadn’t talked to Melanie in years. She was trying to gain sympathy that she was being mistreated in Salt Lake City, which was why she wanted to move back to Kentucky. She was carefully building her case and wanted me to take the bait. She tried to be on her best behavior because she presented me with her plan to move back to Kentucky.

What I suspect happened is that Melanie was forced to play the caretaker role for once in her life as I did for 31 years, and she got a glimpse of how unhealthy and toxic Patricia was, and she started to set some boundaries with her. I am sure this created waves in both of their lives. Sadly, I knew what Melanie was going through because I was the only responsible party for Patricia for 31 years, but finally, I had to set some boundaries for myself. Now it was Melanie’s time to do the same.

There was again no way I was going to support Patricia moving back to Kentucky, and I told her so. But she came into town with all these motives that made me nauseous. Allowing her to visit was a long shot; anything else was out of the question. So my wall was up thoroughly when it came to letting Patricia back in my life.

I let her see the kids, but now that I learned she had an ulterior motive, my guard was 100% up with her. I was clear and to the point, and I let her know that she is NOT moving back to Kentucky, and if she tried, I would not support it at all, and likely I would move farther away with my kids.

Looking back, I think she was so obsessed with my kids and me because there were four of us, and she had four humans to work through to see who would be kind enough to keep her out of a nursing home in her old age. So I think that was always why she targeted my kids and me, and I saw right through it all.

Her greatest fear was going to a nursing home, but I had news for her. Suppose she made her way to Kentucky and tried to ruin the rest of my life; that’s precisely where she would find herself. It would be an escalated version of her nursing home stay. The more she showed me she was unhealthy and sick, the more I thought she needed to be at a nursing home.

I thought that if she made her way back to Kentucky and something happened to me, my kids would all be responsible for caretaking for her, and they would be sucked in in a way they couldn’t escape. I was mortified at the thought.

My hope that something would shift and change with her and me having a mother-daughter relationship was down the drain. She would never change; the sooner I accepted it, the better. Instead, I had to start grieving the loss of this false hope. I should have known better, but once again, I stick myself out there only to be let down as usual. I tried, but it would take me some time to heal from yet another encounter with Patricia.

I wanted her to be on her way back to Utah, and now my greatest fear was that she would somehow be stuck in Kentucky and be my responsibility again, which frightened me on every level.

The sooner she departed, the better! She had a chance to show up and be the healthy and happy mom I always hoped she would be, but she couldn’t do that. Instead, she had to show up with an ulterior motive that was selfishly centered around herself. Of course, she led everyone to believe she was coming to see her grandkids, but I knew otherwise. I couldn’t fathom that this was her main point in coming to Kentucky, to try again to convince me to be her POA.

Was this normal? At 33 years old at the time, I had never even thought about where I would be at the end of my life! I always feel that if my kids are in a position to care for me, the circle of life will organically circle back around. It will naturally happen. However, I have never had any expectation that they care for me in my old age, nor would I try to push this expectation on them as Patricia has me!

This was even more reason I wanted my kids to see a happy and healthy mom and one that was more “normal” than I had. While moving away, I wanted to believe that Patricia would get her own life and make friends. I hoped she would have more time to focus on finding herself and even starting new hobbies she loved now that she wasn’t babysitting my kids and had more free time.

The thought of Patricia making her way back to Kentucky to live made me completely panic. The fear of my kids having to experience what I did growing up and the older they got, they would be on the front line of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and issues only convinced me more that I had to set more boundaries with Patricia.

But first, I had to get her back on Utah soil because as well as I knew her, I was waiting for her to throw herself into dire straights and end up in the hospital in Kentucky, and then I would be stuck with her. I could not let that happen, so I played my part until she left Kentucky.

This visit was such an emotional paradox for me. The kids didn’t know what I knew and didn’t experience what I did, so they were protected. That’s all I wanted was to protect my kids from all I had to experience with Patricia. Having Patricia back in Kentucky temporarily was eye awakening. I learned that no matter how badly I wanted a happy, healthy relationship with her as my “mom,” I would never get it.

I tried opening this door for a visit, but as soon as she left, I shut the door back and continued with my life. It would be a long time before I ever let her visit again.

Around 2008, I learned that Patricia was headed to Iowa to help care for her youngest sister, my Aunt Jeanette, who had recently learned she had breast cancer. She left all her belongings in Utah and was in Iowa City, Iowa, for several months. Based on our few conversations, she was unhappy in Utah, and she and Melanie weren’t getting along. I am positive Melanie confronted her on many of her unhealthy habits and toxic ways. Patricia knew she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Melanie into taking care of her when she was older and being her POA. At the time, she didn’t have kids to use as pawns for Patricia’s manipulation and games. Good for Melanie. I wish I could have set that in stone when I was growing up, but by this time, my life was likely half over, and I was stuck.

Since she couldn’t manipulate Melanie or me any longer, Patricia’s next plan was to transition back to Iowa, and this was precisely what she did. Patricia’s narcissistic supply was running dry, but she was fed just enough in Iowa to stay alive now she had nieces and nephews she could work on. And Iowa was closer to Kentucky than Utah. I knew her ultimate plan was to return to Kentucky; however, I also knew I had to play my cards right with her to stop this from happening.

I was never letting her move back to Kentucky! But soon, I would learn she was conversing with her old Lexington friend about moving back, the friend she had ties with when we moved here in 1991. So once I got wind of Patricia trying to make plans to move back to Kentucky, I reached out directly to her friend and gave her a piece of my mind.

I told her that while her intentions might be good, she needed to plan on being 110% responsible for Patricia in every single way, including being her POA. I told her how sick she was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I let her know I would not support her move, nor would I assist in any way regarding packing, driving, unpacking, etc. I would not be available for anything, and I had already been her caretaker for 31 years of my life. I was done, and she needed to know it.

At this point, I started to feel like Patricia was a little lady who appeared cute and wonderful to those who didn’t know the real her, but behind closed doors, she was a con woman. The history I had with her is what formed these conclusions. Seeing and knowing of all the interactions she not only had with me but with others, she came into contact with reinforced these beliefs. I can’t count how many people she reeled in with her sob stories over the years, only to take advantage of them and use them for her benefit.

While Patricia transitioned to living in Iowa, I kept my boundaries firm and learned to set new boundaries. Not only for myself but for my kids. Eventually, I would let her visit a few more times, but those visits would stop in 2015. I had finally reached the end of my rope.

I had no relationship with Melanie or many people from Iowa. But in November of 2010, I received an inbox message on Facebook from Joanna, my half-biological sister on my maternal side. I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade! I wonder what she wanted? So I opened her message and never expected to read what I did.

“Hi, Pam,

I am sorry it’s been so long. I wanted to let you know mom passed away, and I thought you should know. We have her funeral in a week, and I would love you to be there. Can you make it? I don’t think I can do it without you! So please let me know, and I will send you the arrangements soon. Love your sister, Joanna.”

Wow, just wow. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The saddest part for me wasn’t that Eileen died. It was that I lived my life every single day, grieving her as if she was already gone back to my beginnings. Knowing she left the earth sealed the deal for me. I knew I was never going to see her again. This helped me close the door and move on with my life. The open wound could finally heal.

No more hoping, wishing, dreaming that she would come back or change her mind about me. This was a powerful dynamic to my healing journey. This was it, and it was over. The end of all the internal torment I carried because she was alive but would rather die alone than have me in her life.

She’s dead. She’s gone—the end of Eileen, but not the end of my story. I was just getting started, and I was on my way to Waterloo, Iowa, for her funeral on November 9th, 2010. Little did I know that the next 48 hours of my life would change drastically, and my life would never be the same.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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Chapter 17. New Beginnings – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 17.

New Beginnings

While I had no biological or adoptive family in Kentucky, my twin’s grandmother lived there. She was always supportive and involved in the twin’s life as much as she could be states away and before we moved to Utah.

On one occasion, she came to Salt Lake City to visit us through Greyhound Bus and spent several days. When contemplating my great escape to move back to Kentucky, she would be a critical lifeline in making this decision. If it weren’t for her, we never would have made it. She agreed to let us stay with her until we got on our feet which was an extension of her kindness and care for my kids and me.

I had to plan expenses on what it would cost to move across the country. I had to rent a 22 Foot U-Haul truck for five days, calculate paying for gas and food along the way, purchase six airplane tickets and come up with a plan on how the move would happen. My best friend volunteered to help me drive the U-Haul across the country, and she also was the only person who showed up with her little brother to help us pack the truck.

In March of 2005, I started conversing with Keila, Damia, and Damond about moving back to Kentucky, so they knew what would happen in the coming months. I broke the news to Patricia and Melanie, who were not supportive of my move or decision. I experienced the opposite from them: discouragement and lack of support. I decided I wouldn’t talk to them anymore about the move details until I had to.

The move date was July 2nd, 2005. I packed, reserved the U-Haul, and purchased six one-way airplane tickets for this move. First, Kelli and I would need two plane tickets to fly back to Salt Lake City after driving all of our belongings across the country to Kentucky. Then, I would need four more airplane tickets for the kids and me to fly back to Kentucky. It was a lot of money and a lot to plan to be all by myself, but I knew I had to get away from Patricia in my heart of hearts.

Because of my fear that Patricia would try to take my kids from me, I printed up a document and made her sign it before I started my trip to Kentucky. It went something like this,

“I, Pamela, am writing this letter to verify that I am temporarily leaving my kids with Patricia until July 6th, 2005, when I will return to pick them up. This is a temporary arrangement, and Patricia is fully aware of this.”

So Patricia signed this form, but she wasn’t happy about it. So I kept it tucked away because I didn’t trust her not to do something to interfere with me moving and taking my three kids. I hoped she would keep her word on it, but I had a lot of fears about this.

Once I started spending large amounts of money on plane tickets, it all started to get real. As the days got closer to July 2nd, my anxiety was through the roof, but my desire to want to get away from Patricia and her unhealthy ways was more significant. Not just for me but for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I was unhealthy also and had my own issues clearly. However, I would never get better as long as I was in close contact with Patricia, so moving away from her was the first step.

It was possible to have a relationship with Patricia from a distance because I saw other people do it. I contemplated the hope that after some time, this decision to move away would shift a dynamic change in my relationship with Patricia. I hoped she would also want to make some changes for herself in her own life. Maybe she would want to get healthy also? I could only hope.

But finally, at 31 years old, for the first time in my life, I made myself and my happiness a priority. I put myself first and could no longer worry about Patricia or make her my responsibility. She was in charge of her happiness, and I was in charge of mine. It was time for this toxic co-dependent relationship to end and for me to grow up.

July 1st arrived, and it was the day to start loading the 22-Foot-U-Haul. We spent all day July 1st packing all of our belongings up. Keila, Damia, and Damond would stay with Patricia until we returned to Utah after delivering our belongings to the twin’s granny’s house. Kelli and I would fly back to Salt Lake City on July 6th. The kids and I would fly back to Kentucky, all of us together, on July 8th.

Once the truck was filled to the brim, on July 2nd, around 8 am, we drove by Patricia’s so I could explain to my kids one last time how everything was planned. I wanted them to know I promised I would call to talk to them every day, and I promised I would be back to get them in less than one week! I wanted to make sure they knew I was coming back, so I emphasized many times that Kelli and I would be back on July 6th, and we would fly back to Kentucky together. Finally, they understood, and I gave each of them big hugs telling them I loved them, and we parted ways.

This was when shit got real, real. I will never forget driving off in the U-Haul and making our way to Park City, Utah, coming around the mountain and leaving my kids behind. I had so many emotions that came over me it is hard to put into words. I was worried about them thinking I wouldn’t come back for them, and it made me feel conflicted, but I knew I was coming back. But what if Patricia tried to take them from me? That was my biggest worry.

But then, we looked at the map and realized that Lexington, Kentucky was 1655 miles away, and I think reality set in for Kelli also. We had a long, long trip ahead of us. We also had Pookie Brown, Keila’s cat, with us.

When she agreed to help, Kelli had no idea Kentucky was so far away, and as a wonderful best friend, she agreed to help me regardless of the distance! I will always be eternally grateful for her help and friendship all these years. Without her, I would never have been able to make this great escape away from Patricia. We kept one another laughing, and hour by hour, we were closer to Kentucky.

After twelve hours of driving, I called Patricia’s landline phone to speak to the kids. I wanted to talk to each of them to see how they were, give them an update and let them know how the drive was going. I also wanted to remind them that I would be back to get them on July 6th, and we would fly to Kentucky together. I never wanted them to feel for even a second that I was abandoning them or not coming back to get them!

However, Patricia had games to play. So she decided to turn her ringer off so I couldn’t reach her or my kids. I called and called and called. Once I couldn’t reach my kids and knew she turned her ringer off on purpose, I lost my shit. Finally, the sun started to set, and we had made our way to North Platte, Nebraska.

The drive across this state was just awful, but my anxiety about not being able to reach my kids set in, and I had a full-blown panic attack. I started to hyperventilate, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t seem to calm myself down and didn’t know what was happening. I had never experienced this range of emotions before. But, it was true; Patricia was trying to take my kids from me and her not answering my calls was only the beginning.

We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and Kelli found an exit and took me to the emergency room in North Platte. I remember feeling an overwhelming amount of feelings. I kept calling Patricia only to get no answer every single time. If I could have talked to my kids like I promised them I would, none of this would have happened.

Now they would feel abandoned, and now they would wonder why I didn’t keep my promise. I became infuriated at Patricia. The ER gave me some meds to calm me down and an albuterol treatment to help my breathing. Even calling from the emergency room in Nebraska, Patricia still wouldn’t answer her phone. This wasn’t a new thing. She was notorious for turning her ringer off and making Melanie and I worry about her. But this was different. She did this out of spite because she knew I was moving away with my kids, and she saw it was me calling.

Slowly, I started to calm down and was discharged from the ER. We found a cheap motel room in North Platte to stay all night, and I had an idea. I asked Kelli to call Patricia’s landline phone from her cell phone. But, of course, Patricia answered her call on the first ring because it wasn’t my cell number calling. So Kelli handed me the phone, and I went in on Patricia. I was so triggered by her doing this to my kids and me that I went completely off on her! It’s a good thing I was at a distance, or I would have likely ended up in jail, and I don’t say that lightly.

She didn’t have to support me or this move, but she was NOT going to come between my kids and me, and I let her know if she doesn’t answer my calls moving forward so I could speak to my kids EVERY SINGLE DAY, she would be sorry. I was not playing either. This situation made me hate Patricia, and I still have not forgiven her. This only added to the list of reasons I was moving away from her and confirmed I had made the right choice. I was fed up with her emotional and mental mind games and manipulation.

I spoke to my kids several more times during the trip, and this eased my mind that they knew I was coming back for them, and that was always the plan. As we continued our journey across the country, we stayed another night in Kansas City, Missouri. Kelli had a friend there who said we could stay with them, which would save us a night at a hotel. It was a fantastic time to hang out for the evening after we finally arrived. It was blazing hot in the middle of the summer, so there were lots of outdoor happenings going on. We were exhausted, but now things seemed like more of an adventure.

