In 1990 I received my first information about the circumstances of my adoption. My biological mother’s privacy was protected by the LA county bureau of adoptions. So I couldn’t know her name, but could leave a letter in my file. But only if she checked the file, it would be there for her. So I typed out one page on and old style typewriter and told her about my life. I had a wonderful family, a fine childhood, and that I was a musician, and a happy person. I said the things I loved and experienced. Mostly I let her know that I always thought so much of what she did, to give me up in hopes I would have a better life than she could give at the time.
Strangely, after I wrote the letter I felt a sense of peace about it knowing that if she wanted to look and see there would be a message from me there. It’s probably still there now.
To go back a little bit…
Right when I got into school in 1988, I had a car accident. I had only whiplash but it ruined my van which I relied on for all my gigs. I had to take another three month Top 40 tour in Alaska to afford another van and re-start school again in six months. I learned about video editing on the side, and although I was in the bass guitar program, I ended up creating my first serious band for my harp.
After that I was working various music jobs and was also a cocktail waitress in a Hollywood club were I waited on rock stars and movie stars. I ended up writing a popular column in a music paper that tattled on the stars that were bad tippers. I was an anonymous columnist of “True Tales from Behind the Tray” by Jackie Daniels.
In 1990, we lost my father’s father, Florencio S. Franco. a loving man who adored is four sons, one daughter, 11 grandchildren including me, and many great grandchildren. He worked for the railroad in Los Angeles his whole life. He loved music and had a lovely soprano voice which he sang to us in Spanish. While his heart failed, my Nana never left his side. They were so in love, all the way to the end and married for over 50 years. He always said “mama was the boss”. She wouldn’t leave his hospital bedside. When finally she did for a moment to eat. He went to heaven. She lived another decade but counted the days until she would join him.
My sister Jenny married Jeff, a super terrific guy. They have two kids, Trevor and Annelyse who are a great joy in my life, the biggest blessing ever. I never had kids of my own, I love them as much as if they were mine.They are now 14 and 10.
We do a lot of fun stuff together, we make video movies with special effects, cooking shows.. music shows, dance parties, arts and crafts. Trevor’s too old for that stuff by now, but Annelyse is always ready for fun. I visit them in Laguna Beach pretty often. My sister Jenny is the best mom ever.
My father was diagnosed with Cancer and twice he was able to beat it with surgery and radiation. In between those times he was able to enjoy traveling in his RV for summer long trips with Margaret and visiting the kids and now grand kids.He still loved campfires and outdoor grilling and was always ready to go anywhere to see me play my music.We have so many great photos because Margaret was a photographer.
My mom Carol never remarried but enjoyed a life of working in National Parks and living in beautiful places with mountains and forest. She loves nature so much. She, my aunt and my grandma were always doing crafts and inventing good ideas.
I was sending out tapes of my music while still waitressing and got my first record contract in Germany. I traveled there several years in a row to do concerts and make my first few records there.
Those records never quite made it to the US, so I was still street performing on Venice Beach Boardwalk. This lead to more traveling and street performing around the country and Canada.
|International Buskers festival in Nova Scotia, Canada
There were years of day after day performing long hours for tips and tape sales in every place possible. College campuses, art fairs, street festivals and shopping malls. There were snow storms and broken down vans, terrible motels, walking pneumonia IRS audits and US Customs fines.
One time I had a late night gig, and an early morning recording session. I opted to park my van by my bedroom window and leave everything inside. When I came out the van was gone. For three days I posted pictures of my harp at every pawn shop. That’s all I cared about, not the guitars or mandolins or electric gear, I just wanted the harp. A Latin TV station I had just performed on showed pictures of the van and told my story. The next day the van was recovered and I was told to go to impound. The van had a screwdriver still stuck in the ignition. It was stripped and empty. Except for the harp.
Somehow I sold over 100,000 tapes and CDs on my own little label. Because of that, I was invited to the top floor office with my harp to RCA/Windham Hill. I was asked to play my harp, and to show my manufacturing receipts for my CD sales. I was signed to a major recording contract.
Around that time I met my magical musical partner George Tortorelli at a festival in Florida. We were a couple for the first two years of our now 13 year friendship. He plays flutes for all my music, we have toured extensively as a duo and had every kind of adventure. He lives in Florida where we perform often. He was already a well known musician in his own rite. We have a very special sound that people truly love. He taught me all about enjoying life, shutting off the pager and canoeing through nature…and where to hang hammocks in Maui. He is truly the wise brother I always wanted in my life. Still is.
|George and I at the Florida Folk Festival on the Swanee River|
Right when my first major label album release came out, I had an extreme headache so I went to an emergency room and while I was filling out forms I had a seizure. I had brain swelling and the left side of the brain was torn in two places. I was in critical care and it was a mystery why it happened. I also developed blood clots in both of my legs from the hip to the ankle. I had emergency surgery to put a permanent device in my main artery that would protect my organs from stroke. I was bedridden for six months. It was a slow recovery and it was eventually determined that I had contracted west nile virus in Florida, which caused the brain swelling. I was trying to feed a baby owl that had fallen through a fireplace. The owl was sick and dying. The mosquitoes were biting the owl, and then me. The legs were hardest to endure and recover from. I have had a few more blood clots since then and my legs have never fully been the same.
