The last year or so of her life, when the second lung cancer emerged and we both knew this would be her last illness, we began to talk lightly about what would happen when she was gone from my life. She wanted me to have the house, of course, and she tried to make it clear to my sisters that this had nothing to do with favoritism—it had more to do with the fact that I had been paying more than half the bills, that I had been her primary caretaker, that I was the single daughter. . . But more than that, I think, Mama worried about whom I would love in her absence, about who would love me. “I wish you had a daughter,” she’d say to me, “someone who could be a companion to you like you are to me.” I agreed with her. I didn’t worry so much about someone to care for me in my old age, but I did worry about having someone to love the way that she loved me and I loved her.
I did not want to have a child. I am a little afraid of young children. They need so much, and I (having inherited my mother’s and my grandmother’s mental illness) was not sure that I could provide the loving consistency a young child needs. “What I want,” I told my mother, “is a girl. A nine to thirteen year-old who needs a mother. Someone I can talk to in a normal (adult) tone of voice.”
I did some research and decided that the path for me was getting a foster child. I would give a home to someone who needed one, and we would get to know each other and decide if we wanted to become an official family. Of course, I had Mama to care for in the meantime, and I was a new teacher teaching at three different schools. Who had time for foster care?
And then Mama died. Around that time, the Texas legislature made it illegal for lesbians and gay men to become foster parents. And I had an ovarian cyst that made it necessary for me to have a hysterectomy, so “natural” children were out of the question. Of course, it did not matter. I was in such a deep depression that I was unable to care for myself and my dogs, much less a child.
After a couple of years, when I clawed myself out of my depression, I took the advice of several friends and checked out an online dating service. I saw Susan’s profile and decided to pay for the service so I could meet her. I fell in love by the second email, I think. Perhaps I fell in love while reading her profile. At any rate, we have been dating since March 1996. I moved in and pledged my troth this summer.
And why do I write about this? Because Susan has a daughter. Morgan just turned 26 the 14th of December. She has some developmental disabilities, so she is intellectually somewhere between nine and thirteen. Does this ring any bells with my readers? Morgan loved me from the second time I saw her. The first night I spent the night with Susan, she says that Morgan came out into the kitchen with a “can we keep her?” look. I loved Morgan from the time I went to see a movie with the two of them, and on the way out she took my hand.
I think she started calling me “Mama #2” and “my other mother” about three months after I started dating Susan. She needed me as much as I needed her.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a very good mother. I tend to get frustrated and tired of hearing about Hannah Montana. But I love her more than I can say. And she loves me. And now, Mama, I have a girl to take care of—one who needs me as much as I need her. Here are a few pictures of my Morgan at her 26th birthday party on Friday. I am a lucky, lucky woman.