“My friend is doing a thesis about adoption,” he tells me. “Maybe you would like to submit something.” This was not a subject he and I had talked much about over the years and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to talk about it yet in open forum, because it can be a sensitive one. When he met my mother and I, decades ago, and decided to make us a family, it was as a package-deal. I was about 3-1/2 to 4 when they married and my little sister Mary came around on my 5th birthday. I recall being very jealous of my beautiful sister with her blonde hair and blue eyes, while I was simultaneously sporting mud-colored hair and gappy teeth. I can also hear my dad’s voice in my head. “Now there goes the apple of daddy’s eye.” (With regards to my stunning sister.)
I never felt much like the apple of anyone’s eye, to be honest; but especially not, later, at the age of 9, when I went off to boarding school. This sounds like a nasty punishment for a young child, but actually it wasn’t at all. There were simply no good schools around our area, so boarding was the best option. My young brain sometimes felt like she was missing out on family life, however, and I do remember that. I would often howl down the phone on a Sunday night, that I wanted to come home, and Mum would get very cross with me.
I was also about 9 when my Mum told me that I was adopted, that my birth father had left her before I was born and John/Dad had adopted me when I was young. I recall the physical fork in the road where we were when she told me; close to our home in Bures where we lived at the time. It was a defining, frozen moment for sure. Less that my dad wasn’t my ‘real’ dad per se, but more that someone elected to abandon us before I was born and chose to never see me. That cruelty took a while to fade. Then, after that, I would witness the closeness of my two baby sisters and feel not quite part of their group. The mind does play tricks.
When I was in my teens, dealing with the usual angst that escapes few, I discovered who my birth father was and where he lived. I even visited the church where he was the vicar at the time and then proceeded to become so furious with him that I left in hot tears. My mother had refused to tell me anything about him and I had super-sleuthed this all by myself. I bumped into my half-brother once in a local pub. He was dating my middle sister’s friend at the time. Small world. He had no clue who I was. We have laughed about that since.
The birth father died in 1999 and we never met. Having seen a photo of him, I realized that that was all I had needed to do — to be able to see if we had any physical resemblance and, more than that, it mattered not a bit. Mother would never discuss the subject with me. Her life prior to dad was a vault and she wasn’t opening it up, even for me. Looking back, I see that that was a mistake on her part; since my curiosity was a very natural thing and it could have easily been satisfied and spared me a lot of angst.
Nowadays, I couldn’t give a hoot about being adopted. I was very fortunate to get a loving, caring father who would never abandon us and that gave me hope that such loyalty could be possible. It was interesting to me that a half-sibling later informed me I was lucky to grow up in a different family; that my birth father was so busy saving the world — he was a pastor — that he never had time for his own children and some of them grew up with multiple issues. That made me feel quite chosen and special. I had not missed out on anything after all.
When my husband decided to adopt my daughter, mirroring a situation from many years before, we resolved to make the subject an open one. We had a huge adoption party for her and he gave her a ring. Her “new” grandma gave her a necklace. It was a wonderful celebratory party and she wore a Princess dress. A few years later when she could understand the subject more fully, I asked her if she had any questions about her birth father. She wanted to see a photo of him, so I showed her one. She was satisfied. I have told her she can ask me anything she wants about him or our lives together. She says she has no interest in him. He left her and she has her dad; and that’s all that matters. I couldn’t agree more. And, most importantly, they could not love each other more. Blood is irrelevant and adoption is an open subject in our house. We fixed a few errors from the previous generation in my mind and that makes things right.
Lucy Jensen is a local Realtor. Contact her at [email protected]