Saturday, December 05, 2009

Elnora Martanna White, 1927-2009

I named her England.

My birth mother's mother, she, almost single-handedly, was the physical force that set the course of my life. I hated her. I loved her.

The wicked witch is dead.

Though, to me, she was dead a few years ago. When she couldn't manage to even call me when my father passed. The man who took me in and raised me after she made her daughter give me away.

An act of cowardice I may never forgive.

When she found it necessary to scowl at my dreadlocks and earrings as I stood in my childhood kitchen just days before I put my father in the ground.

A cutting judgment I will never forget.

Right then and there, I wanted to put her out of her misery. I buried her on the spot.

I named her England. For she colonized and oppressed generations of her offspring. Put darkness in places where there ought to be light.

I loved her. After all, she was somebody's grandmother. Somebody's mother.

Eight years ago, I met all those somebodies and grew to love them as much as I could love a set of strangers who shared my DNA. I saw me in them. Them in me. And yet--

I hated her.

Two days ago, after having both her legs cut off above the knee, one at a time with time in between, she gave up the ghost.

(Birth mother's will often tell you that surrendering a child to adoption is like losing a limb.)

Now that she's really dead, I'm struggling with my voice--literally. Spiritually. Psychically. Metaphysically.

The physical force that set the course of my life has left this world.

I knew this day would come. I knew this day would be challenging. I had no idea it would be like this. Can't sleep. Can hardly talk. Laryngitis. Wheezing most of the time. Asthma. Equilibrium shaken by an ear infection.

Poetry, I suppose, that while in foster care, according to my adoption file, an ear infection was the first illness in the opening verse of my life. Afraid, I dare say, to get on a plane to go to her funeral for fear it will be the last. Frightened by the real prospect I would let explode 42 years of rage right in the middle of her church.

Nope. I had no idea it would be like this.

I pray for healing.

For all of those somebodies I met eight years ago. The mother who conceived me in winter and bore me in fall. The younger uncle who stayed with her the summer she went away in secret. The elder uncle who brought me unannounced to her doorstep in spring. The three sisters and four cousins and their eight children.

For my mother, the woman who took me in in spring and raised me when Elnora put me out. Who became her friend the moment they met. Who will miss their long telephone conversations. Who so desperately wanted me to forgive the woman who put darkness in places where there ought to have been light.

But you can't make your heart do something it won't.

May my first and last grandmother rest in peace.



Overhead Spin said...

Oh my goodness Craig. Sometimes one has to wonder how much do we allow the dead to dictate how we feel and try to steal our joy. The bible said it best, oh death where is thy sting, oh grave where is thy victory. Do not allow those who lived their life in bitterness, hate and anger and ignorance continue to dominiate the lives of the living. I know I wont in relation to my mother and lesser so my father. They did what they had to because they thought it was best and I will not hold it against them because as a result of their actions, I am a better person. As a result of your grandmother, you are the man you are today. Strong, committed filled with goodness and love in your heart. Never allow her to steal your joy from beyond the grave. Continue to be strong my friend.

Craig Hickman said...

Nice words Karen. Thanks.

I can't get through it if I don't get to it.

Overhead Spin said...

Sweetie, I know exactly how you feel as I am going through the same struggles emotionally. I love my father and my mother but I hate them just as much. I ask the Lord every day to renew my spirit and to enable me to see beyond their actions and know that deep down they loved me. It is hard, but like you say you have to get to it first before you can get through it. I cry sometimes when I remember the lost opportunities. The times when I should have said what needed to be said. I am angry at myself for being afraid. I beat myself up every single day when I blame myself and think that I could have done more and I ask the Lord every single day to give me the strength to go on. I have never faced life and death issues the way I have faced them in 2009 but sometimes we have to face the ugly truths about those we love as well as about ourselves before we can get through it. It is hard and sometimes we may not like what we see, but at the end of the day it allows us to be better human beings. Better able to deal with the curve balls that life throws at us. At my age I never thought I would see the day when I would look back at my life and see where I messed up. Sometimes it is not about others but moreso about ourselves.

Ms.Martin said...


Life is sad and beautiful. She forced you away from your birth mother and into foster care, but you ended up with wonderful people who loved you and cared for you. I have a feeling you better for it. I can't imagine what a life with her would have been like for you.

Let her go, let it go; you have so much to celebrate, you received a wonderful pass.

Craig Hickman said...


Thank you for your thoughts. It's been a long time. Nice to "see" you again.

Beth said...

Craig, this was so beautifully, painfully, poignantly written. It so touched my heart and really strikes a cord for all of us who have had conflicted relationships with those who have shaped our lives. I lost my mother, completely unexpectedly and out of the blue when she was 41 and I was 20. I never had the chance to tell her goodbye, to tell her I loved her, to give her a last hug. As Ms. Martin said, you were raised by people who loved and cared for you and I am so happy that you've had that. Those that want to put darkness in our lives are very, very difficult people to live with and it is hard to reconcile our feeling for and about them. I know this is true. You nailed it when you wrote that you can't make your heart do what it won't do. SO TRUE. As you said, the darkness is now gone and moved on....I hope you find peace with this, in time. God bless you and thank you for sharing such personal and deep felt emotions.

Craig Hickman said...

Beth, thanks for sharing a bit of your story as well.

We do the best we can, no?

lexusoakland said...

Craig, I was so moved by this; even more so because I am an adoptive mother. All that was written here in response is true... you were blessed with wonderful folks, you became who you are... but what is also true, is that in this moment those things don't matter. What matters is being alive with the pain. You have to live with the pain and conflict before you can be healed of it, and it's ok. Don't rush too quickly through the pain, as pain has a way of polishing and finishing us... but if we hurry through it, the work doesn't get done, and our healing continues to elude us. You will be ok as long as you allow yourself the time, give yourself permission to mourn, to hate, to love. You will get to it, and you will get through it. Love to you.

legitimatebastard said...

Oh Craig,

This is the first time I have visted your site. This is so painful to rad, yet you must tell your story.

I, too, have feelings of love and hate because tht is what happens to adoptees. We are set on a path of pain.

Please find comfort in knowing that people who don't even know you are onyour side.