Monday, November 25, 2013

Chapter 13 – I Love You But I Miss My Dog

After being cooped up Obertshausen for nearly a week with nothing but German being spoken in my presence (except for Janelle who couldn’t say anything but ga ga or goo goo and Maria who spoke to me in English only when we were alone) I had to get out of the house. There is only so much you can take with their gigantic breakfasts with every imaginable cold cut, eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, orange juice, grapefruit juice and stuff that I wouldn’t give to a starving animal. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I missed good old Raisin Bran or just plan eggs, hash browns and toast with a cup of strong coffee. Then there were all the questions. Where are you three going to live? Are you going to move to Germany or go back to America? Who do you think is going to win the World Cup? Even though I didn’t give a hoot about American Football, I missed seeing the games on TV. I couldn’t wait for baseball season and I wanted to watch a Dodger or Yankee game. Soon the Pebble Beach Pro/Am was going to be televised and I knew it wasn’t going to be shown on German TV. I guess you could say I was truly homesick.
 One night in early February when everyone went to bed, I waited for an hour to make sure the house was still and then I sneaked out. I crept out to the street and got into Kai’s Merkur, the Orange Crush, put it in neutral and coasted down the road until I was out of earshot then started the beast up and drove back to Sachsenhausen. The weather was close to snowing but the flurries had not materialized yet. I felt that as long as I didn’t stay out too long I could get back without anyone knowing I was gone. It was risky, but my boredom took over and ruled my decision.
Forty-five minutes later, I parked the car a few blocks from the main part of the American sector in Sachsenhausen and this time I made sure I knew exactly where it was using landmarks and whatnot. I went back to the English Pub where Maria and I were on New Year’s Eve and ordered a beer at the bar. The same band was playing American Pie again and I felt a strange sense of déjà vu. At the bar, two loudmouth Germans were in a heated discussion about something and they were so voluminous in speech it was beginning to give me an awful headache. I left the bar and walked until I found another place suitable for the subdued mood I was in. I happened into a local German bar that I knew was a little off the beaten track and wasn’t a tourist trap. They specialized in a certain drink that was called Geneva—a lot like Ouzo with as much, if not more, punch. I was beginning to get a little drunk so I went back to beer and tried to pace myself. There was a pool table in the back and I took out a D-Mark and put it on the table indicating I was up for a game. I was hot that night and won about ten D-Marks from some of the regulars. I don’t think they were too thrilled about losing to an American, especially a Jewish one. I don’t know if they perceived me to be Jewish, but I felt like that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen is having dinner with Grammy Hall and it cuts to a shot with him wearing payot, or peyos, and a yarmulke or a shtreimel (a black Hassidic hat). I was fortunate that they let me off the hook with a few nasty looks. There was no way I was going to get into any kind of an altercation on foreign soil. At around two a.m. I thought I had better get back and when I opened the front door the icy wind almost blew me back into the bar. It wasn’t just snowing it was a freaking blizzard. I bundled myself up and rushed back to the Orange Crush but it had taken me three times as long to get back as it would have under normal conditions. When I saw the car it was buried under a fresh blanket of snow that seemed like it was two feet thick—it was completely snowed in. I wiped off the snow the best I could with the sleeve of my leather coat then put the key in the door and turned it but it wouldn’t open. I pulled and yanked on it and wished that I had some kind of defrost spray or WD-40, but I don’t think that it was even invented yet. One last pull and the door handle broke off in my hand. I knew I was fucked, but after (pardon the expression) jimmying it with the key, the door finally opened. How was I going to explain the broken handle to Kai?
