Her name was Fay Louise Bensfield, and she died in 1984 at age 75. She was my grandmother, I never knew her, nor did she know me.
But I always wondered about her....Was she happy? Kind? Pretty? What was her ancestry? Did she have other children or grandchildren? Was she loved and loving? For some odd reason, I always knew she lived a long life. And she did. I never knew you could love someone you never met. I think my mother does, and maybe I do, too.
You see, my mother was adopted at birth, in 1929, when adoptions were shrouded in secrecy. My mother rarely speaks of it, that sense of shame so deeply ingrained from decades ago. Last summer, while we were visting her in Colorado, she showed me her birth certificate. She keeps it close, in a drawer by her bed. My mother's health is not good, now, and she spends time pondering her life.
I wrote down information from that old, yellowed certificate....the names, ages, addresses and birth places of her mother and father. Fay was 21, John was 30. They were not married to each other.
Last July, I registered that information with a national online adoption registry. Then completely forgot about it.
Until yesterday,when an email arrived.
Seems that God has blessed this world with human angels who volunteer their time to research "lost adoption" listings. A woman in New York, herself an adoptee, researched, and found my grandmother. We knew we had a match after a flurry of emails. She's very excited for my family. She understands.
She and her genealogical contacts continue to search for traces and tidbits of Fay Louise Bensfield, maiden name Fay Louise Williamson. We know that Fay was born in New Mexico in 1908, gave birth to my mother in 1929 at Los Angeles County General Hospital, and died in 1984 in Camarillo, California. We know a bit about Fay's parents and her older brother.
There's so much more to know....and yet, facts aren't hugs and smiles and loving conversations. They aren't intimate knowledge of the person who was my grandmother. I thought a few facts would be enough...but they aren't. A loss is still a loss.
I haven't told my mother yet. Fay died in Camarillo, which could mean she died in a state mental hospital. Not sure my mother needs to know that. I'm calling Ventura County today for a copy of the death certificate, and will proceed from there.
It's odd how a woman I never met, a minor figure in my imagination, can touch me so. It feels like a missing part of me has been found.
What must it be like for people who never knew or met their mothers and fathers?