Speculations on Persistence--Justice-Interrupted
Speculations on Persistence—Justice-interrupted
I was blessed with two mothers: two strong-in-their-way, persistent forces that made the act of mothering into an abstract—if not impressionistically modern—art form. One gave birth to me and one chose-and-adopted me as her own. The unorthodox—hey, it was the eighties--way my childhood worked out was such that I still had a relationship with my birth mother and my siblings through her as well as a relationship with—of course—the mother who adopted me. For the former, I was one of many. For the latter, I was always, “The son she never ‘had’.” There has always been an unspoken family code behind that statement.
Though I would never presume to know because she has passed on to her own post-mortality in the case of the former and don’t have the heart to rip off any possible long-since scarred-over scabs by asking of the latter, I can only speculate. If I wasn’t aborted—clearly I wasn’t-- do I have siblings-interrupted who were? Growing up, and through innuendo, I’ve pieced together a possible narrative that includes sisters and brothers that I might have had: whose silent burials, in the shade of the then-contemporaneous Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, were overseen by doctors instead of priests: the knowledge of whom remain unanswered questions and silent, excruciating—horrible and debilitating scarred-over—speculative memories.
In the absence of knowing—I’m content in not knowing it all—all the facts, I’ll imagine that I’m the second child to a mother who made a decision, before she knew that there would be a me, that I would be the first.
In the absence of knowing all the facts, I’ll imagine that my mother was faced with a choice—a horrible and debilitating choice that she re-lives each day—between her own health… and that of a child whose term-birth in the 1970s would have endangered her own.
In the absence of knowing all the facts, I’ll imagine that my mother was faced with a choice—a horrible and debilitating choice that she re-lives each day—between her own uncharted future… and having to bring to term a child who would survive as a healthy—or living—human being.
In the absence of knowing all the facts, I’ll imagine that my mother was faced with a choice—a horrible and debilitating choice that she re-lives each day—between bringing a child into this world that was conceived under false-pretenses, as the result of violence, or as the outcome of rape… and not being reminded every day of those lies, abuses, or violations.
In the absence of knowing all the facts, I’ll imagine that my mother was faced with a choice—a horrible and debilitating choice that she re-lives each day—between bringing a child-out-of-wedlock into a judgmental and cruel world… and saving that child a lifetime of humiliation.
In the absence of knowing all the facts, I’ll imagine that my mother was faced with a choice—a horrible and debilitating choice that she re-lives each day—between bringing a child into this world that she, without any help from her family, her church, or her community, simply couldn’t care for… and saving that child from a life of hunger, neglect, and abandonment.
And, in the absence of all the facts, I speculate on what that meant for me. What part of that sibling-interrupted was passed on to me? Physically? Spiritually? Primordially? I speculate: would he or she have been more handsome than me? Would he or she have been gay? Would he or she—or they?— have protected me from bullies who beat me up because I wasn’t handsome or because I was gay?
I speculate: would he or she have been perfect, worth looking up to as I tried to navigate my world in his or her shadow? Was I over-loved or over-doted upon in some cosmic recompense? I speculate: was I undervalued or resented as an also-ran to a ghost?
Would he or she have loved me?
And, in the absence of all the facts, I speculate on what that meant for my other siblings. Do they wonder? Do they know? Have they speculated thusly on the life—the brother or sister or half brother or half sister or stepbrother or stepsister—that hovers silently, speculatively, in our midst? Do they resent me for being over-loved or over-doted upon, the next in line; do they resent me for being the one who was born? Do they, too, ache in the paralysis of speculation? Do they carry the burdens and cancers, the addictions and the demons, the guilt that should somehow have been borne by the unborn among us?
And, in the absence of all the facts, I speculate on what that means for society. Would that child have been a shining star, a leader, a model citizen, a genius, the cure-giver for cancer?
Would that child have been a curse, a criminal, an addict, a drain, a maelstrom of disappointment?
Would that child have been a survivor, a fighter, a hard-worker, a good neighbor, a huddled-mass made good?
Would that child have been a precocious son or daughter, a protective brother or sister, a prodigious parent someday?
What did society gain or lose based on that horrible and debilitating choice made by someone who was herself a child yet nearly fifty years ago?
And, in the absence of all the facts, I speculate that it doesn’t matter whether that speculative abortion in 1973 or 1974 was legal or illegal according to the law. I speculate that a woman had to make a horrible and debilitating choice about her body and about the spirit that was dependent upon her. I speculate that she, whether currently here or currently in the afterlife, is haunted by that choice still today. I also speculate that, whether it was legal or illegal—pre-Roe or post-Roe—she made the hard choice that mothers make. And, in the absence of all the facts, I know that she—speculatively, whether the former or the latter— lived to become my mother; despite carrying the horrible and debilitating guilt of that with her, the former is—at least—a fountain of subsequent births while the latter is—at least--a fountain of penitent hope.
And, in the absence of all the facts, speculatively, I know that the child-interrupted has forgiven her. I know that I have forgiven her. I know that God has forgiven her. And, I know that she still has not forgiven herself.
And, in light of marking the fifty year anniversary-interrupted of Roe v. Wade and SIMULTANEOUSLY, Roe v. Wade’s overturning, I know that women are not faced, simply with choosing between life and death. I know, not as a matter of speculation, but as an assertion of fact, that there are many horrible and debilitating choices in between these false poles. And, in the absence of all the facts about my mothers, I know that women, who have been faced with such choices for millennia will continue to do what mothers, potential mothers, and mothers-interrupted have done for millennia: assert their agency in the midst of tyranny, display their grace in the midst of debilitating and horrible sadness, and do what they feel is best—with a mother’s spirit—for herself, her posterity, and for the universe in which she persists.
And, ultimately, as a cis-man, all I can fairly do is speculate on the trials that others face. And in that mode of speculation, I can trust that, for the many types of mothers, their wisdom and grace and intuitions about life and the universe are maintained: if not as a matter of settled law, then as a matter of supreme law that we—as a society, as a humanity, as a concomitant “they”— must continue persisting--from speculation to settledness—toward.