The Girl With Two Moms
What a day it had been. I had not had even a minute to collect my thoughts all day, and to drag 2 children under the age of 4 around for a whole day was not the easiest thing in the world to do at the best of times. But, all in all it had not been that bad, and now at least Bella could see properly.
Don and I had been quite surprised when our pediatric physician had suggested that Bella might be very nearsighted, and with his assistance we had made an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist. Doctor Peters was a friendly jovial man and he was very patient with Bella. I am convinced that he did an extremely thorough examination of Bellaís eyesight. The only thing that really surprised me was when he asked me if there was any history of high myopia in either my family, or Donís family background. I knew that none of Donís immediate siblings wore glasses, and both of his parents only wore glasses to read, so I assumed that there was no myopia in his family background. But I was an orphan, and had been adopted at the age of 5, so I didnít know anything about my own family history. All I knew was that I had great eyesight.
Once he was finished Doctor Peters gave me a prescription for a pair of glasses for Bella, and we headed for the closest one-hour optical store. I was a little surprised when the optician told me that a prescription of Ė10.25 was a pretty strong first prescription, and she was very helpful in showing me exactly how poor Bellaís eyesight was by having me look through a lens that was a +10D. I could see absolutely nothing, and I was amazed that Bella had not complained. But the optician told me that to a developing myope the blur just seems normal, and they donít even realize that they are supposed to be able to see things that they canít. It took a little over an hour for them to make a pair of glasses for Bella. The optician told me that a prescription of Ė10.25D and Ė10.50D was just a little stronger than they could normally do in their store, but since the frame size was so small they were able to make, and fit the lenses without sending the frame out to a specialty lab to have the work done.
When the new glasses were finally finished Bella was very happy to put them on, and her first words were: "Mommy, I can see!" I felt badly that I had not noticed that she was having trouble seeing things although Don and I had previously commented that Bella brought everything up very close to her face to read or color. Bella still was very clingy, but I realized that she had been doing this because she had not been able to see me from any distance, and I supposed that she would now be able to venture a little further a field.
It was late in the afternoon when we returned home. Bella was running around the house like a wild child, and I reprimanded her a couple of times. But it was funny. One time I had called to her and I had called her Carol. I thought about this, and for the life of me I couldnít figure out why I had called Bella "Carol". Don came home from work, and I was extremely pleased that he was very supportive of how Bella looked wearing her new glasses. Often, when parents are faced with the sight of their child wearing such thick strong-lensed glasses for the first time they can, without thinking, express an uncomplimentary, or negative remark. But Don called Bella his little princess, and told her she looked very pretty wearing her new glasses. I was very proud of him for doing that.
Shortly after supper I called Bella "Carol" again, and Don looked at me with a funny look on his face, as if to ask why I had done that. If he had verbalized his question I would not have been able to answer him. I put the kids to bed, and carefully placed Bellaís glasses in their case on the nightstand beside her bed. I tried to express upon her the importance of treating her glasses very carefully, and I told her that she could put them on herself when she woke up.
That night I had the nightmare again. I have had this dream many, many times in my 25 years. In my dream a little girl is playing with another little girlís doll, and she leaves it lying on the floor. A big man trips over the doll, and he falls on the floor. When he gets up the man goes to the youngest girl, who owns the doll, and lifts her up, yelling and screaming at the little girl for leaving her toys around. Then he takes the little girl, and throws her down. Her head hits the table in front of the couch, and her glasses fall off. She lays on the floor in a huddled heap. The big man gets down and tries to slap her awake, but she does not respond. Then this lady comes running into the room with a big knife in her hand, and she stabs the man repeatedly in the back. In my dream I remember the knife coming out, red with blood, and then she would push it back in again. Finally the man falls to the floor, and the lady comes over to me and picks me up, and hugs me. The lady was very pretty, and she also wore glasses. Her glasses are really funny ones, because they have little circles in the very center, where her eyes look out. But then this time I also dreamt that this ladies glasses didnít always have the little circles. At first they were just like Bellaís, then the man hit her in the side of the head, and after a few weeks when she came back one of her eyes looked through a little circle. And then after a little while the man hit her again, and this time when she came back home both her eyes looked through the little circles. I woke up in a cold sweat. Any other time I had had this dream I had woke up before I dreamt this part, and I was a bit unsure as to what this meant.
I stumbled downstairs, and put on a pot of coffee. I was sitting there, mulling the dream around in my mind when Bella came into the kitchen. She had put her own glasses on, and when I saw her the name Carol again came to my mind. And then I knew. Carol was the little girl in my dream. Carol was my little sister, who like Bella, had worn glasses from a very young age. The man who threw her across the room must have been our father, and the lady with the funny circles in her glasses was our natural mom.
Even though it was still before daybreak I had to call my mom.
"Hi mom, itís Karen. I hope I didnít wake you." I said.
"Well honey, for you to call this early it must be important." Mom said.
"I think it is. Bella got her new glasses yesterday, and then last night I started calling her Carol. And, during the night I had this terrible dream. I saw a man throw a little girl who wore glasses against a coffee table, and then a lady wearing funny looking glasses started stabbing this man in the back with a big knife. Do you know why I would be dreaming this?" I asked.
"Yes baby, I do. But before I can talk about this with you I must first make some phone calls. It has been so many years now I hope I can still talk to the people I have to talk to. Can you wait for a while before I explain all this to you?" Mom asked.
"I can wait. But please hurry." I replied.
Later that morning I received a phone call from a police officer. He requested that I come downtown to the police station, and speak with him, and the district attorney. So, I phoned my mom, and she agreed to stay with the children while I went to see them.
The police officer was an older gentleman, and I suspected that he was very close to retirement. The district attorney was a good-looking gentleman, not much older than I was. The police officer asked me a number of questions, and when I was finished telling my story they both thanked me very much. I was curious, and asked what this was all about, but they both told me that it would be a few days before they could tell me.
When I returned home my mom was extremely curious about the outcome of my conversation with the police. So, I told her the same story as I had told the police. When I was finished she took me in her arms and hugged me, and then she said that she had a story to tell me.
"As you know, your dad and I adopted you when you were almost 5. We waited many years for your memory to come back about that night, and while we were worried about what would happen if it did, we were pleased that you had never remembered that terrible night. Now that your memory has come back, maybe your mom can finally be released from prison." Mom said.
"My mom?" I asked.
"Yes, your mom, Joyce was sent to prison for life for killing your real father. The police could not prove that your father had killed your sister, and without your testimony they thought that your mom might have killed your sister, and your father both. You could not remember a thing about that night. It was as if your mind had completely blocked out everything that had happened, along with the first five years of your life. Ted, your adoptive father is your momís first cousin, and is her only living relative. So we brought you into our house and adopted you. You were unable to speak until you were 6 years old, and the only thing that got you to talk was the little doggie that we bought you." Mom said.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I remembered my dog Patches. Patches was just a stray mongrel, but I loved my dog.
"So my real mom is still alive. Have you seen her?" I asked.
"Yes, we have. Ted and I just returned from a visit with her. She told the police what really happened, but they couldnít, or wouldnít believe her story. Your dad had shoved her around a lot, and during the year before this happened she had been in the hospital twice because he had hit her so hard that she had detached the retinaís in both eyes. But 20 years ago a man shoving a woman around wasnít such a big thing as it is today, so your dad was never charged, and your momís lawyer couldnít prove a pattern of abuse. Ted and I could never figure out why your dad had married your mom if he had so much anger against girls who wore glasses. Joyce always had very poor eyesight, and she wore thick glasses or else contact lenses, but once you and Carol were born she quit wearing contact lenses, and it seemed that your dad hated her wearing glasses. And when Carol got her glasses before her first birthday he seemed to be extremely hard on Carol as well." Linda, my adoptive mom said.
"I left Carolís doll on the floor and he tripped on it." I said quietly.
"Oh you poor dear. That is why you were so traumatized that you completely blanked everything about that night from your mind." Linda said.
"So because of me my real mom has been in prison for 20 years?" I asked, feeling guilty.
"Well, because she stabbed your dad so many times she probably would have been convicted of manslaughter, and would have been sentenced to 20 years anyway. She might have been out after 15 years, and been on parole until the end of her sentence. But now hopefully since they know the truth they will arrange for her release.
"Well, if they wonít I will. Who was her lawyer? I have to contact them." I said.
"Her lawyer was a public defender, and is now a well known criminal lawyer. He will be glad to help us. He was very apologetic that he could not get your mom off with a reduced sentence. I will give him a call." Linda told me.
"I want to see my mom. Can I see her?" I asked.
"Sure you can honey. Ted and I will contact her tonight." My mom Linda said.
I was really confused. I loved Ted and Linda with all my heart. They were the only parents I had ever known. But Joyce was my real mom and I was excited about the possibility of meeting her. That night when Don came home from work we talked about this for hours. And the more I talked, the more I remembered about my real mom, and my baby sister. Poor Carol was only 2 years old when she had been killed. And the more I remembered about my dad the more I hated him. I remembered that he always called my mom "you blind bitch".
Now I knew where Bella got her severe myopia from.
It didnít take any work on our part to get Joyce released. The district attorney had spoken to the governor, who immediately commuted my momís sentence and she was to be released the following day. I never even got to visit her in jail.
Ted and Linda thought that it would be best if they drove up to meet Joyce when she was released. That evening Don, the children and I were at our house making preparations for Joyceís welcoming home party. Belinda had just turned 2, so she really didnít understand the excitement. Bella only knew that she was going to have another Nana, as Linda would always remain Gram to her. I didnít know how I was going to handle it, as Linda was my mom, but then so was Joyce.
The doorbell rang, and we rushed to the door. Standing there with Linda and Ted was a very thin lady, of medium height, with short grey hair, looking far older than her 50 years. She peered myopically at me from weak green eyes, hidden deep behind the little circles in the center of the lenses of her glasses.
"Hello Karen." Joyce said.
I rushed over to her and hugged her tightly. "Oh Mother, I am so glad to see you again."
It is hard to immediately love someone again whom you had forgotten. And, I had a lot of guilt associated with the fact that Joyce had spent all those extra years in prison because I had been so severely traumatized. But, everyone seemed to realize this, and we all had a great evening. My girls loved their new Nana, and I hoped that Linda didnít feel too hurt by being slightly displaced. Not only was she being displaced as a mother and a grandmother, but also Joyce was even going to stay with Linda and Ted until she was able to return to work. Joyce was a qualified nurse, and she had been nursing in the prison hospital, so her qualifications were up to date, and she had been job placed in a local hospital.
After a few weeks things life returned to normal. I made sure that I included Linda and Ted in everything that was going on, and Linda was great. She offered to look after Belinda and Bella while Joyce and I had lunch together at least once a week, and I would have Linda and Ted over to dinner every Sunday. They wanted me to invite Joyce as well, so once in a while Joyce would come, but Joyce would usually stop by on her way from work every Friday night, and we would get together.
I was as interested as Linda had been to discover why my mom and dad had married. So, I asked Joyce to tell me. She told me that she had been quite pretty when she was younger, but she wasnít really sure why my dad had been attracted to her. She felt that it might have been because she was essentially blind without her glasses, and he had a feeling of complete control over her when he removed her glasses. Then she wore contact lenses for quite a while, but when she was pregnant with me she found that she could no longer wear her contacts, so she had to go back to wearing glasses. After Carol was born, by the time Carol was a year old Carol was wearing glasses as well, and that is when dad started really knocking my mother around. She had suffered a retinal detachment in one eye, and then a few months later she had another one in the other eye. She lost a lot more vision when the retinas were reattached. She was getting ready to leave my dad, and take Carol and I with her to a shelter the night dad had killed Carol.
Joyce knew a lot about eyesight, and I asked her all sorts of questions about how bad Bellaís eyes would get. Joyce also thought that it was highly likely that Belinda would also need glasses before too long as well. She felt that both children would likely have high myopia, but that neither of them would require a prescription any stronger than around Ė20D. I asked Joyce how bad her eyes were.
"Oh, my dear, my eyesight is terrible. My glasses prescription is slightly over Ė30D in both eyes. I know the numbers donít mean anything to you but my actual prescription is Ė31.50 x Ė0.50 x 165 for my right eye, and Ė30.75 x Ė0.75 x 90 for my left eye. Without my glasses I canít see anything past the end of my nose. I can read my watch without my glasses on, but I have to bring it right up till it almost touches the lashes of the one eye. Even with my glasses I donít see very well. I need to have my little telescope to see the bus number, or I wouldnít even be able to get to work. I can see all right around the hospital, because I work in very bright light, but when the light is poor, I have a lot of trouble. I sometimes wonder if my eyes would have gotten as bad as they have if your dad hadnít caused my detached retinas, but I will never know. Much of the time I pretend that I see better than I really can because I donít want people to feel sorry for me." Joyce told me.
"How does that relate to Bella?" I asked.
"What is her prescription?" Joyce queried.
I went to get the piece of paper. "Her right eye is Ė10.25 x Ė0.50 x 180 and her left is Ė10.50 with no other numbers." I said.
"Well, Bella can likely see between 4 to 6 inches away fairly clearly. But anything beyond that will be a blur. I was a little over Ė15D when I married your dad, and my eyes got a little worse when I was pregnant. But, most of my deterioration has been due to my retinal problems. My eyes went to about Ė25D then, and they have progressively gotten worse over the past 20 years. Hopefully my grandchildren wonít have that problem."
I was grateful for my motherís explanation. I hoped that Belinda would not become myopic, but Don and I already were noticing that she was bringing things close to her eyes to read, so we were pretty convinced that a visit to Doctor Peters would be coming pretty soon. But, since Joyce could function reasonably well with her high degree of myopia, I was no longer as worried as I had been about my children.
I love having 2 moms. It makes me feel very special.