there are times

by tobymarx

. . . when I think it’s just too damn bad that abortions weren’t legal in 1949.



The peculiar document that passes for my birth certificate.

Then again, I sometimes wonder what happened to the two children by presumably different and also unnamed fathers my mother gave birth to before me. Poor Edith, that home for unwed mothers must have been a dreadful place. When I was a child, single mothers were either widows or divorcees and “unwed mothers” were social outcasts commonly labeled as sluts or whores. I remember it well as an object lesson in hypocrisy.

Even though I have no way of proving it, it’s very likely my mother was also manic-depressive. While not conclusive, the details on my birth certificate—three children born out of wedlock by the age of twenty-four—strongly suggest sexual promiscuity, a symptom of bipolar disorder circumstantiated by numerous psychiatric annals, not to mention my own experience. What is certain is that in the ’40s and ’50s, manic-depressives were sometimes surgically “cured” by prefrontal leucotomies (the tragedy of Rosemary Kennedy is probably the most famous example of this).

Inasmuch as I’ve been unable to unearth any record beyond my birth certificate of Edith Yearwood’s existence, including a search of the Social Security Death Index, I fear she may have been institutionalized only to die an anonymous death. I hope I am wrong. If by chance you know an eighty-five-year-old woman named Edith Yearwood, originally from the state of Washington, please tell her James Lee sincerely wishes her well.