Being A Mother

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this; it is the same.  The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.”— Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom

For the longest time, I despaired of Adam finding love. I didn't think he'd ever let a woman other than Cait and me penetrate the wall he'd built around his heart. I feared that unless he did, he'd never feel fulfilled, and I was afraid that, in the end, he'd settle for less.

 

Women have always been interested in and wanted Adam, and he dated, of course, prolifically I'd been told, which came as no surprise— a man as handsome as Adam would never lack for female company. He had never, however, brought a girlfriend home, not when he’d been in high school or away at college; even years after that. 

 

Once he’d earned the reputation as the city's most successful prosecutor and speculation started about his potential to become DA, he drew the media's attention. They, somehow, learned about his wealth and named him one of the state's most eligible bachelors.  Women, especially those in the social set, found him even more attractive. He hated the attention and tried to keep a low profile but didn't always succeed.  Often, we learned about the women he was dating through the tabloids, and, by all accounts, there were many.

 

Adam, though, remained steadfastly unattached. He seemed disinterested in forming a permanent relationship, so I was surprised when Jaclyn, who he'd said he was dating only casually, moved into his home. I thought Adam had finally found someone he loved enough to commit to. They appeared well-matched, but as I got to know her and watched them together, I doubted that he loved her and wondered whether she loved him—the real Adam, not the man destined to become DA.

 

Jaclyn didn't particularly like us, and she resented his relationship with his childhood friends. She even resented his and Cait's closeness. Jaclyn, it seemed, was happiest when seen on Adam’s arm at gatherings of Boston's elite and in the media. I couldn't help feeling that she saw him as a step up the social ladder  I wanted so much more than a union of convenience for my son.

 

I hadn't felt him move in my womb, nor had I experienced the heady anticipation of his arrival but, from the moment I laid eyes on the waif-like child Adam had been, something moved inside of me. I doubt, had I given birth to him, that I could love Adam more.

 

We met purely by chance when a colleague couldn't make a home visit, and I went instead. Adam's mother, Eleanor, had been reluctant to let me in, but I spotted him on the floor, playing with a toy. His unruly hair partially obscured his face but didn't detract from his beauty. I know beauty; my daughter, I'm always told, is beautiful. Adam had been something else entirely. His strong jaw, evident even at that young age, his unusual russet hair and pale skin set him apart. Adam's most compelling feature, however, was and remains his eyes. Startlingly green and fringed with lashes most women would envy, they stared back at me with a caution that should never be present in someone so young. They looked sad and wise beyond his years and bored into mine as if he could read my very soul.

 

I wondered just what he'd experienced that made him so wary and gave him my most comforting smile. He smiled back tentatively, but Eleanor's panicked voice, insisting that she didn't need help, broke our connection. Adam's wariness returned as he jumped to his feet and ran to clasp her hand protectively.

 

"Miss Mannering, I'm here to help," I assured in a calming voice. "If you don't let me in, the department will send someone else. That person may not be as understanding."

 

"You can't take him. He's all I have," she practically begged, tears welling up in eyes that must once have been as extraordinary as her son's but were dulled by the alcohol I smelled on her breath.

 

Thankfully, Eleanor let me in, and I spent an hour with her and the little boy she introduced as Adam. He relaxed a bit when I handed him a chocolate bar I'd bought for Cait. He ate as if starving, but not before he offered his mother a bite. She stroked his cheek. "You enjoy it," she said. That interaction and Adam's protectiveness revealed a lot about their relationship and his character. Eleanor Mannering, I could tell, loved her son, and he loved her. It had also been apparent that, even at the tender age of six, Adam had felt responsible for and protective of those he loved.

 

I worried about Eleanor's and especially Adam’s well being, so I visited regularly to ensure that he, at least, ate and attended school.  Eleanor, I could tell, was on a downward spiral.  I should have reported her condition, but I couldn't bring myself to separate mother and son.  And that is precisely what would have happened had I followed procedure. Adam would have ended up in a system that often increases rather than lessens the misery of the children it's meant to help.