There was no way on earth I was going to make it back to Obertshausen in that blizzard, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I had to get back before the Bornemann’s woke up and they usually got up around six a.m. As I crawled down the frozen street the car was careening and swerving in the drifts. Then I saw the blue lights in the rear view mirror. I was being pulled over by the Frankfurt police. I thought I was completely fucked and would be going to jail since I was sure I was over the legal limit of alcohol consumption. They had me get out of the car and fortunately they spoke English, In fact there English was superb. I explained my situation, how I had borrowed my girlfriend’s brother’s car and wasn’t too familiar with the directions back to their village. I must say, and here is I give kudos to the German police. They not only didn’t arrest me, they offered to drive me back to Obertshausen which was more than thirty miles away and said they would tag the car so it wouldn’t get towed. I took them up on the offer. Who wouldn’t? I got back to the house at around 3:30 in the morning and sneaked back in without waking anyone up since I had found the spare key under the doormat. Why anyone keeps a spare key under the doormat and still feels safe I’ll never know. The only problem was I had to retrieve the car in the morning or whenever the weather cleared up. I knew I was going to have to fess up to my crime, which I did the next morning. I was surprised how well they took it and two days later I drove back to Sachsenhausen with Kai in his father’s car and I followed him back home.
I knew I had to get back to America soon. I loved Maria, or at least I thought I did, but I missed my dog, Bridget Bardog. I know it seems stupid to choose a dog over a beautiful young woman but that’s the way I truly felt. I had known Bridget a lot longer and we had been through so much together; moving from place to place. I thought about the first time I saw her out of my window on Radford—the day she got on the bus at the corner and then was kicked off by the bus driver. Then moving to Highland Avenue and when I left for New York how BJ had half starved her by selling her dog food for cigarette money. Then I thought about moving back to Oakhurst and her having the three puppies and I being the midwife (is that what you would call it?) which, after complaints from the neighbor, led to my mom and dad getting thrown out of that apartment, the one they had lived in for more than fifteen years, and moving in to a much nicer place in Studio City.  After that, we moved to Venice, then back to Hollywood and now I had left her with my folks and it had been more than two months since I had seen her. Yes, It was true, I told Maria, I love you honey, but I miss my dog and I said when I got back to the U.S. the first thing  I was going to do was apply for what is known as a fiancé petition which would take about three or four months to be approved.
I arrived back in Los Angeles in February of 1985 and when my dad picked me up I hugged him and he helped me with my bags and placed them in the trunk of the Mercedes. The first thing I did when I got in the car was to I turn on the radio and wouldn’t you know, Chuck Berry’s “Back In the U.S.A came on. I sang along with it at the top of my lungs much to my father’s chagrin. Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today. We touched ground on an international runway. Jet propelled back home, from over the seas to the U. S. A. I ran into the house on Canton Drive and there she was. She whimpered and circled around then jumped up and licked my face and I hugged her for a long time. She looked a little heavier than I had remembered but no worse for wear. I was back and we were together again. Can I get an Amen? AMEN!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chapter 12 - New Year’s Eve in Sachsenhausen

It was New Years Eve in Germany, and in most of the world for that matter, and we wanted to celebrate. Hans and Suzanne were kind enough to let us out of the confines of Stalag 9, (the A-frame house in Obertshausen) for the evening and had even offered to babysit for Janelle, so we didn’t even have to hire some teenage friend of Maria’s who most likely wouldn’t be available because of the holiday. I bundled up with two sweaters and the leather jacket I had acquired in Paris and Maria was wearing two pairs of black tights, two jumpers, and a black and white poncho that reminded me of a road sign with its zigzag diagonal pattern. We drove her step-brother’s orange junkheap – an early 70’s Merkur that had rust holes in the floorboards so big that if you lifted up the mats you could stick your feet through and drag them on the road and stop the car like Fred Flintstone. At least the heater worked well.
The main street of Sachsenhausen is Schweizer Straße, a cosmopolitan boulevard with bars and two of Frankfurt's most traditional cider houses, Zum gemalten Haus and Wagner. Ciderhouses that produce their own Apfelwein (applewine) can be identified by the presence of a wreath of evergreen branches hanging outside the location or a similar image included on their signpost. The Textorstraße and the old town or Altstadt have the best known ciderhouses in Frankfurt, but such pubs can be found all over southern Hesse. We parked the holy roller or Orange Crush on the outskirts of town and immediately bought a few cups the scalding hot beverage in one of the ciderhouses then headed to the bars on Schweizer Straße in the American sector where US soldiers would frequent because the bands played the hits of the 60’s and 70’s from back home which was beginning to make me feel homesick.
