Maya Spier Stiles NorthColumnist, Copy Editor
- May 22, 2015 in Columnists
The journey of adoption – lost and found, part two
My daughter had actually encouraged me to search years before my adoptive father passed away. She knew that I had an unhealable hole in heart and soul that would never otherwise be filled. The first time I looked into it, my adoptive father was still alive. In Missouri, no matter the age of the adoptee, if an adoptive parent is still alive, they have to write a letter to the courts approving the search. He wrote it, stating that he had faith that our relationship was secure (and it was), but truth be told, I was terrified.
One of the interesting things many adoptees do, when asked to draw a tree, is they draw trees without roots. I’m an artist. My trees always had roots but it was because trees have roots. If asked, I would routinely state that I was “nobody from nowhere.” That’s how I felt. “Nameless, faceless bastard,” was another way in which I referred to myself. Nobody. From nowhere. Nameless. Faceless. Nothing. In a world where people were connected, where the faces and voices around them reflected themselves back to them, I was a cypher.
Nobody. From nowhere.
So I sent off for my nonidentifying information – the social history they took when my biological mother went to live at the Willows Hospital, a residential home for (I kid you not) the “better class of unfortunate young woman.”
I remember the thick envelope as if it was yesterday, although it’s been almost 25 years since it arrived. I opened it impetuously and skimmed over it fast, then turned back to the beginning and began to read every line. Slowly. Painstakingly. Front to back. Then front to back again.
I sat in the kitchen, silent, holding the thick, creased paper in both hands, fingers limp, feeling a weight lifted even as a crushing pressure descended on me. I sat there for who knows how long, until my now-husband had gone to bed, then I moved upstairs, where I read it again and again.
I know it all by heart.
Mother, aged 23, five feet tall and 103 lbs. Nursery school teacher, college educated. Black hair. Brown eyes. One older sister.Grandfather of English, Irish and Scottish descent, black hair and eyes. Worked in insurance. Grandmother, English and French, red hair, green eyes. She had accompanied my birth mother to the interview and said that she would do anything to support her daughter, but her father must never know or she would never be allowed to be part of the family again. Mother loved crafts, read anything that wasn’t nailed down and was not domestic. They were Episcopalean.
Father of German descent. Five foot-ten and about 170 lbs with blonde hair and blue eyes (which have proved genetically dominant). Parents ran a grocery store. Met at a party, had a fling. No, she would not marry him. No, she had not told him and wasn’t going to. She thought they were Lutherans. He was about to go into the Navy.
She wanted me to go to a Christian home and she wanted to spare me the travail of bastardy. I am quite sure she also wanted to go home again. To work in her profession at a time where having an illegitimate child in tow would have put paid to that.
I sat in Darryl’s chair, staring mindlessly at the television until four in the morning.
At last I got up and walked into the bedroom and stood by the bed as Darryl regarded me sleepily.
In a voice as raw as a bleeding wound I rasped out, “I am somebody and I come from someplace.” And fell to my knees. And tumbled sideways as his arms came around me and I sobbed and sobbed until my voice was very nearly gone.
There was a measure of peace in this, but the wound remained. All I had to do was watch an adoption reunion show and I was lost, devastated for hours, sobbing heartbrokenly even as I rejoiced for the reunited.
I was so scared. Even though grownup me knew that my biological mother hadn’t merely thrown me away, possibly even deeply wanted me, the child refused to be consoled. I also knew that my biological father had no idea I even existed. If the first set of parents had thrown me away and the second set of parents had deemed me worthless, why should I believe that the first set would find me anything but lacking? Plus there was the weight. I ranged from big to huge and I had bitter experience with people’s reactions to fat.
I knew with my whole heart that I would not survive being rejected by my birth family. I also knew that it was possible that they would simply not want anything to do with me from the git-go and actually, that was okay. They didn’t know me – I would be nothing more than a possibly unwelcome surprise from the past.
No, what had me in starkest terror was the very real chance that they would despise me after they got to know me. That once again I would prove to be the unwantable one – that the mysterious thing I lacked would show itself and the family I was so desperate for would, as the adoptive one did, level a look of loathing on me and slam the door in my face.
And so years went by and I yearned and I feared.
But now my adoptive family was all gone and my daughter was telling me, “Mom, it’s time,” and also, “I’m down to just you. I need to know if I have someone else out there,” which turned out to be pure manipulation. She knew that I needed it the most and also knew that if my only motivation was me, that I would simply never do it – but that I absolutely would for her.
Such is motherhood – it gives you the heart of a lion when it feels more like a wailing, lost, bedraggled kitten in there.
I contacted the court, sent off the paperwork and chose the searcher.
The wait began….
- May 22, 2015 at 5:09 pm