 

I grew fond of Eleanor, and I came to love the quiet boy with sad eyes. With my support, I hoped Eleanor get help for her drinking and suspected drug-taking. I hoped she'd eventually turn their lives around. In the beginning, it seemed that Adam had moderated his mother's behavior. For him, she'd stayed sober enough to function, but, hard as I believed she'd tried, Eleanor's condition worsened. I asked about family who could lend support, but all she said was, 'We don't have anyone.' Her grandmother, who’d raised her, had died, I learned. When I asked about Adam’s father, she said she'd met him, a Harvard student, in the coffee shop where she'd worked. He’d been her first boyfriend.  She'd loved him, and he'd professed to love her. 

 

Things changed when she fell pregnant. He avoided her, and when she went looking for him on campus, a friend of his informed her that 'he'd gone home' and handed her an envelope containing money and a note telling her to 'take care of her problem.' He'd left no address or phone number. Eleanor had been hurt and humiliated, I could tell, but even in a drunken or drugged state, she remained tight-lipped about his identity. It seemed that, for whatever reason, she’d locked that piece of information in an impenetrable vault.

 

Mrs. Doyle, an elderly neighbor who'd called the department, told me about frequent male visitors. She admitted to keeping a watchful eye on Adam and said that Eleanor often asked her to check on him at night because she had to work. She’d invariably return home drunk. Mrs. Doyle also revealed that less than two years before, though struggling to make ends meet, Eleanor had never touched alcohol or taken drugs. She'd worked at several low-paying jobs and had been a wonderful mother. 'It's broken my poor old heart to see such a lovely young woman and that darling boy come to this,' she lamented.

 

I realized then that Eleanor was prostituting herself, and I began to understand that her drinking and drug-taking was, most probably, due to despair. I wondered how she’d gotten herself into such a dreadful mess. The answer came soon after when, visiting, I found her in the kitchen with a bloody face and torn dress. She refused to name the man who, I discovered, had prostituted her in exchange for her rent and a meager allowance. When he'd tired of her, he'd forced her to give herself to his friends and business associates.  He'd visited that day to 'teach me a lesson,' she admitted. The man, I could tell, terrified Eleanor. I asked if he’d ever hurt Adam, and she vehemently denied it.  'I don't care what they do to me, but I'd never let anything happen to Adam,' she protested. I believed her, and I couldn't do anything without knowing his name. Eleanor never did reveal it.

 

I was shocked and devastated, naturally, but not entirely surprised when I received the phone call informing me about her drug overdose and a request to collect Adam from school. Eleanor, I learned that day, had listed me as his emergency contact. She and Adam, it turned out, really didn't have anyone other than Mrs. Doyle and me. Caring and willing as that kind soul might have been to assume responsibility for Edward, she'd been too old. Even in her intoxicated state, Eleanor had realized that and acted in her son's best interest.  

Adam came home with me that day, and Callum and Cait fell instantly in love with him just as I had. That night, after putting the children to bed, Callum and I discussed the matter.  We decided there and then to foster Adam and to start adoption proceedings. Adam quickly developed a connection with Cait, and the two became inseparable and incredibly protective of each other.

 

Disappointingly, he'd been slow to warm to Callum, and Adam's wariness of him had pained my poor husband. He'd persevered, however, showing nothing but patience and love, and Adam had, eventually, come to accept that Callum loved him and would never hurt him.  We were all overjoyed the first time he called Callum dad, but none more than my husband, who had been overcome with emotion. That had been one of the rare occasions I’d seen him shed a tear; the only other times had been at the death of his mother, my parents, and, later, at Cait’s birth.

 

Adam filled a gap we hadn't even realized existed in our family. For Callum, Cait, and me, Adam belonged from the moment he entered our home. We never think of him as being adopted, and Adam considers himself a Thorne.

