y adopted mother, Doris, had an odd personality trait for a mother. As far as I could tell, she was unable to express affection to the members of her family. Not to her own brothers and sisters, not to her husband and certainly not to her children. She had a very tough exterior and would often make cruel and cutting remarks. To her credit, she did some things with amazing insight.
I remember the evening, at age three or four, in my pajamas beside our Christmas tree, when she announced to me, "I want you to know that most babies come from their mother's tummy. You did not. We had to go to a place where we saw many babies and there, we chose you." This story made me feel special. My mom repeated it to me at least once a year and when I got into my teens she added something interesting. She promised me that when I turned twenty-one, she would go with me to the Children's Aid Society, from where I'd been adopted, and would request that they give me the history of my biological parents. I was so excited and eager to pursue this. I fantasized that my biological mother would be beautiful, warm and serene, and would have longed her whole life to reconnect with me. Doris repeated to me on several occasions, "This is your right as an adopted child and I would never try to deprive you of that." Though I vowed that the moment I turned twenty-one I'd go get this information, ironically, when I reached that age, I got cold feet.
In my early thirties, during a reading with an astrologer in Toronto, she counseled me, "Your biological mother is getting older and you may miss meeting her, should she pass away before you take action." Shortly after, I called Doris and said that the next time I visited Sudbury I wanted to go with her to the Children's Aid Society to get the information on my biological parents. Doris made the appointment with the Director, whom she knew, Kasper Tomaszewski. We entered his office that day and Doris and I both sat down before his desk full of anticipation. Today, as I think back, Mr. Tomaszewski, physically, would put you in mind of the Polish film-maker, Roman Polanski.
Mr. Tomaszewski, his dark hair slicked down and combed back off his face, had angular features and a Roman nose. He was sensitive and gentle in demeanor yet reluctant to smile. He proceeded to read information from my file and make notes for me. He told me that my biological mother's name was Margit Gottschalk, that she was 26 years old, of German heritage, and single when I was born. She was from Western Canada but had been living in Toronto where she'd been working when she became pregnant. My father was Serge Duplessis. He was French Canadian, had been a corporal in the army and was also working in Toronto at that time. The two couldn't wed because my father, at 28, was already married with two children. Remarkably, as I was being told this story about my biological parents, I was unable to feel anything. I was blocked. Then I glanced over toward Doris. She was weeping silently. She dug some Kleenex out of her purse and wiped her eyes and nose, but the tears continued to cascade down her face.
For years, I'd believed that Doris couldn't express love. Her tough exterior had convinced me that this was the sum of who she was. Seeing her weeping silently, uncontrollably, revealed something more about her. Following this experience, I didn't take action to find my biological parents for a number of years, partly because after that, I never again saw Doris as unloving or invulnerable; and, I never saw myself as always right in my perceptions of the people around me.