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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month

I have sincere passion about the topic of adoption. I have written about it sparingly in my political forum but, as this is Adoption Awareness Month, I am going to put some of them here. People are very quick to give dismissive understandings to the issue of adoption in a mindless quest to make themselves feel better about the idea of displacing human lives. It is always a great resource for people who want to dismiss the idea of abortion, more often than not by those who have never adopted a child (and no child would surely benefit from it if they had).

I wrote this January 12, 2015 as I began my exploration into writing in an effort to understand myself and find resolution for things I have held on to from childhood:

Adoption, as it existed when I was born at least, is unnatural and cruel. There is this lovely pervasive notion that to have been adopted means one was "chosen." As nice as it must feel for the relayer of the message to simplify and minimize the experience, even a young child knows it's bullshit. Inevitably, upon hearing the news, however delivered, that the parents you know as yours are not naturally yours, a hole is created that can never be filled with nonsensical paradox. To have been chosen by one you must have been given away by another. That is a revelation so personal and so painful that no one could imagine having never experienced it, no matter how empathetic.

My adoption was in January 1973. I was born in October of 72. I was taken from my mother in the hospital and held and loved on (one hopes and assumes) by random nurses until I was deemed healthy and could leave the hospital. I was then placed in a "home" for three months. Obviously I have no memory of that experience. I do know what it should've been, of course, having given birth to and raised a child of my own. I should've been held and sang to and fawned over every day. I should've had a big finger to wrap all of my little fingers around while receiving kiss after kiss and feeling assurances of love and safety. I should've come to recognize the smell and sound and warmth of the person who would dedicate the rest of her life to my health and happiness. Of course, again, I have no idea how much of that I received. But I do know that whatever I received was impermanent. I do know that whatever bond was created in those three months was immediately broken in a moment, as quickly as whatever bond I'd formed with my natural mother in her womb.

To be sure, the majority of adoption stories from that time would then drift into stories of building bonds with permanence. One cannot discount those first three months, though. When I became a mother those months were a revelation to me every day. I was specifically aware of the bonding. The beautiful human being in my arms was immediately comforted by my voice, by my presence. I, too, was comforted by hers. Her coos were the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. They told me I was loving her properly. I wasn't sure I could. (That admission alone proves I was selfish to get pregnant. But at least I can acknowledge it). We were creating a connection every day that would hold and sustain us for a lifetime.

At three months I was given parents. The father was very eager to parent and love a child. I have memories and stories and photographs to support this. Likewise, I have memories and stories to evidence that the mother had no desire or capacity to parent or love a child. She had plenty of time to make this decision, of course. She had to have conversations with her husband and family, take classes at the church, hire an attorney and wait for a child to be born. During all of this time she could've found the selfless strength to speak out and admit she didn't want children. But she never found that strength. To continue on her selfish path, she began an adulterous relationship with a man she knew from the church who was also taking parenting classes to begin the adoption process. He and his wife became good friends with my adoptive parents. When I was two she left my father and I for this other man. She never asked for custody. Thank God.

Being a child and having a father who loved me and wanted to always do the right thing for me, I never knew about the affair or heard a cross word about her second husband, Dave. My stomach still drops when I recall memories of going home to my father after a weekend with my mom and Dave and recounting all I'd done. Dave had a motorcycle and I had my own helmet. He had a pickup truck and I got to go in the back. He played baseball in the backyard with his son (my brother for a brief moment in my life), Matt and I. We would use the large flowerbed as our baseball diamond. My dad never asked me not to tell him about how great Dave was.

Of course, this marriage didn't last long at all. My mother would tell me later that she was only attracted to him because he was a sex addict and it was a phase she was going through. (Charming. As if any part of me would want to know that). I just lost my step-dad, step-brother and Dave's parents who I called Grandma and Grandpa. They were just not my relatives anymore. They were no longer in my life. I was expendable.

