Many, if not most, adoptees search for their biological mothers first. This is understandable because of the maternal bond. In some cases, this search leads to a dead end for one reason or another. In the beginning, when the author was asked if she wanted to find her biological father, she was reluctant. This was because she was deeply hurt by her mother's decision to not allow contact with her, even though she tried to rationalize her thinking.
She decided to go ahead with the search for her biological father-one of the best decisions she feels she has ever made. He Waited for Me tells the story of her search and its results, presenting an inspiring story of hope and joy.
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He Waited for Me
By Patricia A. Kamradt
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Patricia A. Kamradt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBringing Baby Home
As a young child, I was told I had been adopted through Catholic Charities, located in Chicago, Illinois. I learned from my adoptive parents that my given birth name had been Catherine, and that I had been named after my grandmother and great-grandmother, who were born in Ireland. Catholic Charities, I would come to find out later, tried to match adoptees with adoptive parents of similar heritage and religion. My adoptive mother's name was Margaretrose and my father's name was Clifford. They were both from the Chicago area and in their early forties at the time of my adoption. They had desperately wanted to have children of their own but for medical reasons could not. The process of adoption was a long and difficult journey for them, but they brought home their first child, my brother James, in 1955, and I would soon follow, three years later in 1958.
Both Jim and I were only a few weeks old when we were adopted. Even though we were not biological siblings, we have always been close and consider ourselves to be brother and sister still to this day. We share a very close bond. My parents always told us that because we were adopted, we were special-we were chosen.
I didn't give being adopted much thought in my younger years; it just seemed normal. I was too busy being a kid. I can't remember my friends ever questioning it either. I guess they just accepted it too.
We were raised in a small Midwestern town in a suburb of Chicago. It was a friendly town where everyone knew each other's names. Not exactly Mayberry but close to it. It was a family-oriented, mostly middle-class town, and we enjoyed a simple kind of life there. Jim and I were typical siblings, fighting like cats and dogs at times but loyal to one another, sticking up for each other whenever it was needed. When we were younger, we had the same childhood friends and all hung out with one another. Our neighbors two doors down were a typical Catholic family with three boys and three girls, all within two years of age of each other. You can imagine the trouble we got into at times hanging around together; it was nothing earth-shattering, but we were still called hooligans by our parents. I have many good memories during this time in my life. The streets in front of our house were the perfect set-up because not much traffic would go by, and we could play sports there, such as baseball and football, with the neighborhood kids. We stayed outside all day in the summer, only coming in to eat dinner and then going right back out. But we always needed to be back in by the time the street lights came on, no excuses.
No excuses went for church too. My parents were devout Catholics who brought my brother Jim and me up in the church. We also went to Catholic grade schools in our younger years. The nuns put the fear of God into us kids by telling us we would certainly burn in the fires of hell if we strayed from the Catholic teachings in any way. I remember one time in particular when I really upset one of the nuns; her face got so red I thought her head was going to pop right off her neck, habit and all. We did respect the nuns-probably because we all were so afraid of them.
As I mentioned, Catholic Charities tried to match up adoptees with families of a similar heritage. I had been no exception. My mother Margaretrose's family was from County Clare, Ireland. Her brother Jack had his own spot on a local radio station called The Irish Hour. Every Sunday, without fail, we had the radio tuned in to hear him talk about Ireland and play Irish music. The first time I heard the Celtic music I was hooked; my mother told me it must be in my blood. Because of my love, I was enrolled in an Irish step dancing school taught by my uncle Joe. I can remember my father driving to Chicago every week to take me to classes. The building was an old empty factory building on Michigan Avenue, converted into a large dance studio. I was about eight or nine years old and can remember how proud I was that my uncle Joe was teaching me Irish dancing. He had about fifty or more students, all at different levels and age groups. We all wore black tap shoes. I can remember the sound they made on the wooden floors when we would all dance together. It sounded just like thunder and made the hairs on my arms stand up. I am certain I still remember how to do the Irish Jig and Reel but have not attempted either dance in a very long time.
My adoptive father, Clifford, was of German descent and worked as a city bus mechanic for the CTA in Chicago. He was on the short side, about five foot four, and had an olive complexion, brown eyes, and wore dark-rimmed glasses. As far back as I can remember he wore his hair in a crew cut, probably stemming back from his Air Force days when he served as a mechanic fixing the planes. During my childhood, he would leave for work at five every morning heading to Chicago's bus garages and would return at five every night, taking the train there and back. He had the distinct smell of motor oil on his uniform when he walked in the door; every day he was exhausted, as it was a hard job.
