Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Golden Gift

Ian Kappos and his Grandma

One afternoon about three weeks ago, I had lunch and a rare three-hour visit with my remarkable friend Patrick.  He regaled me with tales of his recent extensive trip to India where, among many amazing adventures, he was recognized as a saint.  In whatever ways this particular Hindu sect customarily ritualizes the making of a saint, they sanctified? -- beatified? -- Patrick.  After lunch, Patrick said he wished to bless me.*  As we stood in the parking lot of Fat Albert's Restaurant, he placed his hand lightly but firmly upon my crown, looked deep into my eyes, and poured words of blessings upon me.  Warmth and a sense of conviviality arose in me.

Last Friday morning my phone rang.  I was groggy from sleep, although the hour was late.  The caller announced himself as Ian Kappos.  Instantly I was shocked into full wakefulness!  I think I said something like, "You're kidding me!"  It was a man's voice.  I knew immediately who he was.  I knew who he had to be.  He is my grandson.  I did not know of his existence.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The brief back story is that in 1962, during a time when the situation for unwed mothers and their children in society was bleak, I surrendered my firstborn to a private adoption.  It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do.  The mystery of this child's fate has haunted me continually for a half century.  Each year around the time of his birthday -- a Virgo he -- I wonder with a sense of longing about my lost son, whose name I knew to be Nicholas.

In 1976, I birthed another child, a daughter named Deirdre.  I don't need to tell the parents who read this of the sweet surge of love that suffuses every cell, and beyond, of one's being with the arrival of a newborn.  She has been the light of my life since then, although our lives have not been without periods of challenge.  Deirdre always knew she had a brother out there somewhere.  We both had hoped we might meet him some day.

In late 1988, my former husband and Deirdre's father, Rod Wolfer, died at 55.  The date was 11/22/88.  Not long after, my father, Jim O'Brien, died on 2/13/89.  I lost my job in July and in September, the man who had been my lover for seven years sent me a "Dear John" letter and went off backpacking.  I felt sad, confused, bereft.  Both of my brothers had died years earlier; I felt that I had lost all the men in my life. 

For the previous 26 years I had not explored the possibility of finding Nicholas.  Oh, I was always on the look-out.  I registered with a clearing house that helped biological kin find each other.  (There was no Internet in those days.)  I purposely never covered my tracks.  I was open among friends, as the topic of conversation suggested, about the fact that I had this child and mourned his loss.  But now, at this period of great turmoil and loss in my life, for the first time in all those years I explored the possibility of finding Nicholas.

A therapist once told me that I didn't lose him, I gave him up.  The active role was mine.  I've never entirely agreed with that, given the circumstances of the day.  I felt that I was doing the best I could to assure his opportunities in life.  I knew that a childless couple deeply desirous of a child wanted him.  I felt he deserved a better chance in life than I thought I could provide.

With the help of my attorney friend Lisa, and via a circuitous route, I discovered that Nick had died of a drug overdose a few months earlier in April (4/8/89).  Grief descended upon me, as grief will do, and it hung around, always in the shadows in the corners of my life.  By this time, of course, I held no hope of meeting my child.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

In more recent years I've bemoaned that there are no children in our family.   We are all adults.  My sister Catherine has two daughters, none of whom has borne a child.  Deirdre hasn't either.  Our deceased half-brother, Jimmie O'Brien, had several children by several women.  We are in touch with only one, his son James in Idaho, but seldom.  Occasionally, I'd say, "Well, you know, Nick was an adult when he died.  He surely had sown some oats.  Who knows?  I could have a grandchild or more out there and never even know it."  It was really just a wistful throw-away line.  I never really imagined it could be true.

Last Saturday Corby drove me to Sacramento where Ian lives to meet him.  He dropped me at a coffee bar near South Side Park and went off to amuse himself while Ian and I talked.  

I think both Ian and I felt a little awkward at first; who wouldn't?  Still, I think Ian would probably agree with me when I say that we experienced an instant sense of connection.  A wee bit of caution, but a fairly easy feeling.  We spent a few hours alone together.  Ian is a writer of speculative fiction and a college student.  His first published work (as an adult), a story called "Cunt Mold Calamities," will appear in the literary rag Specious Species in May.  We share a love of literature and writing, of intellectual explorations, of the surreal and the avant-garde.  We're both social creatures.

Later we met Corby at Catherine's house nearby.  There, Ian met more of his late father's kin.  We have been in communication ever since.  I am learning who Ian is and Ian is learning who I am.  I am learning who else is in Ian's life.  He is learning who my people are.  The photo above, taken by Catherine in her back yard, is the first of us together, only a few hours after we'd first met.

Of that meeting, Ian said, ""My grandma is a pagan witch and my step-grandpa is a carpenter who wears daisy dukes. Everything in my life makes sense."

Corby says my face had changed in the first three days.  He says I look five years younger and far "less stern."  I smile a lot.  I feel kinda giddy.  On Thursday, Don Frew said Corby's right, said my face is glowing.  Today, my friend Karen at the gym says I look like I'm in love.

Oh, and about those dates:  His mother, Tuesday Petrie, told me Ian was conceived on 2/14/89 and born on 11/22/89.  He phoned me on 4/20/12.  I'm not one for numerology, but even I can see that there's something there.

This year, 2012, marks a whole half century since I lost Nick.  This is our golden year, Nick's and mine.  Whether one believes that events were precipitated by my pal Saint Patrick's blessing or not, I am blessed and Ian is my Golden Gift.

This was after he had awarded me a grant for interfaith work from The Patrick McCollum Foundation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Patrick McCollum Foundation Awards Grant for Interfaith Work

Press Release



Date:          April 11, 2012

From:         M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien)

Contact:, 415 454-4411

            The Patrick McCollum Foundation has awarded a grant to M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien) in support of her work in interfaith relations.
            As a National Interfaith Representative of the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), and as an individual Pagan, Macha has been actively involved with Marin Interfaith Council, the Interfaith Center of the Presidio, and other interfaith organizations.  She participates in the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy’s annual Thanksgiving program for Marin County’s homeless population, as well as its annual memorial for those who died in the streets.  Currently she is collaborating on Beyond Memorial Day: Understanding the Hidden Wounds of War, a conference focusing on the spiritual needs of returning military veterans and their families, under the overall aegis of the Interfaith Center of the Presidio.
            “I take the words of Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung seriously when he says, ‘There will be no peace among nations until there is peace among religions.  And there will be no peace among religions until there is dialogue among religions.’  My life has been enriched by my friendships with my interfaith colleagues of many different religions.  I am both proud and humbled by this award,” says Macha.
            The Patrick McCollum Foundation’s work “focuses on seeing the sacred within each and every human being and bringing together people of all spiritual paths, to work together toward global sustainability and world peace.”
            Macha reports on her activities on her blog, The Broomstick Chronicles, and on CoG’s interfaith blog.  For more information, contact Macha NightMare at or 415 454-4411.