Friday, 11 May 2018

Mary's Birthday

Today my Dad's birth mother, Mary, would have been ... 139!  It sounds crazy to write, but she was 39 when she had him, he was 38 when I was born and I will be 62 the end of this month.

She was born on this day in 1879 on the family farm at Cerro Gordo, in Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota. Cousin Don kindly shared this photo of the barn on that property. The barn was notable  not just for its enormous size but for its amenities. Apparently there was a ramp to the upper level so that horses and a hay wagon could go 'upstairs'. There was also a turntable to allow them to exit facing front rather than backing out. 

I mentioned last month on the blog for my Dad's birthday that I had a copy of his adoption file. The phrase that has haunted me since was from one of Mary's letters to the officialdom that removed her children from her care in 1919. Having learned that her elder son died, aged 24, by drowning she was frantic to know the whereabouts of my Dad. She says

 'my bright happy days are taken away'. 

That letter was written in 1939, when she was 60, twenty years after she lost her children and was committed to a mental institution for eight years because she had two children out of wedlock. 

How much of these decisions were concerning the welfare of the children and how much it concerned upholding the morals of the middle-class Lutheran society, that of her background, I may never know. I am, however, awaiting receipt of what I think will be the last of the documentation from officialdom, about the Bethany Home for unwed mothers into which I understand she and her children were initially taken. 

I can't for one moment regret the grandparents who adopted my Dad and helped raise me. On the other hand, this woman who had such a painful life intrigues me. I wonder how much I might have inherited from her, what I might have learned from her, had things been different. I can't know any of that of course, but what I can do is to honour her memory and to uncover as much about her as possible.