If I were a drawing...

"Meet the Parents" - New York Times Magazine 11/9/08

The essay by William Georgiades, "Meet the Parents" in this past Sunday's NY Times Magazine completely blew me away. I happened upon it somewhat by accident this morning while tidying up the dining room table, after a phone call I'd made while sifting through the paper.

So moved, I wrote Mr. Georgiades the following e-mail.  Maybe he'll respond.  Maybe not, it sort of does not matter.  It was good to reconnect with my reunion feelings, and better still to write.

Dear Mr. Georgiades,
This morning, after shuttling my child to fifth grade, I returned home to tidy the weekend 'spreadlam' of livingroom Lego and Sunday paper sectionry.  It was blessed serendipity to find your gem of an essay at the back of yesterday's NY Times Magazine.  Honestly, it moved me to tears.
I was given up for adoption at birth, though my first mom visited me at Lenox Hill hospital for six months until I was healthy enough to be signed over to foster care.  Single and 20 she was free to move about the rest of her life, and she did.  I was adopted at 13 months.    Forty-two years later we re-met over the phone late one night.  I had just divorced, moved twice, completed graduate school and received my teaching masters - the same degree she received, at the same age years before.
Our first conversation lasted two hours.  The parallels were uncanny (they still unfold with unexpected quirk and startling familiarity).  Most striking that first phone call was the sound of my voice on the other end of the line.  When she picked up and said, "Hello?"  my breath stopped a little  It was me.  The knowing that moment was a deep physical "Yes."  There was no doubt I'd found the right person.  The closing line in your essay says it perfectly, "Oh, there you are."  Yes.
Eighteen years of intermittant searching led me to find her, my three half siblings (we share the same mother), and my birth father, who, after one phone conversation five years ago on my 40th, bade me to "...have a good life and thanks for calling" and that was that.  I know who he is and have Googled him, his other children (my siblings, I suppose) and relations but I've made no further contact... we all look so much alike.
The rest of us, my birth mother and her other children, have been developing our relationships bit by bit.  They are in Boston, we live on L.I.  We visit once a year there, average; sometimes more.  It has been grounding for me to reconnect.  Slow going, however, and since there is no script no one really knows what to say or do or what is "normal" or right. 
I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with them, with her as a mother.  To live on an indian reservation in Montana for several years because our mom read an article in National Geographic about people who wanted a library and a school but had no money, so she simply moved us there to help. I have included myself imaging all of us returning east to attend Harvard, (like her other three).  In reality, a midwestern women's college is my alma mater. 
Who would I be - if I learned, played, dated, wandered and loved through New England (with Thanksgivings in Maine) - if I didn't grow up here on "Lawn Guyland"?  Maybe I wouldn't love sailing, or the ocean, or Oregon.  Some of the birth family parallels are excellent confirmations of who I am organically.  But some of them point rudely, almost cruelly, to how I 'should have' been rather than who I turned out to be, so far. There is still time to relearn, I think.
The counterpart to this good stuff is that despite being nice, educated, loving people my adoptive parents and sibling (younger, natural to them) have adopted something else:  woundedness as a result of my find.  They don't get 'the whole birth family thing'.  They don't understand how my daughter can refer to my birth mom as "grandma" without resevation or suspicion.  And greater irony still, or a greater wound perhaps, is that I was able to conceive my own child; my adoptive sister can not. Very recently she became an adoptive parent herself, and because of this new baby, someone else's "real" baby, there has been a slight shift.
Thank you for starting my week in such a thought provoking way, with such a personal and beautiful essay.
I've torn it out and hung it above my desk.
I may even send it to my first mom.
If I were a drawing...

... funny thing is...

... then again, considering the source I really should not be surprised.

Today I received an angry e-mail from <drum roll, please> FF or "former fiance" - [the intelligent and sexy alcoholic who wouldn't admit his problem, tried AA, lied about attending, and decided it was easier to hide drinking a fifth, quart or whatever-it-is of Jim Beam in his room at home rather than face the bullshit and get a handle on his problem.  (I say that because he confessed to "only having had a drinking problem during and after my marriage of four years..."  I met him a couple years post-marriage/divorce and his "only" problem was that he was - still - a drinker.]

Against ALL my internal signals I tied the blinders on very snug and dated this man for several years, even weakly accepted a marriage-cum-sobriety proposal one Valentine's Day weekend about three years ago....  At 40-something I knew better.  When his lying became unbearable I finally had enough and Break-Up Attempt #1 happened. 

As of last summer I think I was up to about eight FAILED attempts.  Eight.  Simple math - make that, what? - about two or three times a year?  Sweet Jesus.  Who has the addiction here??