The following day at the crack of dawn, we woke up and had one final day to drive from KC, MO, to Lexington, KY, which was 582 miles until we reached our final destination, the twin’s grandmother’s house. That last eight hours seemed like an eternity, but on The 4th of July 2005, we pulled up in the 22 Foot U-Haul, and after a three-day drive, we had to unpack all of our belongings and store them in the twin’s grannies garage, which took hours.

Thankfully the twin’s dad was present to help, as well as their uncle. So after three days of driving, we took the help. I could see the bedroom that my three kids and I would soon occupy, and while it was going to be a tight fit, we were going to make it work. So I called the kids and spoke to each of them to let them know we made it, and on the 6th, just two short days away, I would be on my way back to Utah with Kelli, and we would be flying back to Kentucky TOGETHER.

Part of me could hardly believe that I had finally come to this place of independence for myself and my kids. It was surreal, but I wouldn’t be able to truly celebrate until I was back on Kentucky soil with all three of my kids, far away from Patricia.

If you might wonder why I would call this move my “great escape,” it’s easy. The burden I carried my whole life as Patricia’s caretaker was a heavy weight to carry. The cards stacked up against me being adopted into an abusive adoptive home was a life of grief, loss, heartache, and heartbreak. In addition, having little self-love at the time or the ability to stand up for myself created a very long and drawn-out process of me being independent that no one in my family supported. So it felt like a great escape in all regards.

Melanie talked trash about me always depending on Patricia, but when I finally decided I wanted to cut the cord and be independent, she didn’t support that either. Same with Patricia. I felt like my life was sucked dry trying to make everyone else happy, but finally, the day had come when I decided I wanted to be happy. So it was time for me to pass the 31-year baton I carried as Patricia’s caretaker over to Melanie. It was her turn.

Moving away from everyone was the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life because I knew I didn’t have any cushion to fall back on in the “family” area. I knew it was just the kids and me, which was a scary thought at times. But one thing is sure about me, I’m a doer, and I was going to do whatever I had to do so that my kids would have a better life than I did.

Kelli and I rested on July 5th and headed to the airport on July 6th as planned. We arrived in Salt Lake City, and I returned to Patricia’s house. We would spend a little over 24-Hours before we made our final destination to the airport on July 8th to ascend to Lexington, Kentucky.

It couldn’t get here quick enough, and I was ready to start a new life. But, to be completely transparent, I was exhausted. The emotional and mental anxiety I felt about the whole move took a toll, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Lexington to our final destination of the twin’s granny’s house.

On July 8th, 2005, we said our final “goodbyes” to Patricia and Melanie and boarded our airplane Kentucky bound. I had all my three kids with me, and we were together. As our airplane lifted in the air and the kids got settled for the fight across the country, the weight I had carried my whole life from caretaking for Patricia started to lift off me. The closer we got to Kentucky, the freer I felt and the lighter life became. The burden of Patricia disappeared into nothingness. I had never felt so free in my entire life.

After 31 years on earth, I could finally work on myself, find myself, and be a better version of myself for my kids and future grandkids. But unfortunately, I could never do this with Patricia in my life.

We landed in Lexington, KY, on July 8th, 2005, and we got a ride from the airport to the twin’s granny’s house. We settled in a small bedroom with twin bunk beds and one twin bed. I slept on the floor in the middle of the beds in a small space just for me. We slowly got used to our new surroundings.

I didn’t have a bank account, a car, keys to anything, our own home, or a job. I only had about $300.00 to my name and some food stamps, but we had each other, and my kids had me. Welcome to Kentucky, where new beginnings are born, and a new chapter is about to begin. I had no idea what was in store, but I knew the next 31 years of my life would be better than the first 31 years.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 16. Five Years in Salt Lake City – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

I remember several life-altering experiences during our five years in Salt Lake City. I was drinking my life away, partying while working, and being a single mom. I was in one relationship in the five years I was there. I think my relationships with men always filled the void in my life from relinquishment from my birth mother. Alcohol also filled the void and got me in a heap of trouble on many occasions.

I was invited to a party, desperate to make friends and be social in a city much more extensive than Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Lexington, Kentucky. I drove across the valley to the party and remember leaving entirely intoxicated to find my way home. I ended up at a gas station in Ogden, Utah, about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. I was going the wrong way; however, I was so trashed I had no idea how to find my way home.

Anything could have happened to me that night. I could have killed myself or killed someone else. I am not proud of any time of my life I chose to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated. I have only blamed myself and felt deeply regretful for my choices in life. I am sharing these pieces, so you have a glimpse of my relationship with alcohol for 27 years of my life.

I stopped at a gas station and asked some guys getting gas which way is Salt Lake City. They told me to follow them, but when I turned around, I backed into a gas pump that I didn’t see. So I pulled off as if it didn’t happen. I followed the guys to get back on the highway, and then I had no memory of the rest of the night or how I got home. I woke up in bed the following day and was shaken. I acknowledged to myself that I had a drinking problem. There was no denying I made awful choices when drinking alcohol, which also made me very selfish. Alcohol and drug abuse do that to a person.

However, deep down, this experience scared the shit out of me. I am sure I resonated with myself and switched from drinking liquor to beer only on the weekends. I seemed to find ways to try to tame my drinking, yet it never stuck. Finally, the weekend would roll around, and I was back to the old me, forgetting about the changes I had made.

In 2004, I had a few friends over to play cards and have some drinks. The kids were tucked in bed, sleeping soundly. Naturally, I usually drank more than everyone and was the party’s life until the sun rose; however, this night was different. Somehow, suddenly after one drink, I lay my head down on the table, which was entirely out of my character. That was the last of my memories that night.

I remember waking up groggy the following day around 7 am with the guy I invited over sitting on the edge of my bed, he was fully clothed, and I was not. He tried to wake me up and tell me it was time to get my kids up for school. I remember feeling such a heaviness in my eyes, mind, body, and the entirety of my being that I had never experienced before. I could barely open my eyes or function.

I thought to myself, “What the hell happened last night?” But with me having no clothes on, it was obvious what happened, but I didn’t have a single memory of it. I could barely communicate with this guy. Finally, he said he was leaving and knew I had to get my kids up for school. I managed to wake them, get them dressed and send them out to get to school.

I remember going back to sleep, and it had appeared that I overslept, sleeping all day and missing meeting my kids at the bus stop to pick them up after school at 3 pm. This was so out of my character; I still had no clue what had happened to me at that time. I just knew something was deeply wrong with me. I had never felt so out of it, and all over one drink? It wasn’t a hangover, it was much more, but I didn’t understand it.

Trying to understand, I called my girlfriend, because I was playing cards with her boyfriend and the guy I knew, asking her what had happened. She said we were playing cards, and all of a sudden, I laid my head on the table, and they all got me to my bed, put the cards away, and all three of them, even the guy I knew, left together.

She said they locked the doors up, and that was it. When I told her he was there and he woke me up this morning, and that I had no clothes on, and how groggy I was, that is when we put two and two together that he had to have slipped a roofie in my drink. He also unlocked my patio door, which he reentered when my friend and her boyfriend left. I was completely shaken up.

To top things off, I slept for the next 24 hours without feeling like myself again, and I was so traumatized by this situation that it truly changed me. Sadly, my conclusions were validated by the guy gaining access to my banking information and stealing money by draining my bank account. An innocent card game and socialization with friends turned into this reality. And one of the pieces that I have never been able to forgive myself for is that my kids were all home tucked in asleep. I felt awful.

How many times in my life would something like this happen before I finally accept that I have a problem with alcohol and making bad choices? Instead, I internalized this whole experience, and I blamed myself. I should have never invited that guy over, and I should have never drank at all. I never even considered pressing charges because I see what women go through when things like this happen to them.

They get dragged and humiliated, and it wouldn’t even be worth it for me. It would be my word against his, and I locked this secret up and moved on with my life, but it greatly impacted me, and I hadn’t felt so awful and degraded in years. It was clear that I didn’t make very good choices at times, and even when I wanted my kids to have the world, that empty void in my life was prominent and gigantic.

As long as alcohol was in my life, I took the risk of these events happening repeatedly. Sadly, I still couldn’t sit with myself sober. And most days, I couldn’t sit with myself at all. I still had deep-rooted hate for myself. I felt defeated and broken, and it set in the most when I was alone.

One of my greatest fears was always that if something happened to me, what would happen to my kids? Patricia would get them, especially when I had no other family around. This terrified me, and I had dreams about her trying to take my kids from me. As my kids got older, things started to stir inside that I wanted and needed to do better and be better, but how?

Patricia continued to be a deep-rooted trigger to me from all my memories and experiences with her during my life and childhood. She was a big responsibility for me besides being a mother to my three kids. She was still heavily consumed with taking prescription pain pills, and she slept a lot. At this point, Patricia had convinced herself she could no longer work due to health issues.

I don’t think she had a job at all the five years we lived in Salt Lake City, and she was only 54 years old at the time. At this stage of her life, I helped her as much as I could, and she got a lot of attention for being sick and reeled innocent people into her life to “help her” manage everyday tasks. She was always excellent at manipulating churches into feeling sorry for her, so they would donate money to her and help her pay her bills. She also sued two companies to get settlements for various reasons.

She would constantly talk about her health issues, overtake prescription pills, drink back-to-back Pepsis, watch television until late at night, and sleep half the day away. Finally, she convinced everyone around her that her health was deteriorating and that she needed to walk with a cane.

However, I saw through her windows one day, stopping by for a visit, that she was walking around fine without a cane. Yet, when I rang the doorbell to alert her of my presence, she went to grab the cane and started limping on her way to answer the door. I had constant conversations that she should stop drinking so much Pepsi she consumed morning, noon, and night. It was all she drank, and she wondered why her bones were failing her and her health.

It was 2005, and I knew I had to make a significant change for myself and my kids. While I had allowed Patricia to babysit when I needed help, I had no choice. When I visited her with the kids, I began to have flashbacks of my childhood and started seeing my kids treated like I was growing up.

Wherever she lived was messy, and my kids were responsible for all the chores to clean her home. And, of course, I was also. So they started sharing how she had them massage her body, brush her hair, and clean for nickles, dimes, and quarters. But once it was time for them to cash in on their hard-earned chore money, she needed it for bills, and they never got what was owed to them.

It was clear to me that for me to ever be free, I had to get away from Patricia. I wanted to find myself, and being in a toxic co-dependent relationship with her was standing in the way of this happening. She was a huge responsibility, and she had been since I was caretaking for her as a small child. But unfortunately, she never nurtured me or cared about how huge of a burden she was for me to deal with my entire life.

I had never been away from her for even 24 hours, and she had never acknowledged or accepted that MY LIFE IS NOT HER LIFE. She did not own me and could no longer attempt to control and manipulate me. She had no friends of her own, and there was no doubt that my kids and I were feeding her toxic narcissistic supply.

Due to her convincing herself that she was sick with every ailment known to man in her early 50s, she started pressuring me to be her power of attorney. I became increasingly infuriated at the thought of taking on this responsibility of being Patricia’s POA my entire life. I had three kids to take care of, my hands were full, and she kept pressing about this topic. I think in her mind, this would be her way of controlling me because then, I would be in charge legally of many of her health issues and medical decisions eventually.

Considering I have already spent 31 years of my life being the sole caretaker for Patricia, the thought of being her POA almost made me have a heart attack and the idea that anyone would expect me to sign up for this blew me away. I was only 31, and she was just 54. Why was she pressuring me for this? Oh, that’s right. I will never forget all her conversations with me about not wanting to go to a nursing home. That’s really what this was all about, which is why she adopted two daughters, to begin with. I knew there was always an ulterior motive.

Melanie seemed to keep her distance from Patricia’s toxicity and popped in and out on occasion. I rarely saw Melanie when we lived in Salt Lake City, but she did help in ways when I had the fire, which I appreciated. But she threw every bit of help in my face, accusing me of being a user and an awful person. It was no secret we were like night and day. We didn’t have anything in common, and we still had some deep-rooted tension from unresolved childhood wounds. However, I was always more responsible for caretaking for Patricia because she helped me with the kids, so I owed her.

Patricia constantly played Melanie and me against one another, just like pawns from our childhood. She would tell Melanie things about me to turn her against me, and she would tell me things about Melanie to turn me against her. Once again, it was apparent we never stood a chance at being sisters because Patricia’s triangulation tactics constantly stirred the trouble and drama pot. These realities took me to a breaking point in my life and my relationship with Patricia. Yet, when I confronted her, she would deny anything was wrong. Finally, one day I decided that if I didn’t leave and move away with my kids, my likely future would be that of a grave one. It was life and death for me.

I had a small hope that one day Patricia would get better and be a healthy, happy mom and grandma to my kids. But it was clear that no one was getting better when we lived in the same city and had a co-dependent connection. Maybe being at a distance, we might have a chance at a normal mother and daughter relationship? I could only hope.

I sincerely wanted my kids to have a happy, healthy mom, which I never had. I could never achieve this being in such close quarters with Patricia. I was not in a good mental headspace and could not continue my life in this toxic negativity. She was the most significant trigger I had, based on my 31 years with her, and it was time to part ways.

Like everywhere else, Salt Lake City had no resources for adult adoptees. I spent about a year contemplating the idea of moving away, but how would I survive without Patricia? How would I live with three small kids with no family support? Where would we go?

Finally, in January of 2005, I decided that moving back to Kentucky would be the best option for my kids and me. Iowa was out of the question, so I started planning the move. Little did I know that no one in Salt Lake City besides my best friend, Kelli, supported my decision.

I thought long and hard about how this decision would impact my three kids. I knew that they would be impacted due to leaving Patricia and Melanie, but I also knew that I had to save myself. I was never going to prosper in life or find myself as long as I was close to them.

While I acknowledge they each have their own feelings about it, I also feel wholehearted that I made the best decision for us all. I am thankful they will never know the depths of what I have had to carry my whole life due to being adopted into this dynamic, and I never want them to feel what I feel and at the depts that I feel it. Because of this, I know they will never fully understand the layers and complexities of making this decision, not only for me but for them. It was either stay, and I likely end up dead or in prison, or leave and try to find myself and be a better mom for them than I had.

We weren’t saying goodbye forever. I had high hopes that my relationships with Melanie and Patricia would strengthen after some time, and we could visit one another on different terms. I hoped we could all separate and get healthy and reconnect later; maybe things would be different. I needed to grow up and stop depending on Patricia. Patricia needed to find herself and get healthy. In the meantime, Melanie can spend some time catering to Patricia like I have for the last 31 years of my life, all by myself.

