Gloria A True Story

Gloria – Part 9

Letters from Australia

The letter which arrived from Marks adoptive mother in Australia was warm and heartfelt. It clearly came from a lady who was still absolutely distraught over losing her son and she explained that only recently, over 5 years later she had just started to receive bereavement counselling. Then with the contact from myself suddenly appearing from nowhere it had all (understandably) been too much for her and something which she had needed to process and work through in her own time.

His Mum Iris told the story of how she and her husband James had come to adopt Mark, and of their early life as a family.

She had been diagnosed with an ovarian problem in her 20’s and was told it was highly unlikely she would ever be able to have children, and so after some time trying unsuccessfully to have a baby she and James made the decision to adopt. As Catholics themselves they contacted the nuns at Waitara and as a result they adopted their first daughter Victoria. Low and behold however they just got Victoria settled into the family when Iris discovered she was pregnant again and 9 months later gave birth to a baby boy named Peter.

Iris became ill again shortly after Peters birth though and after undergoing major surgery was left only with one small part of an ovary about the size of a little finger nail. Peters conception had already defied all the odds but now it would need nothing short of a miracle for Iris to conceive again. She and James had always wanted a bigger family though so once again they wrote to Waitara and asked if they could adopt a second child from there. They quickly received a response back and were invited once again Waitara for a meeting with the nuns where they were told “we have a new born baby boy upstairs if you’d like to meet him?.” With that Iris and James were taken to meet the then new born ‘Michael’, had cuddles with him and just like that the adoption was finalised. Iris went on to say that “we brought him home early in the New Year”

The New Year????? Wait, when Gloria left her baby at 10 days old (around 19th December) she was told that he was going home to his adoptive family that day and she always took comfort in the fact that he was with his new family in time for Christmas. (I later went on to meet Iris in person but more about that in another chapter, but she confirm that “yes” they definitely brought him home in the New Year.) This meant that he was never at home with his new family for Christmas, he was all alone in Waitara Mother & Baby home, Gloria was lied too when she was forced to leave him. I never ever revealed this truth to her as it would have shattered the pieces of her already broken heart even further, however as time went on it was uncovered that this is just one of multiple lies that were told by the nun, both to Gloria and to Iris and James.

On his adoption as you know, baby Michael was re-named Mark. Mark settled in well with his new family, he was now the youngest of 3 children, and Victoria and Peter adored their new baby brother. Mark had been with the family just a few short months though when another miracle happened – Iris discovered to both her shock and delight that she was pregnant again, and 9 months later Mark became a ‘big brother’ to Nigel. Now if two miracles were not enough Iris very quickly fell pregnant again and the family was completed with the arrival of a baby girl, Melanie. Mark was now the 3rd of 5 children and Iris and James had their hands very full with 5 children in around as many years.

They were and exceptionally happy and close family, and the first few years of Mark’s life were spent growing up in the beautiful Blue Mountains area on the outskirts of Sydney.

Tragedy struck when Mark was just 6 years old though, his Dad James died very unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of just 38, leaving Iris widowed and alone to raise her 5 bereaved children. It was shortly after this that they had to down size their home and moved from the Blue Mountains to their home in the Beverly Hills area of Sydney, the place which at the time of her writing was still where Iris was living. Iris never re-married, she devoted her life to raising her children, and years later becoming a devoted grandmother to numerous grandchildren as well.

Iris expressed her deep and profound grief at losing Mark, it was clear she adored him, and as she told her story it was evident that she never considered that she had ‘biological’ children and ‘adopted’ children, they were all quite simply ‘her children’ and that was that.

When I wrote back to Iris I also gave her Gloria’s address and for a while the two of them corresponded mother to mother in hand-written letters. This was hugely healing and cathartic for both of them. Gloria also started corresponding regularly with Mark 2 over email and piece by piece stories of Marks life (both the highs and the lows) started to to come together.

Iris had told Gloria in one of her letters that Mark had known all his life that he was adopted and shared of the profound moment when she had given him the christening gown and bible gifted to him as a baby with love from his birth mother. Iris had known for many years that Mark had wanted to find his birth mother and offered him her full support. By contrast his older adopted sister Victoria had never had any interest in tracing her birth family.

It still remained a mystery however how with Gloria and Mark both on this same adoption re-union register in Australia for so many years, how they had not been able to find one another. It was to be almost another 3 years when I was on the other side of the world that this mystery would finally reveal itself.

Before I travelled to Australia though, a trip was to be made to San Francisco. I was in regular communication with both Clint and Mark 2 and they were very much already becoming my American brothers. I loved them dearly (and still do!)

Gloria was not in the greatest of health and not able to make the long haul journeys that I was, but she lived vicariously through me and I was able to share with her many more stories, photos and memories of her son along the way. So in the spring of 2010, two years after we had discovered the news of Marks death, my daughter Georgia (then 12) and myself took off on a plane bound for San Francisco. It was a journey which was to exceed all expectations….

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