My social worker had also promised to sit down with grandma and get as much information as possible about OB's birth dad. Until now, all I have known about him was his name and that he has big feet. Oh, and a few choice morsels from his criminal record, but we'll gloss over that. Only one photo of him was offered up for OB's life story book - a classic school photo where he looks about 12. I caught a brief glance of it over 18 months ago before it was whisked away to be included in the book which I still haven't received. Apparently it is, at last, ready, so now I've got that to look forward to as well.
I saw the two emails from my social worker, one with pdf attachment of the letter, and the other with pdf attachment of her own handwritten notes from the meeting. Foolishly, I just opened them and read them.
Yeah. Should definitely have armed myself with a large glass of wine, or a giant bar of chocolate ... or maybe both.
Once I'd got my breath back, I read them again, more slowly, capturing details and nuances and lines between lines. I already knew enough about OB's birth mum to understand that hers is a complex story, layered with tragedy, loss and trauma of her own. Now I saw that birth dad's story is really more of the same.
Sometimes it is hard to manage the intense compassion I feel for OB's birth family. I genuinely believe that, although their care of OB was very negligent, the hand that they themselves had been dealt was so bad, so loaded against them, that at the time that OB came on the scene, there was simply no way that they could possibly have been able to parent him. So they have lost him. And he has lost them. More loss to add to an already bulky catalogue of loss.
It's not that I think that OB shouldn't have been removed. Birth dad only ever saw OB once as far as I know, so he certainly wasn't in a position to ensure his care and safety. Birth mum's behaviour put OB in serious danger on more than one occasion and, despite massive support from many professionals and myself, the attempt to return OB to her only resulted in more neglect, to his very great cost. With time could they have sorted themselves out? Maybe. But at what cost to OB?
No, it's not that I feel guilty that OB was removed and is now with me. I believe it was the right decision for him. But in some ways I feel that things would be so much easier for me if I could simply demonise his birth parents - imagine them as monsters with no redeeming feature and then sweep their memory aside. I can't do that. Not only is it not true, but it would not be right. So instead, I live with my complex emotions about birth mum and dad, people who, in my past life, I would have drawn close to, supported and fought for. Maybe the day will come when I will do that for them, and for OB. Who knows what the future holds.
But all of that is as nothing compared to my feelings about birth grandma. Reading the notes, and her letter, I was struck again and again by the helplessness of her situation. She didn't neglect OB - in fact she did everything she could to ensure the rehabilitation to birth mum would be a success, all for nothing. She did raise his birth dad, who is hardly a great advert I admit, but the same thing that broke him also broke her. Another life that barely holds on.
She keeps a photo I gave her, framed, on her living room wall. When her other grandchild, OB's half-sister, comes to visit at the weekends, she shows her the photo and explains to her about her half-brother. She laminated OB's drawing that I sent her last year and keeps it on the fridge with her grand-daughter's art work. She begged for another drawing. She is sorry. She has bad health or else she would have taken him herself. She hopes he has a good life.
When I finished reading, my gut reaction was to phone her, tell her to come over for a coffee and spend a little time with the son of her son. I didn't do that, and I won't. And all week I have been wondering why.
I think the answer is that it's a massive can of worms. It's the unknown. I can't see where it would lead and I don't like some of the possibilities. I'm not ready to share OB. That day will probably come but I'm not ready yet. OB doesn't even know about his birth grandma. I've talked to him about his adoption and his first parents, but I've held off from talking about extended family for fear it would just muddy the waters.
Birth grandma is on my mind this week, but I'm keeping the worms in their can.