My weekends with my mother went to just the two of us. I would cry and beg my dad every time he drove me to Canton to not make me go. I would cry those Sundays the whole ride home. My dad had very rigid beliefs of right and wrong. And it was right to visit my mother. He didn't understand how much it hurt me to be alone with her. She didn't want me around. Ever. She would give me cards to play solitaire or a cross stitch to sit on the couch and work on. I was even allowed to watch rated R movies on cable. She never said I was allowed, of course, but she never came into the living room to see what I was doing, either. I have very specific memories of entering whatever room she was in saying, "Hey mom!," excited to tell her whatever I'd just learned on TV or just thought about. She would always answer with a long and audible sigh, "What Angie..." I would inevitably back out of the room with a "Nevermind."

She soon found a new man and they were quickly married. I wasn't invited to the wedding. I asked my mom why I couldn't come. She said it wasn't really a big deal. Even though I was a kid I realized it was important enough for her parents to fly in from Colorado, so it should've been important enough to invite her daughter. I decided then that marriage was stupid and I would never do it. If you can just leave them and forget them later, marriage was obviously not what it was given to be.

I hated her new husband, Carl. He was an asshole. I'm not sure that I had a complete concept of what an asshole was at that age, but I knew I didn't like him at all. He didn't like kids. After getting married, my mom and Carl promptly moved to Cincinnati. This was good for all involved. As much as my dad wanted her to be in my life, every other weekend was too much for anyone to commit to driving that far. I only had to visit her once in the summer and once over the holidays. And she was often able to come up with a last minute ski trip or something to get out of the latter. We would have an obligatory Sunday night phone call where I never knew what to say to her and it felt more like a chore to take the call than anything else.

I was very fortunate that my dad remarried the woman that he did. She was as attentive and patient with me as could be hoped. I needed her to be patient. I was a shit to her. Not only was I now going to have to share the one person who never let me down and undoubtedly loved me, but I was supposed to believe that this woman, my third to date, wanted to be my mother. I wasn't having it. She would have to prove herself. I wasn't aware of it at the time, of course, but I was awful to her because I didn't trust her to stay.

After I had Audrey my lifelong series of questions about my natural mother became overwhelming. My mind wouldn't stop wondering about her. My dad understood this and hired a company to find her. Once she was located, they approached her and asked if she would like to meet me. Again, this was a perfect opportunity for reflection before making a profound and life-altering decision. She chose to meet me. She, my natural sister (no one ever told me if she was a full or half sister but we looked strikingly similar), her husband and others came to Columbus to meet me. It was awkward at first but exhilarating, too. They invited me to visit whenever I was in Alliance and we began a real relationship. I never even anticipated that, I just wanted to ask her all of my questions. The majority of my questions went unanswered. She was evasive and often said something to the effect of "That's my past and I'd like to keep it back there." These answers always struck me because she could've left me back there, too. Did she really think I wouldn't ask these questions? One day she said something that was my last straw. She was never rude or nasty, but she was very thoughtless. We were in her dining room and Audrey was dancing in circles. I said, "Isn't she the cutest thing ever?" My natural mother replied with a saying I had hated all of my life because of the fact that I was adopted. She replied,"Yep, she's a keeper." There was never a hint on her face of what she'd just said or who she'd just said it to. I was done with her. Some part of me found relief that this person didn't keep me. But another part was heart sick. The irrelevance I'd always felt had just been confirmed.

(Un)fortunately, by this time I had built a very tall and thick wall. By this time I had known nine sets of grandparents. I had not only learned that I was expendable, but had subconsciously determined that everyone else was, too. Very few people have been inside my wall. Sadly, people in my life who had figured they were comfortably in my heart would promptly learn that they were not, at all. It terrifies me how easily I dispose of people. My heart that loves the world generically and wants to make it fair and safe, refuses to sincerely love people enough to keep them around. I'm aware now of how broken I am. The revelation was very hard to come by, but it's cure is proving even harder. I'm not convinced that anyone will ever get in again. Ironically, and fortunately, the third woman who was to be my mother has penetrated my walls and continues to fight for her place there. And Audrey. That's it. I let a man in a few years ago by mistake. I'm pretty sure he will have been the last.

1 comment:

  1. So many parallels. I was adopted in 1960, by a couple very much like your adoptive parents. Biggest difference there, my adoptive father died when I was 5, and I ended up stuck with a woman who had no use for me and didn't know what to do with me. Fun times.