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The Thrill of a Lifetime

Life Story Club Contributor

Mar 2, 2020

And I did a search, and I’m happy to say I found my birth mother. Oh my God, what a thrill. I look just like my birth mother and my grandfather. She met with me, and had me to her home, and took me out to meet her parents, which was just a thrill. She had to give me up because her father, my grandfather, had been an actor. And he was teaching theater at Smith College, which is a women’s school. Holy smokes. The professor’s daughter showing up on campus pregnant? Oh my God, can you imagine a worse scandal? So they sent her down to Florida to have me, and she did.

And I found her and she found my father. I met my birth father, which was a thrill. My birth father was German. On my mother’s side, I’m English, Irish, and French. But on my father’s side, I’m a German. My birth father, by the way, he was kind of chubby. Very much chubby, kind of shortish, with reddish hair, and some freckles. And he was very suspicious of my motives. He thought I was after money. My father became a doctor, so he was thinking I was after his money, which I wasn’t. I just wanted to find my roots. You got to find your roots. Well, I found my roots.

Well, my grandfather, my mother’s father, had been an actor and taught theater at Smith College. And my mother said also, if he was living in this day and age, none of us would have been born, because she said he was so gay, it’s a miracle he got married and had some kids. My mother, Nancy, and he had a son. His name was Tony. There was another child named Molly, my aunt Molly. She was a really smart woman. She won a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris right straight out of high school. So right out of high school, she went to Paris and went to the Sorbonne and studied. And she’s in her 80’s now, and she’s still in Paris. She comes to see me every so often. And she’s invited me to come see her. My Aunt Molly is an interesting, amazing woman.

So I was really lucky in finding my birth family. And my mother took me out to meet my grandparents. They lived out in Long Island, and I came up from Florida to meet my birth family. And she found my father and my mother and my birth mother. My mother and my father and I had lunch together at the Algonquin on Valentine’s Day. By the way, Valentine’s Day is three days before my birthday. So the three of us had lunch at the Algonquin. My father was very suspicious. He thought I was after his money, I think because he was a doctor. I didn’t give a shit about the money. I just really wanted to know where I came from, that old cliché. I really, really wanted to see somebody I looked like.

My adoptive parents, meanwhile, were really, really, really good with me. They loved me a lot. And they had a motel in Florida where I grew up, which was kind of a neat place to grow up at. People came from the whole eastern part of the United States. My father turned me into a junior social director there. This is all very relevant to being an adoptee. So anyway, I did find my birth mother.

My grandmother used to teach Latin at a young ladies’ finishing school. I think it was called Dalton. So my grandmother taught Latin at Dalton, which is kind of amusing. And my grandfather taught at Smith. It is a women’s college.

I did a search. In those days, you could do searches. I did that search. And guess what? I called her up one day. I found my mother. And somehow, I put it together, this woman is my birth mother. And I called her up one day and I said, “Hello. Are you Nancy So-and-so?”

She said, “Well, yes.” My mother had the most beautiful speaking voice. It was very full and very rich. My voice is kind of high and very squeaky. I obviously didn’t get my voice from my mother.

So I called her up and I said, “Hello. Are you So-and-so? And are you Nancy?”

And she said, “Why, yes I am. How can I help you, Claire?”

And I said, “Well, I have reason to believe…I actually…did you have a child in ’51?”

And she said, “Well, yes I did, dear.”

And I said, “Well, I have reason to believe you’re my mother.” And she gave out this scream. There was a long pause or a silence. I thought she’d hung up on me and didn’t want to talk to me. So I merely said to her, “If there’s a problem on the call, you can tell me now, and I give you my word, I’ll never contact you again.”

And she said, “Oh, no. I’m thrilled to hear from you.” And we talked for hours. Oh, my gosh.

And then she came to see me from New York down to Florida. And I was living in a really tiny apartment. It was a studio apartment. So I rented a motel room for her and her husband to stay at. So she called me when she arrived, and I explained the situation. So she just come down, and there she was. I drove down the motel. It was just a few blocks. And it’s a tiny motel. So I drove into the parking lot. And, my word, there was a woman standing there towards the back of the motel that looked like me.

On Traveling

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 24, 2020

I have had two strokes. After the first stroke, I lost the ability to speak, nor could I walk. So I had a work out, but I lived at the YMCA. It was the supportive housing residence. I had a case worker, and he, my brother, and his wife came from California to see me. God bless. My brother’s wife has been so dear to me. She has been like an angel. See my brother brought her home pregnant. My God, in those days, what a scandal. So she really befriended me. In recent years, I asked her why she befriended me. “Because,” she said, “I needed an ally in the family.”

So anyway, then she became a teacher and she did her teaching internship at my high school. So she lived with us. So it was kind of neat to get to know my sister in that way. We’d drive back and forth to school everyday. It was kind of neat and I learned a lot about driving. I was a student at this time.

And she, her father had been in the military, so she herself had done a lot of traveling through her life. So she used to talk to me about all these different places. She got kind of an education that way. So I didn’t have to go traveling to learn a lot of things, which is kind of neat, unusual and neat.

But I have done a lot of traveling. Actually when I was a teenager, I got pregnant quite young. I wasn’t even 20 yet. It’s a long story how that happened. I won’t bother you with it. I had a dear friend living in Boston and at that time, abortions were legal in New York, but no place else in the country.

Oddly enough, I went to Boston to have an abortion. I didn’t want my parents to know I was pregnant. I did a lot of things by myself. I lived there for awhile and I flew into New York. I came to New York and I flew, and I came to New York to have the abortion. It was Upstate in a place called Mazi.

I was. I’ve had lots of adventures, I’m proud to say. And I have a very adventurous spirit, and I think that’s helped me survive. I’ve had two strokes now. The first one put me in a coma for five months. The doctor said I was going to die. They don’t know why I didn’t die. They don’t know why lived. They don’t know what causes the illness. They don’t know what cures it. It’s called TTP. That’s what the doctors call it, it’s a shortened version of this very long Latin name. You can look it up in the internet. I had TTP, this scary illness and I survived it. I think it’s just my adventurous experience.

Melody got her PhD in teaching and then in recent years she became a pastor, which I’m sure she’s very good at it because she’s very empathetic and very loving, not just with me, but everybody. She just has that kind of heart.

My love for my sister-in-law is what saved my life I think. Best medicine is love. I’m sure.

Growing Up in Florida

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 17, 2020

I grew up in the Gulf of Mexico, right there on the Gulf. Literally. I could swim before I could walk. My parents had a place called the Gulf Ranch. My father turned me into a Junior Social Director. He said, “There are a couple of kids your age, why don’t you invite them for a swim?” He would bug me all day long until I did it. So, he turned me into a social butterfly kind of.

I lived in a Cuban neighborhood too. Oh and I’m proud to say you’re sitting here with a citizen of Florida. I wrote a grant for my neighborhood. We wanted money to open up a childcare center. It was a very poor Spanish neighborhood, Cuban mostly. There was no childcare, no nothing. Most of the women didn’t work but what we did is we arranged for them to have lessons to learn how to speak English then to become childcare workers. I’m proud to say I started it. I won an award from the governor. First Citizen of Florida.

I did something else that was very cool also. After 9/11, I was living here in Brooklyn and I was with the Y. We headed a disaster relief effort. We set up outside in the street and collected all kinds of supplies and stuff for those who perished and their families. And money too. I won another award in New York for that one. I was an organizer in those days.

Then in 2003, I contracted a very rare disorder. No one knows what caused it or what cures it. You know what saved my life? I spent five months in a coma. They thought I was going to die. But guess what? My brother’s life? My sister-in-law became my best friend right after they got married. Years later I asked her why she befriended me back then and she said, “I needed an ally in the family.” So, she and I became very, very close. She became like a sister to me.

I spent five months in a coma and this is how I woke up. This woman, my sister-in-law, came to see me. She came into my room and sat beside me. She spoke to me and I woke right up from the coma. I said, “Melody’s here! Hurray! Melody here!” That’s how much I love my sister-in-law. She saved my life. Literally.

I heard her voice and came out of it.

I have been gay since I was a kid. I knew from the time I was about seven that I was gay. Dear Melody, she accepted me. She didn’t know but she just accepted me and she loved me. She saved my life, I think. Because I was so freaked out. This was a day and age when being gay was like awful. Oh my god, you’re a sinner, you’re going to go to hell and die! Oh my god, I was a lesbian! Was Florida conservative? Was I gay?

My god, it was so damn Christian, you didn’t fart. You weren’t allowed to fart. Farting was wrong, wrong, wrong. Can you imagine? Farting was wrong. But I farted anyway, don’t you know? Oh my god, you couldn’t take me anywhere.

On My Birthday

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 17, 2020

Everyone, today is my birthday. I’m 69 today. My birth mother gave me up for adoption right after I was born. I found her I did a search for her and I found her. I look just like her and my grandfather. It was a big of a shock for me because I had never seen anyone who resembled me.

She found my father and the three of us had lunch together on Valentine’s day. I met my birth father. What an amazing experience. I look nothing like him. He’s a little German guy. If my mother had kept, she would’ve named me Erica Muschenheim. He was a short chubby guy with red hair and freckles.

So anyway, she died in 2007. I was so devasted. My aunt, who I hadn’t met yet, called me and told me my mother had died the night before. I was so devastated that I had a second stroke. No kidding. So, you know, it was kind of alright because I found her and met her. And my mother was such a character, oh my god. And she was short, she was shorter than I am. She was 4’11, she came up to my chin.

So I found her and met her and my father. An absolute moment of fulfillment for my life. What a thrill.

My grandfather had been an actor and then he became a professor. He taught theater to young ladies at Smith College of all places. So my mother showed up pregnant and they had to get her out of town so they sent her to Florida to stay with her aunt, where she had me. And I found her.

I was about thirty when I found her. And it was such a thrill, my god. Being an adoptee. You can’t imagine being an adoptee and never seeing anyone who resembles you biologically. And then when she died, I was so devastated I had a stroke.

Feb 17, 2020

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