Mary Hopper had an abortion in Mexico. She was studying abroad. It was safe. It was sanitary. It was performed by a doctor. And she has zero regrets. It’s the first thing we talk about as we sit at a picnic table under umbrellas. I didn’t bring it up. I just asked an open ended question designed to talk about her daughter – the lost one.
Mary is quite brilliant and accomplished. University City. Charlotte transit. High end shopping and housing replacing porno shops and blight. A lot of that is her. I tell her they really should name a street in Charlotte for her. I mean it. “They don’t name streets for women here,” she says. Except maybe Bonnie Cone up by UNCC.
Mary had a second pregnancy after the abortion. She was back in the states – in her native Georgia (she and I are from the same home town, Albany, GA). Being in Atlanta in the 60’s meant it was almost impossible to get an abortion. Mexico was more progressive. She did what my mother did. She gave her child a stable life. She gave her daughter up for adoption. Again, zero regrets.
But that doesn’t mean she was not delighted to hear from her daughter at mid-life. In this day and age of quick, cheap DNA testing through Ancestry.com, it’s becoming a common story. Mother by mother and daughter by daughter, we’re muddling our way through these awkward mid-life reunions. They don’t always go well. Hers did, as did mine.
Her daughter made the first move. She made contact. She said she felt like an air fern. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Rootless,” Mary said. Oh. How did I not immediately pick up on that?
The mother/daughter relationship is fraught with complexity in the best of circumstances. At least that’s my experience as the father of three daughters who adore their mother and she them. But that doesn’t mean there’s just so much I can’t understand.
Mary flew to New York, Brooklyn to be precise, to meet her daughter. It was really only awkward for a moment. Her daughter had picked out a great apartment and put her up. She left a bottle of good scotch inside. She went to some effort to welcome a mother separated by so much space and time.
Now they talk and text and email. Mary cherishes this contact. She loves the connection. In a life filled with rich friendships, it is a singular relationship. I know this. I have one like it.
Mary has had several cancers. She doesn’t even do mammograms or colonoscopies now. She’s already getting body scans and treatments on the regular. She knows the one cancer will get her one of these days. She gets up each day with this knowledge.
I find out this week that my mother has been moved from isolation in her nursing home to a hospital room. Her blood oxygen is low, her breathing labored. She has COVID. She has pneumonia. She could use your prayers.
So could Mary. She has her own battle. But we’re both grateful to know our blood kin and to be in relationship with them during this one precious life.
Mary Hopper’s conversation with Stuart drops Thursday November 12, 2020 @ManListening Podcast