In the first nightclub called simply, The English Pub (pictured), the band was playing a cover of the recent hit by Tina Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It and we bellied up to hand carved wooden bar where two obese German’s who both looked like Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes, were drinking and shouting at each other in strident tones. I thought that any minute a fight was going to break out between them but Maria assured me that was the way they always acted and there was no need to worry. I ordered a local beer that was served in a two foot high, beveled glass mug and proceeded to get pleasantly plastered while Maria stuck to the Apfelwein not wanting to mix her alcoholic intake. I, being a professional drinker, had no qualms about mixing my booze but I was out of my element and should have followed her lead on that one. After about an hour of listening to everything from Credence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son to Don McLean’s American Pie (a favorite in these parts), we decided it was time to venture on. She wanted to go to a disco and do a little dancing, which is not my forte, but it was New Years Eve and I was fairly wasted so I agreed to go, even if I resembled a drunken orangutan when I danced—I could only imagine how ridiculous I was going to look being three sheets to the wind. Maybe it would improve my skills?
We wandered into a club that was packed tighter than a sardine can with people from all over the world. I could hear French, German, Dutch, Italian and Russian being spoken and we hadn’t even made it to the dance floor yet. Of course there was a giant mirrored disco ball hanging from the ceiling reflecting the blue and red lights which was not helping in my state of inebriation. I went to the bathroom thinking I may throw up but only leaned over the toilet seat hyperventilating. I staggered over to the sink, washed my face and hands and then pulled myself up by the bootstraps and rejoined the festivities. What I needed was a shot of Pernod to set me right. Ever since Paris it was the only drink that would settle my stomach and after a few sips I was back to abnormal. When I came back from the bar I saw Maria speaking with this French dude clad in black leather. It was obvious he was “chatting” her up and when he realized I was with her he offered us a peace pipe in reconciliation. He said it was hashish from Afghanistan and it was very strong and advised us to only take one hit. We did. Oh my God, the room was spinning like a centrifuge. I felt like I was on one of those circular rides where you lean against the inner wall and then the floor drops away while you spin faster and faster. I always hated those rides.
After midnight rolled around, and it was now 1985 we were too wasted to notice but knew something must have happened when the room exploded with cries of Happy New Year in at least ten different languages. I turned around to kiss her and saw that she was slumped down on the floor looking like a ragdoll or a marionette with its strings cut. I propped her up in the corner so she wouldn’t get trampled to death then I stumbled and weaved my way to the bar and got two large glasses of water. It seemed to help but Maria was feeling claustrophobic and had to get out of the crowded club. Somehow I managed to regain the balance to help her up from the floor and led her out to the frozen street below. We were lost.
“Where the hell is the car?” I shouted. She just gave me a blank look.
“I don’t fucking know,” she said as I threw up my hands and paced back and forth.
“This is your town, you should know better than me. C’mon Maria think.”
She started to cry. “Oh that’s really going to help,” I said as I tried to think.
“We parked on Schweizer, didn’t we?”
“I think so, but I’m all turned around. We shouldn’t have smoked that hash. I can’t think straight and I’m freezing my ass off.”
“The best thing to do is wait until later when the crowds thin out and that orange beast will stick out like a sore thumb. Come on lets go get some coffee.”
“Okay, yah...”
We weaved our way through the crowded street and found an all night restaurant a few blocks away. It wasn’t a Denny’s or a Waffle House but the coffee was hot and they were serving breakfast. I ordered some eggs over easy and she had some toast. After an hour or so we started to come back to the planet Earth. At around three in the morning we paid the bill and thought about venturing on to find the Orange Crush. The snow was almost blinding and we couldn’t see ten feet in front of us.