Melanie accused me of playing the “Kentucky Card,” and while she set her own boundaries with Patricia, now that I was ready to set my own boundaries for my kids and myself, I was treated like the worst human in the world. But one thing about me. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’m not a talker; I’m a doer. So Patricia and Melanie thought I was full of it and that I wasn’t serious about moving back to Kentucky in 2005. The more they assumed I wasn’t serious, the more I packed what felt like an escape in private planning.

Moving back to Kentucky without family was the hardest decision ever made. But, once again, I knew I was on my own. So I saved up every dime and carefully planned my escape from Patricia. Ultimately, this decision saved my life, and it wasn’t one I made lightly. At times I was physically ill thinking about moving away with my kids all alone, and at other times I was overjoyed at the thought of what life would be like without this enormous weight of caretaking for Patricia hanging over my head. I had never lived one day without feeling like she was my responsibility, but that was about to change.

I longed for a day to focus on myself and my kids without the co-dependent relationship with Patricia that I felt trapped in. I looked forward to the day when I could wake up daily, experience each day in freedom, and in return, find myself. Each day closer to the move across the country felt like another day closer to my great escape.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 15. Deal Breaker – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 15.

Deal Breaker

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.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 13. The Naive Adoptee – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 13.

The Naive Adoptee

Even when the signs were right before me, I was still the naive adoptee. Putting myself “out there,” never dreaming for a million years that things could end up a different way than I had imagined. A lifetime of fantasizing about Eileen and being told she “loved me so much” couldn’t possibly prepare me for the reality that would unfold over the next 15 years of my life.

A few weeks after returning to Kentucky from visiting Eileen for the first time, I called her to say, “Hello.” The phone rang, and rang, and rang. No one answered. I left a voicemail, “Hi Eileen; I was calling to say hello and see how you were. Call me when you can. I hope you are well. – Pam.”

I didn’t hear back from her, so I tried calling her several times over many months, but that turned into years. Finally, I mailed a few cards and letters to let her know I was thinking about her. She never responded to me, but I couldn’t give up or give in.

The little girl in me couldn’t acknowledge nor accept what was happening. Alcohol helped me escape. I never did come to grips with the reality that she didn’t want to hear from me and never wanted to meet me.

Looking back, I think Joanna was “twisting her arm,” so to speak, when it came to our meeting, and she did it to be a good sport. But, the open wound from the rejection and abandonment that I felt from Eileen are wounds that have impacted me at every step of my journey and life in every way.

The abandonment is separate from the rejection, but they are intertwined thoroughly. I feel abandoned because she left me with strangers and never came back. I felt rejected because once I found her and tried to rekindle a relationship, she didn’t want a relationship with me.

How could I be so naive in believing my whole life that “her loving me so much” would mean she would want a relationship with me one day? At 47 years old, I think I can answer that question through the fantasies that plagued my mind. My fantasies ultimately began because of deception from my beginnings, being altered, and being severed from my biological roots and truth. My story was a secret from me, which should be against the law.

I couldn’t fathom that the woman I had put on a pedestal for so many years didn’t want to know me or have a relationship with me. The little bit that could tap into that reality was overcome by the hope that one day she would change her mind. I was never going to stop wishing she would change her mind. This kept an open wound that only another adoptee could understand.

The emotional and mental torment I felt resulted from the biggest disappointment of my life: a failed reunion and relationship with my birth mother. I felt utterly alone during this time, creating a split in my internal dialogue and life. On one side, I had my adoptive family and my life experiences with them.

On the other side was my biological family. Keeping them separate was challenging, but it also came naturally because I was doing this from a young age in silence. But these were big experiences and big feelings to keep silent; however, I had no choice.

My adoptive parents had no clue what I was going through because they never discussed adoption or the implications of a failed adoption experience. They also never talked about my birth family, ever. It was like an elephant-in-the-room-type topic.

The one chance at a face-to-face meeting with Eileen turned out to be the only time I was ever allowed to meet her and get to know her in my lifetime. Unfortunately, after that one meeting in 1995, she shut the door and put about 100 locks on it, and I never saw or heard from her again. No matter how hard I tried, she would rather die alone than allow me to be in her life: no goodbye, no reason, no note or letter to explain why she made this choice. I heard nothing from her after our one meeting in 1995. Sadly, my reunion with Joanna soured not long after and I was completely broken hearted about both failed reunions. Joanna and I also lost touch for over a decade but not at my choosing. I reached out to her many times, only to get crickets in return.

Am I such an awful person that I deserved this? What did I do or say wrong? Sadly, it would be many more years later that I would make sense of it all, but until that time in my life, I was a complete trainwreck. I internalized all my feelings. As a result, I didn’t understand it all, nor did I know how to heal from the pain I was feeling. Therapists had failed me miserably, and I had also failed myself.

I never gave up searching for my birth father. I knew that one day I would come face to face with him but I didn’t know how. I always wondered if I had more siblings and if finding him would be a better experience than what I had with my failed reunions with Eileen and Joanna. Alcohol again stepped in and allowed me not to feel or heal, so I rode the waves of the party life. I knew at the end of the day, even if I wanted to heal, there were no healing tools for me, the naive adoptee.

Through it all, in 1997, at 24 years old, I would receive some of the best news of my life, and everything shifted, at least for a while. I stuffed my adoptee reality deep down, and new and meaningful things would arise to take front and center.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 12. Illusions – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 12.

Illusions

Joanna picked me up from the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, the town I was born in, where Eileen lived. It was a cool crisp morning in September of 1995. The leaves started falling and stirring on the ground, adding beautiful colors to the landscapes.

The drive to Eileen’s was only about 10 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Then, finally, we pulled up in her driveway, and I was anxious but on cloud nine simultaneously. I had no idea what to expect, but I know I had fantasized about this day my entire life. I was hoping for an immediate connection, a long motherly embrace to compensate for the lost 21 years together. I silently wished for a reunion as we see on all the television shows, you know, the warm fuzzy ones full of emotion and warmth.

We pulled up Eileen’s driveway, and I got out of the car with Joanna. My heart was racing. We both walked to the side door of Eileen’s house on Wilson Avenue. Joanna knocked, and the door opened a few short moments later. A thin, frail woman appeared before me who looked nothing like I had fantasized about my whole life. I didn’t feel the connection I had always thought I would.

Eileen had a short haircut curled back with sandy blonde hair. She wore blue jeans and a red sweatshirt that had mickey on it. She looked slim and slender, not over 100lbs. She stood about 5’10 and met me with a grin as she opened the door. However, she wasn’t warm, she didn’t hug me, and she wasn’t emotional in the slightest regard, more like standoffish.

“Come on in,” Eileen said with a half-grin as she held the screen door open for Joanna and me. We walked up the stairs, and I followed Joanna into the dining room. We met Nan, Eileen’s sister, and Barb, who was Eileen’s best friend. They were already sitting at the table waiting on Joanna and me.

We all sat down, but first, Eileen asked if I wanted a drink as she had already prepared hers ahead of time. I said, “Sure, I will take whatever you are drinking.” Joanna settled with some water.

She came back from the kitchen with a “Rum and Coke.” I thanked her. At the time, this was a dream come true. Finally, I was sitting face to face with the woman who gave me life, and we were having a drink together too! My prayers were answered, and my dreams finally came true.

Aside from giving birth to my daughter, this was undoubtedly the best day of my life. We all got settled, and Eileen lit a cigarette, took a drag, and said, “So, how was your life?”

All eyes were on me. Later I would learn this was a “make it or break it” moment. Everything was on the line.

I had no idea that this experience and conversation would forever change the trajectory of our interactions with one another. If I knew then what I know now, I likely would have shared a lighter version of how my life was up until that moment.

However, I am a genuine, raw, and honest person, so I only prepared ahead of time to share the truth about how my life had been up until that point. No one expressed the implications of sugarcoating the truth with Eileen, so I went all in sharing my life as I experienced it up until that moment we came face to face.

“Well, my adoptive parents divorced when I was one year old, and I was raised in a single-parent home, on welfare with my adoptive mom, who was addicted to pills and had untreated mental health issues. We have never had a good relationship, and I have never bonded with her as a mother and daughter should. She was emotionally and mentally abusive and tried to commit suicide in front of us many times, and used this as a weapon to control us. She also tied us to chairs and wouldn’t let us go outside to play,” I said.

I also expressed, “I have an adopted sister that was adopted a year before me, and my adopted dad remarried, moved over an hour away, and I gained a step mom and three step brothers. He took us for summer vacations and saw us every other weekend. Until I decided I no longer wanted to go in my early teens because the oldest step-brothers molested me repeatedly when I was young. I haven’t seen them in a long time. My adoptive mom got a job in Kentucky, so we moved when I was 17. “

On a lighter note, I shared some things about my daughter, Keila, Eileen’s biological granddaughter, who was genuinely the happiest part of my story. I also shared that I went back to school to graduate, and I had plans to go to college one day. However, I felt like I was on the spot and didn’t have many warm fuzzy pieces to tell her.

So instead, I told her I dreamed of her every day of my life and that she was the only thing missing. Everyone got quiet as if they didn’t expect to hear these things. I am confident that my birth mother and others had hoped to hear a wonderful and happy life story, but my story was quite the opposite of the picture-perfect adoption story.

I asked Eileen if she could share a little about herself and her life, and she did. However, she kept her sharing at the bare minimum, giving me tiny pieces of who she was and what she liked to do, almost as if it was enough to satisfy my curiosity, but nothing more.

The rum and coke were needed to calm my nerves after sharing these personal details of my life with four essential strangers. It was tense, but somehow I got through it. Eventually, I got up enough nerve to ask my birth mother about my birth father again.

She said the same thing she told me on the phone, “He didn’t know anything about you, and he wouldn’t want to know.” One thing was for sure; she wouldn’t tell me who my birth father was if her life depended on it. She was taking that secret to her grave with her.

Joanna shared a personal piece of her life on this day that she, too, was a birth mother, and she had a full-blood brother to her five-year-old son and gave him up for adoption. I found that this news took me back a bit. I always hear stories of our kids following in our footsteps, but this took it to a new level.

Joanna said she wasn’t aware that Eileen had me and had given me up for adoption because she was only four years old. However, she had her baby and gave it up for adoption also. It was almost a celebratory vibe behind them both giving their babies up for adoption. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was taking notes in my mind and trying to retain all the details I had learned about my newfound family.

We sat together for approximately two hours, getting to know one another. Once our visit seemed to wrap up, we all took pictures together. I had more hopes that we would see one another again and keep our lines of communication open. The naive adoptee in me believed this would be the beginning of the relationship I always dreamed of. Little did I know, I created more adoptee illusions in my mind, and the hardcore reality would soon set in.

Most adoptees form fantasies and illusions in their minds about their biological families, especially our birth mothers. What does anyone expect us to do? When our reality is hidden from us, we have no choice.

The illusion that my birth mother was some beautiful woman from Hollywood, California, was shattered. Sadly, I didn’t feel like she was pretty like I always dreamed she would be. Instead, she looked like alcohol and cigarettes had taken a toll on her life. She looked far beyond her age of 50, more like her upper 60’s. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly built up a fantasy in my mind of the magical, mystical, flawless, and embracing birth mother. I was greatly disappointed to have the reality be a stark contrast to my fantasy.

It’s similar to when a family has a child snatched up off the street, and they are frantic searching for them, but they have been abducted, nowhere to be found. That feeling they have searching for them everywhere they go, never giving up or giving in, plagues them and creates a never-ending internal torment until they are found. But they can outwardly express their grief, loss, and sadness. Adoptees can not. We keep it all locked inside for an entire lifetime, but most of us never stop wondering or searching.

Her face tells it all…

While I was over the moon to finally have my dreams come true and see the woman who gave me life, I will always wish I would have kept my sharing to a bare minimum regarding my heartache and heartbreak. I will always regret that I didn’t ask more questions, take more notes and stay longer.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 11. High Hopes – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 11.

High Hopes

I was elated that I was on the phone with the woman I had fantasized about my entire life. “I have thought of you every year on your birthday, and I hope you have had a great life. What is it you would like to know?” Eileen said.

“I would love to learn more about you and your life. Do I have any siblings?” I said

“Well, I enjoy Rod Stewart, he’s my favorite artist. I collect Garfield memorabilia, and I have one daughter, but she doesn’t know anything about you, and I prefer to keep it this way” she said.

“Thank you for sharing. Can you tell me who my biological father is?” I said?

“Actually, I can’t share his information. He didn’t know anything about you, and trust me – he wouldn’t want to”, she said.

I was taken back by this, but we chatted for about five minutes, and I said, “If I sent you some pictures and a letter in the mail, would you possibly be able to write me back and send a photo of yourself?” I was dying to know what she looked like! Did I look like her?

“Yes, that would be fine. I look forward to that” she said.

I was over the moon and almost giddy. I wasn’t sure what to think about being a secret from my biological sister or the information about my biological father. Still, I glossed over it at the chance to get to know my birth mother better.

We ended the call, and I immediately started looking for photos of myself so that I could get together a photo album made just for Eileen. I retrieved photos of me being a newborn, toddler, and childhood. I found a few photos of my teenage and early adult years. I also included a few photos of Keila, her biological granddaughter.

I remember writing a poem for her that said, “My prayers were answered, my dreams finally came true, and all of this occurred the day I found you.”

I also wrote a letter telling her a little about myself and that I was looking forward to learning more about her, seeing her picture, and getting her letter in the mail. So I put a little photo album and package together, along with the letter and poem, and mailed it off to her the next day.

I couldn’t wait to get her letter back and finally see what she looked like. So I waited a few days, and then I started to check the mail about a week after sending my mail off to her. I knew the mailman always came around noon, so I would sit by the window and wait for his mail truck to roll up.

Then, as soon as I saw him coming, I would fly out the door to retrieve the mail. I could feel the excitement and anticipation from the tips of my toes to the top of my head!

A week passed, and then two weeks. After that, I thought maybe she was busy, so I gave it more time. Then three weeks passed, and then a month. Two months passed, and then three months. Finally, I started to get weary and couldn’t understand why she didn’t write back to me.

Maybe she didn’t get my pictures and letters? What if I had the wrong address? I better make sure she got them! So I decided to make a phone call and ask her myself.

I called Eileen, and this time the phone rang, and rang and rang. Finally, her voicemail picked up, and I left her a voicemail asking her to call me back at her earliest convenience. I was never going to stop waiting on her call, but I never received a return call. I was still running out every day to meet the mailman, and I had the phone close to me in case she called.

Three months turned into six months, and it was apparent Eileen wasn’t going to keep her word about writing me back. Deep down, I was crushed. But I thought she loved me so much? So why was she not writing me back? I internalized this in a significant way as if it was my fault. People tell adoptees always to prepare when they are searching and entering reunion; however, there is no natural way to prepare for what I was experiencing.

But, at this time, I had a decision to make. I could disappear as if I didn’t exist on this earth. Eileen’s secret would be kept hidden away from the world, and I would be the compliant adoptee. Or I could move along to find my biological sister, Joanna.

