As children, we are often taught the importance of saying ‘thank you’ when someone is friendly, kind, generous, or thoughtful. It was the very act of extending a note of thanks that changed my life and the lives of many others.
My childhood was full of hardships. At six months old, I was placed in foster care for the first time, because my mother had abandoned me for two weeks. I would eventually be returned to her care, but this was only the beginning. I spent the next eleven years bouncing around between an unstable and abusive home, along with a string of foster homes. At the age of eleven, I was permanently placed in foster care when my mother went to jail for drug and sexual abuse charges. I spent the next five years in a downward cycle, moving from foster home to another, experiencing severe behavioral problems, and struggling academically.
All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
A Love Unfeigned
Evening falls on the glow of late afternoon. The wind outside the nursing home winnows through the trees, reflecting the current of memory, sifting remembrance from forgetfulness. I sit in a chair next to my mother, who turned 94 last December. She doesn’t know me—or anyone—now.
I’m the son of adoptive parents. My mother and father took a chance on me and it paid off. At least, I like to think it did. And I hope they felt, as two survivors of the Great Depression and Second World War era, a quiet sense of pride in knowing that it was due to their risk and devotion that my life worked out so well.
There she stood about six steps off of the road at the end of a driveway. She was standing there waiting to meet me.
Is this really happening? Because if it is, it is more than wild.
All of my life I knew of this woman, Mary. Mary, my adoptive mother’s second cousin and my birth mother, only lived cities away—physically. In my mind, she may as well have lived across several oceans. If I had had my introverted way, I would’ve been invisible until the time I had taken in every detail about her into my memory. Before I could work it all out in my mind or hold onto one detail, I was in Mary’s embrace. Right there on the side of the street where the grass met the gravel was our meeting place. She had long hair rolled up in a bun but the rest of the details of those first few minutes are hard for me to recall.
I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on The Quilt of Life as I share an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir titled, Transgressions in Rouge. This section is from the part of my childhood when my baby brother entered into our lives.
I should note that, after my adoptive father beat two families into hiding, he died a transgender woman, in 2015.
The yen for authenticity is a universal quest. To paraphrase Meister Eckhardt Tolle, “We long to know who we REALLY are.” This knowledge comes from within but also from our environment and the people immediately around us, our families.
Families: a loaded word.
It’s been said that the road to adoption recovery is a search for authenticity. Adoptees must choose from two family trees, one biological and another through adoption. In writing my memoir, The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption, I realized that neither family tree was the answer. My feeling of being “at home in the world” had to come from a source within, a gradual unveiling, a stripping away of masks I’d assumed for a lifetime.
One. The number of medical issues we had that led us to considering adoption.
Ten. That’s the number of years my husband and I have been in the adoption community.
Twenty. The number of times our profile book was shown to expectant parents.
Four. The number of children we have adopted. Also the number of open and transracial adoptions.
One-thousand. The number of times I’ve mulled over our adoption journeys. Perhaps more… Definitely more.
To my daughter on the day of your adoption,
I’ve called you by that label, “daughter,” many times. But today is different.
Today there’s no prefix, no subtext, no “sort of but not really” as there have always been before. You’re not my foster daughter, I don’t love you “like you’re my own.” Today you are wholly, completely, for forever my daughter. Nothing is changing, but everything is changing.
On my own blog, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how adoption and motherhood has changed me and my life path. I began the adoption process nearly 5 years ago, and I remember thinking about how to make space in my life for someone else. At the time, I was nearly 40, entering the final year of a doctoral program, having just survived a dramatic health scare. The confluence of these things pushed me to jump headlong into the adoption process. It was just a little crazy.
I was back at school for about a month when I got a phone call. It was my birth mother. Her mother lost her battle with breast cancer. I immediately felt a sting of regret because I never had the opportunity to meet her. I met my immediate birth family just one month before, but somehow I was too late to meet my maternal grandmother. My birth mom asked if I’d come down for her funeral. “Of course,” I told her. I didn’t want to miss another chance to learn something about her family.