“Maybe we should get a hotel room?” I asked.
“There won’t be’s New Years’. Remember?”
She began to cry again so I hugged her and tried to reassure her that we were going to be okay. We went back into the restaurant and sat in by the fire waiting until the snow let up—if it ever would. At least we were warm and cozy and I didn’t know about her but I wasn’t high anymore. After an hour or so we noticed the snow was dissipating so we gathered ourselves up and went outside. We couldn’t believe what we saw. The Orange Crush was right across the street half covered in snow. We looked at each other and then looked at the junkheap and then back at each other again then laughed hysterically. We were saved. After scraping the ice off the windshield we climbed inside and it fired the beast up. It might not have been the best looking car in the world but at that moment it was a Rolls Royce or a Jaguar. The heat worked and that was a good thing—a very good thing. If this was any indication of how 1985 was going to be, I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride. I had no idea at the time how right I was going to be.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chapter 11 – Fatherland/Poisoned in Paris

After a safe landing at Frankfurt International Airport I was waiting for my baggage at the turnstiles when I saw her. She had cut her hair and let it go back to her natural color—a honey blonde and she looked fantastic. She smiled that familiar crooked grin and waved at me from a distance of no more than twenty feet. The closer she got the more beautiful she appeared. It was more than two months since I had seen her last, when she and her mother, sister and baby Janelle had left. I could see Maria had come with another young girl who apparently had a car, but she had left Janelle at home, thinking she was too young and susceptible to strange germs one usually finds in airports after the flyers are confined to breathe the same stale air for hours on end.
Her family had a large A-frame house near the Black Forest in a small town about thirty miles east of Frankfurt by the name of Obertshausen.  It was a four bedroom house with a bonus room upstairs—like a loft where Maria and I slept in a rollaway bed and Janelle stayed in a crib on the warmest part of the room near the heating vent. I guess her step-parents were rather progressive or they thought that I was going to marry Maria therefore had no problem with our sharing the same bed. Hans, her stepfather, had a wine cellar in the basement and an assortment of every kind of Bavarian beer you could imagine. I was still bending the right elbow at the time and we shared a few choice brews as well as many other local types of liquor, much to my delight. It was very odd living in a house of strangers who thought that they had taken in the “token Jew” to their household. Suzanne had explained to me that when she was a little girl back in the early thirties she had joined the Nazi party. She said at first it was a lot fun, they would sing songs and have cookouts and campfires. Her mother said she never trusted Adolph Hitler at all—he reminded her of a used car salesman. She warned Suzanne that her association with the Nazi party was going to lead to big trouble. One day Suzanne noticed that one of her best friends, the daughter of a Jewish family, had suddenly vanished off the face of the earth. One day the family was living there a few doors down and the next day the house was empty without any forwarding address. Soon all the Jews in the small town were gone without a trace. Her mother said it was because of Hitler and his hatred for the Jews. Suzanne left the party soon after that.
Not only was Suzanne an ex-Nazi but she was a very active member of the Church of Scientology. Upstairs in her office (she was also a dentist, who reminded me of Laurence Olivier’s character, Szell, in Marathon Man) was her e-meter, originally known as the Hubbard Electrometer, is a device the Scientologists use to reflect or indicate whether or not a person has been relieved from spiritual impediment of past experiences. One evening at supper, I had asked her about her involvement in Scientology and expressed a curiosity about the e-meter. She asked me if I wanted to give it a try and me, being the kind of person who never backs down from a challenge or a new experience, decided to give it a go.
Her office looked like a shrine dedicated to everything L. Ron Hubbard. She had all his books on the shelf (even the weird science fiction ones) and literature in piles scattered about the room promoting the benefits of Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard’s theory on which Scientology is based. I sat down on her office chair and she connected the wires from the e-meter to various parts of my body. I felt like Frankenstein’s monster getting ready to be re-animated and had to stifle a laugh looking at the primitive apparatus. It looked like something I might have constructed with my Erector Set when I was a kid. I could hear her humming and hawing behind me and it made me wonder what kind of readings she was getting. Was I going to pass the test? Would I have past life problems that would inhibit my relationship with her step-daughter?