 

My one sadness then, and which remained until only recently, had been Adam’s refusal to discuss Eleanor. My experience provided the understanding that he'd been angry with his mother for leaving him. He'd felt hurt and confused and, very possibly, experienced guilt. No matter how much we love Adam, we can and will never replace Eleanor or completely erase his suffering. I tried explaining that to Adam. I wanted him to know that it was okay to admit his love for Eleanor and that he misses her. 'Your mom loved you,' I repeatedly told him, but he remained obstinately silent.

 

I raised the matter again when he was older, and I felt he could better understand. I tried to share my limited knowledge of Eleanor’s early life. "I know all I want to," he insisted. I explained that it was understandable that he was still hurting and that he missed her. He denied it, and when I reminded him that Eleanor had loved him, he asked how she could have and then become what she had. "If she loved me, how could she kill herself?" he demanded. I was shocked to learn that he knew about her prostitution.

 

"I'm not a kid, Mom, and I'm not dumb!" he said and simply refused to discuss Eleanor after that. Outwardly, it seemed that he'd come to terms with his past. Callum told me to stop looking for ghosts where none existed. “Adam’s happy,” he said, but I continued to worry.

 

My concern was justified when we received news of his father's identity and death. The fortune that Adam Winston left him failed to compensate for the knowledge that his father had known of his existence yet, for seventeen years, had denied him. The anger that Adam had until then internalized, spilled over. 

 

At home, he remained the obedient son and continued to thrive academically, but he started getting into trouble in the neighborhood. Adam joined his friends in loitering around local businesses where they made nuisances of themselves. The most disturbing, however, was his newfound propensity to fight. Adam's always had a temper, but until learning about Adam Winston, he'd controlled it. It seemed, to both Callum and me, that Adam enjoyed venting his frustration through violence. I hated seeing his face cut and bruised, but Adam didn’t seem to care. It was as if he gained satisfaction in his external appearance reflecting his inner turmoil.

 

We finally had enough when, after yet another street fight, Sean O’Connell, a local policeman and friend, did everyone a favor by locking the boys and their opponents in a cell for some hours. We forced Adam into the counseling, which until then, he'd rejected. It took months for him to cooperate with his therapist, but she managed to get through to him and helped channel his anger and frustration into studying law.

 

Adam went off to Harvard, ironically, Adam Winston's old alma mater. Adam's extremely smart, but he was also a dedicated student with an unstoppable drive to succeed. The same intellect and determination continue to forge his highly successful career. That sad little boy has grown into an incredible man—one with strength of character and integrity.  And, in getting to know, and then falling in love with Angelique, Adam’s, thankfully, come to understand Eleanor. He finally accepts that she was a victim and that she did, indeed, love him. I wept openly at the community launch for Eleanor’s Place when he publicly acknowledged her place in his life.

 

And now, as the strains of Ave Maria fade, and Mandi and Samantha take their places, the feeling of expectation among the gathering becomes palpable. No one, however, is more anxious than Adam as he scans the spot where Angelique’s due to appear. I don't need to turn my head to know when he first sees her. His expression of absolute wonder and adoration heralds her arrival as loudly as a trumpet blast.

 

I should be watching the bride, but I can't tear my eyes from my son. Suddenly, Adam's wonderment turns to concern. He rushes forward, but Matt stops him with a hand on his arm. Adam’s eyes soften, and he mouths, 'I love you.' Indulgent titters and sighs of 'Aww,' erupt from people around me. That, and Adam’s brilliant smile tells me Angelique's reciprocated in some way.

 

Finally, he steps forward to claim his bride, and my tears, which had threatened before, spill over as I watch Grace lovingly kiss her daughter's hand before placing it in Adam's.

 

We are mothers, she and I—mothers who've witnessed our children suffer and triumph over misery. Today, we entrust their care and happiness to each other in the knowledge that they're safe in the all-consuming love we wished for them.