Unfortunately, I'm what  some people call "too nice."  Others call it "stupid."   Still others call it, "indifferent and ambivalent"... if only they knew. <sigh>  If I had a therapist s/he'd say I was co-dependent.   Because of this character flaw  the break-up process (if you can call it an actual process) took longer than the actual good/fun part of the relationship (which was in the very beginning).  As of last summer we were at five years.   The first six months was a mix of great attraction and passion with a healthy panic on my part as I tried internally to work out the details of his closet drinking (which I hated, and instead of learning how to deal with it - which would have been to break with him completely ) but I donned the old blinders and stayed.  The second and third year we did things together - a few family dinners, a holiday dinner (my mother made that into a disaster and, sadly, I reacted the way I always have... poorly); we went on a group camping trip with his long-time friends; a couple get away weekends to a charming fishing shack in Napeague Bay.  We had fun when I wasn't worrying in the back of my mind, about whether or not he was being honest.... 

What made things worse for me was that being alone together was fine.  We cooked, drew or read together or separately, took walks, sat in front of the fireplace; sometimes we read to each other.  I loved those times - they were safe and sober and peaceful.  They were what I'd hoped to have from the start. 

Inside I knew:  The unspoken truth has always been that the ultimate source of our demise would be his issue(s) and how he shat on my trust.  (Which is partially my fault for staying after it happened a second, third, fourth time....)  And the fact that I am at my core not able (which is not "can't" or "don't want to" or "won't") to be any closer. 

No amount of love, sex, food preparation, offers to do laundry, or offers to 'just trust' him were enough.  Nor was there anything I could do, say, be, act-as-if, pray for, draw-the-line about that would miraculously brign back my ability to trust.  He wants more time and affection than I am willing to give.  And I don't like being pushed or told how I should be scheduling my free time; or that I should be going to therapy (in order to find a way to be with him), or being told if I'd 'just listen' or 'just spend more time' or 'just do what I suggested'.   

I am not an addict.  I'm pretty bad at hiding stuff.  I keep a blog and had a '365' project, and a page on StumbleUpon... not hiding.  And he might agree with one exception.  I have vanished slowly rather than pull the band-aid that holds literally nothing in place.  I do care for and love him;  but he is not the right man for me.

It's not a match no matter how many times he proclaims love or a need to be needed, or that we can just sleep together whenever I'm missing him... No.  I cannot drag us through anymore, no matter how I did it before - through the "maybe this time" of experience.

This, after alternately writing how much he understood my need to separate, have my space, cultivate my hobbies and friendships, be independent,  But he doesn't understand.  He doesn't like what I have to say because it leaves him with nothing but his addiction, feelings of abandonment (which are crippling for many people), and the plain truth (in place long before we met). 

I'd hoped my feelings would change on their own.

And I am no longer able  to do it anymore.  Again.
If I were a drawing...

writer's voice: 74 y.o. year male.


To the couple in the park last Friday - 74 (Suffolk Co, Long Island (if it matters))

Reply to: pers-670940342@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-05-06, 10:46PM EDT

Wandering around the park last Friday in the grey afternoon, and I saw the two of you there, on the observation deck that juts out into the pond. The female of your pairing was a tallish redhead with a full shapely figure wearing a camera around her neck and a blue jean jacket; you, the male - and I suppose I'm really writing this to you - you stood about eight inches taller (say 6'4" or so?) with a dark jacket and closely cropped hair. Silvering evenly. I'd guess you were both in your mid-40's? You might be a bit older than your friend.

(We were a party of three "older" people. I say that because surely everyone not our age sees us as older or elder, a term that makes me shudder. We're in our 70's but in no way elderly!)  We stepped onto the deck where you and your friend were talking, (it was actually your laughing that made us take notice of the deck), and though my wife thought I was listening to her share details of the local nesting pairbonded wild fowl it was you two to whom I was tuned in. Your conversation was more interesting and, well, I'm an eavesdropper at heart.

Between my wife's loving migration informative (which repeats every spring, 45 years in October) I heard soundbites of your conversation but never really caught the full dialogue. I wish I had. I would have loved to offer you some advice - but free advice has such a bad rap these days. Today, days later, I wish I'd said something to you.

"... don't know how I got myself into this. Again."

"You look good."
"So do you. It has been a long time."
"I'm glad you came."

"She has taken taxi's to the liquor store! And wrecked, now, two cars! What am I supposed to do?"

"Have you seen your folks recently?"
"My family is worried about me."
"Because they love you, that's why..."

"My therapist tells me she'll never change, there'll be other lies, another relapse.... I just don't know."

"You're not married to her... are you...?"
"No, thankgod."

"So if you were to exit it wouldn't be as tricky if you were, you know, married?"

"I drive her to work. I play taxi."
"When does she own up and take responsibility for herself and her actions?"

"Don't you feel you deserve better?"

"Listen, I can't stay the whole time.... I have to get back. I'm sorry."

And there were things said about your work, her children (child?), and what sounded like bittersweet regret and the hope of possibility. You sounded like old friends in easy conversation, close and caring... there was something else but I couldn't define it.

Secretly I was hoping to myself you were lovers. The attraction you had was obvious from afar; it was tangible at closer range.

If it were acceptable I would have turned to you both and told you to get off your butts and stop being so "nice." The time to live and love is now! Unite and live together as a couple in love and support. Son, if you could see the way that woman looks at you when you're speaking.... it's what made me choose my wife, and why we're together, and why I love her like no other: we click. We always have. She listens. She loves me, and she accepts my flaws and the stupid mistakes of my past.

