Monday, October 20, 2008

bleah, miscellaneous ramblings

Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

When I was young, this phrase was the standard reply when responding to insults from the enemy-of-the-moment.

I consider myself lucky in that our little three-block neighborhood was awash in children from infants to young teens during my first ten years of life, so I was not raised in social isolation. I was unlucky in that my adoptedness was common knowledge and often employed in the insults I received. I am lucky that I developed a keen sense of the unpleasantness of discrimination even while living in a small, lily-white northern Michigan community. I am unlucky in that I was born in the state of Michigan, a state which believes it is Righteous and Good to discriminate against adoptees by denying them a copy of their own real birth certificate.

Political Rant:
There is no way I can believe lawmakers here are not on the take when all empirical evidence shows that "birthmother privacy" is not an issue. Almost all "birthmothers" (and adoptees) desire open communication and laws are already on the books to protect those who don’t. As always, money talks. And when healthy white infants garner $30,000+ in "filing fees" to adopt, it is easy to see where that money came from. So it’s also easy to see why "social workers" are taught coercive tactics designed to separate child from mother quickly. This pamphlet is a typical example, widely distributed to adoption agencies coast-to-coast. Bethany Christian Services has them. Assuming they follow its directives, and I know they do, they would have certainly gone after the baby Jesus. After all, his mother was only thirteen or fourteen and possibly unmarried (depending on the version, but certainly young), very poor, not possibly equipped to parent a newborn. He would have gotten a good price.
"Christian" services my ass.
(End Rant)

…but words can never hurt me.

I said that a lot as a kid, but it wasn’t true, at least for me. The neighborhood kids, especially the girls, would taunt me with gems like "your real mother didn’t want you" (or "didn’t love you", etc), "you don’t look like your sister/brother – oh, ha ha, they aren’t your sister/brother, ha ha", "They probably got you from some garbage can…". They were very inventive. Their words hurt like arrows through the heart. We moved to a different part of town when I was ten. I didn’t tell anyone in the new neighborhood we were adopted and swore my a-sibs to secrecy. They agreed willingly.

I’ve grown more callused through the years but am still sensitive to certain words at certain times. I’ve learned to consider the source and that greatly filters what my reactive self hears.

Still and because of that, simple words are the most painful component of my marriage’s collapse. Today’s case involves the common "misplaced car keys". Her keys were already in the running car when I climbed aboard to drive. After arriving home I attempted to give keys to wife, she refused whilst busy with mail, I set on counter next to her purse and walked away. Keys disappeared. A common scenario, not one worth raising a lot of rancor over in my estimation. If not found, copies can be made. But I estimate wrong. Next day, unable to find them (but possessing a spare key), she calls me at work to fling a few choice words my way. I stupidly answer phone on speaker while working in staffed office. She takes the day off due to the stress of it all. After work I spend over three hours searching. I admit my memory of setting them on the counter may be faulty so I search the entire house, both garages, both vehicles, and surrounding grounds. No luck. Strangely, keys are something I am positively anal about; I never just lay them somewhere. (This is a learned response from locking keys inside vehicles. I cannot close a car door without holding the car keys in my hand.) I searched very hard. I cannot think of another place to look. I cannot be absolutely sure I am not to blame here, though history consists of her memory being at fault every time in matters like this, so far. And I didn’t mind looking, except for the words of encouragement. Lively spirit-lifters such as "dickwad - where’d you put my fucking keys?!", "fucking retard", "stupid asshole", "fucking idiot", and my favorite "since you’re into that adoption shit you’ll probably blame being an idiot on being fucking adopted, huh?".

I love the internet. In the last three years I have met dozens of adoptees who share some of the effects of being relinquished and this has been very healing and affirming for me. I have received more guidance and reassurance, more insight and compassion than I ever have from a "legitimate" counselor. My wife is suspect of this fact. I will freely agree I might benefit greatly from a therapist learned in adoptee issues but there are none to be found in my area. In the meantime, I draw great satisfaction, and insight I believe, from my fellow adoptees. And I believe any adoptees who might stumble upon this post would agree. There is no better listener and advisor than one who has been there.

My wife does not get it though. We were doing alright, more or less, until I came out of the fog and began searching again. Basically a very needy person, she resented the time spent on my search. Then the time spent with reunion attempts. She rode to Lansing with me to testify for our open-records bill and meet my half-sister, but complained bitterly about spending vacation time that might better be spent on a vacation with her. This summer’s junket to New Orleans put her over the top as I expected. I booked everything last February and asked her at the time if she would go, that I would really appreciate the support. She questioned, I explained clearly that it was an adoptee-rights oriented trip where most time would be spent preparing to protest, protesting, manning the booth, and discussing ideas for improving everything. She was adamant that she didn’t want to spend "a whole week of me being adopted" and so I went solo.

