Another thought from BJ Lifton

by adminuser on August 6, 2010


BJ Lifton

I  used  to call Annette and tell her all my news. I needed her response and validation, which I always got.  So now I am so thrown by her sudden death that I want to call her and tell her the news that she died.

I’m sure she would say she already knew. She was always up on things. But she would apologize that she didn’t have time to say goodbye to all of us. That she too was taken by surprise.

The trouble with death is that it cuts off communication.

But that isn’t going to stop me today.  I’m going to talk to you at your memorial, Annette,  from this side of the divide.

I can’t claim to be the only one DEVASTED by losing you.  I think of your husband, your children, your grandchildren, your zillions of friends.   But you were such a constant in my life that I’m going to claim BIG DEVASTATION, anyway.

We met 30 years ago when you morphed from being a conventional social worker into being one of us adoptees and birth mothers, working for open records and open adoption practice.

You were so fearless.  A renegade.  We adoptees were afraid  to rock the boat, but you were willing to CAPSIZE it.  You were ahead of your time. A pioneer.  You  blasted  adoption practice open,  with your equally intrepid colleague Reuben Pannor. You two were the first to call for and define open adoption.

You were against secrecy in donor insemination too. You were really something.

We lived on different coasts, but met over the years at adoption conferences and kept in touch by phone.  I stayed with you when I was on my way to or from Japan or coming out to negotiate a film option on one of my books. You were right – as you always were – none of them worked out.

I felt your guest room was exclusively mine – but I had a hunch that many others felt the same way about it – just as they felt the same way about you.

You were so witty. I remember the earthquake that struck Los Angeles the day after you moved from Brentwood to Santa Monica.  It  threw you and Ephraim out of bed and smashed all your dishes.  You said if you had known this would happen, you could have smashed the dishes before moving, and saved yourself the trouble of packing.

And you were fun.  Much to my surprise you were an inveterate shopper. Without you, I would have never discovered those dreamy Citron jackets, which I now live in.  And which you did too.

I confess at the beginning of our friendship,  I thought of myself as the literary one.  But whenever I mentioned a book, you had already read it. You  would wake in the middle of the night and devour each one, as if you knew  you might run out of time.

And you were practical too. You called  the library to reserve those books and then rushed out to retrieve them. While I, sloth that I am, just poked the keys on

And you were so well travelled – striding the globe with your beloved Ephraim.

When I went to London last time with my husband, you recommended the hotel  that Somerset Maugham used to frequent.  It reminded me  how cosmopolitan you were.  I couldn’t help thinking that with your adoption radicalism, you , like Maugham, lived on the razor’s edge.

I miss you so, Annette.  Especially at midnight, my time, when I, an Owl, would call you and yak on for so long that you’d plead the late hour out there and ask to continue another time.

I’m still willing to continue – any time.

The last time we spoke, a few weeks before your death, you mentioned that many of your and Ephraim’s friends were dropping off like flies.  And then, shortly after, with no warning, no goodbyes, you, too, dropped off, and flew away.  It was so unlike you.

Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time now, Annette.  You always felt I fussed  over my prose too much.  Like that time we wrote an article together on adoption for the Encyclopedia of Bioethics.  You were quick and to the point, and I wanted yet another rewrite.

I wish I could rewrite history now. But I’ll let you go.

I know you’re busy being processed up there, ordering books from their local library, and seeking out your mother, and other relatives to whom you were so close.  And also contacting adoptees,  birth parents, and adoptive parents,  who went before you, to offer them news of their loved ones down here.

Thanks, Annette, for being you.

And thanks for all those memories.  We won’t forget.

My love,  always,


PS.  I don’t know if you have Internet up there, but if you do, please send word on Facebook how you’re doing.

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