She silently unhooked the wires from my body and I get up from the chair. “Well, did I pass the audition?” I asked.
“You did fine. It looks like you are a very old soul,” she said but I could tell she was holding something back.
“What do you mean, old soul?”
“You have had many past lives, hundreds and hundreds of them. If it is alright with you, I would like to take you down to the Center and have you tested by our leader.”
“Uh, well you see...” I didn’t really want to get into a whole rigmarole since I was only going to be in Germany for a limited time and Maria and I were booked to go to Paris by train in a couple of days. “I think I’ll pass on the invitation, if that’s all right with you.”
“Yes, of course. I only thought you might want to take it to the next level, only out of interest in the lives you might have led in the past.”
“I think I’ll concentrate on the life I’m living now, but thanks just the same.”
That night Maria and I went into town to a Chinese restaurant and sat in a booth behind an ornately carved wooden wall. There were all these L shaped patterns in the carvings and when I inspected them more closely I could see they were connecting Swastika’s. The food was good but I told Maria that I felt uncomfortable there and there was no way I was going to go anywhere near the ovens. We left before the fortune cookies arrived. I had had enough messages for one day, thank you very much.
Maria and I left Frankfurt on the train bound for Paris two days later. The scenery was beautiful—the snow covered Alsace Lorraine hills and valleys nearly took my breath away. We got a cheap bottle of wine and some German cold cuts for dinner and within a few hours I was feeling sick to my stomach. It felt like I was coming down with some kind of virus or flu, feeling weak and dizzy. Of all times to get sick, It was my first time in Paris—the city of lights. When we got off the train Maria had to help steady my slow and deliberate gait to the pharmacie, thinking they might have some medication that would help, or maybe they could direst me to a doctor—preferably one who spoke English. She said there was a fine physician in the next building. I staggered over there and to my chagrin the doors were locked. I looked at the directory and couldn’t figure out which one was the doctor the lady at the pharmacie had recommended. I told Maria to go back and get the name of the doctor while I leaned against the door. I saw a woman leaving the building so I waited for her to exit then I grabbed the door before it closed. I was now in the building but didn’t know much more than that. I walked into the first office I came to and sat down in the waiting room.
The receptionist didn’t speak any English so I did my best to communicate my situation to her. I thought I was going to pass out but managed to remember my basic French from high school. “Je suis tres mal,”  I said.
“O oui. Un moment,” she said.
After a few minutes I was directed to a room where the nurse had indicated for me to lie down and remove my shirt with hand signals. I could understand that much since taking off one’s clothes translated nicely in any language, so I complied. Soon a young doctor with a pencil thin mustache came into the room. Fortunately he spoke English and told me to lie back while he examined me. He took my blood pressure and stuck a thermometer in my mouth. I had a low grade fever, so he had ruled out some kind of influenza. Then he looked at my feet and could see they were swollen around the ankles.
“My friend,” he said. “You have food poisoning. What have you been eating?”
“I had some wine and cold cuts on the train from Germany,” I told him.
“Ah, the train. I wouldn’t have eaten anything those pigs serve on those trains. I always bring my own food. But, it is too late for that. I am going to give you some medication to help with your stomach cramps and diarrhea, but what you need is rest and to drink plenty of fluids. The sickness should pass within 12 to 24 hours.”
“Great! I am only in town for a couple of days. Isn’t there anything else you can give me to speed up the process?”
“I’m afraid not. The poison has to run its course.”
I left the office and saw Maria in the lobby. She was a little upset that I hadn’t told her where I was but she understood when I told her about the food poisoning. She was smart and had not eaten any of the salami or pepperoni and had luckily avoided the sickness.
