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And Then She Was Gone
Lishoné Bowsky

I am Betty Lavender's child, or at least I was. Because my grandmother had died and my mother at some point in her life felt that drugs would be beneficial to her, I was put into foster care at the age of 2 and adopted at the age of 7.

I have no real memory of Betty Lavender, just her name and the last time I saw her. I was 7 and I had gone to Saint Joseph's Foster Care Agency for a visit. She brought me some strawberry wafers.

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I remember my adoptive mother telling me to say thank you and I did. Then Betty got up and told me she would see me again. I went back to the agency a month later for a visit and she never showed up. My mother was gone and I was no longer her child.

Dreams of Betty

I was fully aware of being adopted because my adoptive parents, who I'd lived with for the past four years, asked me how I would feel being their child, and I said I had no problem with it. So they adopted me and my biological sister at the same time.

I can remember that when I got adopted I was happy but at the same time sad. I was happy because I had a family, a nice warm bed to sleep in every night, plenty of food to eat, and a place to run around. I was sad because I never got to say goodbye to Betty, and the last time I saw her I didn't take in what she looked like. I was sad because she never showed up to see me again. She had lied when she said that she would.

I'm not sure why I never saw Betty again, but for years I looked at myself as an intrusion. I figured she didn't want to see me anymore because I needed things and that would get in the way of her buying her drugs.

When I went to sleep, I'd have dreams that Betty had been looking for me and found me. I'd have dreams that she would recognize me and come up to me and say, "Lishoné, it's me, your mother Betty!"

Feelings of Loneliness

But I never talked about these things. I guess I just didn't see the point. It wouldn't have changed the feeling of loneliness that Betty had left behind. Besides, I didn't even know what exactly I was feeling, so keeping my feelings inside seemed normal. But it also left me even more lonely.

image by Mariet Guerrero

My adoptive parents didn't make it that easy for me to talk, either. It wasn't that they weren't good to me. They took me on road trips down south, they took me to Coney Island and Great Adventures, and they got my hair done every two weeks. They gave me a stable home, something I probably would have never had if I had been in foster care or still lived with Betty.

But my adoptive mother jumped to conclusions when I would try to tell her little things about boys or school or anything that happened in my life. She always assumed I was getting in some kind of trouble. So there wasn't any way I would have told her about my most painful, private thoughts, even if I had thought of telling her.

I Didn't Trust

Instead, I just tried to be the nice kid who always seemed happy. I would smile, laugh and joke. I'd come home and talk about everybody under the sun and how they were doing, except myself.

I didn't want my adoptive parents to feel as if I wasn't appreciative or that I didn't love them, so I tried to act as if everything was good. When you're adopted you feel like your adoptive parents at one point or another are going to expect you to be grateful. You imagine they're thinking, "We could have left you in foster care or you could be dead right now."

And I was grateful. But there was still a part of me that was angry at having to be grateful for just being their child. There was a part of me that didn't trust their love, that said, "What makes you love me when my real mother didn't love me? What's so real about your love?"

I Was Rude and Rebellious

When I was angry I expressed my pain by either writing or acting out, or sometimes both. At school I had a quick temper. I got into physical fights and cursed people out. I ran away from home a lot, more times than I can count. My family couldn't understand why I acted the way I did, and neither could I. I just knew that I felt bad.

It wasn't until I got into my teens that I said to myself that it was Betty's loss to not know me and I wasn't going to worry about her anymore. If she couldn't take care of me then she shouldn't have had me. So what if I was an intrusion, she made me an intrusion.

If I was out in the street and the thought of Betty would enter my mind, I would turn my head and find something to distract me. If I was at home, I would get up and grab a book or watch television.

image by Mariet Guerrero

But even while I blocked out Betty, the hurt continued, and my behavior got worse and worse. I spoke whatever was on my mind and cared very little about how people were feeling. My most common response to anything anybody said to me was, "F-ck you," or "Whatever." I was rude, rebellious and the littlest thing ticked me off. I had a non-caring attitude, and the worse I got, the more frustrated and angry my parents got.

By the time I was 12 or 13, my mother and I really weren't getting along. She often beat me and a couple of times she threw me off of the piano bench while I was practicing.

'They Can Have You'

Whenever I got on my mother's nerves, she would tell me, "I don't care who you go and tell that I punished you. If they want you they could have you because I am tired of you." Or she'd say, "I never had this problem with Sidney and Jarrod" (her two biological sons). "Why couldn't you be like Sidney and Jarrod?"

I felt that my mother didn't want me even though she had adopted me. I felt that she wanted a replica of her children-who didn't act out so much and didn't get in trouble in school-standards I could never live up to.

It didn't help that much that my extended family never really accepted me. Every Christmas they acted funny toward me. (I found out later that some of them never wanted my adoptive parents to adopt me in the first place.)

When things got really bad with my mom, I went to one of my aunts for help and she threatened to call the police on me for running away. She didn't like me, and the truth is, she didn't like my mom either, and she just didn't want to be involved.

I ran away for the last time when I was 14. Even though my mother wanted me back, I felt she had put me through too much mental, physical and emotional anguish to return. I rejected the only family I had had for the last 10 years, a family I had come to feel didn't want me, but just put up with me.

I'm 19 now and have been on my own for the last five years. I've lived with a friend, I've lived on the streets, and I've lived in the foster care system. I've grown a lot, but I haven't really come to terms with my feelings about being given up or about being adopted.

I Long for a Family

image by Mariet Guerrero

I have friends and other people who support me now, so to a large extent, the feelings of loneliness have disappeared. But my anger has not. Instead of blocking it out, I talk to my boyfriend about it, and try to make sense of it all. Maybe one day I will forgive and forget, but right now I feel like the only true family I will ever have is the one that I will one day start.

I do have some contact with my adoptive mother. Sometimes I talk to her when I call my sister, who still lives with them. My mother wrote me a letter apologizing for the past, and she has even asked if she could come to my college graduation. I'm thinking about it, but I'm not sure I can forgive her yet for all the things she said and did to me that really hurt.

I don't think I will ever forgive my extended adoptive family. They weren't there for me and my mother when we were having troubles. They didn't stick by me. They made me feel like they never wanted me.

To this day, I carry around with me this feeling of not belonging and this feeling of wanting to belong.

I Want Answers

When I was younger I was able to block the memory of Betty out of my mind, but now it isn't so easy. I look into the mirror and I want to know who I look like. If the children I intend to have one day ask, "Mommy, what was she like, your real mother?" I want to be able to answer that. Or I'd like my kids to be able to ask her for themselves.

Where's Betty?

It feels like the chance of finding Betty are as slim as the skin peeled off an apple. I have tried to watch out for talk shows that ask the question, "Were you abandoned and want to know why?" One time I even called the Montel Williams show, but I got a machine that said, "We are currently not accepting any more calls on this topic," so I gave up on that.

I realize I may never find Betty. I'll have to accept that. I have all these years.

Still, I want to find her, and the thought of her comes into my mind often. I am angry at her. I am angry because she lied to me and I am angry because she left me. But I still believe that even if I found that Betty was dead or in jail, it would bring a sense of closure, would fill up that empty space in my heart.

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