Child adoption stories are like winding Texas Hill Country roads. To enjoy them fully, you have to start at the beginning, after you exit the interstate.
If you’ve been riding along with me since Part 1, congratulations and thank you! Thank you for sticking with this and for reading about this aspect of my story, which is neither less nor more exciting than your story or that of the person next to you.
Each of us has an eternity inside daily. We just need to give it oxygen.
If you haven’t been riding along, here’s your chance to begin at the beginning:
And as I confessed yesterday: I know I told you it was going to be nine parts. I screwed up the sections. It will be eight. Today’s it. Tomorrow I’ll probably go back to talking about tomatillos.
Some names and identifying details have been changed
to protect anonymity.
The other day, I was reflecting on what COVID has most clearly prevented Barbara and me from doing: creating memories together.
We have no shared in-person experiences together except for a 3-hour lunch one day and a two-hour brunch the next. To be clear: both wonderful. Days I wouldn’t trade for anything. But in mid-March when I was to see her again and go on a hike not far from her home, instead of discovering new things together along the trail we would have walked, we called off the visit, agreeing that the health risks outweighed the possible benefits, especially since her husband is older than she.
Since then we’ve been relegated to talking about family background, sharing photos, and the like. If there’s a silver lining to having to FaceTime only, it’s that we’ve been able to spend a lot of time literally face to face talking and laughing rather than doing activities that might be distracting. At least I rationalize it that way during a time when everyone has been going through the same thing.
I’ve come to know my biological father, his wife, my mother and her husband (my “stepfather”). Each is a thoroughly enjoyable person, and I’m proud to be associated with each. Between the two families, I have four half-siblings and have met one of them. (Of course, I am the oldest child on both biological sides, which gives me an honor shared by few and known by fewer.)
I’ve talked with Bob’s sister a number of times and have corresponded with Lindsey, my biological half-cousin on Bob’s side. Through Bob and Barbara and the genealogies they send me, my family tree on Ancestry.com is growing almost as many branches as my adopted family tree has, which I had traced back to the early 17th Century.
So: is the search worth the cost?
What of all of this? Does it always turn out the way my story has (so far)? Is it always advisable to search at all, and is it wise to search for more than fifty years, as I did?
If the end justifies the means, then in my case the answer is an unqualified yes. All the agonizing hours lying in bed wondering what she was like; the dreams of her that were more like nightmares upon waking; the conventional routes I pursued and crazy schemes I devised to find her (thankful I didn’t have to dress in brown UPS shorts); all the attempts and heartbreaking failures – those became mere vapor when I met my mother.
But what did this journey cost my wife, Karen? For nearly 25 years, she’d heard me complain about my fruitless attempts and watched me endlessly ponder what to do next. What time and attention did I divert from her to focus on a fantasy that may have remained so were it not for $59 and the internet?
What did this journey cost the two siblings who learned about me and have so far chosen not to meet me? What will it cost the other sibling who still doesn’t know about me? Or Barbara who, because of COVID, hasn’t been able to see her daughter to share the news in an appropriately safe and personal setting?
Something my adoption search and reunions have made undeniably clear is that my actions have profound consequences in others’ lives. And from what I hear from other adoptees, the outcome of my search has been ideal. Sometimes the newly established parent-child relationship is tense or even adversarial. Or the search concludes only for the adoptee to learn that the parent has passed away, leaving a blank avatar on the Ancestry family tree. In almost every case, reality doesn’t exceed expectations. In my case, which I have reason to believe is the exception, it did.
My advice to the adoptee who wants to search is this: don’t have expectations about the future, have gratitude for now. Don’t press forward so much; let go. Take each step intentionally, and balance your desire with responsibility toward others.
But ultimately: do it.
The truth is always better than any alternative.
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