Christian Short Stories
By Web Ruble
Web Ruble writes: "I am a retired newspaper reporter of some 40 years, and a couple of those years I was religion writer at The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily. Now I am a novelist and short story writer. We also are volunteers on Thursdays about nine months out of the year in a soup kitchen in Gresham, OR."
Now is the moment she has been awaiting all her life. The tension is stomach-aching agony. She is pausing a moment in her grey Honda automobile before going into the Longview-area restaurant. She is giddy with joy . . . yet frightened. Perhaps this whole scenario is about to be a colossal letdown.
She muses: What if it turns out to be a bummer? What if they don’t like me?
Her emotions are raging and conflicting.
At age 65 Anne knows she is on the bubble. She has been praying fervently ever since she was a small child in Kelso, Wash., when she was told she was adopted. She developed hopes that her “down-home natal day” would eventually come. Now after some 60 years, it finally has -- maybe.
All her life Anne has felt one step removed from belonging. Her whole life – what with on-the-job injuries, unsympathetic bosses, arthritis in her hands, come-and-go back pain, slightly painful feet, a bummer of a first marriage, and four difficult children -- she had wanted to belong.
Her adoptive parents had loved her to pieces, but they died more than 40 years ago. Her older adopted brother she didn’t even know, as he had died when he was 6 and she was an infant.
I have auburn hair and light complexion. Am I Irish? I’ve been pondering over and over: “Oh God, who am I?”
Oh, she was accepted and cherished by her adoptive family. She also has close friends who dearly love her, and from time to time even seek her counsel. But she remains possessed with a nagging, uneasy feeling that she is one step shy of really belonging.
To a family. One that is truly hers.
She knows she had a mother. She also knows that that 19-year-old mom had given her up for adoption a few days after she was born. The young woman in 1944 had been jilted by her fiancé. He was in the army and abandoned her for someone else just before he shipped overseas. He never knew she was pregnant.
The woman, embarrassed beyond any sense, refused to identify the father. Nobody knew who he was or whence he came. Her parents, lawyers and judges nevertheless, got involved . . . secretly. It was arranged she would adopt out the baby. The records were sealed, and the seal could not be broken. Not for any reason. Ever.
And so the years went by. Many of them. Anne’s adoptive father, Manfred, died when she was 9. Anne’s adoptive mother, Pacifica, died of cancer when Anne was 20, soon after she married her first husband.
She married Tomas because her adoptive mother’s physician told her that her adoptive mother was terminally ill, and would die within a few months. Anne panicked, believing she would be left totally without family. Her boyfriend, who was about to become her husband, had a big family that she initially adored.
If she married him, she would have a family after all. And so it was.
She had had several children, who didn’t get along the best. One had died. So had two grandchildren. Leukemia had been a factor. At one point she desperately sought to learn who her biological mother was. Or, failing that, at least tap the records to find out whether specific medical problems existed on her side of the family.
It was her third attempt. However, she was told bluntly by Washington authorities: Impossible. No can do. The records are sealed. She had even gone to court in an attempt to force it. No dice. Forget it.
To make matters worse, her husband turned out to be cruel and unusual. She regarded him violent and she said he kept her isolated. She was terrified and her children had health problems. Her feeling of self worth plummeted even lower than it had been. Terrible. The end was lurking. What to do?
She decided to gamble -- escape. After careful planning and consideration she dashed and went into hiding. She later pursued divorce and got it. But her husband had few dollars and there was little money to be coming from him.
She and her children were close to starving. However, when things seemed purple beyond dark, something good and shining happened. A mysterious ghost from the past, a male administrator who had worked with her adoptive father decades earlier, advanced her name ahead of 800 other job applicants. She got a zinger of a government-connected job at Lewis River Community College.
She and children recovered a little bit. But the job had a sunset. After 18 months, she was out of work again. Meanwhile, her children had become disciplinary problems. While working, she had had neither the time nor the energy to be what she called “a proper mom.” Reports were that they became unruly problems at school.
She could see another very-dead end.
She put herself out on the dating market. A series of boyfriends came sniffing around, but they turned out to be temporary. Especially when they learned she had children.
Then one night when she was feeling lower than tissue paper on a soaked sidewalk, she took a walk and drifted into the bar at Hong Kong Eddy’s restaurant. The idea was to drown sorrows, or at least plunge her head inside her soul and ponder her dismal-appearing fate.
There, however, she met several people, including Mike McCluskey, a disc jockey who a few months later was to become her husband.