We checked into the hotel somewhere near Notre Dame de Lorette but all I saw the first night was the view from the bathroom. The next morning I was feeling a little better but I was so nauseated with the thought of any type of rich food entering my system. That night I was able to eat some Spaghetti Bolognese; it was the only food I could digest without getting sick to my stomach. What a shame to be in one of the greatest culinary cities in the world and be limited to Spaghetti Bolognese. At least I could manage to down a couple of shots of the green fairy, Pernod Absinthe (the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald), without giving it all back to the lavatorie—vivé la France.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Chapter 10 – Mother and Child Reunion

The dog days of August were upon us and I was devoting every waking minute to her. Even my dreams were filled with anticipation and dread of what was going to be. I had all but given up on selling typewriter ribbons and lift off tape with David and my music was all but forgotten. I knew I was storing it up for a future time when I would be able to write all of this craziness down, but for now I was concentrating on her and her needs. While my friends were going on about their daily business, Chas was making a name for himself as a producer and songwriter, Larry was off in stockbroker land concentrating on the almighty dollar and writing instrumental “mood pieces”, Stephen was living in Venice with his new love, Portia while keeping a vigil on his all but forgotten goddess of love, Renee Russo. I couldn’t talk to any of them without receiving some kind of lecture about the misbegotten waif that I was spending way too much time and energy on. They all said I was going to be hurt and left without a pot to piss in, but I knew I had gone too far to turn back.
By September, when the Santa Ana winds were blowing hot and strong— the winds of change gusting. We would meet with the adopting couple, the Jewish film director (let’s call him Will) and his matronly wife (let’s call her Jennifer) from time to time and each meeting was getting stranger and stranger. I was starting to have my doubts about them. They were acting more and more disinterested in the well being of their surrogate mother to be—all they seemed to do was talk about themselves and their own lives. I don’t know how it happens, but I have heard tales that when a woman who is barren in the womb and told that she would never be able to conceive a child of her own can get pregnant when all the pressure is off. Sometimes a vacation to a warm and tropical place, or an unexpected windfall, maybe winning the lottery or the jackpot in Vegas or Monte Carlo, but for Jennifer it was when she found out that she was chosen by us to be the mother of Maria’s child—she was now pregnant. Maybe that was the justification for the decision that we made, the hardest decision I ever had to make in my thirty-one years of life so far.
By the middle of September, Maria was looking like and over-inflated balloon and we knew it was going to be soon. On the night of the twenty-fourth her water had broken and I rushed her to Cedars of Lebanon hospital in my Porsche. Fortunately I had the foresight to take Bridget over to my parents Leave it to Beaver house on canton Drive the night before. Even though the wanted no part of my life with the Nazi-girl, they did love me and my dog, and couldn’t see having the poor dog suffer being locked up in an apartment for hours, even days if Maria were to go into labor. Maria was in terrible pain and wasn’t one of those women who gave a shit about natural child birth or anything like that especially if it was a child that she would be giving up—so she got the epidural and was feeling a lot better in less than twenty minutes. By midnight the contractions were getting closer—about two minutes apart and we knew it was going to be soon. I was staying awake on coffee and nervous energy and at four AM on September 25, 1984, Maria gave birth to a beautiful ginger-haired little girl—she was perfect.
Maria tried to hold back her tears as the baby was taken from the delivery room to the room where they kept the other newborns, but as soon as her little girl had left the room the river of tears flowed like a fountain. I tried my best to console her, and told her it was for the best and how her baby was going to have a great life, go to the best schools and be well taken care of, but deep down I felt that we were making a mistake. My feelings were intensified when I called Will and Jennifer at four-thirty.
“Hello, is this Will?”
“Yeah, who is it?”
“It’s James.”
“James who?”
“Maria’s boyfriend, you know— the mother of your soon to be adopted child.”
He sounded like he couldn’t care less who I was and acted irritated by be awakened before the crack of dawn. “Oh yeah. What do you want?”
“I’m sorry to call you so late but I wanted to let you know that Maria had the baby. It’s a lovely little girl.”
