WE MADE IT: MEETING MY MOTHER

This memoir excerpt contains the scene where after 34 years I reunite with my birth-mother Leona. We had parted when I was seven days old. In this segment of the book, we had located her address in Stamford Connecticut and I had decided to call her from a nearby phone. I was with my friend and brother-in-my-heart, Dane Arnold.


It is a few minutes before five in the evening when we pull into the parking lot of the Stamford Motor Inn, a modest inn just off Exit 9. We park and go into the lobby.

I have Leona’s number on a piece of paper. I am wearing jeans, t-shirt and a denim jacket. In a sitting area off the lobby a pay phone is against the wall.

I am now pacing back and forth in front of the pay phone. Three or four strides this way, turn, three or four strides the other way. I am buttoning my denim jacket from the bottom up, aware that I am doing so but not sure why. It is now five o’clock and it is time and I can’t get myself to pick up the phone.

Dane is talking to me as I pace, he is saying, “Think of everything you’ve been through. Think of getting up off the ground after you were shot in head. You got up, man, you got up! This is your moment.”

Dane keeps talking as I lift the receiver, place a quarter in the slot, start to dial, hang up, retrieve the quarter, continue pacing. I place the paper with her number and the quarter on the small stainless steel shelf beneath the phone and continue pacing.

“You can do this, Peter, I know you can. This is your moment, your time, no one can take this from you. Think of everything you’ve survived. Think of everyone you love, who loves you. Your daughter. Think of your Dad, your Dad’s here right now, you know he is. We’re all here.”

I lift the receiver, slip the quarter in, start to dial, hang up. But this time I don’t begin to pace. And then Dane does a miracle. He wraps his arms around me in a hug and holds onto me tight. I put the quarter in the slot, dial all the way through, and now I hear the phone begin to ring. Dane holds me tight.

After two or three rings a woman answers the phone.

“Is Leona Moore home please?”

“This is she.” I can hear voices in the background.

“Mrs. Moore, my name’s Peter Kahrmann, I’m from New York. This is an important phone call, is there any place you can talk privately?”

“I can go into the kitchen. Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s okay. Let me give you my number in case we get disconnected, if that’s okay?”

“Let me get a pen, you sure everything’s okay?”

“Absolutely.”

“Okay, all set.” I give her my number and ask her to repeat it back to me which she does. I can still hear voices.

“Are you as private as you can get?”

“Yes, sorry, best I can do.”

“That’s okay. Listen, what I’m going to tell you comes with all the kindness and compassion one person can have for another.”

“Okay.”

“I was born October 2, 1953 in the French Hospital in New York City.”

An explosion of tears drowns the end of my sentence. “My son Paul! My son Paul! He’s found me!” she screams to those near her. “Oh my God he’s found me, my son Paul!.” To me she says, “Please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me.”

“I don’t, Mom, not at all,” I say, noticing how naturally the word Mom came out.

“Oh, Paul, please don’t hate me. I know you must be angry, you must want to hurt me, I don’t blame you.”

“You’re wrong, Mom. My fantasy is to hug you, not hurt you.”

She is in tears. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“I love you, Mom. It’s okay,” and then I say, “I would like to meet you.”

“Yes, of course we can meet. Alone the first time, just the two of us.”

“I’m nearby you know.”

“I know, you’re in New York,” she says, mistakenly concluding that I had called from the New York telephone number I’d given her.

“No, Mom, turn around. I’m at the Stamford Motor Inn.”

Another burst of emotion as she screams to those near here, “He’s here, my son is here. Paul is right down the street, oh my God thank you, my son is here!”

“Mom, I do have a friend with me. Dane. He’s adopted too, Mom. He understands, he’s been through it all with me. Is that okay?”

“Of course it’s okay. I’ll be there in 10 minutes, let me put my face on.”

“What will you be driving?”

“A large station wagon, it has the fake wood siding.”

“I’m in a gray Dodge Caravan, I’m five eight and – ”

“I’ll know what you look like,” she says and instantly I know she will.

We are walking back to the van to wait and I am floating. I have never felt as soothed and peaceful as I do in this moment. It is not the weight of the world that has left my shoulders, it is the weight of the universe, the weight of a lifetime of not knowing. For the first time in my life I can feel my feet on the ground.

In the van we sit quietly. I say, “She’s driving a big station wagon. Says she’ll be here in 10 minutes, she’s putting her face on.”

Dane nods. We are way beyond the need for words. He is in and of this moment as much as I am and I know it and am so glad he is with me. He is the only person in the world I want with me in this moment. Being adopted, he too knows what it is like to go through life feeling disconnected from the world nearly every one else belongs too. We are, in a very real way, brothers – and we both know it. We have one of the few gifts being adopted gives you, the recognition that you don’t have to be blood related to be family. It is a glorious truth that belongs to the both of us, and all others like us.

In less then 10 minutes a large white station wagon with fake wood siding pulls into the parking lot, passes us and comes to a stop in front of the Inn 20 yards away.

I am out of the Caravan and walking towards the car as the woman I was separated from nearly 34 years earlier is getting out. Her hair is white as snow and she is wearing a long beautiful blue winter coat. She is the most beautiful human being I have ever seen. She is my mother.

We walk towards each other and stop when we are within arms reach of each other.

Here in this moment mother and child are fully together again, all time between our last moment together has vanished. The arms-length distance now between us is so filled with the bond between us no power on earth could move through it.

I say, “Can I hug you?”

She says in a voice so full of love my heart rejoices, “Of course you can.”

And here in this nighttime moment on January 8, 1987 mother and son hold each other close.

Into her ear I whisper, “We made it.”

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