I decided to reach out to Joanna because I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork or agree to be anyone’s secret. At this stage, I had nothing to lose! So I reached out to Josie, who gave me Joanna’s address. I wrote a short but sweet letter, introducing myself and letting her know I was her long-lost sister and I would love to hear from her and get to know her. Once again, I had high hopes she would reach back out to me. So I mailed the letter off, and the waiting game began again.

I continued to fly to the mailbox waiting on any correspondence from Eileen and Joanna, only to be disappointed every time. Still, at 47 years old, I think of Eileen whenever I walk to my mailbox.

Saturday afternoon, my cell phone rang, and it was a call from an Oregon area code. I quickly answered, “Hello.”

“Hi Pam, it’s your sister Joanna. I received your letter in the mail today!” she said. Again, I was overwhelmed with emotions. My sister, I was finally talking to my REAL BIOLOGICAL SISTER! Another dream come true. We started to share a little information about one another, and she expressed that she always wanted a sister growing up as an only child.

She decided to fly to Kentucky the following week with her husband so we could meet in real life for the first time. I was 21 years old, and she was 25 years old. Friday couldn’t get here fast enough. I couldn’t believe I would be seeing my first biological relative aside from Keila. I was over the moon.

She arrived, we hugged for what seemed like forever, and we talked about our lives. She shared that Eileen was an alcoholic and still is and that they didn’t have a very close relationship growing up. She always wished she had a sister, and now she did. We spent several days together, and she told me she would talk with Eileen and set up a meeting between us.

Two months later, I was on an airplane to Iowa to meet Eileen for the first time. I was nervous but excited, with high hopes at the same time. I still hadn’t seen her picture, nor did I know what she looked like. Was she pretty like I always fantasized she was?

Of course, in a matter of hours, I would see her face for the first time, and hopefully, it would be the beginning of making up for lost time and a beautiful relationship.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 9. A Reason to Live – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 9.

A Reason to Live

The next few years of my life were blurred, and the memories I have during this period aren’t genuinely happy or wholesome. I was constantly partying, and the less I had to sit with myself, the better. Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to party brought on a whole “fun” side of life; however, it was all a mask to cover up the internal sadness and heartache I felt.

I still thought of my birth mother, but at this stage of my life, living states away, DNA wasn’t a thing, nor was the internet, so I had no clues to go on when it came to finding her. Was she looking for me? If she “loved me so much,” I hoped she would be. But instead, internal sadness loomed as a dark cloud hung over my head, following me everywhere I went.

I dreamed my whole life that she was a beautiful woman with long ash blonde hair and possibly a movie star in Los Angeles. Maybe she was someone famous? It’s strange, but I never obsessed about my birth father as I did about my birth mother. Now I know that’s because my birth mother and I were connected on a primal level which was very different than being connected with my birth father.

After a lifetime of heartache, in November of 1993, my whole world changed. It was a cold fall morning, and I remembered I was supposed to start my period earlier in the week, but it didn’t come. So I waited a few days and decided to take a pregnancy test.

At 20 years old, I learned I was pregnant, and my life would change forever. So naturally, I became excited about the new baby that would come. Although I still had fears due to the miscarriage, I had high hopes that I was in a somewhat better space at this time than I was at 15 years old. I chose to change many things in my life due to the new idea of bringing a baby into the world.

I stopped drinking alcohol and using drugs, and I stopped partying. I made a doctor’s appointment and started to attend regular OBGYN appointments monthly throughout the entire pregnancy. I started buying baby items and filling a space with baby things. I learned my due date was June 21, 1994, and I was having a baby girl.

As my baby belly grew, I couldn’t help but think more of my birth mother. I would ponder thoughts about her during my pregnancy, wondering if she experienced the same or similar things during her pregnancy with me. How did she feel when she felt me move when she was pregnant with me? How turbulent was her pregnancy and delivery with me? Was she happy or sad? Even with new things happening in my life, she was never far from my mind.

Then, about five months into the pregnancy, I felt my baby girl move for the first time, which I described as more like a flutter. It was a magical experience. It was no secret that I loved my daughter and would do whatever I had to raise her to the best of my abilities as a single mother.

I broke the news to Patricia; at first, she cried, and then she got excited. Our relationship was still rocky, and I wasn’t close to her, but I tolerated her only because I had no choice. Patricia became consumed with my pregnancy, which is better than the alternative; however, it was a tricky dynamic to navigate. Part of me felt like she was viewing my pregnancy as her pregnancy, giving me creepy vibes, but there was nothing I could do about it. I still lived with Patricia, and because I had no family in Kentucky, it seemed like I depended on her more and more. I was not too fond of it, but I had no choice as a single mother with no other family, exactly how Patricia wanted it.

This dynamic created a co-dependent relationship between the two of us, and it was one I didn’t ask for. But, I was convinced I needed her in my life to help because I had no other options available, so I took it. She had me right where she wanted me, in a city all alone, all to herself.

As my pregnancy and belly grew, so did my independence. My need to want to do better increased, and I knew I had to change my old ways to create a happier childhood for my daughter than I had. At all costs, I wanted to keep her safe, away from anyone that could ever hurt her.

I wish I could say I worked on all the previous traumas I had experienced before becoming a mother, but instead, I put them all on the shelf and put my “mom” hat on by putting my daughter first. I had no idea how these traumas would revisit throughout my lifetime, but one thing is for sure – we can run, but we can’t hide forever. They would catch up to me eventually.

The crib and baby room were all set up with Lion King, filled with baby girl things, and a white rocking chair so we could rock our days and nights together. I was never more ready to take on the responsibility of being a mother. Of course, the world might have said differently; after all, I wasn’t married, and I was having a bi-racial baby out of wedlock as a white woman. I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have a high school diploma or even a car. But I had me to give to her, and in my eyes, that was the most important thing. I knew the rest would all work itself out.

On June 18, 1994, I brought a beautiful baby girl, Keila, into the world. She weighed 7lbs 4 oz, and she was 21 inches long. She was perfect! She had all her fingers and toes and a head of brown hair. But unfortunately, I remember she was born with a touch of jaundice, and they had to keep her in the hospital two extra days after I was released to go home.

I remember going home without her, and I had a total meltdown. I went into her bedroom, shut the door, and collapsed on her bedroom floor. I will never forget this feeling as long as I live. I sobbed harder than I ever had in my entire life. I wanted my baby to be with me, but they wouldn’t let me bring her home for a few more days. I was heartbroken.

This triggered some powerful feelings about my birth mother. Did she feel like this when she left the hospital without me? How did she overcome that sadness that seemed to take my breath away? How did she cope or manage life with losing her baby? Did she block it all out? She “loved me so much,” so she must be distraught at my loss?

Thoughts plagued my mind about her pregnancy with me. I wished I could find her to ask her all about it. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby at the hospital to never returning for her. The pain I experienced for the two days we were apart would kill me if it lasted a lifetime. This experience showed me a glimmer of what birth mothers must feel when choosing adoption when they depart without their baby. If they feel this way, imagine what the baby feels at no choice of their own?

A few days passed, and I could pick Keila up from the hospital. Finally, I had something to live for because she needed me, and I needed her. She loved me, and I loved her. I can, without a doubt, share that June 18, 1994, was the best day of my life. It was the first time I looked into the eyes of someone’s DNA connected to me in my whole life. I was amazed at the beautiful baby girl looking back at me.

We got into the swing of things, and I made one of the best choices of my life. First, I returned to school to graduate and get my high school diploma. Then, I started applying for based on your income apartments in the hope of getting approved for a two-bedroom for Keila and me. I was on public assistance and donated plasma every week, sometimes several times, to afford to pay for diapers and wet wipes.

While I embraced being a mother, the alcohol component picked up shortly after giving birth. Still, I managed it better than before, limiting my drinking to the evenings when Keila was already in bed. It was still hard for me to sit with myself sober, and that is when my past problems would try to come to visit. A drink or two or three would settle my mind from wandering back and overthinking my past by helping me fall asleep each night.

I started attending Family Care Center, a high school for young single mothers. There were many great things about this school, but one of them was that all the mothers could take their babies to school with them. In addition, they had social workers, a daycare, a dentist, and doctors’ offices on-site with the school. The bus picked us up each day and dropped us back off. I loved attending Family Care Center because Keila could come with me, and I could check on her throughout the day.

I was 21 years old, and Keila was around nine months old when I asked Patricia again, “Are you sure you don’t have any information on my birth mother? I want to find her!”

I was expecting the same answer she gave me my entire life; however, I got another one this time that would change my entire life’s trajectory.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 8. Transporting Trauma – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 8.

Transporting Trauma

Trigger Warning // Suicide // Physical Abuse

Approximately 6-8 hours after trying to leave this world, I woke up with a hazy and sluggish feeling all over my body and mind. I remember lying in bed thinking, “Damn, I woke back up! Wasn’t I supposed to be meeting the Devil at the gates of hell right about now?” I could hardly believe it.

Looking back over that time in my life, one of the most shocking things is that hell seemed like a better solution than living in my reality on earth. That is tremendous because I knew I was going to hell for everything I had done to deserve it, but I didn’t care because I was drowning in my sorrow. I just wanted the pain to go away.

Does this give the world a small glimpse of how significant my adoptee pain was? Possibly, for those who want to try to understand. I was crushed that I woke back up, I didn’t want to wake back up, and I had this enormous feeling of guilt that came over me that I couldn’t even kill myself right. I felt like a total failure despite all the other feelings I was dealing with.

I quickly clung to the bottle and drank myself out of my misery morning, noon and night. Drinking alcohol was the only way I could survive the pain I was feeling. For 27 years, It allowed me not to feel but opened a whole world of other problems that would have lifelong consequences.

Most people won’t understand this, but at times over the last five years, I have been presented with a question on various social media platforms that says, “If you were to tell your younger self something, what would you tell them?”

Sadly, the first thing that always comes to my mind, even at 47 years old, is “Take more pills!”

Still, to this day, I feel like if I could have found a way out, I wouldn’t have had to live with a lifetime of excruciating pain. I wouldn’t have passed on my pain to my kids and had so much to recover from. But instead, I would just be gone, with no legacy to leave other than a dead, deeply troubled adoptee and one that is nothing more than a menace to society.

However, the universe had other plans for me. I wish I could say I figured this out in my teenage or young adult years; however, it would be a long time before I understood this.

You would think this experience “changed me,” but what changed me the most is that I tried to kill myself, and not one single person knew about it or noticed. It felt like no one on the earth cared about me. It’s a hard pill to swallow. I didn’t “get better,” but I continued to spiral out of control.

I ended up taking Giovanni back, and our relationship was rocky, but we both confessed our love for one another. I won’t go into all the details of every dynamic of abuse I experienced with him, but it was a lot. We were both troubled and were constantly getting arrested for fighting.

Eventually, I ran away so much and continued to break the law that I found myself in a group home called Foundation 2. During my time in Foundation 2, I remember liking the structure there, just like I did when I was locked in drug and alcohol rehab. I remember staying several months, going home, and acting out repeatedly.

Unfortunately, Giovanni was back in jail, and we were separated again. I know Patricia looked at our time apart as a positive thing, but all I wanted was to be with Giovanni. When I say I loved him, I love him.

When I was 16, Patricia started talking about moving to Lexington, Kentucky, because she had a friend who lived there. So she planned a visit to look at jobs and the city. We arrived, spent five days sightseeing around Lexington, and saw the beautiful horse country we would soon call home.

I remember having mixed feelings about the move because I would be leaving the state where I hoped to find my birth mother. Wouldn’t it be more challenging for us to find one another states away? But, of course, I knew the answer was yes, and I always wondered if this was part of why Patricia wanted to leave Iowa because I never stopped asking about finding my birth mother. I would never give up on finding her, no matter what state I was in.

I was also conflicted because I would be leaving Giovanni and I have always felt like that was part of Patricia’s plan. While he was locked up, we wrote each other letters constantly, and I started to keep a collection of his letters in a big box, and after some time, it filled up. I would read them repeatedly, and they were my most prized possession. We would sometimes write to each other daily, sometimes receiving multiple letters each day. We hoped we would be back together again one day, and until then, we knew that even when distance separated us, we would always be in each other’s hearts.

I hadn’t seen Thomas, Laura, Melanie, or the boys in a long time when I stopped going for weekend visits. Our time spent together tapered off into nothingness.

We packed up a 22-foot U-Haul and arrived at our new three-bedroom home in Lexington, Kentucky, in the Fall of 1991. I didn’t know a single person in the whole town, but I was always great at making new friends anywhere I went.

I think Patricia had hoped I would turn a new page removing Giovanni from my life and luring me away from Cedar Rapids, where I was always in nonstop trouble combined with constant alcohol use. The thing is, I was still dealing with all the same issues, but the only thing that had changed was my surroundings.

I was 17 years old, in a new city, and she was back working the night shift again. The summer of 1992 rolled around, and the new Dr. Dre – The Chronic album had just come out. What did that mean? If you don’t know, never mind.

It was about to be on and popping in the city of Lexington because one thing is for sure, I was the life of the party anywhere I went, and I was always ready to get the party popping!

I was expected to enroll in an all-new high school that was predominantly black, and being a white girl from Iowa, and I started to make friends one by one. However, my time at Bryan Station Sr. High was short-lived. Patricia must have forgotten that I hated regular school, so I dropped out within a month, and at 18 years old, I was a high school dropout. However, I attended long enough to make new friends, and I made friends with some neighbors close to me.

I think my mind did sway a bit regarding the nagging desire to find my birth mother, but I feel that’s only because I was in a new city with new friends and new things to do. The deep-rooted abandonment was always there, but drinking daily forced it to take a back seat.

I remember going to my first party with my friend Dorthy who lived down the street from me. I didn’t know her that well, but after a while, I learned that we ended up at a crack house in East End. I remember being offered the drug and trying it. I would do anything to get out of my mind. It didn’t affect me, so I tried some more. I drank until the sun came down, sitting in a crack house surrounded by people I didn’t even know. I wanted to belong and be part of something, so I was along for the ride.

While the evening would wind down, everyone at the party was just getting started. So I decided I wanted to split, and although we didn’t have cell phones back then, I was pretty sure I could walk home and find my way.

I set off to walk home through East End and ended up waking up in the Fayette County Detention Center with a public intoxication charge. At 18 years old, I graduated from juvenile jail to the big house, and I remember not feeling anything about this reality. Once again, I felt disconnected from my body and did not care if I lived, died, or woke up in jail.

The internal hate I had for myself only traveled with me to Kentucky. While I know Patricia thought she was doing the right thing, my troubles only followed me, but now I was an adult, and my actions had real-life consequences. I called some of my neighbor kids who were friends of mine who had a brother that was 19 years old, and they came and got me out of jail. I was drinking the same day and didn’t learn a damn thing.