They married and he helped raise the four children. He soon became a major principal at the radio station. Moreover, she went to work for a trucking company as dispatcher, and later was a cashier and minor administrator at a local grocery chain.
Consequently, her healed financial condition improved even more.
She and her second husband, Mike, had their share of emotional troubles, but they weathered it fairly well. Nevertheless, one dark shadow continued to lurk:
What am I supposed to tell my grandchildren? Whence comes me and the Ouija bird? Who am I?
One recent day -- she really doesn’t quite know why -- she decided to try again to find out whence she came. She discovered an on-line agency, which for a modest fee would do some research and then when the agency person thinks she or he has found the person the subscriber is looking for, would act as a broker to see whether there is any action or desire for linkup on the other side of the silence.
She bit into it. Within two weeks she got a call from a woman, saying she had found Anne’s birth mother. Her mom had advanced dementia and was in a rest home. Then came the zinger -- Anne also had three younger half siblings she didn’t know existed.
Now “the broker” would contact the siblings and see if any desire existed for identity. The rules were. and still are, that if either end of the spectrum did not want to be identified, the whole thing would be scrapped. Anne had waited a few days to hear.
Then came the telephone call -- yes. The broker said the siblings were shocked, surprised and otherwise thrilled and wanted to meet as soon as possible.
Then almost immediately came a second call -- from one of Anne’s half sister Margaret. Whoops, shouts and hollers rent the air. A long get-acquainted conversation ensued. They arranged lunch at a popular Longview restaurant two days hence.
Anne was so excited. She couldn’t eat, sleep, or concentrate on anything. ‘Twas the longest 48 hours of her life.
The day finally came. Though she rose early, the phone rang before she was ready. It was before 8 a.m. It was her just-found sister Margaret saying that she wanted to beg off the lunch date because her brother Nicholas also wanted to meet Anne, but he had to work that day.
Anne and Margaret finally agreed to another 48-hour delay until Saturday. To say it was hard on Anne would be an understatement of the first water. Depression of a colossal tsunami swamped her on the flowing wells of tears. Anne began to suspect that there was disagreement on the other end, and that Margaret and siblings would stall, stall and stall some more until the whole project was cancelled.
Oh, hell has no sorrow like Anne now felt. She was convinced that the whole project would never come to pass.
Nevertheless, deep down inside a little voice kept saying -- “patience” -- blessings are eternal.
Well, if the first 48-hour wait was almost unendurable, the second one is soul shattering.
It is now that Saturday. No phone calls came this morning to cancel the scheduled 1 p.m. meeting and lunch. This is the correct café. Five minutes remain. She is scared witless and her stomach is revolting. Just pray, she tells herself. Oh me of little faith, just pray.
Why is my faith weak? Because it just is, and I’ve had a life of so much disappointment. My experience tells me to brace myself for still another super emotional collapse. This one is almost sure to be fatal. Oh, if God only knew how much this means.
She glances at her watch. This is it! She’s terrified. Somehow, she gathers herself and walks in normal gait --neither briskly nor slowly – through a light drizzle to the restaurant door . . . she opens it . . .
She peers around and sees a room full of people. A sinking feeling rises up from her toes, as she can’t see a welcoming committee. Then it happens -- a half-rotund but good-looking woman comes bounding across the room and shouts, “Anitchka?”
Anne, brimming with tears, nods and they embrace. Sobbing. Then two others appear -- Katrina and Nicholas. More whoops, sobs, laughter and flat-out crying. Introductions. Everyone is talking at once. A camera appears. A nearby stranger takes pictures. Sunshine now is barging through the window panes no doubt wanting to be part of the celebration.
Her half brother keeps blurbing, “Anitchka, Anitchka.” Anne is finally home. Though ‘tis far from the Ukraine whence came her mother’s ancestors, it doesn’t matter.
- - - -
A week later – after seeing her birth mother in the rest home but not identifying herself. And after meeting with other family members including nieces and nephews – she and hubby Mike prepare for their long-planned vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana.
‘Tis the day before the vacation departure. Anne decides to visit the Rev. Mitchell Jones at Ostrander Parish.
She and Rev. Jones have commiserated from time to time. However, this time she is bubbling over. He senses the upgrade in mood and becomes back-breaking attentive. She explains the whole story -- her birth, her adoption, the deaths of her adopted brother and her adoptive parents, her first disastrous marriage, and explains that her whole life has been in quest of belonging.
She then asks, “I could have used this solace and information decades ago. Why did it take so long?”
“I have no answer for you,” says Rev. Jones. “Just know that God is merciful and works in mysterious, and often to us unfathomable ways. God is great!”
(© 2010 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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