“Oh yeah, that’s great. Goodbye.”
He hung up the phone without any further questions. I was shocked. You would think that he would want to know more about the baby, what she looked like, if she had all of her fingers and toes and so on, but nothing. I felt confused and a little pissed off, but I thought I should probably keep these feelings to myself and not let on to Maria how insensitive Will was on the phone.
I went back to Maria’s room in the maternity ward and fell asleep on the lounge chair next to her. Around ten o’clock in the morning a nurse had come by the room with the baby in her arms. She probably wasn’t told that the baby was going to be put up for adoption, some kind of communication breakdown, but she handed the baby to Maria to try and get her to nurse the infant. I thought it was a terrible mistake. She was going to bond with the baby and it was going to be next to impossible for Maria to let go after that. A few minutes later the head nurse came in and took the baby away from Maria and most likely read the other nurse the riot act for what she had done. But the damage was done, and the connection already made and the mother and child connection is the strongest bind there is on the planet. Nobody could argue with that.
I felt like I was being torn apart at the seams, and I could only imagine how Maria was feeling when the next morning they had the baby all bundled up in a pink blanket and handed her over to Jennifer and Will and we both watched in silence as they rounded the corner and left with the two day old Janelle. Later that day Maria was released from the hospital and we drove back to the apartment on Fuller without uttering a word. There was a cloud of doom and depression so thick you could cut it with a paper knife. I thought after a day or two things would begin to lighten up, but they only got worse. I thought she was going to jump out of the window or slit her wrists in the bathtub. I couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Why don’t you call your mother in Germany.”
“What good is that going to do?” she asked knowing that it had been almost a year since she had spoken to Suzanne and they didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms.
“Just call her.” I said.
After a few minutes of silence she called. When Suzanne heard what had happened she was shocked and appalled that she could do such a thing.
“Is there any way you can get the baby back?” she asked her adopted daughter.
Maria was aware of the California law that the birth mother had three months, maybe longer, to reverse her decision and have the baby returned to her, and she told Suzanne this.
“You call those lawyers and get that baby back. I will fly out in a week or two with Anna and you will all come back to Germany. Is that understood?”
“Are you sure?” Maria asked, having doubts that her step-mother would take such a proactive stance in the matter.
“Of course I am sure. This is your child we are talking about.”
She hung up the phone and I was about to make the hardest phone call I ever had to make.
“Hello, is this Will?”
“Yes. Who’s calling?”
“It’s James. I don’t know how to tell you this but let me get right to the point. Maria has decided to get her baby back.”
“What! You’re kidding right?”
“No. I’m sorry. Roger will be in touch with you. I am really sorry.”
I hung up the phone with a lump in my throat as big as the Holland Tunnel. What had I just done? The only saving grace was knowing that Jennifer was pregnant and was most likely, if everything went well, she and Will were going to be parents of their own little boy or girl.
A week later I was in the waiting room of Roger’s law office while Maria was signing papers. Will and Jennifer had just come by and dropped off Janelle. It would have been more than awkward if we had bumped into them so they made sure not to call us in to the office until they knew the adopting couple was long gone. After the ink was dry, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted we entered Roger’s office. There, lying down between two leather office chairs that were pushed together and barricaded by stacks of law books on each side, was little Janelle. Maria picked her up and smiled for the first time in months. I felt like I had done the right thing. There was a circle of events in her life that had to be broken. Her mother had abandoned her and she had abandoned her baby. It had to stop, I and was going to do something about it, or so I thought.
Two weeks later, in the middle of October, Maria, Suzanne, Anna and Janelle were boarding a plane bound for Frankfurt, Germany. I had some loose ends to tie up, one of them being selling my beautiful Porsche, and as soon as I could, I would be joining them. I asked my mom and dad if they could take care of Bridget and they agreed. They thought I was insane to go, but they knew I was, or thought I was in love, and tried to be understanding. In mid December I was on a plane heading east to their Fatherland.