Patricia kept nagging me to get my GED or go back to school, but I shot down every attempt at a conversation, expressing that there was no point in returning to school because, in my mind, the world was going to end. I was profoundly depressed but masked every bit of this with drugs and alcohol. Finally, she nagged me to start therapy, and at 18, I decided to try it.

During round 382 of therapy, I sat in a new therapist’s office again. But unfortunately, of all the feelings I had pondered deep inside about my birth mother, my sadness, grief, and loss still never made their way into the appointment with the new therapist.

When we make our adoptive parent’s “dreams come true” to be parents, our feelings of sadness are automatically stuffed deep inside. It’s known in a very subtle way that feelings that aren’t positive, thankful, or grateful aren’t welcome. For me, there was a block there, and I don’t know how else to explain why adoption or the implications of separation trauma were once again never discussed. The therapist never brought it up or addressed it, so neither did I. To this day, I can’t wrap my brain around why adoption was never discussed in all the therapist’s offices I sat in throughout my whole life!

The therapists detected that I was suicidal and that I had no hope for the future. Duh. I did express that I never got along with Patricia, and I felt comfortable sharing with her all the things Mark did to me growing up and why I decided to stop going to Thomas’s house. This was the first time I had shared this with anyone.

She encouraged me to call Thomas and Laura while I was in her office to tell them about the childhood sexual abuse Mark is responsible for. She also wanted me to tell Patricia, so I did.

While speaking to Thomas and Laura on speaker phone, I expressed to them vague details of my experience with Mark, and they said they didn’t know why he would do such a thing, but they would reach out to his therapist and bring this topic to the table to get him some help. They speculated that maybe Mark was being sexually abused by the catholic priest at the church they used to drop us off at? No one knew, but they assured me they would address it with Mark. I didn’t get any resolve out of this other than bringing a secret to light and finally telling them what had happened. No one asked how this impacted me in my life or if I needed help with healing.

A big piece of me feels they want to blame my outbursts and acting out on the childhood sexual abuse alone, omitting adoption and separation from my birth mother is even a thing. How convenient of them.

Everyone seemed to sweep this under the rug, and we never discussed it again. Finally, when I told the new therapist I thought the world would end, she prescribed me Prozac and sent me on my way. I took the Prozac for a week and threw it in the trash. I never went back to that therapist again.

Not long after moving to Lexington, I learned Giovanni was arrested for burglary, kidnapping, and aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison in California. We still wrote off and on and professed our love for one another, but we tapered apart due to his lengthy prison sentence. He served 16 years, got out, and is currently back in prison as a persistent felony offender serving federal time.

I ended up in another abusive relationship that resulted in a broken nose, stitches between my eyes, and two black eyes. When people say you attract what you are, they aren’t lying. I felt horrible about myself, and I attracted horrible men.

Again, I numbed the pain with more drugs and alcohol. I was farther away from finding my birth mother than I ever had been, and I had little hope I would ever find her. Deep-down sadness and despair were masked with a fake smile and a party over at Pam’s!

Unfortunately, I had never healed from all the trauma I had experienced. Even transporting me to a new state, with a new school and new friends, my unresolved, unhealed separation and adoption trauma wounds transported with me. However, the other traumas from Diego, Mark, and Giovanni compacted the root traumas. I was a walking dead woman, feeling hollow and empty inside.

At 18 years old, I continued to find my way in the party lifestyle and made severe mistakes and bad choices along the way. I was going down a path of destruction, and most days, I didn’t care if I lived or died. I hated myself, the world, and everyone in it. I had so much anger and rage it consumed me. However, I always felt like my life would end early, and at this stage, I hoped it would.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

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📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 7. Goodbye World – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 7.

Goodbye World

Trigger Warning // Physical Assault // Violence // Suicide

Eventually, we left the small two-bedroom Westover Road apartment. Instead, we moved to a bigger three-bedroom townhome closer to Lyndale Mall.

My relationship with Giovanni became my whole world, filling a massive hole in my heart from losing my birth mother. Finally, having someone I loved who said they loved me back was a fantastic feeling.

Patricia forbid us from seeing one another, just like she forbid me from seeing Tasha. The more she tried to control what I did or who I hung around, the more I rebelled. She would sometimes come home, and Giovanni or Tasha would be hiding in my bedroom closet. They knew how to climb in, and out of my bedroom window, so we didn’t sweat it. We were still going to spend time together regardless.

When Thomas got wind of me dating someone black, he sat me down and talked with me. “Back in my days, we didn’t mix races, but if you’re happy, I’m happy.” And that was the end of his talk about race-mixing! He didn’t shame me or threaten me with hell. I could respect that times were different when he was coming up, and I appreciated his sentiments of hoping I was happy at the end of the day.

About five weeks after being released from drug and alcohol rehab, I learned I was pregnant. I shared the news with Giovanni, and we wrapped our heads around the reality we would have a baby together. We both became excited, and then I had to break the news to Patricia. Her initial reaction was that of tears, of course. But after she overcame the initial shock, she also wrapped her head around the idea she would have a grandbaby.

Little by little, I started to buy baby items, and I stored them away in a small corner of the spare room we had in the townhouse. Deep inside, I became excited at the thought of being a mother. I would never give my baby away as my birth mother gave me away. Because I knew what that deep-rooted pain felt like, I would never inflict that abandonment on my child.

As the weeks passed, I became attached to my baby, and the thought of being a mother, even at the age of 15, this was something I was ready to take on. I stopped drinking alcohol and using drugs right away. No more fighting or running the streets like I was used to. Finally, I had something to look forward to.

I got a job at the local Pizza Hut by the mall and would walk back and forth to work each day. At this point, high school was almost a non-factor, but I would agree to go back to Metro, but this agreement was short-lived. On a Saturday night in the summer of 1989, I learned Giovanni had gotten in a fight and got arrested at a bar in Czech Village on the S.W. side of Cedar Rapids. It was all over the news and in the newspaper the next day.

I remember being upset because I had no idea how long he would be gone, but being pregnant worried me. However, he was released after a few days after appearing in court. This resulted in him being put on probation, and he would turn himself into a probation officer every month. If he did anything else to break the law, he would be sent away for at least three, possibly five years.

While our relationship seemed to get stronger because we were going to start a family together, Giovanni’s temper and rage only increased as time passed. He became paranoid and would accuse me of things I didn’t do, which resulted in frequent physical attacks that I just took. I never fought him back because I knew it would not end well.

One Friday evening, when I was approx. 12 weeks pregnant, he accused me of messing around with someone he knew. However, I denied it because it wasn’t true. He drew his fist back and punched me in my chest as hard as he could. I remember falling back, losing consciousness for a short time, and gasping for air, but he knocked the wind out of me. As soon as I thought he might have some sympathy for me, he choked me, making me admit to talking to the guy. But, again, I didn’t admit it because it wasn’t true.

I started to cry, and after a few minutes, he started to apologize for what he had done. Then, he started to get emotional, telling me how much he loved me and that it would break his heart if I were ever with someone else. Then, he stopped with the paranoid accusation and started to get sympathetic. I was in pain because the chest blow completely knocked me out for a short time. I had red marks around my neck from him choking me.

After he spent some time apologizing, telling me how much he loved me, I turned the page and acted as if these events didn’t happen. But he said he loved me and stayed, which trumped all the emotional and physical abuse he inflicted on me.

The following week after these events, at 15 weeks, I started spotting, and my chest continued to hurt beyond my ability to handle the pain. Finally, I found myself in the Emergency Room with Patricia, where the nurses and doctors asked me what happened to cause the chest injury.

I covered for Giovanni at all costs because only a snitch would tell the truth of what happened. So I told them I got in a fight a few days earlier, and that was all I said.

They did some x-rays and learned I had a periosteal contusion of my chest bone from Giovanni punching me. They also did some tests and learned that the spotting was from me miscarrying the baby. I asked Patricia to please reach out to Giovanni at the hospital so he could be with me.

Not long after, I asked Patricia for a few minutes of privacy. Giovanni entered the hospital room, where I was all alone. He hugged me, told me he loved me and would be outside waiting for me. Soon a doctor came in asking Giovanni to have a seat in the waiting room, and he performed a DNC, ultimately removing the baby’s remnants from the womb. I remember becoming deeply sad and in tears, and I hated that experience to the core of my being.

Giovanni never said he was sorry, and I never connected the dots at the time that there was a very significant chance that his actions of physical abuse could have very well caused the miscarriage. I think that reality was too much for me to bare on top of losing the baby. So I tucked it away and acted like it didn’t exist. It was my secret, and I never told anyone close to me either. Besides, I was scared to lose Giovanni; he was my whole world.

The miscarriage triggered some emotions in me that heightened more feelings about my birth mother. I remember a sadness set in like never before, and I would think of her. Was this how she felt when she lost me to adoption? Was she sorrowful? No one talked to me about grieving the loss of the baby I miscarried, yet I was expected to move on and never think about them again. Is that what my birth mother was told when she gave me up for adoption? Thoughts of her plagued my mind, as well as thoughts of the baby I would have given birth to less than six months away.

The days and weeks following the miscarriage became a blur to me. My sadness spiraled out of control. I was heavyhearted and grieving like I never imagined.

I had noticed a distance between Giovanni and me, but it was more a time distance on his part. We didn’t spend as much time together or see one another after I lost the baby. But then, I would learn that Giovanni was seeing someone else and finding this news out crushed me. I also learned he had slept with Tasha, who was my closest friend at the time. So I confronted him, only for him to completely deny the accusations.

While we tapered off from seeing one another like we originally had, my alone time increased because now, not only did I lose the baby, but I felt like Giovanni was slipping from my grasp. My friendship with Tasha was over because she told me it was true; she slept with Giovanni. I was broken-hearted and couldn’t seem to shake it. I dreamed of my birth mother daily, sometimes hourly. I wish she were close, and I wish I knew where she was. She would make this all better, but the painful reality was that she was nowhere around.

Just a few months before my 16th birthday, I decided I wanted to end my life. I didn’t have the energy to write a note. I didn’t have the strength to ask for help. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So I went into Patricia’s room, grabbed a handful of her pills from her nightstand, and laid back in my bed. This was one of the darkest times of my life.

Why did I decide to share this piece of my story? Because at 47 years old, I genuinely believe the separation trauma from the loss of my birth mother impacted every area of my life. As long as therapists, counselors, adoptive parents, and others want to sweep this reality under the rug, adoptees will continue to be negatively impacted as I have been and so many of my fellow adoptees.

The abandonment I have felt my whole life has run deep to the core, and I believe I felt it in my subconscious memory and every fiber of my being. I believe that every decision I made growing up was a reflection of this trauma. I don’t have a fluffy adoption story that everyone wants to hear. I have a real story, and I want people to understand how abandonment and separation trauma from our biological mothers can impact us long-term.

I always share that I’m not into dishing out feel-good juice. I’m into dishing out the truth. I promised myself that I would always be true to myself and walk in my truth even when it might be uncomfortable for others. So this is why I am sharing MY TRUTH. This is not only for me, but so my fellow adoptees know they aren’t alone in feeling how they feel. They need to know they aren’t crazy. What’s crazy is removing babies from their mothers, expecting them to not have lifelong consequences. Adoptees are dying from the pain. If we want to make changes within the adoption arena, we have to stop softening our realities! My audible memoir is my adoptee reality.

I will never forget taking all the pills, swallowing five at a time with big gulps of water, taking at least 30 pills, if not more, hoping I could finally go to sleep and never wake again. This was because the pain I felt was too great and too much to feel. Finally, I truly felt I had nothing to live for, so I took the pills and nodded off to sleep.

Goodbye, world, were some of my last thoughts. I rocked myself to sleep all alone, as I usually did. Something about rocking made me feel close to my birth mother, and that’s all I wanted to be close to her in my last moments of life. I always wonder if she sat in a rocking chair pregnant with me?

During my last thoughts, I pondered with deep, heartbreaking sadness and tears streaming down my face soaking my pillow, that I would never get to look face to face with the woman I had dreamed of my whole life, my birth mother.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 6. Twisted Love – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 6.

Twisted Love

Trigger Warning // Physical Assault // Violence // Suicide

Now that I was no longer visiting the Rodriguez’s house, I had more free time on my hands most days. At this stage of my life, Patricia was still working the night shift, and when she was home, she slept all day. We rarely saw one another, but when we did, we fought consistently. My feelings of annoyance and unhappiness around her only increased. I was repulsed by her. I continued to ask her when I could find my birth mother, only to get the same response, “We don’t have enough money for an attorney, but when we do, we will try to get the closed records opened.” The less I had to be in Patricia’s presence, the better.

With Patricia working the night shift, I occasionally had friends over to party when she was at work. I would kick everyone out before she was supposed to get off, and sometimes I would leave myself. I was clearly out of control, and at 15 years old, I only had a few things on my mind, finding my birth mother, living up to the expectations of being bad, and partying hard.

I would make copies of Patricia’s car keys, hide them, and when I needed to get somewhere or wanted to joy ride, I would steal her car, sometimes even stealing it from her job in the middle of the night. She would get off work at 7 AM, and her car would be gone from the hospital parking lot. I taught myself how to drive and had endless keys made so I could escape by wheels when I wanted to. I acquired several grand theft auto charges along the way and only added these charges to the wall of shame, adding to the list of reasons for my badness. I definitely won the heathen of the year award every single year.

I was also a liar and a thief, and I didn’t care who I hurt. Did these traits come from my experiences being groomed by the Rodriguez family? Or did they come from the profound reality that my life was built on a bed of lies, normalizing the very concept of lying? Were they rooted in me acting out from separation trauma, compacted by the trauma I witnessed in my adoptive homes? Was I really just an awful and bad person? Could it be a combination of them all? The good adoptee was nowhere in sight; she was dead and gone, never to return.

I was invincible and entirely out of touch with my body, mind, and soul. It’s almost as if I was hollow inside, soulless. Feeling feelings were out of the question. But, on the other hand, I was a runner and always kept it moving. 99.9% of the time, no adult in my life knew where I was or could keep up with me. I wholeheartedly believe that not having a birth story, or roots planted anywhere made me feel like I wasn’t alive, which flipped a switch on the reality that dying was no big deal. It’s impossible to feel alive, when you feel like you were never born.

No birth story can impact adoptees significantly, but the world never listens to us. There were times in my teenage years that I just wanted to die. I wanted someone to kill me, and I would instigate fights in hopes that my heartache and pain would all be gone. Rage continued to build up, and I hated the world and damn near everyone in it.

I remember walking down the street on the S.E. side of town in Cedar Rapids, and at 15 years old, I found the boy’s home, where teenage boys lived who had been removed from their own homes for various reasons. Some broke the law, and some were abandoned by their parents. They would sneak other girls in and out the windows and me occasionally. I always felt connected to them, even if it was just friends. We shared some of the same wounds, specifically the mother wound. It could have been a trauma bond, but we never talked about it. We just knew we were kindred spirits of sorts.

