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My secret identity May 20, 2006

Posted by table4five in Uncategorized.

It’s 10:58 p.m., and it’s the end of a looooong day for me. My day started at 6:30 a.m. when I stumbled into the nursery to pick up the very wide-awake Kaitlyn, continued with me setting up my garage sale (I made 75 bucks-meh), then dinner at a restaurant that is like fast food but they bring it to your table and kids get a free HUGE frozen custard for dessert. Have I told you that Culver is my maiden name? And that when the restaurant opened my Dad went in and mentioned he was a Culver and they gave him a free baseball hat?

Everyone is asleep but me. I’m drinking a Miller Genuine Draft (the store we went to doesn’t sell Rolling Rock. WTF?), and watching “Sleeping with the Enemy” on the “We” channel. I can’t help it, I like Julia Roberts. And the guy she falls in love with in the movie has curly hair and a beard and twinkly eyes. So he’s not bad to look at.

One thing that attracts me to this movie is that Julia’s character escapes her abusive husband by faking her death and starting over with a new identity in a different state. When I was a mixed-up college student, I sometimes dreamed about taking off. Just getting in the car, and driving as far as I could go until I found some town where no one had ever heard of me. I didn’t grow up in a tiny town, the population was probably around 15,000, but my Mother was a teacher at one of the Elementary schools, and my Dad was the head of the teacher’s union. We ate at the same restaurant every Friday night, and it was a constant parade of people stopping by the table to shake my parents’ hands. I wanted to be able to go out without having to pretend to be happy to meet my Dad’s colleagues or my Mom’s former students. I even had a name picked out for my “new” identity-Rebecca Galway.

How did I come up with that name? Well, that’s a story. Have a minute? When I was born in 1967, I was the fifth girl born to my biological parents, whose first names I don’t know. My biomom died shortly after giving birth to me. The story I was told is that my biodad couldn’t handle caring for five children alone, so I was put in foster care as were at least two of my sisters. My parents never had an explanation for how my biomom died, it was one of those questions I would ask that was answered with “we don’t know, END of discussion.” Then, shortly after my Mom died, I was going through boxes of papers at my Dad’s house and I found a folder marked “Adoption-Betsy”. I never told you my nickname until I went to college was Betsy? No? Sorry. And no, I don’t want to be called that now, either.

Anyway, I was shocked to find that the Adoption folder contained a medical report about my biomom. Under “cause of death”, it said “brain seizure”. The reason that was shocking is twofold: One, my parents were always so vague about what had happened, when they knew exactly. I can understand not telling me when I was little, but certainly by the time I was 15 or 16 I think I could have handled knowing that. Two, one of the biggest medical difficulties I have had throughout my life is when you go to the Doctor and they ask you to check off the boxes next to Family Medical History. You know, is there a history of heart disease, stroke, kidney or liver problems, etc. I always had to explain that I didn’t know any family history because I was adopted. It might have helped to have at least been able to say that my biomom died of a brain seizure. It worries me a little.

My (adoptive, for clarification) Mom was a lifelong diabetic. As she got into her late 50s, she developed Congestive Heart Failure as a result of the circulation problems that can come with diabetes. She went to the Mayo clinic to apply for a Heart Transplant and was turned down. When she came home from that trip, she was, in some ways, a changed person. She started tentatively revealing personal information that I never knew. We would drive together somewhere and out of the blue she would start a sentence with “did I ever tell you that…?). I wish I could remember more of the things she told me, but the one has stuck with me ever since is that she told me my “baby name”.

Mom: “Did I ever tell you what your name was when you were born?”

Me: “WHAT?”

Mom: “You know how we told you when we adopted you that your name was Rebecca Elizabeth, and we dropped the Rebecca and added Anne for a middle name?”

Me: “Yeeeessss?”

Mom: “Well, your last name was Galway. Like the place in Ireland”.

Me: “Huh”.

I believe she withheld this information as long as possible because she was afraid I would go looking for my biological sisters. Which I never wanted to do, because my life has always been complicated enough.

So that, in a roundabout way, is why my “secret identity” name would be Rebecca Galway. Sometimes I say the name out loud to myself, listening for it to resonate some place deep inside. It is my understanding that since I was born a month early and weighed 4 pounds, I was immediately whisked off to whatever passed for a NICU immediately after being born, and was placed into foster care as soon as I could leave the hospital. I don’t know if my biodad or any of my sisters or anyone else in that family was even able to hold me let alone call me by name and talk to me. I have absolutely NO memory of the foster family that cared for me until I was 16 months old, and that information IS kept confidential. I have a baby book that my foster family kept for me. It is one of my most treasured possessions. It has pages of journal-like entries detailing trips to the pediatrician and how I delighted the nurses with my cooing and how tiny I was. They called me Becky.