My mother always had dinner ready as soon as my dad walked in the door. We always sat down as a family for dinner and said grace before we ate. We would talk about our day, and my brother and I had to ask to be excused from the table before we could leave. My mother was a stay-at-home mother, but she did a lot of ironing for our church, such as pressing the altar boy garments, right in our kitchen; there were always stacks of clothes piled up in various places. She would move her ironing board from place to place where needed.
In her younger years, I heard my mother was stunning, with jet black hair and blue eyes. Because of health issues, as she got older she put on a lot of weight. She stood about five foot three and had a beautiful round face. She had a noticeable scar that ran from the top of her hairline all the way down to her brow line, directly in the center of her forehead. This scar was the result of a terrible car accident. Her aunt had been driving, and the story was told that a cab had cut my aunt off, and she sped after him. A horrific accident occurred, and my mother was ejected from the car and ended up coming to rest on the cement curb, head first. Her pituitary gland was damaged, which ended up affecting her health throughout her life. This, I came to find out later, may have contributed to her not being able to have children. When I was younger I didn't give it much thought, but throughout my life my mother rarely would leave the house, in fact, I could count on one hand the times that she had. I wonder if this too could have been a result of the accident.
On a few occasions, we went to her brother Jack's house, which was only a short distance from our house. She always got dressed up in her best Sunday clothes when she visited him, and I can remember the smell of the Channel No. 5 cologne that she wore. Even today, that smell reminds me of her. I know she thought the world of her brother Jack and always said how very proud she was of him. I remember only one family vacation where she actually ventured out of the house and that was a trip to Canada to see Niagara Falls. After briefly looking at the falls, she returned to the hotel room to stay there the rest of the trip while my father took my brother Jim and I around to see the sights. I can remember being sad that she didn't walk around with us.
Around the time that I turned eleven, my mother's health issues became worse; she was mostly bedridden in her room but occasionally came out to watch TV in the living room. I can remember a few occasions when I really made an effort to have her come outside of the house with the family, but she always declined. We did have heart-to-heart talks at times, but they usually turned into talks about her upbringing and how she was a child who was always ignored because she was the middle child and did not get much attention. I felt as though she counted on me to give her answers to her problems, but I was a child myself and couldn't offer much relief. I know I felt bad about not being able to help her. Many of our conversations ended with my mother in tears. There were some meaningful talks back then-stories about her relatives, which always interested me. It was as if her family was my family, and as a child, I felt as if I belonged. She always had a way of making me feel connected in a real way.
A lot of my time during those years was spent away from my house going to the neighborhood community swimming pool. It was my saving grace. During summer break I taught myself how to swim and dive off the board. I was an independent child and entered many swimming competitions and even won a few ribbons. I can remember my father showing up at the pool to watch me in one of the competitions-it meant a lot to me that he did.
Another passion growing up was music. I believe I grew up in the best generation for music; no other era in my opinion can even come close, although I'm sure every generation would argue with me and say theirs was the best. I just couldn't get enough of it from Motown to rock 'n' roll, from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, and all points in between. I remember when I was nine years old, my dad set up a turntable and some old speakers in our basement. The first album I played was Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles. I had never heard anything like it before and was thrilled by it! I was hooked; there was no turning back, Both American and British songwriters were at the top of their games, competing with each other to our benefit. I had a strong connection with music during that time. I would immerse myself into it, and the super groups would keep on coming-one better than the next. I could go into my room, shut the door, put on an album, and shut the rest of the world out, just like millions of other kids did too, I'm sure.
That amazing music couldn't have come at a better time with the Vietnam War going on. So many young men being cut down at their prime of life, so many senselessly slaughtered. America needed something to divert people's attention, if only for a little while, to help us all cope with the grim reality of everything going on during this era. The Vietnam War and the Kennedy's being shot and Martin Luther King's assassination-it was all too much to deal with.
Lighthearted TV shows also came into play during this time with comedies like I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show. This was just what people needed, and became what society wanted to portray as the perfect nuclear family. The father was always the breadwinner and chief disciplinarian, while the mother was the perfect stay-at-home nurturer. Without the music and comedy shows to help us through this most difficult time, it would have certainly been a lot harder to cope. I believe it was a godsend.
Looking back, I'm sure my father must have had a hard time dealing with my mother's illnesses. She suffered from diabetes, seizures, thyroid issues, and more than likely some form of depression. He was basically trying to raise my brother and me by himself. Most of the time he was very strict and it was his way or nothing. He was always very critical of us. At the time, I didn't understand why he was so harsh, but looking back I can see that he was dealing with his own heartaches. He did the best he could raising us. After all, he had grown up during the Depression era, and I'm sure things were hard on him too when he was young.
The hardest times for my brother and me were when we were in high school, and my mother would rarely come out of her bed. She would literally beg me to stay home with her from high school. I did do it often, but after awhile my attendance really suffered, and I couldn't take more time off from school. On many occasions I had to turn her down, and she would cry as I left for school. I remember feeling extremely guilty for not staying home with her, but could not do it anymore.
I did have enough sense during this time to realize that I needed to graduate from school. I don't want to portray myself as a saint by any means; I had a few friends I hung out with and would get in trouble just like most other rebellious teens.
When I was a senior in high school, one tragic event stands out in my mind. My mother was a chain smoker, and one night she fell asleep while smoking. Her nightgown caught on fire and burned her severely. I had just fallen asleep in my room, and my father was in the basement doing laundry. I woke up that night to my father screaming my mother's name, "Oh my God, Peg, what have you done!" He had carried her into the bathroom and was soaking her with water. I remember trying to enter the bathroom to help him and be with my mother, but he told me not to come in-he didn't want me to see her. I will never forget his voice. He was in tears and told me to call an ambulance. I remember thinking it was so odd that considering the extent of her burns, she wasn't screaming in pain; maybe she was in shock, I don't know for sure.
She was taken to Loyola Hospital in Melrose Park, which had the best burn unit in the country at the time. Her recovery there was slow as she was burned over a third of her body. The burns covered her left chest and entire side. They needed to do several skin grafts, taking skin from her thighs to cover the burned area. I remember the doctors saying that there was also a risk of infection occurring. The first time I entered her hospital room, I broke down in tears seeing her blackened skin and the extent of her burns. I can't even imagine the pain she was going through. I will never forget on my first visit, when she turned to me and pleaded with me to give her a cigarette. I thought, "How crazy is that?" Because of this incident, my father needed to refinance the house to pay for what the insurance wouldn't cover.
Although there were many sad memories, there were also many great ones too. The best memories I have of my adoptive mother were earlier, when she was able to leave her room and watch old movies in the living room with us. The ones that really stood out in my mind were Little Women, I Remember Mama, It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, and Shirley Temple movies like Heidi. My mother and I connected when we watched movies together. We would laugh and cry together. I do have fond memories of her laughter-it was lighthearted and boisterous and would fill up the room. She used to talk on the phone to her best friend Peggy for hours at a time, laughing. I loved my mom to the fullest and she loved me. She gave of herself as much as she could under the circumstances with her health issues. I grieved when she passed away when she was sixty-three from a stroke. I had just turned twenty-two years old, and Jim was twenty-five.
Following my mother's death, my father moved to a small town in Wisconsin, and he met a lady friend there. I was happy that he had someone he could talk to after losing my mother so young in life. My brother and I visited him quite often. We got along with him better now that we were older and had moved away from home. He lived about ten years after my mother's passing, and I think he had some happy times in Wisconsin. He was a good man who did the best he could with us; we both know he tried.
With my father's passing, both of my adoptive parents were gone. I found myself thinking more and more about my history and heritage. I once read that an adopted child's life is like a big puzzle with pieces missing. Until you find the missing pieces, you will never be truly whole. Doing a search for my biological parents had never previously even entered my thoughts. Now that I was older, such thoughts seemed to come often, consuming me at times. Now I wanted some answers, I needed to know. Yet these thoughts would be put on the back burner for a while longer as I married Bob, one of my brother Jim's best friends.
I fell in love with Bob the first time I saw him. I still remember the blue zip-up jacket he wore when he came to my house to see if Jim was home. I also remember asking Jim who "that guy" was, as I thought he was really cute. Next thing you know, we went to a Jeff Beck concert together, and it was as if we had known each other for years. We got married within a year and a half. I was turning twenty and Bob twenty-one. We were married in a Catholic church; it was not a large wedding by any means, but our families and our friends were there and that was all we needed. Because of my adoptive mother's health issues, she couldn't make it to my wedding, which this broke my heart. After the ceremony, we went to my home to visit my mother before the reception. I think it meant a lot to her that we did, and I know it meant a lot to me. Bob and I went on to have three children, all within two years of each other; their names are Robin, Joseph, and Chrystal. The years that followed provided me a full-time job raising the kids. We struggled with life and money problems just like any other young family trying to make it.
Excerpted from He Waited for Me by Patricia A. Kamradt Copyright © 2010 by Patricia A. Kamradt. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
1. Bringing Baby Home....................3
2. Bits and Pieces....................18
3. Confidential Intermediary....................25
4. Back Burner....................30
5. Dear Catherine Letter....................37
7. Seek and Ye Shall Find....................48
8. Do You Know Who This Is?....................57
9. Off to Delaware....................64
10. Not Ready for Good-byes....................90