I would also hang out with my friend Shante’, who lived on 5th Avenue on the S.E. Side. She had a fully present and welcoming mom, two sisters, and five brothers who felt like the closest thing to a family I would ever experience. I was drawn to them, especially now I wasn’t going to the Rodriguez home. We could sit on Shante’s front porch and be smack dab in the middle of all drama and the happenings on the S.E. side of Cedar Rapids.

One particular day, I was approached by a girl named Renee, who physically attacked me because she heard Johnson gave me a ride home from the Rodriguez home back when I was being physically attacked. She obviously didn’t understand he helped me and thought it was more. We started fighting, throwing blows tumbling on the ground, and a few minutes into it, she got up and walked away while blood was everywhere.

Where was the blood coming from? I didn’t feel anything, and that’s because she had a razor blade in her hand. She sliced my face, forehead, and my neck. To say blood was gushing everywhere would be an understatement. I didn’t feel anything, but I knew I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. One of the many razor cuts was within a few centimeters from my carotid artery. Shante went with me to the hospital and stayed with me until Patricia arrived. I had over 100 stitches and lacerations everywhere and still have hidden scars to this day. The doctor said I was lucky to be alive.

Unfortunately, the South East side was the wrong side of town, but it was the side of town Metro High School was on, so I would take the city bus, get dropped off, and make an appearance at Metro so I could say I went. Typically, I never stayed for an hour, no one noticed, and I never did a damn bit of work. Instead, I walked through like some celebrity, said “Hi” to my friends, and walked out the back door. After, I would walk the streets until I found someone I knew to hang out with. It didn’t matter what time it was or what day; at 15 years old, I felt like I was born to get the party started.

Soon I would run into a guy named Giovanni Rockwell, aka Big Rocky. Giovanni was just released from Juvenile Jail because he had reached 18 years of age, legally an adult at the time, and he aged out of the system. I had no idea what he did to get locked up in the first place, but I did know we had a spark between us that I had never experienced before. We took a liking to one another and started to spend time together.

After learning more about Big Rocky, I learned his nickname came from his last name, but it was also after the Movie Rocky because, in Cedar Rapids, Big Rocky was well known for never losing a fight. Instead, he was unforgettably known for knocking anyone out who crossed him in any way. No one wanted to be on the wrong side of Big Rocky.

I was young and naïve, and when Big Rocky took an interest in me, I bit on to the attention he gave me, and before long, we were in a relationship. We would meet at his friend’s houses and sneak into our homes, frequent parks, or Lyndale Mall. The more time we spent together, I learned about the jealous streak he had, but at the time, I didn’t recognize it as jealousy. Instead, the 15-year-old me recognized it as LOVE.

The first time Giovonni appeared to be jealous was when we were at the mall, and some other guy looked at me, and Giovanni thought I was looking at him. He insisted we knew each other, and I had no clue who the guy was. It was a random glance because we happened to be in the same place—nothing more, nothing less. He took me outside, pushed me up against a brick wall, pulled my hair, and tried to force me to admit I knew the guy. I promised him I didn’t know him! He let go of my hair and threatened that if I ever looked at another guy again, I was going to get it.

I had no idea what would come of my relationship with Giovanni, but sadly I didn’t need to look at another guy to “get it.” But unfortunately, that was only the beginning of years of emotional, mental, and sexual abuse. Giovanni had anger issues, and I was among the many receivers of his anger and rage. Nevertheless, I was willing to overlook all the usual “red flags” to be loyal to him for loving me.

We spent a lot of time together, and even when we weren’t 21, which was the legal age for drinking alcohol, we could get alcohol and weed, which were always available. So we got tipsy regularly, and the more time I spent in the streets with Giovanni, the more Patricia would stir, wondering where I was. Finally, she couldn’t control me anymore and couldn’t find me even if she tried. I would only go home long enough to shower, change clothes, and leave again.

At times, I had the police or detectives searching for me for fighting or breaking the law, which added a whole new layer to being a runner. I would hide in different friends’ attics and homes until, eventually, the law caught up with me. I woke up in Juvenile Jail more times than I could count, and it never stopped me from being a menace.

Spending so much time with Giovanni, my love and loyalty to him were intense. He was mine, and I was his, and at all costs, we weren’t going to let anyone break us up, but as soon as Patricia caught on that I had a boyfriend, she did everything in her power to try. Her famous words were, “Is he black?” which seemed to be all she cared about. When I expressed that “yes, he’s black,” she would go into the bible saying we aren’t supposed to date outside our race, and if we do, we are going to hell!

This only damaged my inner being more than it was already damaged because now that I knew I was going to hell for dating someone who was a different race than me, my feelings of badness only increased. She made me feel less than, lower than the low. Then, as if my feelings of low self-esteem and self-hate couldn’t get any worse, Patricia repeatedly threw scriptures at me and damned me to hell. I guess I was going to hell then because I wasn’t leaving Giovanni alone for anything.

Sadly, being an adoptee, I have discovered more profound thoughts about this topic. How was I dating someone outside my race when I didn’t even know what my race was? Being adopted, I always had this deep-rooted fear that I would date a biological brother or a cousin, which is something non-adoptees can’t comprehend. This taught me to tap into something that I couldn’t ignore.

I had to mentally look at everyone who looked a little like me as a biological family member because I didn’t know they weren’t! However, to bypass this, I learned that dating someone who looked NOTHING like I did was a safe zone to be in. Dealing with a lifetime beginning with secrecy and lies is much deeper than anyone thinks. It impacts every area of our lives and the choices we make all the way back to the beginning!

The flip side is that Patricia repeatedly pointed the finger at me and told me I was going to hell for dating outside my race, but she forgot she signed on the dotted line that cosigned me, never knowing my ethnicity or race! Talk about a mental mind fuck. It was apparent I was on the opposite side of the tracks from this God character, and no matter what I did, I was not going to be good enough! Ever! This wasn’t the least helpful to me; actually highly damaging. So I might as well pull up my bad bitch shoes even higher, and I decided to wear them proudly and didn’t care who I pissed off or hurt. Sadly, I didn’t even care about myself.

One afternoon in 1989, I decided to go home to take a shower and change clothes. However, Patricia insisted I go to turn myself into Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Mercy Hospital. So, at 15 years old, I went but resisted the entire way. I didn’t need drug or alcohol rehab or help, nor did I want the help, but just like Melanie being removed by the tough love people, now it was my turn. Patricia never once took accountability that her actions could have impacted Melanie and me in a traumatic way, nor did she ever acknowledge her part or the adoption component to my behavior.

I spent 30 days of strict routine by waking up at 5 AM daily, walking across the street to the track at McKinley School to start some laps to get the morning going. Then, for the rest of my time in rehab, I was in a locked facility and couldn’t get out if I wanted to. However, there was a warmness about the structure in rehab. A hot meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, no Patricia or her emotional outbursts, and no Mark to torment me and molest me. I made friends and embraced the 30 days. It was much more peaceful than being around Patricia or her outbursts or being sexually abused by Mark.

Not long after I arrived, I remember them handing me the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, and to get out in 30 days, I had to start reading and applying the 12 Steps to my life. In a nutshell, I had to find God.

“Oh, you mean I had to find the same God who was already sending me to hell for various reasons?” I said to myself. Ah, gotcha. Not one person or trained professional asked about my childhood, adoption, or how it felt to be adopted. No one talked about the childhood trauma of growing up in abusive homes. No one wanted to hear about the childhood sexual abuse I had repressed from Mark. Or the suicide attempts from Patricia. No one asked what it feels like to be lost, searching for clues to your beginnings. No one cared why I used drugs and alcohol; they just wanted me to stop using them, and, like this God character, they shamed me for using them.

The responsibility to “find God” was placed on me, along with forgiving all the people who had hurt me. This told me that my heartache and pain were irrelevant, and it didn’t matter. It told me I didn’t matter. It told me my traumatic experiences weren’t real, and my feelings about being adopted were insignificant.

No options, no choices, Just find God.

My experience with God goes much deeper and more profound than “Just having a bad church experience.” God was responsible for shame, punishment, belittlement, and religious trauma, which began in my childhood before I ever stepped foot inside the doors of a church. And my adoption experience goes much deeper than, “She just had a bad adoption experience.”

Where was God when I was being sexually abused by Mark? Where was God when I was watching Patricia lay in the street to try to kill herself and lock herself in her room trying to kill herself? Where was God when my birth mother decided to hand me over to strangers? Where was God when he knew the agony I felt searching for my birth mother every day of my life? Where was God when I was being physically and sexually abused by Diego and Giovanni?

He must have been sitting back watching the whole thing, which let me know God wasn’t looking out for me, but now I had to put everything I had into him to get out of this shit hole? Fake it till you make it was my new motto, especially if my freedom was involved. Finally, I found God all right, long enough to get out of drug and alcohol rehab to freedom.

I pretended I found God, graduated from the program, was released, and was drinking alcohol and using drugs again within the hour. I reached out to Giovanni, and we got together and made up for lost time from being separated for 30 days. Giovanni showed me love that I didn’t feel anywhere else; sometimes, it was because he showed up consistently. The other part was that he told me he loved me and spent time with me.

When I was growing up, loyalty was everything. I remember thinking, “If my birth mother LOVED ME SO MUCH she handed me to strangers, and leaving was considered LOVE, then Giovanni must love me because he stayed.” This thinking also sparked me to prove my love to him because if love was leaving, I wanted to show Giovanni I loved him by staying.

It didn’t matter how abusive he became; he kept showing up. That was more than I got from my birth mother, who abandoned me and never showed up. Trying to make sense of my biological mother giving me away to strangers because she loved me will forever taint my view of love. This was twisted love at its finest and completely wrecked my ability to view what real true love is. It’s taken a lifetime to unravel the roots of my adoptee experience. Even today, at 47 years old, I’ve accepted love as a topic that isn’t for me.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

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☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 4. Searching for Clues Among Chaos – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 4.

Searching for Clues Among Chaos By Pamela A. Karanova

“I see…the way you’re always searching. How much you hate anything fake or phony. How you’re older than your years, but still…playful, like a little girl. How you’re always looking into people, or wondering what they see when they look back at you. Your eyes. It’s all in the eyes.” – Claudia Gray

My entire childhood is filled with memories of hitting the highway and going back and forth between Dunkerton and Cedar Rapids every other weekend. It was Sunday at 5 PM, and we were swiftly dropped back off into Patricia’s care. Thomas and Laura never went inside; they just dropped us off and told us they would see us next time, two weeks later.

As soon as we returned to Patricia’s, the three-ring circus began. She had clothes piled up, waiting to be ironed. She taught me how to iron at around seven years old, and it was my job to iron all her clothes. As long as my eyes reached the top of the iron board, I could get the job done. By the time I was nine or ten years old, I was a professional ironer. The chores at Patricia’s were never-ending.

Anytime Patricia turned her back or took a nap, I was secretly busy searching for documents to find out who my birth mother was. Patricia had filing cabinets that were 6FT tall, a desk, and papers everywhere. I just knew there had to be some evidence somewhere. So day after day, for as long as I could remember, I would look everywhere I could think of to find adoption paperwork. Sadly, I never found any clues, and I searched all of her files numerous times.

When my searches continued to come up empty, around nine years old, I decided to be gutsy and ask Patricia, “I want to find my birth mother. How can I find her?”

Patricia’s response was the same each time I asked, and it sounded like a broken record, “Your adoption was closed, so we don’t have any information on your birth mother. When we get enough money for an attorney, we will get the sealed records opened, but right now, we don’t have enough money.”

My hope for a different response was inconsolable, but I never stopped asking the same question about every six months. Only to be given the same response every single time. The truth was, we were never going to have enough money. We still didn’t even have a fucking car! I was deeply conflicted that I didn’t know who my birth mother was.

On a scale of 1 to 10, adoptees with minimal issues with being adopted are at a 1, and adoptees with massive issues with it are at a 10; I was at 10,000. I was so emotionally disrupted by having a missing mother out there that I was physically ill. I remember having stomach issues around five years old and feeling sick a lot, and I ended up in the hospital many times as a child because of stomach problems. I was a thumb sucker, and I also had a baby blanket I was deeply attached to until one day, they threw it in the trash because they decided I didn’t need it anymore. This was traumatic as a child, on top of everything else.

Yet, not one adult in my life would acknowledge that separation from my birth mother and adoption might be the root instigation of these issues. The only diagnosis they could come up with was that I could be suffering from a dairy allergy, and they labeled me lactose intolerant. I have learned in recent years that many adoptees have stomach issues related to childhood anxiety and separation trauma compacted by adoption trauma. If you do the research, you can see for yourself.

What if I was suffering from anxiety deep in my body that I was in the wrong place? What if the separation from my birth mother was a traumatic experience? What if I never bonded with my adoptive mom, but I was forced to bond with her? What if her emotional outbursts and suicide attempts caused me severe PTSD? What if I have experienced severe trauma, and it was making me physically ill? What if the sexual abuse from my adopted stepbrother was taking a toll? What if I was suffering from an emotional response to all the things going on in both of these homes with Patricia, Thomas, and Laura?

But my angst and suffering were always neglected by Patricia and Melanie’s fights, and my feelings would never be acknowledged or discussed. Indeed, not one adult in my life, between my adoptive parents, teachers, school counselors, and regular counselors, would acknowledge a combination between adoption, relinquishment, and my adoptee issues, so I suffered and suffered greatly.

Because I suffered physically, emotionally, and mentally, it significantly impacted my school performance. But unfortunately, no one was paying attention that I had a learning disability, and I wouldn’t discover this until adulthood, on my own. Because of this, it seemed like I barely made it out of each grade and suffered in silence my entire life in grade school, middle school, and high school. As a child, my wants and needs were always swept under the rug, and Patricia’s dramatic emotional and mental outbursts always sat front and center in our daily lives.

After moving to Westover Road, my daily escapes seemed less frequent. Not because I didn’t want to get outside, but Patricia would stand in front of the one door to get in and out of the apartment, and she wouldn’t let me leave to go outside and play. She would cross her arms and shout, “You aren’t going anywhere!” I was trapped daily. How the hell was I going to get out of this house?

I knew if I were ever going to get outside, I would have to escape through the bedroom window and climb down the three levels to get to the ground. This was a more severe type of escape, and if I was going for it, it needed to be for a good reason! So I started to venture farther from home, and I learned all about taking the city bus at around nine years old. My feelings of getting in trouble were non-existent. In my mind, no punishment could be worse than living inside Patricia’s house.

Patricia had a sister named Jeanette, and she had six kids who were my favorite cousins. Melanie and I were close to Olivia, Jeanette’s oldest daughter. I was also significantly close to Jeanette’s sons, Wilder and Forest, who were younger than Olivia, more my age. Being a tomboy, Wilder, Forest, and I ran off to have adventures together. They had the advantage of living right across the street from Ellis Park, a park that ran alongside the Cedar River.