So after all I had been through to that point in my music life, I missed my big chance to promote that album and do all the planned performances and activities around it.
But the next year I had another chance, and things changed for me. I was touring in beautiful performing arts centers and theaters across the US. Making more records in fine studios, and performing with some of the greatest musicians you can imagine. After many tries I finally had a record in the Billboard Top 10 New Age Music charts. I had a full band of my dreams.
The best thing about this new level was the tools you get to use. Writing and recording the music was my highest love. To be able to record with state of the art technology was the greatest experience so far. To be able to hear at new levels.
My next very important relationship was with Gilberto “Gil” Morales. He was my good friend and gifted audio engineer for my music before we were together as a couple for eight years. He was an important part all that decade of music. He also was a musician who played many instruments. A true friend for life.
My fathers’ mother Adelina lived a long life and we made a lot of plans that she would visit me from heaven and how I would know it was her.
This is her 90th birthday party surrounded by all of her children. All my aunts and uncles and cousins I grew up with and their babies came together to honor Adelina. This is the whole Franco clan, me on the right.
Only the very last weeks of her 95 years did my Nana lose her memory. But in this moment when I held up her face she recognized me and Margaret took this photo. It came out with a white star reflection of light on her chest. She passed just a few days later.
As the record industry changed and the economy shifted, the big bus mega tours weren’t happening anymore. Windham Hill label folded up shop and I ended up signing to New Earth Records and working more on my own label and my own touring and promotions. I had a big experience around the Columbine tragedy and started doing Therapuetic music in hospitals. My programs grew faster than I could keep up with. Weekdays were playing music in intensive care units and weekends flying to the east coast for shows. I handled all parts of my business from my mobile office and worked a lot in airports. I never stopped day or night. I got another blood clot in my hip while performing in Utah, and had emergency blood thinning shots, and now pills too.That was hard for me because I have always gone the natural route. But the blood thinners helped me out a lot. I finally admitted.
My father’s Cancer returned and this time it was in his lungs behind his sternum and there was no solution for it. He endured many procedures to prolong his life. It was a hard four years while his health declined. Margaret was devoted to him every moment. They were so in love after 24 years of marriage. He just wanted us to be normal and kept telling us not to be sad and worry. How much he enjoyed his life. He never complained.
He kept telling us how proud he was of all of us.
I stayed there with them in Nevada to help Margaret and be there for his last part of life. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, and how I couldn’t have had a better dad in the whole world. There was so much I had to write it all out. Even though he already knew it. I wanted to tell him anyway everything I learned from him. And that I would do all the things he wished for me, and we would all be okay even though we would miss him our whole lives.
On one of the last days of his life, I read him my letter with shaky hands. Margaret took a picture of the hug he gave me. I will treasure this photo my whole life.
My grandma on my moms side passed just a few months later. But she still came to my fathers memorial with my mom. She was sharp right to the end. She knew how to live and taught us all how to enjoy life. We released white balloons for her in the park where we gathered.
I decided to start taking better care of myself and moved to a place right on the beach in Marina Del Rey for a year. I just kept taking walks to strengthen my legs and figure out what I was going to do differently than the workaholic thing.
Along came Aryeh, and his beautiful son Abraham. I fell in love with them both.
So I moved to San Francisco. Its a happy life here. A healthy life too. Aryeh is a great musician and we create music together as well. I love his parents too.
I still go to L.A often. I have my hospital music programs now over 10 years. I have special gigs and speaking engagements. I get invited to present my music and story at large conferences and spiritual retreats. I am fullfilled most when I bring my 15 harps to schools and hospitals to teach people to play. I still fly for shows and festivals, but half as much. I take more time off and spend time with my friends, I do cooking and mosiacs. I take much better care of my health.
My mom Carol and I bought a house together in Northwest Montana, she lives there now and we visit. She says she has never been happier in her life.
As I was just writing this, my mom just read part two
of my story and posted this:
See how lucky I am?
Jenny is a full fledged soccer mom. They are busy bees having lots of fun too. She’s been married now for 16 years.
Margaret is just starting to come out a little bit. Her grief is long and hard. She visits us and I her. She carries on the festivities that she and Dad enjoyed doing for the kids. Her two daughters are grown. My stepsister Gwen and I visit sometimes.
We all miss my dad so much.
So, were up to date. An unusual set of divine interventions happen, and I decide it’s time to look for my birth mother again.
I had no idea it was going to happen so fast.
End of part three.