Sunday, April 10, 2011

Missing moms

April 10, 1974 - exactly 37 years ago today - was one of the proudest days of my life. I graduated from the Women’s Army Corps basic training that day, as my company’s honor graduate. The Citizen’s Committee for the Army, Navy and Air Force gave me the American Spirit Honor Medal, “for the display of outstanding qualities of leadership best expressing the American Spirit: Honor, Initiative, Loyalty and High Example to Comrades in Arms.” I stood in the reviewing stand as G Company, Ft. Jackson, marched by and saluted. I stood straight, especially when the American flag passed by, but I couldn’t stop the tears from forming. They were tears of pride, and they well up as I write this now.
My platoon, my company, my country celebrated the preparation of young women ready to enter their new phase of active duty during the Vietnam Era. But not my family, and most importantly, not my mother. I received no word from her. No phone call, no card, and certainly no attendance at the graduation ceremony. Nor was she there for my wedding. Or for my high school graduation.
I am far from alone, I know, in not having my mom by my side for important, life changing events. So many women have to deal with even worse. Like the women who didn’t have their moms as they grew up, facing the day-to-day challenges of life.
Holly Draluck, a Facebook friend, recently wrote me about her trauma. Like me, like many of us, Holly thought, “going through it all seemed just like life.”
“I was a little child, just three years old - one of those little ones who desperately clung to her mom - when my parents divorced and I went to live with my Dad. Mom was not totally ‘stable,’ as the story goes, and she really believed that they would get back together.”
When the hope faded, Holly’s mom thought she could find a good husband to provide the home to have her girls back. It didn’t happen.
Holly’s mom killed herself when Holly was in college.
So many of us know what Holly feels when she talks about experiencing guilt, “and a very heavy ‘woulda, shoulda’ weight.”
But Holly turned her pain into something wonderful. For several years, she has led a growing global “Missing Orangutan Mothers” awareness campaign. On Mother’s Day, zoos and other organizations hold events to tell people about the challenges facing orangutans who have been orphaned in the wild.
“I think I formed an even deeper connection to orangutans by being able to relate to those little orangutans torn from their mothers, as I felt that same trauma,” Holly explains. “I know what it’s like. It was not a very conscious connection at first - but when I realized it, verbalized it, I cried.”
“It's funny how my life brought me to a love and connection to orangutans,” she says. “We all carry so much inside. When you look into someone's eyes, you can't always see it but it's in there.”
“I look into orangutan eyes and I see me.”

Orangutan centers throughout Indonesia and Malaysia are now home to nearly 2000 orphaned and displaced orangutans. The M.O.M. (Missing Orangutan Mothers) awareness events, held on Mother’s Day (May 8) at zoos around the country, bring attention to the plight of these beautiful red apes. Holly and Rich Zimmerman, of Orangutan Outreach, are encouraging zoos, animal facilities, groups and individuals around the world to hold M.O.M. events. If you want to attend an event near you, or if you can plan an event yourself, you can find more information at
Young humans and apes are hurt, often desperately, when their moms are missing from their lives. Thank goodness the world has people like Holly, who has turned that pain into something wholesome and good.

This chimp trainer's daughter salutes you, Holly.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, again, Dawn for sharing and providing an avenue for many of us to reflect and share, as well.
    I know I will be thinking of my mom this Mother's Day and thinking of all those missing orangutan mothers and their orphans who need our support, as well.
    I must say that I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful step-mother to get me through my "forest school" years much as the little orphans have at the rescue and rehab centers supported by Orangutan Outreach and others. I only hope that we can reach the hearts and minds of the visitors to our Mother's Day awareness events in hopes they will help in the efforts to protect the orangutans rainforest homes and insure there will be no more missing orangutan mothers.