To get to Jeanette’s house, I had to escape out my third-floor bedroom window and take off walking in the direction to get to Ellis Park. I never asked for permission because I knew what the answer would be! It was seven miles away, and at nine years old, I would walk up to first avenue and spend hours walking to Jeanette’s house. But, for sure, every step I took was a step towards freedom. Finally, after so many trips to Jeanette’s, I learned there was a city bus line that would take me straight to Ellis Park! It was on and popping now. Over time, I learned I could take the city bus all over the city! Freedom just entered a whole new level!

By the time I made it to Jeanette’s house, my cousins were waiting for me! Their house was different than Patricia’s house. Things leaned on the messy side, but it was refreshing to arrive somewhere I could be a kid, and Mark and Patricia were nowhere around. I honestly never wanted to leave, and Ellis Park and the golf course across the street were always a great escape for all of us kids.

We would scamper down to the Cedar River in wintertime and skate on the ice regularly. If our parents knew we were doing this, we would have been in big trouble. I will never forget the Ellis Park Golf Course would turn its giant sprinklers on in the summertime, and we would sneak over to play in them at all hours of the night. Then, once we saw the groundskeeper coming over the hill, we would squeal and take off running! We owned Ellis Park and knew every inch of the area as we frequented the park any chance we could. Some of my favorite childhood memories are running free in Ellis Park with my cousins, and I cherish them all.

Eventually, I would have to return to Patricia’s house after what felt like a “day pass” from jail and return to the life I despised the most. When I was younger, I didn’t have a voice and was a good compliant adoptee. But boy, by the time I progressed into my pre-teen identity, the tables got flipped upside down. I started to stand up for myself.

While I feel Melanie began to do this at a much younger age than I did, I am proud that she had the willpower to keep standing up for herself in such a harmful home! Sadly, her standing up for herself backfired on several occasions. Patricia convinced all of her close friends and church group that Melanie was problematic. She was convinced that the “tough love” way was the only way, and she had Melanie physically removed from the home on several occasions. She not only had her physically removed from the home by random strangers, but she also had them drop her off at the locked local psych ward, where she would stay for several weeks on end.

I always felt despair for Melanie when I was a child. I didn’t understand that Patricia was the one who suffered from mental illness, and she was the one that should have been locked in the psyche ward! After those interactions, Melanie must have felt heartbroken, and my heart truly breaks for her. Still, to this day, my heart breaks for all she went through growing up in Melanie’s care. She deserved so much more. We both did.

Anytime Melanie was “away,” I would be the sole focus of Patricia’s interactions, almost like her projecting her toxicity was placed directly on me because Melanie was out of the picture for a short time. Either way, we were both directly impacted by Patricia’s ill mental health, which impacted every area of our lives growing up.

After a few trips to the psych ward and a lifetime of disaster with Patricia, Melanie decided she wanted to go live with Thomas and Laura. I don’t blame her. She was around 13, and I was about 12 years old. Maybe things would improve for everyone because Patricia and Melanie were now separated? Maybe the house would be more peaceful? Maybe Melanie would be happier at Thomas and Laura’s?

Boy, was I mistaken. As soon as Melanie left and moved away, the shit hit the fan with Patricia and me in a whole new way. It was like the flip of a switch, an overnight change where the good adoptee turned herself in, never to return. I now wore the shoes of the bad adoptee, I put on my boxing gloves, and I started to act out because I was the sole beneficiary of Patricia’s wrath, mental illness, and toxicity.

Sunday morning, the summer of 1986, Patricia gets a call from the Springville Police Department. “Hi Patricia, we have your daughter, Pamela, in custody. She’s been arrested with several other kids for burglary. You can come to pick her up, but she will likely be on probation and have to complete restitution. This week, you will hear from her new probation officer on the next steps.” So, Patricia came to pick me up, which was the beginning of my adoptee anger, rage, rebellion, and defiance. Reality began to set in that my birth mother wasn’t coming back to get me, and deep down, I was miserable. Hurt was the root, but it showed up in brutal ways.

Feelings of anger, rage, and self-hate started to internalize deep inside me from a very early age. Soon they took over subconsciously, and I felt abandoned by the woman who should have loved me the most, my birth mother. Just because she didn’t come back for me didn’t mean I wasn’t searching for her. I continued to search for clues to find her everywhere I went. I was tormented every day by not knowing who she was or where I came from.

This was around the time I stopped wanting to visit Thomas and Laura’s house due to the things Mark was doing to me. I was in for a real-life changing experience about how distressing things would get at Patricia’s house. The good adoptee disappeared into nothingness, and I started to have very unfavorable feelings about Patricia. My newfound adoration of escaping out my third-floor bedroom window was a fast track to being a runaway and experiencing a ruthless street life. Unruly was about to become an understatement.

Little did I know, agony hadn’t even begun for me. I was 12 years old, and by the time I was 15 years old, I had already experienced what most people don’t experience in an entire lifetime.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 2. Good Adoptee vs. Bad Adoptee – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 2.

Good Adoptee vs. Bad Adoptee By Pamela A. Karanova

Trigger Warning // Suicide

While my sneak life brought me some fulfillment in my childhood, what was going on inside behind closed doors was something almost no one knew about.

Patricia suffered from untreated manic depressive disorder and what I believe to be schizophrenic episodes. She had manic episodes regularly, and they would be integrated with emotional outbursts that created a very toxic environment. Some days were worse than others, but one thing is for sure, I don’t remember any days where she resembled a happy and healthy mother.

She would get angry with us on a bad day and tie us to the dining room chairs with dish towels. Next, she would tie the towels together to make a longer towel, sometimes several. Finally, she tied them around our waist and our mouths with our hands tied behind our backs. She would leave us there whenever she needed us to be out of her way, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours. No telling what the reason was she did this; it could be because I kept running outside every chance I could to escape or because she needed to take a nap.

She would regularly cry hysterically and complain about how much of a failure she was as a parent. She was sick A LOT! She resented Thomas for leaving her to raise two adopted daughters independently. She was constantly taking prescription medications. She would over-medicate herself as a way to escape her reality. Most of the time, it would make her sleepy, so she was always going to sleep and taking naps, sometimes many times a day. She slept a lot, and throughout my entire childhood, I never remember her having a good day.

I always had this deep-rooted feeling of being flawed because of how sad my mom was all the time. Combining that with the abandonment from my birth mother, my feelings of badness only increased as I grew into my preteen years. “I’m sorry” was something I sometimes said to Patricia a hundred times a day. She and Melanie were constantly fighting about everything, you could imagine. They would get into physical altercations regularly, and it seemed like Melanie was definitely the bad adoptee. Not to my standards, but from how Patricia treated her, She was always the target, and they never got along.

Melanie told me that she and Patricia got in a physical fight in the basement one time. I’m not sure what the argument was about. Melanie said; she ran up the stairs to escape Patricia’s wrath. However, Patricia grabbed a pair of scissors and started chasing Melanie up the stairs while shouting, “Here, kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty!” I can imagine this scared Melanie significantly, and eventually, she got away from her by running to our bedroom and slamming the door shut.

I was always stuck somewhere in the middle of the blowouts with Patricia and Melanie. My role was to gravitate toward my mother to try to comfort and console her. It’s no doubt that I was the good adoptee in Patricia’s eyes. I remember almost every single fight they had; I was in charge of trying to make Patricia feel better. These are big shoes to fill, and it was all I knew.

She would cry hysterically while sitting on the couch. So I would sit next to her, rub her back, and say, “It’s okay, mommy I’m sorry, mommy.” She would talk about how mean her family was to her growing up and how she had an abortion at a young age, and not long after, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which resulted in a total hysterectomy. She adopted children because she aborted the only child she could have ever had, and she talked about this constantly. She also made it known from a young age that she never wanted to go to a nursing home. She would even go to the lengths of listing the reasons why.

She seemed never to stop crying about these things and, of course, the divorce. She would cry about never knowing who her father was and that she felt like a failure as a mother. The burden of her life and failures felt like they were planted on my shoulders from the time I could walk. This was a reoccurring theme in my childhood that happened almost daily. So now, you might understand why I was always about that sneak life. Fuck this shit; I was out of here on the regular!

It’s not that I didn’t care about Melanie, because I did, but Patricia made everything about her. She was always the victim in every altercation, even when she was the adult in the house. Normal disagreements never get dealt with appropriately; they usually were a big ordeal, and Melanie, the bad adoptee, was always to blame. On the other hand, the good adoptee would always come to the rescue to comfort my crying adoptive mom. It was a full-time job and never-ending.

I remember we started seeing therapists at a very young age, so many I can’t even count. Believe it or not, we never discussed adoption in my childhood with any of the therapists or my adoptive parents. We would all have to build a report with the therapists and have solo sessions and sessions as a family. After several visits, the reoccurring theme was that the therapists would tell Patricia politely that she was acting like a child instead of a parent.

The therapist would offer her suggestions on managing her emotions so the blowups in the house didn’t escalate into volcanos! They would create ways we could de-escalate by all of us agreeing to a time-out. Then, when a blowup was about to happen, we would all go to our bedrooms, close the door, and have a cool-off period. Sounds simple, right?

There was only one problem when we would go to our bedroom to shut the door, Patricia would be outside the door screaming and banging on our door for us to open it up, and we always would. So this idea never worked when we used this tactic. But when Patricia wanted to do it, it was a whole different ball game.

She would get butt hurt that the therapist would direct everything back to her parenting style and her emotional and mental outbursts. Then, finally, they told her she needed to be the one to change because we were just kids. So Patricia would get upset, go home in a rage, and never see that specific therapist again. It was like we were on a neverending merry-go-round of seeing therapists, and this pattern was happening every single time. I’m not sure why Melanie and I didn’t tell the therapists about everything going on in the house. Maybe we were scared? Regardless of the reason, we kept many things from them, or CPS would have been contacted immediately, and they never were.

I didn’t want to be the good adoptee, and I didn’t want Melanie to be the bad adoptee. I felt bad for Melanie all the time. We didn’t ask for this setup; however, it was all we knew for our entire childhoods. Because of this, Melanie and I never had a chance growing up to be close like most sisters are. Instead, we had Patricia spinning the triangulation tactics between all three of us for an entire lifetime.

It was exhausting being in this home around such an unstable and unhappy mother. This pushed me to dream more and more about my birth mother. I thought about her nonstop and dreamed that she would come back and get me one day after realizing that giving me up for adoption was a big mistake. Who would give their baby away to strangers and mean it? It was incomprehensible to me. I was waiting on her to change her mind and come back for me. Indeed, my chances of finding her or her finding me were always bigger if I was out of the house!

I fantasized about how beautiful she was and what the day would be like when she showed back up because, in my mind, if she “loved me so much,” she would eventually show back up. She had to be a better mother than Patricia, and she had to be looking for me like I was looking for her. Everywhere I went growing up, I searched for her face in crowds. I would look for women who had the same skin tone and hair color I did. Are you my mother? I would wonder.

By the time I was ten years old, Patricia had graduated from nursing school as an R.N. I think it’s lovely she had the dream of being a nurse and even raising two kids as a single parent; she made it happen. But how would she be a nurse with such emotional and unstable outbursts?

We lost Title-19, and we moved to an apartment at 4009 Westover Road, Apt #6. It was a 655 Square foot, 3rd-floor apartment, which was a stark difference from the big grey house on 13th street. We moved on an evening during a school night, and I will never forget how tired and hungry we were. Around 10 PM, we asked Patricia if we could have something to eat; however, there was not much to pick from just moving.

Patricia found a Lipton onion soup mix box tucked down in a big ” Kitchen box. She was able to heat it in the microwave, giving us each a cup. But, of course, with this being broth and no real food, we weren’t happy with it.

Melanie and Patricia get into an altercation that escalates into another blowup fight. I think Melanie was brave and confronted Patricia on certain things, whereas I was passive at that time. I did anything to keep the peace.

The next thing we know, Patricia takes off, flying out the apartment door and down the steps. Melanie and I have no idea where she is going, so we decide to look out our 3rd-floor apartment window to find Patricia lying in the street, trying to commit suicide!

Of course, we would have never expected to see that in all our lives. We both began to cry hysterically because we didn’t want our mom to die. We surely didn’t want to see it happen! Terror took over. What the fuck were we supposed to do? I am confident I blacked out or disassociated during this time because it was a very traumatic experience for me to witness.

I am not sure what happened to escalate out of this episode. Did she get up on her own? Did a car come and help her, or someone who maybe saw her? Did Melanie and I run down to get her up? I have no idea, and I will never know. Somehow things went back to “normal,” but my life would never be the same after this incident. Still to this day, I have visions of this situation that revisit like a reoccurring movie theme.

Melanie and I still shared an even smaller bedroom, but we put bunk beds in the middle of the room, which left about 3 feet of space on each side we could call our own. We plastered posters all over our walls to mark which side was ours. I loved Poison, Motley Crew, and Guns N Roses. Melanie loved Boy George!

Patricia and I on Westover Road, In front of the street, she laid in. I was 10 years old in this picture.

With a 700-square-foot apartment, we were all three, literally on top of one another. I had no idea how awful things would become, but I was about to find out. Not long after moving into the apartment on Westover Rd, Melanie and I started to have altercations independently, without Patricia spinning things in the middle each time. I mean she did that also, but at times we didn’t need her help. I remember Melanie would attack me countless times, pin me to the ground, and sit on top of me. She would hold me down by clawing my arms until I started to bleed from her nails digging into my skin. I would beg her to get off of me and stop, but she was stronger than me and overpowered me on the regular. I was still the good adoptee, and now I saw her in the light as the bad adoptee because I felt like she was bullying me. I still believe that Patricia set us up to be against one another from day one. So it’s no wonder we started to tango!

Another day, another outburst from Patricia. But once we moved into the apartment, her outbursts would become so outrageous that she started to threaten suicide regularly. She not only threatened suicide, but she took her shoebox filled with prescription pills to her bedroom; she locked the door and also took the house phone with her so we could never call for help. Her threats of killing herself and locking herself in her room, locking us out, were exceptionally traumatic. She did this a lot!

I remember vividly banging on the bedroom door for hours, begging her not to kill herself, and crying hysterically. Just like her lying in the middle of the road trying to kill herself, I am confident I blacked out or disassociated again because I have no memories of how we escalated out of these episodes, only the hysteria I felt begging my mom not to kill herself. These memories have always plagued my mind, and they dominate anything good that came out of living with Patricia. This was not a safe home, and I did not feel loved. Chaos was a nonstop companion at no choice of my own or Melanie’s.

Soon, I would find another escape plan for myself that opened my life to a whole new world. It was easy to escape from the big grey house because we had three doors that led outside. However, the apartment on the third floor of Westover road only had one. I learned that I could open my bedroom window, and at the time, I could climb down the wooden panels that were like steps to the ground. This turned out to be my number one way to escape the disfunction and constant fighting I lived with within this family. Even climbing down three stories which were exceptionally dangerous for a ten or 11-year-old, I soon became a professional escape artist. Sneak life was back in full effect!

