It was nearly Christmas 1963 when one mother received a call confirming their foster home was able and willing to take in an almost 12 month old girl and her 4 year old brother while another mother was attempting to take care of her so that she could be reunited with her children… one day.
Through a variety of circumstance, with God weaving details and lives in a way only God can do, I and my brother Mike were both adopted being gifted with the last name Murphy. What a gift adoption is; being offered a family and a name saying… you are wanted. You belong.
We arrived into a home ran by a full-time homemaker and ex-Marine. The orderly home was exactly what these children needed; every meal at mostly the same time every day. Routine and consistency. I was expected to follow the rules without question and without complaint. (I actually think I did that pretty well until my teenager years when I decided to become a little more vocal with my opinions- not really well received. )
Fast forward to my 10th year of life to the day a car pulled up along the street in front of our house as a stranger called my name. I approached this car meeting the mother who was now ready to be reunited with her children.
She asked if I was happy and I assured her that I was. It would be nearly 20 more years before I would lay eyes on this mother again. More years later I heard that my mother -the one who worked to be reunited with her children – was offered the opportunity to have her two children that were adopted years earlier returned. That would have included that then 10 year old daughter she met on the sidewalk that summer day. It was then that she made a decision that only a mother could make. She said “no”. She said she knew the family I was adopted by was the only family I knew. This mother sacrificed what her Mother’s heart longed for to offer what she believed was best… for me.
My life continued as it had- full of safety, love, and the usual normal fun childhood experiences. I fished with Dad, cooked with Mom, pretend ironed Dad’s hankies, ran in the summer rain, snow forts in the winter with bread bags over my socks, you know, regular kids stuff prior to computers.
Being raised by World War II veterans offered to me the example of responsible living while introducing me to the God who created me allowing me plenty of opportunity to grow in my faith in God (translated means we went to church…a lot.) I really tried my best to hold back my desire to be a voice for justice-though mostly justice for me at that time. I once sighed or made some groaning sound at what my mother made for supper when I was in high school and I was promptly told that I would “not be invited to join them for dinner” and that I was invited to make my own meal. I initially thought it a fairly fine idea until a few nights later she made something I really liked. Now, looking back, I actually think she just may have done that on purpose….. I was invited to re-join her and Dad for supper if I felt like I could now “accept what was prepared without complaint”, my slightly rebellious nature wanted to say, “maybe I’m not ready yet” but the pull of whatever she made won and I agreed to return to the respectful mannerly ‘no complaint’ expectation.
At the age of 40 I completed by degree as a nurse choosing to work on the reservation I was born into. It so happened that the mother who chose life for me decided to retire to her same reservation having reached 70 thinking it a good age to stop working full-time as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
Living on the same reservation brought many more opportunities to get to know my mother, Betty. It didn’t take long to discover where my drive to fight for justice came from as well as my story-telling gene and sense of humor. Sadly my two families collided just one year earlier at Mike’s funeral as we all mourned the loss of someone we all believed was too fun, too full of life to have ever believed he wouldn’t just always be here. Or, maybe, I always believed he would always be here…
My two mothers both loved the same children and both lost their son, Mike. Both went to Flandreau Indian Boarding school though nearly 10 years apart. Both mothers found more opportunities to connect through Tribal meetings for old-er native people and developed a friendship as widows and mothers who both loved their children,
Today is a very special day as the mother who God chose to give me life through celebrates her 86th birthday! Today also marks Day 2 in heaven for my mother – who God also chose – who gracefully stopped aging at the beautiful age of 97… now eternally young living in the presence of Jesus.
I have been doubly blessed to have two mothers. I hear from so many who had one mother who they lost so many years ago; for some when they were but a small child. I have no answer as to why I would be offered this gift of two mothers and for so many years. Though each were not perfect they each loved and love in their own way as living examples to press on and face each day with purpose. They lived in all their imperfect humanity so that I can be an imperfect Mom to my own children hopefully having taught and modeled living life with respect, love and laughter teaching my children and now grandchildren to trust in the God who created us all and loved us first.
The Tale of Two Moms is my true story. Today my emotions waiver from sadness to joyful anticipation of future reunions, gratefulness to still have a mother this side of heaven getting to experience another birthday then I’m back to sadness for me and others without their mothers.
I must press on facing each day with purpose, taking all the best I’ve been offered by the warrior-mothers God chose for me, take time to pray, to laugh, to fight for justice, maybe iron a little, cook sometime and love….really love.