I wasn’t home thirty minutes before she accused me of "loving my adoptee friends more than her" and having an affair. I explained that most attendees were, like myself, married or heavily committed, she asked how many spouses were there. When I told her most spouses stayed home to watch the kids, she implied that this was some way for "adoptees to screw around on their spouses" (emphasis hers).
One-track mind at work there. The adoptees I met in New Orleans were beautiful people. I was awed by their gentleness, their genuineness and their spirit. Normally very shy, I was at ease with these similar strangers from around the world. Everyone was friendly but no one was there to have an affair.

A social wrecker from Friend of the Court said "what we have here is a failure to communicate". I’d have to say I disagree. Communication flows effervescently, points are clear. She cannot tolerate my internet friendships. She says "they're not real." I remind her I met some this past summer and have pictures to prove it. She says they would be fine if they visited IRL. The fact they live in places like New Zealand, Finland and Hawaii makes no difference to her. I cannot tolerate the constant belittlement. Is it a result of being adopted? Probably not, but I will now ponder that while I should be sleeping.

I’m thinking of starting a dating service for adoptees, maybe with another section for first parents. I am beginning to believe that only an adoptee can truly understand (and, maybe love) another adoptee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm so grateful, I guess...

I am grateful for the eight months I had to correspond with my cousin before she passed on.
Having lived with my mother from the age of four and being only three years younger, she was a fountain of information, one I certainly wished I had tapped more completely.

I am an emotional sap these days. I cry reading stories of adoptees who refuse to meet their heartsick mother, who’s waited eighteen years or more for the chance to see again the child they were coerced out of. I even cry happy tears watching reunions on "The Locator". The absolute worst are the stories of adoptees rebuffed, denied, hurt beyond measure as they experience again the fears and self-doubts they’ve struggled so long to overcome. I simply cannot comprehend how a mother could not want to know her own child. It is the cruelest thing I have ever heard of and I bawl like a baby whenever I read of another.

When I was young, before age six or so, I spent a lot of time on the front lawn waiting for my mother to return for me. I figured this "adopted" thing was temporary. After all, I had been told that my mother "just couldn’t take care of me"; I expected she would remedy the situation, come pick me up, and all would be fine from then on.

(I guess I didn’t bond all that well with my forever parents. They were good people, generally, but strict, and the natural love found in most families was glaringly absent. I was well aware of that fact and envious of my friends’ families before the age of five.)

Only once did I try and discuss with my cousin the impact my relinquishment had upon my mother. It went something like this:

Me: So, umm, did M ever mention me, I mean, say anything about me, later. Like, years later or something…. I, umm, just wondered if she thought about me or anything, umm…

Cousin: You know, I asked her once if she ever thought about trying to look you up, to contact you, and she said "Oh, they seal those records forever, I couldn’t find out if I tried".

Me: Yeah, well, they certainly tried, I mean the records are still sealed though they have this central registry thing nobody knows about because they never advertised it. I was just wondering if she ever brought me up in a conversation or something…

Cousin: Oh Jimm, she would have loved to meet you, I just know it in my heart.

Me: Yeah, well, probably, I sure wish we had had the chance, you know. I kinda just figured that since you knew her so well, you were the only other family member to even know of me, that she might have felt the need to talk about it once in a while, and, umm, you would probably be the one she would speak to…

Cousin: If she were alive today she’d be so happy to know you. You’ve grown into such a nice and responsible adult. And L too. [my half-sister, also relinquished] She says she worked at the phone company too, just like me. Twenty years I worked there, they treated me pretty well. You know your mother worked there too, for a few years, a different department than me though, I remember one day, I had to work through most of my lunch hour that day…

Thereafter, no discussion on the topic was entertained. The conversation was always gently guided elsewhere, typically a humerous recollection including my mother, raising my suspicions that a joyful reunion might not have been likely after all. I had set upon developing another line of questioning that might reveal more truth in the matter but was unsuccessfully slow. With L’s passing, the last hope of answering the question of why also died.

At least I escaped being abandoned a second time. For that, I suppose I am grateful.

Kind of.

In a way. Sort of.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to decide.

Very hard to decide.