You have something there, guy. If you asked me I'd say you're a fool to let your life be run by someone whose own life is out of control. Make peace with the drinking woman but leave her to her own life. (Trust me on this one. You can't change her. And you can't love or pray or demand her to stop using her drugs or stop drinking.) Do something better with your time, son. Any guy'd be drop-dead euphoric to have your lady friend as a date, mate, lover. Open your eyes, son.

Open your eyes. 

  • Location: Suffolk Co, Long Island (if it matters)
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 670940342
If I were a drawing...

The Life and Times of a Self Saboteur.

Over the course of the last year or so I've started, finished, and re-started some self-help books.  (This is nothing new.  My tendency to over-think and over-analyze rivals Woody Allen's neurosis and self-examination.  I just don't make movies about it.)  Luckily, most of the time, I see the quirk and humor in life and that saves me from wading out into the deep end.

I've 'done' therapy and found it worked best as a place to acquire skills or tools, if you will.  Get me some new tools, go into the world, try 'em out...  If they worked I didn't return to therapy for a while.  If they didn't work - or if I wasn't working them - I'd head back to the therapist for another go.  Once I chewed away at the really big stuff therapy was all about tool-sharpening and skills acquisition.  You might call it "maintenance."

With my current schedule what it is office appointment therapy sessions are out of the question.  So, instead, I read.  Two of the more helpful books I've listed below.  (Both are quite good, well written.  I'm reading the second one again, and read the notes I highlighted in the first to remind me not to make knee-jerk choices when it comes to relationships - any - not just romantic.  This part is pretty easy as I'm not "invovled" at the moment.)

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship (Paperback)
by Mira Kirshenbaum (Author)

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (Paperback)
by Melody Beattie

The reading helps.  I like the pace of reading and being able to go back and re-read.
Therapy helped, too.  Sometimes after a session I'd sit in my car and write like crazy (that's funny), reiterating the entire hour so I could remember the revelations, learn, and heal.  

A good therapist will challenge you to see and hopefully accept all the parts of yourself, even the ones you keep ignoring...  It took a while but I learned my ignored bits were expert troublemakers, and they purposely got in the way (or were put in the way <ahem>) to keep me in a familiar cycle of whatever-it-was I was ultimately trying to change.  The thing no one ever tells you is that a good therapist is a guide - they don't do the work.  You do.  So if you're not experiencing "results" don't blame your therapist.  Blame yourself. 

Therapy is hard.  It has been said the more you are willing to dig and haul out the rotting, irritating, under-shit that is literally eating away at you, the better off you will be.  You know - like the eggplant you forgot in the crisper drawer...?  Yeah, that stuff. 

Deep, honest introspection can be ugly, humiliating, mind-numbing and darkly depressing.  It exposes you.  It can wreck you for days - weeks - especially when you slam into a nerve you didn't know existed... or were ignoring.  Especially when you're finally facing stuff you are afraid of or indignant to change in the first place.  Ideas, beliefs, behaviors, reasonings (or lack of any of those things).

Back in my 20's I had a lot of ignored bits.  There were a few biggies in my 30's that needed face-offs, too.
The funky thing is that when I shoved my head back under the sand to keep ignoring stuff, there they all were:  staring back at me from the dark.  Big, HUGE, white eyes like in a cartoon when the scene suddenly plunges into pitch black ,and only the character's eyeballs are lobbing about the screen.  Eventually I couldn't run, they couldn't hide, and I was literally sick of being in so much pain all the time, stuck in relationship after relationship that I could not save, be loved in or enjoy:  I finally, blessedly reached The End.  Something had to change - and, ultimately what happened is that I made the decision to let go of what no longer worked, what hurt me or tried to.  This included people - family, lovers, friends; ideas about myself and who I was.  The words "just" and "supposed" were examined closely.  

The letting go was terrifying because when we get rid of something - anything - it leaves a void.  We fear change and being or feeling different.  The unfamiliar is awfully scary territory.

But you learn.

... when you have spaces, other (better) things come in.  Things you can choose - and that feels pretty good.  New, yes, but good, too.  (When you clean out the garage and you can finally put your car in there... so change isn't always so complicated or daunting but it does require effort.)

You have to trust the process, trust yourself, find your intuition again (because it's still in there) and keep going.  You learn.

Trust and allow change and healing to happen, even if it's a few baby steps at a time.

If I were a drawing...

Strictly Platonic

Three weeks ago, in a fairly unprecedented move, I posted an ad on Craig's List

I've done this before, mind you.  
In the Rants & Raves section I've snarled about politics, The Ex, and other tedium); in "Free Stuff" and "For Sale" I've scoured and discovered cheap-but-nifty furniture (scored two related, gorgeous, near-brand new, high-end living room pieces - overstuffed - for a song... a very cheap song); and I've posted "Seeking" ads under real estate. 

These relationships, if you will, have all been self-serving and defined by my needs at that moment:  needed a new home quick; desired furniture for that new unfurnished home; succumbed to mindless, well-written (if I do say so myself) venting on the appropriate board.  They've all been quite mutually satisfying pair-offs:  open, honest, no bite marks, no snarky morning-after banter, no egos were jabbed, and no, "I'll call you....".

(When I'm feeling really obtuse, it's moderately fun to read other people's nonsense especially in Rants & Raves.  Geez, people get REALLY angry and, apparently, anger begets poor spelling, grammar snags and a lot of really awesome foul language mixed with a general lack of common sense.  Go see for yourself - why take my word? Here's the 'rnr' for New York City:  Rants & Raves. )

But the ad I posted wasn't for furniture or a house or to give someone hell about something, or to give something away (except maybe my fear of the unknown). 

My ad was for a date.  A strictly platonic date, and it went like this:  

Strictly Platonic:
Seeking Date for Afternoon Business Party - Jan 27th - w4m - 44

This Sunday afternoon, my employer's family is throwing a birthday party for their father who turns an elder age this week.  I was invited to bring "someone special... if you have one."  Well, currently I don't.

The party hosts graciously invited the staff from our office, and everyone with whom I work is married and bringing their spouse.  (With the exception of one or two older persons who are happily un-partnered.)

So, in this New Year, armed with my You-Only-Live-Once resolution  I throw this out to CL.

I'm a 5'8", average redhead (natural), with a good sense of humor, manners, college educated (BFA, MA); excellent speaking voice, who knows how to present herself appropriately.

You would be another business-person-type or perhaps a teacher or writer who is looking for something to do (not to mention unusual.  Can we venture to say the hazard potential of this is HUGE?  On the other hand the upside could be stellar.)

You're in a suite and tie, and for volunteering your date-only services (which do not include sex and/or PDAs) you will receive a good Kosher mean amongst some very nice folks, and definitely an unusual story to tell.

Party is in Nassau County, north shore, at a Kosher restaurant (good reviews from what I've read), from 1PM - 4:30 PM or earlier if they haul out the cake sooner.

No strings.  No follow-up expectations. No pay (except the experience!)"


Nevermind I was hoping for a tall man. 
An educated, presentable, nice looking man, unmarried (no two-timing cads). 
Nevermind I had no business hoping for particulars.
The replies were as varied as chocolates in a box... or, more appropriately, as varied as the nuts in Planter's Party-Mix.  They ranged in age from 29ish to 61ish; in height from an apologetic "only 5'4" but I'm all man" to "I have a great ass, here's a picture" - however tall that is.  Yeah, some lifeguard-type sent me a butt-shot (self-taken) in a mirror.  Nice tan lines but that was it.

I picked one from the bunch but in hindsight he really picked me.  Nice reply to my post, including a picture (which I forwarded immediatley to my best friend).  When I told him over the phone - during our first and only conversation the day before the party - I'd pretty much caved-in and chickened out, he said, "Oooh no.  We're going.  And I am going to be such a great date - you are going to love this - I am going to make you look soooo good.  Trust me:  You'll have a great time.  C'mon, we have to go!"

And - with only a photograph, a couple E-mail stitches in a brief conversation thread - and ONE phone call - I said, "OK.  We'll go."  (I don't need someone to 'make' me look good but I was curious.)

(Oddly enough, it turned out my best friend knew him.)  Sort of.  She and her family and this guy were seated randomly together at a Masonic event last year.  She vaguely recalled his face over a couple days, so when I replied to his note I mentioned I knew him "sort of..."  He confirmed the facts I had and yes it was him.  We agreed he'd pick me up at 12:15 PM the day of the party, at my front door.

He was a good date.  Gentlemanly, mannered, nicely put together and handsome with a quirky something going on (personality-wise)  and he smelled pretty damned good, too, when I got close enough to notice.  He was tall, intelligent, and nervous enough to laugh at the whole thing. 

We had fun.  He remembered just about everyone's name to whom he was introduced.  He did the door/chair/refil your drink thing.  I enjoyed it, though unfamiliar.  My co-workers were slack-jawed that I appeared with a date after a long period of self-imposed 'dating celibacy' (my term), and asked me secretly, "Where the hell did you come up with HIM?!"

We ended the date by 5:30 PM with simple handshake and it was done.  "No strings.  No follow-up expectations. No pay (except the experience!)"   

Later that evening I received a thank you E-mail from The Date.  He suggeested since I 'owed' him one, would I reciprocate and be his platonic date for a Mason's event later this winter?

I said I would.
If I were a drawing...

Only January 17th and already a Flying Start.

"Livid" doesn't begin to describe my feelings since December 27th; when, after an additional day and half with her father for Christmas (Note: the ex never had any E-mail nor conversation with me about her staying any extra time with him; the holiday is a "with mom" holiday in odd years.  Again, he took advantage and despite my asking him loud, clear and polite on Christmas morning, in front of my parents and other relatives, when was going to deliver her home?  He never gave an answer. Never.  She left angry, and I watched her go wondering when the hell he was planning on bringing her back.)   He was *supposed* to deliver her back on Dec 26th, to me, by 11 AM.  It's written in the Agreement (which, if you didn't guess, he doesn't feel he need to follow. Ever.  Unless, of course, it's to his benefit to warp, re-interpret and rewrite the paperwork.)

Child was finally returned home to me with not only a brand new cell phone ('it came with a lot of rules, mommy...'), but a story that nearly made me vomit.

He hit her.

He hit her, in the face, with his hand so hard her head hit the car window and her mouth bled.

He hit my child. Bastard.


She said she was begging him to bring her back, yes, turn the car around, please.  Instead, he pulled back onto my parent's road and continued driving away from their house.

Somewhere on the street my parent's live, the street on which I grew up, from the highway it's just 7/10 of a mile to the house, he pulled the car over - with just the two of them inside, and he hit my dear and angered child.

Thankful she was finally home but deeply disturbed about her story of Christmas Day in the car with her father, I started thinking: "I have to do something. His abuses have to brought to the light of day.  There is someone to help us. There is."

I told my father.  He told my lawyer, his former partner.  No one had anything they could offer to do.
It ate at my nerves like an acid bath.  When there was finally enough staff at work to support me being out a day, I called in sick and went to Family Court, January 3rd, and filed for an Order of Protection against the bastard who hit my child.  They adjourned my request so it would be addressed simultaneously on January 8th.  We were slated to sit with the same judge we saw in Nov 2006.  She handles custody and visitation issues.... I was hoping my petition would carry a lot of weight with her.

It's hard to swallow old ghosts of guilt and shame.  "I made this happen because I married him in the first place and he abused me....I left him, he never has accepted that. He's hurting her to hurt me.... it's my fault."  But the rational, healed part of yourself comes and pulls the old broken part forward into the present, and you stop reliving the terror.  This is harder than anything, living in the present.  At least the abuse was somewhat predictable.  Ironic, no?

Funny, but I never did that when he hit me or shoved me down the stair or locked me in the tiny cedar closed because I joked that *he* should put away his laundry and that I wasn't his mom....  No, I never called the cops, never filed a complaint or told anyone - who would believe me?  I married "Mr. Wonderful Good Guy."  NO one knew what a monster he was in private. No one except me, and eventually Child but she was four when I left... she recalls emotions but not words from those days.  Damn it.

I believed I deserved it.  I was a bad wife (for wanting sex "too much"; for talking "dirty" when were alone and for writing "dirty" love letters to my own husband; for asking to paint the living room another color than the one his mother chose); for hoping he'd safely recover from the throat cancer; for having friends that weren't only his; for being talented; for being funny, smart, witty, clever, and available; for getting pregant - twice - and being the only one between us that could breast feed and understand, innately, the baby I did have.)   Shame on me for being all those deplorable, embarassing things.  Beat me I'm so awful.

New Year's Eve came and went. Child and I healed and played quietly with our close friends.  We went to the village bonfire and started the year with joy and peace.

On January 3rd, at 5:30PM, a woman from the Dept of Social Services (aka Child Protective Services) showed up.  She was hoping to speak to Child (out on visitation w/her father); she spoke with me instead, about the petition I'd filed earlier that day.  Child was finally brought home, 30 minutes late.

Social Services tried to reach her again on Fri, Jan 4th, but we were out. 

10AM on Saturday, Jan 5th, "Robert" arrived and after introducing herself, Child bounded down the stair, plopped onto the sofa and said, "It's ok, Mom.  I can take it from here."  She did.  For about 10 minutes.

The court date on Jan 8th was not as smooth.

If I were a drawing...

A Letter to my A-Family. (Maybe to a lot more than just mine)

 28 December 2007


To My Sister


Dear Sister:


After a month of reflection I realize not saying anything could be additionally misinterpreted and worse than saying something, so here goes.


When I called you on Thanksgiving we had a brief conversation wherein I told you where I chose to spend the holiday, with my first mom, and her friends, and one of my half-siblings in Maine.  I also told you mom and dad didn’t know and that I would tell them in my own time.  That you called back shortly thereafter singing a very different tune (my phone was off as I had made my holiday calls) and left such a resentful and arrogant message was pretty surprising; that you called our parents and told them where I was was just plain mean and an abuse of my trust - not to mention a touch hypocritical, don’t you think?  I mean, isn’t your intention to create family by adopting a baby – who, with any luck, will grow into a child, teen, adult – who may have the exact questions many adoptees have?  Is this how you'll react to that child, teen, adult when and if they have any need for inquiry or reunion? 

Your reaction was, frankly, unbelievable - and I’m just your sister!  Is that how you’re going to react after you sign-on to unconditionally love and raise a child you are given?  How do you think that reaction would affect the person you are parenting?  If Catholic Charities or another agency offers classes for potential adoptive parents I suggest you avail yourself immediately.  It would benefit you and the child, not to mention adopted persons already in your family - there are several of different ages - if you gave some very serious consideration to understanding someone else’s life experience and point of view.


Here’s part of the deal about adopting; maybe you’re already aware, maybe not:

  • They’ll arrive with their own personality – some of which you might not like or even understand because it’s not “you” and it won’t feel familiar. 
  •  They’ll come with habits or quirks or abilities or weaknesses that you won’t ‘get’ because they’re not “you.”  Deal with these things with an open heart and not with the intention of ‘making’ the child them into something or someone they are not. 
  • Do not punish them or lessen who they are because you don’t like that they’re not “you.”  They might not think like you, or understand satire or wordplay or appreciate the same foods, art, literature, or sports, as you...  But you must accept them for who they are as they come to you.  
  • And, if you paid any attention in our childhoods, you’ll know it’s not easy for some people to accept a child who isn’t like them.  Qualifying children, i.e., “This is our real child and this is our adopted child” is hurtful even if you don’t think so, so don't do it. Ever.  Your child is your child whether they're adopted or not.  Your need to explain any difference points to your insecurities, and if you're worried what other people will think, see a therapist and deal with it.

If your adopted child were to tell you what they’d want or need from their adoptive family it would probably be along these lines:

1.         I ask for understanding from my adoptive family.  They need to understand, whether I decide to search or not, at some point, I might consider myself to have two families; that I have enough love for both, and for my own children, and my friends, and any extended family(s).  Understand this may happen even when I’m a small child; and the fact is that I do have two families – whether I know both or not.  Don’t deny that, please.


2.         I would hope my adoptive family (aka “a-family”) was not threatened or made insecure because I searched and found, and may have experienced a positive reunion with my first family or members of that family.  My need to search and/or reunite is not an indication that something's wrong or lacking in my adoptive family; it’s not about you.  It is my nature as an adoptee to search and ask.  Understand that.  If you can’t understand it, accept it anyway.  It’s the loving and mature thing to do.

3.         I ask for acceptance from my a-family. I want to never hear them say it was foolish of me to search, or foolish to contact, or who do I think I am to think anyone would want me back after they gave me away in the first place... (Do you have any idea how that sounds?)  I want them to recognize how being adopted has made a difference in my life over time.  At different times in my life it has meant significantly different things.

4.         I want the right to be able to speak freely without being insulted or cold-shouldered, or belittled or spoken down to by my a-family.  I want to be able to talk about what being adopted is like and for them not to take offense to the fact that it is different than their experience.

5.         I would ask my a-family to understand that I’m happy I was able to reunite with my first family.  It might answer some questions my a-family couldn’t possibly answer and provide some resolve or even closure to enduring questions.

6.         I would hope they saw my life was enriched by finding my original family and by having that family in my life.  If I have children of my own, I would hope my a-family saw how additional, loving family members enrich my child’s life, too.


7.         I would ask them to know about my history, my “real” ancestry and be proud of it the way I am. I want them to be interested in that history because it shows interest in the person I am.  It may be the history ancestry I share and teach to my own children, as well as yours.

8.         Should it come to pass, I would hope my a-family would learn to share me with my first family.  I want to have blessings to visit and share some holidays with my first family without angry, insecure repercussions, but with a loving go-ahead from my a-family.  Sneaking around should not be necessary but sadly, often there is no other choice even as an adult.  My behavior is often based upon my a-family’s reaction to my reunion and my choice to know my first family.  But here's the problem:  If I tell you up front you might make me pay for my honesty with your disapproving anger; if I tell you afterward you might accuse me of lying in the first place… so, a no-win situation is created either way based upon your reaction to my need to know.

9.         Please understand I will spend a holiday here and there, and some other time, with my first family.  I ask my adoptive family to refrain from trying to make me feel guilty or ashamed, or as though there's something really wrong with me as punishment for choosing to spend time with my first family.  The message you’re sending says I don’t ‘fit in’ with you because I choose to recognize my origins… and that pretty much contradicts everything, doesn’t it? 


If you’ve read this far, I believe you’re on the right track for your child…, and thanks.


Happy New Year.


If I were a drawing...

Christmas comes

My first annual cocktail and friends gathering on Christmas Eve went swimmingly. Child had a ball with several other children running through our house; I had a good time visiting with old and new friends, and a couple I've not seen in years.  The last guest left before 1130pm.  The clock read 2:00 am when I finally put myself to bed.

Christmas morning, small but cozy, was very good in our new home.  We headed over to my parents where the ambiance was slighty warmer than a butcher's walk-in refridgerator but not much.  Not much at all.

Let me preface this by saying everyone was fine toward Child as one might have hoped.  My mother was cold and barely returned my hug.  She criticized my sneakers and something else equally insignificant (I forget what) a couple times in front of the rest of the family and Child.  You’d think after 44 years I’d know how to just let it go, but it still hurts - whether it shows or not -  so I don’t know who to be more annoyed with myself or my mother.   

No one asked about our party, but they freely talked about their dinner.  My sister was professionally polite and kept her distance, as did my brother in law.  My father was OK, more “normal” than any of them.  It was difficult for me to be there after Child’s father came for her.  So I packed up our stuff, babysat their turkey breast while it cooked; had one conversation with my mother strictly about the recent nonsense with Child’s father, and when the turkey was done I left.  They didn’t ask me what I was doing or to stay and spend the afternoon.  The differences in gifts were obvious, too.  I tried not to notice.  But my mother has always ‘rewarded’ those who fall in line, keep her happy, don’t embarrass her… you get the picture.  I guess you could say I’m officially “out of line” --  hooray for that! LOL

Part of me wants to ask my sister at some point, exactly what her motives were to tell my father where I was on Thanksgiving - especially since I'd said, "they don't know and I'd prefer not to tell them..."; what did she hope to gain or accomplish by sharing that information?  Part of me wants to know why she chose adult- tattling when I have kept all of her secrets anytime she has asked.  There weren’t many but I kept them nonetheless.  I was prepared to experience disappointment but not from all three of them, the least of which my sister.  I am surprised she has taken their stance… or rather, our mother's stance… then again, maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised:  they're related.

I was happy to pull out of the driveway and be going home.  Spent Christmas dinner with my friend and her sons.  It was nice, relaxed and fun.  I was in bed by nine and fast asleep shortly thereafter. 

This morning I realized so much of my discomfort is the conflict between keeping people (read: my mother) happy and not angry versus making me happy.  Even if it's uncomfortable (which it is) my goal is to keep going in the direction I've set out upon and to live my live by my standards.  Those include not subjecting myself or my child to her drunken holiday behavior or any other nonsense that doesn't fit into my life - including my own.

I believe this will get easier as time goes by.  Maybe they'll adjust, maybe not, but I'm not going to compromise who I am or what I want any further.

If I were a drawing...

They can't be serious... but sadly they are.

Since Child was away this year, I decided months ago that I would spend Thanksgiving with my First Mom and her friends (who are like family) in Maine.  They do this every year; last year I couldn't see my way clear to not being with my family - the adoptive family, my parents et al and Child was home last year so we were with my family (my parents and a couple of their aging but nice friends.)  Of course. No question.  Dare I say it's sort of like being married and having to choose between out-laws and in-laws.  Thankfully, that's not an issue.  (Should I ever lose my head and marry again the holidays will be a non-issue:  everyone at my/our house - leave your baggage home.)


This year, Child away, I saw myself as a 'free agent' and opted to do something completely out of character:  I went my own way.  Maine. First Mom.  New people. New tradition?  I told my folks I'd be in NYC visiting some old acting friends for the holiday...blah blah blah... Child's away, etc., etc. 

Bottomline: This was one of the most memorable weekends in my life.  Exhilerating, loving, empowering, wide open with acceptance, humor and wonderful company.  If there was dysfunction - apart from my lying to my parents to be there in the first place - it was well cloaked.  No yelling or fighting; no outrageously embarrassing drunks; no upset or egregious acts meted.  It was healthy, good, fun.

So my week is off to a stellar start riding this great spiritual, lofting high.  Filled and accepting the love from new friends and those who knew about me for 40+ years but never met until this weekend.  All was sailing along so beautifully.

Until yesterday.
Yesterday was like one giant car wreck. 

My father (and I mean my only father, my adoptive father, my Dad) called me at the office to let me know of his complete and absolute displeasure.  (He'd been oddly short and brusque with me over the phone since last Wednesday and I wondered if he knew, but he never said anything.  We both let it go.) 

Somehow - and it's no matter how - he found out.  I knew too well the anger and anxiety and perceived betrayal would be the risk - but when would we confront - and did we have to??   Would they ever know?  It was a risk. 

It could happen either in front, if I'd been up front and told them my plans before going; or, at the back end, like yesterday.  Whavever.  I knew this aspect wouldn't be pretty so I tried putting if off as long as possible (the lie).  The rest, them finding out, was part of the risk.  Poorly calculated as it was.

My father's, along with my sister's, reaction was so far over the top of a "normal"  Dad and Sister reaction that I was actually speechless.  (Doesn't happen often.)

My father segued the opening topic of yesterday's call (something about a future Family Court date) into a harsh and angry, “And WE need to talk.... I know for a fact you did not go into the city this weekend.  I know for a fact you were in Maine.  With your BIRTHmother and her FAMILY..." and he continued to spit, literally, out those words he couldn't swallow any more.  "It was a FAMILY day and you chose to ....."  I'd stopped hearing by then.  Numbness was about the only thing going on.  Another Trial of the Family Scapegoat.  Another "who's worse than whom" episode.  My fault.  Everything has always been my fault.  Pitiful, really.  And untrue.

Mostly, I listened to him for what seemed to be long time but was only a few moments.  I was stunned when he hung up.  He told me knew "for a fact" I went to Maine, that I wasn’t in NYC.  He told me I caused serious and permanent “damage” – his word – to my family and that relationship - and going to Maine was a “very, very bad decision” that will have lasting effects.  His tone had every subtext of threat and you're going to be disowned adhered.  I heard him loud and clear.

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Dad, I really am...."

"WELL I DO FEEL THAT WAY! and I'm coming over tomorrow night after I get my hair cut.  You're going to know how I feel about this!"

"Dad, I can hear how you feel about this, exactly how.  I don't need to hear any more.  You've made that quite clear.  And I'm singing tomorrow night and won't be home until very late and Child would be there.  Honestly, I don't need to hear anymore."

 - not versed in people with boundaries, he paused a bit... then,

"Why don't you spend Christmas in Maine, too?  Good. Bye."
And he hung up.
I'm free.

The frequent saying in recovery programs - bastardized here because I don't know the accurate wording - is even if you were never the one with the problem/issue/addiction, the healthier you become, the more upset and scared the other people in your circle/family become.  They're going to be left with their problems and as you move on - literally or figuratively - they don't have you to use/blame/be angry with anymore. 

I have always been the Family Scapegoat - capitalized here for the respect due me for a lifetime of eating shit served with a monogrammed silver spoon.  And, yes, I love them.  Dearly.  For all their flaws, and for all of mine, they are my family.  But, I cannot save them nor can I make them whole, or stop the drinking or mend and re-vamp the passionless marriage that is theirs.  I can't make my sister fertile, or give my father a backbone or stop him from enabling my mother's destructive alcoholism.  I can't make them understand my need to search for my biological mother / family, and I will not continue any further explaining myself.  It's pointless.

Funny how they adopted a stranger's baby into their lives to show them they weren't doing so well after all.

I'm not calling back.  I'm sorry they hurt.  Maybe someday they'll find their way to forgiving me for several things: being adopted and not like them (this makes me laugh), and for searching, finding, and exploring that part of my history.

More, it's bothersome knowing my sister (natural to my parents) and brother in law (natural to his parents) are approved-by and listed-with Catholic Charities as potential adoptive parents.  How will they handle this very issue should (when) their (adopted) child has the same needs?  For that child's sake one can only hope they don't react this way.

In the end, as always, I will be just fine.

It's already happening.

If I were a drawing...

Sailing through Maine and Mass to find home.

People take leave of their senses all the time. 
Telling your boss you think he's a fucking jackass is one example.
Getting married on the spur of the moment because you won someone's hand in a bet is another. 
Around here, so is driving without a seatbelt.

And so is passing on a 40+ year traditional Thanksgiving dinner with your adoptive parents and close family friend, when your own child is away (visitation stipulation), and choosing to spend the holiday with your Birth Mother, a younger half-brother and his family and their long-time friends (who are like family in every way).  In Maine.  You drive 6.5 hours and 300+ miles straight through the foggiest of nights to be there.  And you don't actually tell your parents what you're doing but casually serve up some fib / white lie that you've decided to spend the holiday with "old acting friends in the city."   You know... since your kid is away and all... (and you know your parents can take care of themselves), etc, etc, etc.

I have no idea if I managed to get away with this because something tells me my father knows I was not, in fact, "in the city." 

I wasn't:  I was in Maine.  Mt. Vernon, Maine to be exact. 

And every bit of this weekend, starting with pulling out of my driveway with less than $50 in my pocket, arriving there well after 3AM Thanksgiving morning, and coming home by 9:15PM tonight was bliss.  Pure. Deliberately consumed, luxurious, sweater and fireplace, sweet, homecoming bliss.

Maybe I will write more later, maybe I won't.  But this weekend I gave Thanks every minute of every hour and will continue my gratitude until it becomes part of my core.  My First (Birth) Mom is a remarkable - and not just because she had me; she is a gracious and thoughtful person who mothered three additional children; I am her eldest.  She is a good friend and honors her friendships with her attention and love.

She is a clear example of living for yourself and doing what your heart says it must do rather than doing something for the almighty paycheck - she jokes about having to raise herself as her mother died when she was 16 or so;  awful.  And she is creative, full of ideas and would like to see me get away from "that office job" and into something where I can and will use my talents... she believes in me.  Her support and love shows in her other children too:  they're all out in the world doing very nicely and seem quite happy with the way things, in general, have turned out.  I want to feel that way about my life, too, and I'm beginning to understand that my First Mom is doing that organically, naturally: she's nurturing in me what she can see I have.  It's something I haven't really experienced before, at this level; that is not meant as a slight to my adoptive mother in any way.

She believes in me like only my child, best friend, and - on better days - I do.  She sees what there is to use and she's guiding me, subtly, with suggestions and conversations that stir my head toward a place that uses "me" - the parts that are only used once or twice a year.  Uncanny that she sees this so clearly.

So, my last Thanksgiving Prayer would align with my appreciation and endless gratitude for all these things: mothering and being mothered; creating and being gifted with creative abilities and talents; safe travel and new experiences, the courage to do so, and lastly,  the good sense to absorb it all. 

But I ask one thing for myself, as uncomfortable as it feels to ask for anything, ever:  Please give me direction for I am without a rudder and have these wonderful sails and vast bodies of waters to discover - but I would like direction, please, a rudder and centerboard, too, to keep me headed in the right direction.

Tonight, I fall into my huge, high bed wrapped in the sweet blankets of this weekend.  Cloaked in the knitting embraces from my 'new' family members, and taller from using listening to my soul when it said:  "Go. Take Leave.  Have courage and just go.  You're a 44 year old grown woman.  You're going to do things that piss people off: so what.  They can deal with it... can YOU?  I dare you: Go.  Just be yourself and stop worrying."

I'll do it again.  Watch me.