This is one of ten shortlisted entries for our Things To Do Before You Die contest. We will try to make the winning idea happen.
The entries on the shortlist are:
"Inform The World About Lyme Disease" - Beth Ross
"Improving The Lives Of Dogs" - Emily Grossheider
"Becoming A Regular Size" - Will Holt
"Seeing Through Photography" - Jeremy Braun
"Live Like We're Dying" - Jonathan Winegarden
"One Wish Before I Die: Let Women Lead" - Claire Charamnac
"My Wish For A Buried Life" - Ashley Calarie
"The Dark Has Its Own Light" - Mary Rose Betten
"Thank You For Being A Teacher" - Caroline Cretti
"My Wish: To Be A Professional Pinup Model" - Alicia Leeman
If I won this contest and got to find the daughter I gave away over 50 years ago I'd probably die of a heart attack. And yet...and yet...maybe solving this family mystery might improve my life, her life, and the life of children to come. Maybe I'd stop searching the faces of middle aged women on the street and maybe I could burn my copy of the book, "The Girls Who Went Away," because in 1954 I was one of those girls, my story matches theirs, yet my story was hidden until my only child, my second daughter turned 18.
I grew up in the midwest, the youngest girl in a family of ten. Need I say I was Roman Catholic? No, strike that I'm still Roman Catholic. I married a theologian. No, strike that, I was married for forty one years, to a theologian. He divorced me, re-married the day after the divorce and the church annulled our forty one year marriage. Because I cheated? No, strike that, not once, and as a professional actress on stage, TV and films I had plenty of opportunity. But that fateful summer my former husband went off on a thirty day silent retreat and broke his silence to phone me and say he was not coming home, when his silent retreat ended, he planned to live on his sailboat.
Who would believe the world has changed so much that girls pregnant out of wedlock now keep their babies and often the girl's parents raise the child? My parents died not knowing my first daughter existed. I had no concealing when I was pregnant, nor after I gave the baby to Catholic Charities without seeing her or naming her. It took all I had to leave my unforgettable hideout in upstate New York and go to Manhattan to find a future for myself. My parents had sent me to a different high school every year to insure I would not cause my father to have a heart attack. I think this is when I began to sense people distancing themselves from me. I think also this is why I became an actress, so I might distance myself from myself. Well the acting profession provided a pension and now I am a writer and I have learned to share my true feelings which brings me to realize how I figured out maybe I wouldn't have a heart attack if I won this contest: I would write about it and help people find words for loss in all its guises: death, betrayal, wars, however they have experienced loss and are unable to express it.
I have endeavored to find my first daughter to no avail. I registered with Catholic Chariities but they were required by law to hand their records over to the state of New York. I wrote to New York state again to no avail. Sometimes I fear she might be dead, but if I won I might visit her grave. Where I gave birth in upstate New York there was a military base nearby and perhaps she was adopted by a military family that moved from the area and was never told she was adopted.
If I could, I would tell the world there is life beyond deep loss. Reach out, you'll be reminded there are caring people in this world, we need only to read, write and speak our truth to raise ourselves from the dead.