But first, it was time for a weekend visit with Thomas and Laura. So we packed our bags as if we were staying a lifetime, leaving only for the weekend. It was 5 PM on Friday, and we would get to escape Patricia’s wrath for a few days. We would be dropped back off Sunday at 5 PM.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 1. Sneak Life – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 1.

Sneak Life By Pamela A. Karanova

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott.

I grew up in a small town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids otherwise known as “The City of Five Smells.” Burnt corn, stale, rotten garbage, and overcooked oatmeal are combined to make a nasty stench that covers the city. I will never forget that smell! It’s the home of the largest cereal plants in the world, General Mills and Quaker Oats. Cedar Rapids is also known for being the largest corn producing city in the world. I remember wonderful parks where I spent a lot of my childhood.

In the summer of 1979, on a hot and humid morning, my five-year-old self moped down the creaky wooden stairs somberly to the living room in the big grey house on 13th street. My hair was a sandy blonde, messy from just waking up. It was 7 AM on a Saturday, and everyone was still asleep. It was quite and peaceful for a change.

I always went to bed at night before everyone else and seemed to get sleepy earlier than your average kid. This allowed me to get up earlier most of the time while everyone else was sleeping soundly. This was a magnificent thing because I could watch a few minutes of Saturday morning cartoons, which was rare. If I was lucky, I could also sneak outside for a little bit of freedom.  

The living-room coffee table overflowed with papers, pill containers, magazines, and old and half-filled empty Pepsi cola bottles. Old newspapers, mail, coupons that needed cut, and magazines took up half the couch, and clutter surrounded the area allowing for a tiny sitting space—a full cigarette ashtray sat waiting to be emptied. Boston ferns hung in front of the windows, in desperate need of watering.

I walked into the kitchen to find the usual clutter, dirty dishes piled up and old food, and junk covering the countertops. The garbage was overflowing with a stinky odor filtrating the morning air coming through the windows. Full eight packs of Pepsi bottles lined the baseboard along one wall for my mom’s pleasure. On the other side of the wall sat the empty bottles of Pepsi that I would walk up to the 7-11 gas station to trade with a note from my mom. The gas station would return .10 cents for each empty bottle taken back. The note would say, “Please allow my daughter to trade two eight packs of empty Pepsi bottles for one pack of Marlboro Light 100s. Thank you!”  

I will never forget my five-year-old self walking up 13th street carrying two eight-backs of empty Pepsi bottles. They were heavy, and I was alone, but I was brave and didn’t scare easily. I would stop and take breaks when I needed to. It was about a five-block walk. I would get Patricia her pack of cigarettes with the note and walk back home. We didn’t have enough money for a car, so walking or taking the city bus was a regular event. 

To enjoy the rare luxury of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I managed to jump up on the counter to grab a bowl to enjoy some cereal before everyone else woke up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the good kind with sugar; it was plain cheerios or wheat crisps. But, of course, I had no problems finding the sugar and pouring as much as I wanted into the bowl. 

The big grey house was where some of my first childhood memories were. I lived here with my mom, Patricia, and my sister, Melanie, until approximately 9. Both Patricia and Melanie were night owls, and I was the opposite. I was known as the sleepy head of the family and didn’t appreciate late nights and sleeping half the day away. It was a regular occurrence that dinner not be served until 9 or 10 PM if it was served at all. I got sleepy most of the time and wandered off to bed without eating dinner because it never seemed to be ready at the usual dinner time. It wasn’t odd to me because it was all I knew. This was just the way it was. 

I don’t have any memories of my parents being together, but I believe that’s because they divorced when I was one year old. My sister, Melanie, was 11 months older than me, so we were almost like having twins. I do have one photo of my parents being together before the divorce. When I look at the photo, it’s hard for me to believe that they would divorce less than a year after the photo was taken, and that was the end of their marriage. Why would a marriage only last a year or two?

After the divorce, my dad, Thomas, moved over an hour away to Dunkerton, Iowa. He remarried my stepmom, Laura. Laura had three sons of her own, named Mark, Max, and Mike. We saw them every other weekend, on some holidays, and for a summer vacation. My sister, Melanie, and I stayed with Patricia full time between the visits with our dad. 

Patricia was 33 years old, and she had brown hair and she stood about 5’1 tall. She was going to school to be a Registered Nurse and this was a lifelong dream of hers. She loved soap operas, watching figure skating, and lavender smells, and her favorite color was blue. She enjoyed baking holiday treats and having her family over for festivities. She also loved plants and flowers. She was single as long as I knew her. She would read us bible devotionals and take us to church on occasion. Patricia wanted to be the center of everything, and in all conversations she had with people, she was the dominator so she could be the center of attention. 

She didn’t work the earlier part of my life, but instead, we received public assistance, food stamps, welfare, and child support from my dad to make it by. Things were always tight, and we never had extra money for anything other than the basic needs. 

The house on 13th street was rented to us with Title-19, a program for families to receive assistance with their rent. I’m confident that’s the only way we could afford to live at this house because it was gigantic and it had to be expensive, especially for someone not working. However, even as big as the house was, it only had two bedrooms, so Melanie and I shared a room. 

The Big Grey House on 13th Street, The Porch Roof I Jumped Off Of at 5 years old.

Polk Elementary School was two blocks away. So if we came out of or front or side door and turned left, we walked straight down the alley two blocks and ran into the school playground. I was not too fond of school, and I never did well in it.   

If we came out of our front door and turned right, made another right at the stop sign, and walked about five blocks down, we ran into Helen and Leo’s house. Helen was an 81-year-old lady who used to babysit us while Patricia was in school to get her nursing degree. Leo was 92, and he was Helen’s husband. So we spent a lot of time at Helen and Leo’s. 

Their house was old, musty, and dark. However, the backyard did have a swing set, and we were on it as much as possible. The basement was better known as the “Dog house!” and we spent much time there. What would get us thrown in the dog house? Being rowdy, rambunctious, not listening, or misbehaving in some way. And sometimes, nothing would get us sent to the dog house; we were just ordered to go! 

The doghouse was filled with old books, unfinished rooms, and an old school laundry room, and it felt like doom. The floor was concrete and cold. Leo made a habit of seeing me and kicking me in my ass and shouting, “little bastard!” This was followed by a mumble of “get out of my way!” It was no secret that Leo was grumpy, and we needed to stay out of his way. He would send me straight to the dog house if I didn’t move quick enough or if I crossed his path. Thankfully he was just a mean old man and not a dirty, mean old man. 

Helen was about her business. She wasn’t warm or grandma-like, as you would think. Sometimes she would forget we were down in the dog house, so we would stay for a long time. We better not come out of the dog house without being excused first. And sometimes, Patricia would leave us at Leo and Helen’s overnight or for several days at a time. So Helen would put blankets on the living room floor, where we would sleep until Patricia eventually made the call for Helen to send us to walk home. Patricia was supposed to pay Helen for babysitting us, but she rarely gave her the money she was owed, and she still kept sending us anyway. 

We passed several houses with Dobermann Pinschers chained to the front porch as we walked back and forth. That was the primary way to secure your home and belongings when I was coming up. I will never forget walking the five blocks back home from Helen’s, and one particular day a man called us to his car window. We walked over, and he was sitting naked, masturbating himself. I was with a cousin at the time, and we both screamed and took off running all the way home to the big grey house on 13th street. We told Patricia and the cops were called to the car where the gross man was.

Patricia slept a lot, and she was always taking naps. I didn’t know what depression or mental illness was as a child, but I do now. She was severely depressed due to the divorce, and she felt like a failure as a parent. She would sleep late in the day most days because she stayed up late at night. During school days, I remember waking myself up and getting myself ready for school most days while she slept half of the day away. Anytime she took naps in the day or evening, it was a perfect opportunity for me to sneak off and run wild; it was my way of life!

My Saturday morning cereal and cartoons were an unusual treat in the big grey house. Sometimes I would put clothes on and sneak outside to play until I heard the dreaded yell. Being outside was a great escape for me, and I would try to sneak out as much as possible. I would do wild and crazy things because I was a daredevil. I would climb trees to the top and climb on the rooftops to hang out. I was a tomboy and grew up feeling invincible. 

I have memories of all the neighborhood kids daring me to jump off the roof of the big porch of the grey house and jump down to the ground when Patricia was gone one day. But, of course, I wasn’t scared, and I did it with great pride. I almost felt like I should have won an award for being so brave, but several claps followed by hemming and hawing from all my friends would do. 

Of course, I was not supposed to be outside when Patricia was gone; however, sneaking outside was a full-time job for me from a very early age. I was the queen of sneak. But it was all over as soon as she came back home, and I would hear her shout out the front door, “Pammy, get back in this house!” I knew I would get in trouble, but I didn’t care, so I pretended I didn’t hear her. I continued to sneak anyway, proudly. 

I would hear her yell again a short time later, but I would ride every second of freedom out to the fullest. I didn’t want to go back inside because I knew I would never be allowed to come back outside again. Sneaking was the only option for me. Finally, after hearing Patricia yell for me a second and sometimes a third time, I would mope back inside with a sorrowful aura about myself. The escape to freedom was over. But make no mistakes, I was already planning my next escape adventure!

But for now, onto the constant and never-ending task of catering to and caring for Patricia. “You know better than to go outside without permission!” yelled Patricia. The reality was that I could never go outside, even with permission. This is why I made a run for it any chance I could! Getting in trouble was worth it to get out of the house for a short time. 

I remember walking up to First Avenue to fetch Patricia’s medications from the pharmacy many times as a little girl. As young as six years old, I would cross the busiest street in the city. I guess Patricia’s medications were that important, and it was my job to make sure she didn’t run out of them. One particular day, I was walking home, and my classmate Manuel Gonzales came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I walked to the pharmacy to pick up my mom’s medication. He asked me to give him one of the pills, and I did. 

He wandered off, and I was stopped by a police car within a few minutes. The officer got out and asked me my name and where I lived. I told him my name was Pamela, and I pointed down the street, and he proceeded to ask me to get in his car so he could take me home. I didn’t understand why; however, Manual ran straight over to the fire department a block down the road and let them know I had given him a pill and that I was walking home with them now. 

We pulled up at the big grey house, and I knew I would get into trouble giving Manual one of Patricia’s pills. The police officer called Patricia to the door and handed her the medication bag. He scolded her for allowing me to cross the busiest street in the city at my age, and he strongly disagreed with her having me pick up her medications at that age. He also said I was carrying the narcotic diazepam, otherwise known as Valiums. The cops gave her a warning, and my ass was grass once they left. That was the last time I ever walked to pick up Patricia’s medications. 

When I didn’t have school, as soon as Patricia was awake for the day, it was time for me to get busy. She created a chore chart the size of a 22×28-inch poster board. Each entry of a chore was a 1/4 of an inch, and the poster board was full of chores. From top to bottom! A few of the tasks were everyday chores most kids can relate to doing, like taking the trash out and making your bed up. Others were strange things like rubbing and massaging Patricia’s back, feet, and legs using lotion, running her bathwater, brushing her hair, and making her bed up. She made me give her enemas while she lay on the bathroom floor, and she would also make me pop all her pimples. Talk about disgusting. Were other kids doing this, I wondered?

In addition, she wanted us to cut coupons for days, file papers in her filing cabinet, and handle other miscellaneous tasks most kids don’t do. We were always in charge of helping her clean piles of clothes and trash off her bedroom floor, changing her bedding, and dusting her bedroom and the whole house. Cleaning and caretaking were embedded in me from a very young age.

The reward was the star sticker system. Each chore was a one-star sticker, and if we got 25 stars, we got a popsicle or a nickel or a dime. The chores were never done, and as soon as we thought we would be close to getting them done, it was a new week and time to start them all over again. Once it was time to give us the little bit of change that was owed to us, we never had the money and bills being due was the reason.

Patricia was a professional at getting people to feel sorry for her, especially churches. As far back as I could remember, we had churches helping us pay our bills and donating us food when we had little to eat. She knew how to turn on the tears at a second’s notice and did a great job telling the story of her husband leaving her for another woman, and she’s a single mother raising two kids with no help or assistance.

The basement was problematic; it was continuously flooded with water, and water bugs were everywhere. We cleaned up all the rotten wood from a failed attempt to create a floor. The wooden floor was created so we could put our toys on it to stay safe from the water, but the water rotted the wood in no time. Our toys were mixed with the mess, so we bagged most of it, hauling them off to the trash. 

If I ever thought my chores were almost done so I could go outside and play, Patricia would insist I entertain her wants and needs. “Pammy, go get me a Pepsi,” and “Pammy, go run my bathwater.” “Pammy, come watch figure skating with me, and you can work on your workbook.” It was never-ending all about her. If getting paid to fetch her Pepsis and massaging her body was a job, I would be a millionaire. 

Spending time with her wasn’t my kind of fun if I had any “fun.” It was her kind of fun. We would watch Lawrence Welk, old-timer television shows, and play Kings Corners. I would help her get her flower beds ready and pull weeds out. She would talk non-stop sharing stories about her life, her family and her childhood. She also spent a lot of time bashing my dad, Thomas and his new wife, Laura. It was clear she held a lot of resentment about the divorce and him and Laura.

I longed to be a regular child who could go outside and play with friends without sneaking and getting in trouble. I would have given anything to be able to have friends over to stay all night, but that was always out of the question. I don’t think I ever had one friend stay all night in all my life, and I can count on one hand the times I stayed at a friend’s house all night. 

One evening when I was five years old, I watched television with Patricia, and we saw a woman giving birth to a baby. “Did I come out of your tummy like that, Mommy?” Her answer would forever change the trajectory of my life. 

She said, “No, honey. You were adopted. That means you came out of another woman’s tummy. She loved you so much, but she couldn’t care for you. She made my dreams come true to be a parent. I will always love her because of her selfless decision.” 

I remember the feelings of total confusion that came over my life. I said, “Who is she, and where is she?” Patricia said, “I don’t know who she is or where she is. The adoption was closed, so all of that information was kept private. I know your birth mother loved you so much, and she wanted you to have a better life.”

After this, I didn’t ask any more questions, but my brain would not stop thinking about my “birth mother.” My thoughts were, “So you mean you aren’t my real parents and my real siblings?” I was blown away at the news of being adopted. I stuffed my feelings out of respect for Patricia’s dreams coming true, but my life would never be the same.

I wish I could share that Melanie and I had a close relationship growing up, but we didn’t. It seemed like Patricia and Melanie were constantly fighting, and with no choice of my own, I was stuck in the middle, left to be the comforter to Patricia. She had constant outbursts that created a living hell in the big grey house. This created an automatic wedge between Melanie and me for as long as I can remember. Things were manageable during the peaceful times in the big grey house, but when all hell broke loose, all hell broke loose. 

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova