Published on November 11th, 2013 | by Victoria Petron8
VICTORIA PETRON’S Silver Lining Adoption Story
My dearest aunt Vicky gave birth July 6th, 1966 in a New York hospital. She was only sixteen years old. Regardless of who my aunt was at that time, the outcome would have been the same. The baby was taken out of her arms and given to another family.
My aunt hit the class jackpot, yet she grew to be very little like the elite people who surrounded her. When asked about the Great Depression, Grandmother will tell you that she didn’t know what that was growing up. She had fur coats, oversized hats, and was afforded the privileges of near royalty for her time. My Grandfather was a respected Navy veteran and later a successful architect for BF Goodrich. When I think of him I think of his low, deep voice, telling jokes, smoking cigars; how he reminds me of Dick Van Dyke, so charming. Young Vicky was a free thinker, rebellious and outspoken. Vicky caused her parents a bit more concern than that of a typical of a post pubescent female. She was always chasing adventure, attracted to a much grittier, alternative side of life outside northeast Ohio. My grandparents could not keep her in the house, she was always sneaking out to parties or taking off on long distance road trips. Eventually she would call her Daddy when she was in trouble or ready to come home. One day she came home pregnant.
The following excerpts are from Vicky’s diaries.
“I killed a child. I was only sixteen, got pregnant, and jumped off a cliff in a place called the Mines in Greenwood Lake, New Jersey. It was 1964. What did I know? A week later I will never forget, I started bleeding and then so much pain! I remember going to the basement and sitting on the toilet for hours at two and three a.m. and miscarried in the toilet. I was about 3 months. I remember throwing out the sheets from my bed. I couldn’t let Mom and Daddy know! The next morning I went to work at my first job at the Grand Union. It seems like another life time. Then I got pregnant again, but this time I went through it. I had a baby girl and gave her up for adoption; God that was so hard. But as they say, what goes around comes around. So I can’t feel sorry for myself. I just hope and pray my daughter has had a good life and is happy. Maybe someday I’ll get to see her- not that I deserve to or want anything from her- just to see her. I held her when she was born, fed her- only for two days- but she was so beautiful. Even Daddy said so. Mom and Dad were so great. I was so young, so stupid- damn- I thought I knew it all. I thought I could go anywhere, do anything. I was so stupid. I had no fear.”
“I remember like yesterday when a contraction hit. I remember I went down to the toilet doubled over rocking back and forth and crying in a voice that wasn’t mine. Enough of that- it is well over twenty years ago. I remember being pregnant, almost nine months, being in a hotel room Mom and Dad got for me because the family and neighbors could not know. I went to the movies by myself for the first time. Saw “The Group”. It was early afternoon, very few people, some slimy guy was jerking off about three seats away. On the way back to the hotel in Gramercy Park, some guy, older man, tried to pick me up. Granted I had a raincoat on, and I was so thin and didn’t look pregnant. That’s where Izzy and Hugo came in. I spent every night with them. I didn’t feel like a bad person. They never questioned who, why, what how stupid are you! They even took me to dinner with their friends. I was so scared. I even went to Philly and lived with an old girlfriend who was hooking at the time. I called Dad only when her pimp wanted to sell my baby. Daddy was so wonderful- as I’m sure (my sister) Mary Ann knows when she split to Cali- Dad was there. Mary Ann & I took him to the max, but he was always there and never said damn you are a fuck up.”
“They say you can bear the pain of childbirth because you have someone to hold after. If you don’t have that you feel, or I did, so very empty”.
“I used to look out for Geoff and Jan. I don’t even think they knew it. I loved them so much. They didn’t need it at all- but Mary Ann- she needed it so damn much! She was my baby- my baby I lost. And I’m over 45- she still is my baby. I made her the one I lost. Never thought about it that way. It’s good to get it out on paper. Hope no one reads this all until I’m gone.”
“Daddy always said he would love to meet my daughter as she was his first grandchild. So would I, but I know it will never happen. I remember as a child wishing on birthdays, wanting a family of my very own. Such crap. Just want anyone who would remember me, that I care so much, maybe too much- no big deal. But I do know I have a daughter somewhere. I pray she doesn’t hate me. I still to this day cannot forgive myself, so how can she forgive me?”
During one Christmas day I was trying to make the most out of every second I had with my aunt while she was in town. I asked her, “Aunt Vicky, what do you want for Christmas?”
She swayed backwards a little bit, wrapped her arm around me, and leaned in real close. I could smell Marlboro Reds and red wine on her breath, but I didn’t mind. She smiled and said, “A new pair of tits. I need new tits, dear.”
I knew when I was around ten that Aunt Vicky was a bit wild, she gave me a candle holder with penis cutouts in it. But I had no idea that this woman had lived through over forty years of misfortune. At thirteen I was finally allowed to stay up late and drink red wine until the wee morning hours with my family. It was a family Christmas tradition. I thought it was odd that my mother, Mary Ann, and several others in my family did not stay up late with us. Maybe it was because they knew Vicky was struggling. That year she had bleached her otherwise shiny black hair and was so skinny she looked like she had been through the Holocaust. I knew something was really wrong when she began to cry after we had just gorged ourselves with fudgy brownies and over-buttered popcorn.
Vicky sobbed to me, “I’m terrified of Grandma dying. I just love her so much, and we’ve only lately have been able to reconnect. I am so afraid this is my last Christmas with her.” I was a bit caught off guard; I didn’t know Grandma was dying. I just listened to her quietly for a while as she confessed to me her tough trials and tribulations. Vicky spent hours telling my virgin ears stories of waking up in stranger’s beds, doing drugs, the ins and outs of living in the city. She censored nothing, but remained adamant that she always had good intentions. Towards the end of the bottle of wine she divulged, “I gave up a baby girl for adoption, and I know damn well it was the right choice. I just never stopped wondering about her all these years. I wish I could talk to her, or at least know she lived a good life,”
In 2009, I was pregnant with a lot of time to think about the fact I had a cousin somewhere. One day my sister called my mom and I to tell us she had found Vicky’s daughter. She apparently had also been thinking about our unknown cousin, did a Google search and quickly found that someone was looking for us too. “I think you should call her Tori. I’m sure she has questions,” my sister told me.
When Jackie answered the phone later that evening I was astonished to hear her voice and dialect sounded so similar to my Aunt’s voice. We made small talk for a few minutes, nervously laughing about the power of the internet these days. Finally she asked, “So where is my Mom?”
“Vicky died a few years ago. I’m so sorry,” I nearly whispered.
There was a long silence while I imagine she was deliberating how to react. I feared the next question.
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. How did it happen?”
I could not bear to say she drank herself to the grave.
I began to cry, but I steadied my voice, “She was sick,”
Jackie thanked me for telling her of her mother’s fate and then excused herself to sort out how she felt.
“I just want you to know that she loved you, and I know for a fact she never stopped thinking of you,”
I did not want the entire conversation to be plagued with such morose.
“I will call you soon. We have so much to talk about,” she assured me.
I held my hands around the little life growing inside of me as I said aloud to Vicky, “Please be with us”.
The following year Jackie drove from where she lived in Virginia Beach one state away to our home in North Carolina. Leading up to her arrival my mother and I wondered how well we would receive each other. What if she is really snotty or stuck up? What if she doesn’t like us or thinks we are crazy hicks? Will the dogs make her uncomfortable, will she hate how small our house is, what if she can’t stand cigarette smoke? Are we prepared to tell her the details of Vicky’s demise while conveying how lovely Vicky was as a person?
Despite the initial anxiety taking the chance of a disastrous union was well worth it. In honor of Vicky we had to meet her. As soon as she walked in the door my mother and I were stunned by our immediate and instinctual love for her. It was like we had discovered one of our own. This small-framed woman with a heavy accent and dazzling eyes was permanently part of our pack.
Vicky’s death left my family without closure, without answers, and with massive frustration because it was unnecessary. She did not give my family the power to help her. Just weeks earlier she was supposed to travel back home to sober up and receive treatment, but her tolerance depleted, her mind weakened, and her body gave out. I believe she was ready to leave. Vicky made a choice to go to heaven with her father because she knew she could no longer survive alone. She didn’t want to be a burden on our family despite my mother assuring her it would not be. I feel as if my aunt somehow left us Jackie in her place. Having Jackie in my life to talk to, to respect and admire as much as I do is such a gift. I feel incredibly lucky that Jackie turned out to be someone I absolutely adore. As a parent it is impossible for me to fathom the amount of courage it must have taken for Vicky to carry Jackie for nine months only to reluctantly give her away. I cannot imagine the pain my grandparents experienced knowing their daughter would have to live with this memory forever. As my aunt wrote once though, “No matter how bad things seem, there is always a silver lining. I’m still working on this one, but I know it’ll show up someday, and this will all make perfect sense”. Jackie is my silver lining.