“Secrecy is the wellspring of fear.” Laurie White
“...the present rearranges the past. We never tell the story whole because a life isn't a story; it's a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.” Rebecca Solnit, quoted in Harper's Magazine Feb, 2014
When I was in graduate school in the 1980s, studying for an MFA in creative writing, I wrote a story with the line, "It's possible to live with half your heart and no one will ever know." For years I had lived with a hidden vein of grief and loss and at that point had told only one other person about the most important event in my emotional history. The first person I told about losing my son was Cherry, another young mother whom I had met at a neighborhood park near our homes in Guelph, Ontario. Her daughter was about the same age as my adopted son Dabbs, and as young mothers will do, we began chatting. Cherry asked me about my baby, and when I told her about having adopted him from Vietnam, she wanted to know more. We began getting together a couple of times a week for tea, either at her house or at mine. One afternoon we were at my house, and she began nursing her baby. I was so envious, because I had tried and failed to breastfeed my older son, and I shared my disappointment.
Intimate details of one's life are the currency of female friendship, and Cherry and I were on our way to becoming best friends. Both our husbands taught at Guelph University, we both loved to read, and she introduced me to Canadian fiction, which became a life-long interest. She told me about her struggles with mental illness and the four years she had spent in a psychiatric hospital as a teenager. That she was now a trained nurse, married with a child, seemed nothing short of miraculous. She seemed, in fact, incredibly grounded and was a wonderful mother.
When I retired from teaching to care for my youngest grandson, I left a fulfilling career at a university I had come to love. I was finally in a happy marriage, my third, and after many years of struggle, it seemed like smooth sailing ahead, but something was missing, something that had been missing for virtually my entire adult life. I've thought of my life as a series of chapters, and I felt there was another chapter waiting. I just didn't know what it would be.