I believe completely in adoption. I believe every person who truly wants a child should be able to parent one, and that every person who truly knows that they cannot care for a child should be able to place that child for adoption. But I also know that for me, it has created what I guess would be called, for lack of a better word, an identity crisis. Am I Rebecca, the baby and toddler who never knew her own parents? Am I Betsy, who was adopted by another set of parents? Am I Elizabeth, who went off to college, dropped her nickname, and tried to become her own person? If I was given the chance, would I want to go back to January 30, 1967 and save my biological Mother and therefore have a completely different life?

I don’t know. All of those circumstances are what has made me who I am right now. I am Warren’s daughter, Chris’ wife, Ryan, Nathan and Kaitlyn’s mother. Whose wife and mother would I be if something else had happened to me? I ponder the phrase “everything happens for a reason”, and wonder if that is really true.



1. Snide - May 21, 2006

Perhaps Rolling Rock will be carried there after the new company starts putting it out.


2. Cityslicker Mom - May 21, 2006

Wow, that is so deep! It seems like there are always a million whatifs, you know? I know that I could go on forever wondering about things like that…Enjoy your brewski πŸ™‚

3. Mom101 - May 21, 2006

You are Elizabeth. And according to this, you are Elizabeth the future memorist. Amazing story.

4. Lanna - May 21, 2006

“everything happens for a reason”

I think that’s true. Otherwise I’d be in a really bad situation if things had gone the way I’d planned in high school/early college. Looking back and questioning things I’ve done or not done happens at times.

Oh, and you are whoever you want to be. Even if it’s a rooftop-tap-dancing gorilla. πŸ˜‰

5. Elizabeth - May 21, 2006

Snide-Rolling Rock is becoming part of the Anheuser-Busch family? As in Busch beer, the cheapest keg beer served in the finest frat houses across the State? Ewwwww.

CS Mom-Yes, and I seem to be forever asking the “whatifs”. My favorite “whatif” is to imagine I could go back to the first day of college and do a lot of things differently there.

Mom101-Thank you for saying that! I’m trying to think of myself as a “writer” telling a story rather than just putting down random thoughts.

Lanna-Are you calling me a gorilla??!! Coming to your site right now to see that baby.

6. gingajoy - May 21, 2006

what a fanstastic post, elizabeth (which is my middle name, btw:)) i can;t even imagine having to process this kind of information–but writing like this is surely a fine place to start. amazing how working through with words can help us arrive at knowledge about ourselves.

you had a GARAGE sale? gaaah. I am such a G.S. whore. I would have stopped by!

7. roo - May 21, 2006

Elizabeth Anne is one of the names I used to give my dolls when I was little. And I used to address my childhood diary to “Dear Lizzie.”

Great post. And I sure do like pie.

8. roo - May 21, 2006

I also never realized before seeing that movie how evil someone can look while climbing a Stairmaster.

9. Becki - May 21, 2006

I think everything does happen for a reason, but that doesn’t always make it easier to deal with the questions and the what-ifs.

I am glad, though, that you are who and where you are right now, so that I get to know you. At least through this blog, and if we can ever schedule it, in real life.

10. Suebob - May 21, 2006

Your amazing story gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. I am glad to get to know Elizabeth, and all those other names you have inside you.

11. mama_tulip - May 21, 2006

I remember the day my mother told me what her given name was before she was adopted. I asked her why she didn’t want to be called Linda instead of Elizabeth and she told me Linda wasn’t her name. It took me a long time to really understand what she meant by that.

I can relate to you not knowing what to say when you are asked about your family’s medical history. Because my mother was so sick, when that comes up during doctor and specialist appointments, they always ask about her family’s history, and I always have to say that I don’t know.

This was a fantastic post, Elizabeth.

12. Lanna - May 21, 2006

Of course not. πŸ˜› I could’ve said you could be a Las Vegas showgirl, but I can’t picture you wearing a giant feathery headdress (well, unless you were really drunk). πŸ™‚

13. Dawn - May 21, 2006

This was a beautifully written post Elizabeth.

I think that for every person, figuring out Who they are – without the added complications of adoption – is such a hard journey.

But I do believe that all things happen, if not for a reason, then surely to teach us something valuable ( not painless, but valuable)

Your ability to create a sense of place for your family is a gift that perhaps you would not be so aware of, had your life not unfolded in this manner.

Thank you for sharing this.

14. Anonymous - May 22, 2006

Wow. Your last sentence really sums up this amazing post. And I believe it’s true. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to. Thanks for writing about this part of your life.

(this is TB at http://soulgardening. Blogger is acting all weird and will only let me post as anon.)

15. Nancy - May 22, 2006

That was a beautiful post.

I think you really are all three — Rebecca, Betsy, and Elizabeth. As you said, you are the daughter, wife, and mother. I do like to believe everything happens for a reason, at least in circumstances where it gives me great peace to think that way.

Did I ever tell you my Catholic confirmation name is Elizabeth? I picked it because I thought (still do) it’s one of the most beautiful names of all time.

16. Rebecca - July 24, 2006

It’s so weird. I finally googled myself and saw my name in your story. My name really is Rebecca Galway – although my middle name is Scott and I was born in 1976. I just thought it was cool that your secret identity name would be my name and was in reality yours too.

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