By Eleanor Robison - as told to Malachy Walsh
I think we’d only been going together about 5 months when R asked me. He didn’t get down on his knee, he asked me in the car. We’d been to dinner and then just, in the car, he asked me. There was nothing romantic about it whatsoever. I don’t know if we’d stopped, I have a feeling it was still so maybe we were stopped, maybe it was we were outside the house… and then he just kinda said, We’ve been going out together for quite a while and I’ve come to love you and I would really like to marry you – something like that. Just like that. Very simple.
As I’ve always said since, I don’t know if I really loved him or I just loved the idea of being married and especially to a minister.
It was very big news. We went over to a big congregational dinner and I was introduced as the minister’s fiancé.
So I was going to get married and thought I should go to the doctor and get things checked over. It was right around Christmas and the doctor found this large growth in my abdominal area. He thought it was on like a fallopian tube or something so he really thought he had to get that thing out. But when he got in, he discovered it was a big fibroid tumor in the uterus and he took the uterus out. So I had a hysterectomy and all with absolutely no preparation for it.
I found out after when the doctor came in in that dizzy time, you know, when you’re coming out of the anaesthetic and you act like you’re understanding things but you can’t really… But I do know that he came and told me, the doctor… that he’d had to remove the uterus and that really upset me because I’d always wanted to have children. That was one of the things that…
So I knew I had to tell R right away, which I did when he came to visit.
He was wanting me to get better and heal up and everything and he came and visited two or three times and I really didn’t get much of an inkling of how it was going to be.
Then it was the day I got out of the hospital that I was at home and I was lying down on the sofa out in the living room and he said, he said… he said he wanted to pass along his mental abilities to someone on down the line and that that was something he should do. He said I was not a suitable vessel for his seed.
I took the ring off and handed it back to him and told him to leave. A day or two later he came back with all the gifts I’d ever given to him and gave them back to me and I guess then he told the people in his church about it – he just told them - and they learned I wasn’t able to have children and then they rose up, in fury basically, and said that was no reason and said they didn’t want him anymore and asked him to resign. They finally got the Presbytery – the next, higher part of our church government – involved and that’s what did it. He left the church. Left the town. Left the whole area.
Anyway, I didn’t give up on the idea of having a family and when it became legal for a single parent to adopt in 1969, I just decided to find a little baby. That’s really what I wanted. But when I didn’t have a lot of luck with the agencies, I talked to our minister - and family friend - BJ. Then, one evening, after a Presbytery meeting, BJ asked me to come to sit on a curb with him. He asked me if I was still serious about adopting a baby. I said "I sure was." He told me about a baby he'd seen at the Ashland Hospital that didn’t have a name.
We got back to Ashland on a Saturday and BJ went to the hospital to find out more about the baby. He called the doctor on the birth chart at home and told him about me. Monday, my mother and I went met with him. We talked to the doctor and after the interview he said the baby would be ours and I went to my lawyer, Sam Harris, and he started the paperwork with the birthmom.
By Friday, all the paperwork was done and Sam came to the house with the baby. He told me that everyone at the hospital was impressed with the fact that the little baby was red headed and that I was, too.
I don’t know if I have the right words to say how wonderful it was, to have her put right in my arms. I felt like it was just meant to be. She was mine. Now she was itty bitty because she was premature - a bare 5 pounds. She was very little. But she had good lungs.
I’ve been told it was the first ever single female parent adoption in Oregon and the third in the country, but I’m not sure I believe it.
Years later a friend ran into R somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico or some place. They said that he was married and that he had a wife who’d had a couple of kids from another man, but that he, himself, had never had any – and they, the people from the church, were so happy about that: he’d never got a chance to plant his seed anywhere.
I was 38.
Eleanor was born here. She came to Ashland, Oregon in the mid-50s to teach school - which she did for 38 years.
Downtown Ashland, Oregon today.