“To offer a home to a child in need is a great thing, to help a family keep their child is noble.”
–Frequent commenter Jay Iyer’s father
I was the greatest blessing of your life and you threw it away. You not only had a wonderful daughter, but a healthy daughter. And not only a healthy daughter, but a loving daughter. And not only a loving daughter, but a kind and caring daughter. And not only a kind and caring daughter, but an ethical one as well. And yet, you chose to give away one of life’s greatest blessings, if not THE greatest blessing–a blessing that most people would give their eye teeth for.
You refused to step up to the plate despite being a single self-supporting man. And by your actions, or the lack thereof, you tossed me into the miasma of adoption and forced me to have to deal with its consequences for the entirety of my life. You caused me the loss of my family which keeps me tethered to the past. It keeps me looking back forever trying to integrate the pieces of a past, a past that I will never fully know, with my present. It’s hard to move forward when you don’t know your past. And you forced me to have to deal with the trauma of having been given away, which I am the first to admit not all adoptees struggle with. But I do.
Your actions left me with a lingering sadness– a sadness which I attribute to believing that I lacked enough value to be kept by my own parents. And it’s sadness that I have been both criticized and ridiculed for by those who didn’t live this life. You didn’t live this life and you can never tell me what I should think and feel about my own traumatic, yes, traumatic life experience. A sadness that those who aren’t adopted just write off as a defect in me and have even used as an excuse to get fed up and reject me. And to those who have given me that rebuke, I say: Thank you once again, Father. I owe this all to you. But did you even care?
Making the assumption that the couple who wanted your child are good people and that your helpless infant would be safe is a huge assumption and a dangerous one. But you probably didn’t care. I doubt you even thought that far. You just wanted to be let off the hook. Did you know that my adoptive parents divorced when I was only 2 ½ years old? And that my adopted father never accepted financial responsibility for me after that? Did you know that my adoptive father stopped supporting me when I was only 3 years old? I mean, what was he thinking? That I would get a job? And he most certainly could have supported me with his advanced degree and professional background. And lest you forget, this was in the 1960s when a woman married to a professional man was expected to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. Did you even care that this was the type of man you gave me to? Oh yes, my adoptive mother did remarry, but my stepfather was never my father. And his financial obligation to me ended when the marriage did.
I do believe that adoptive parents are a child’s REAL parents but they are not the child’s ONLY parents, and it is perfectly normal and natural that an adopted child has an interest in and feels a connection to his or her biological parents. I do not share the point of view of some first parents and adoptees, however much I respect it, that only the natural parents should be considered the child’s parents. Because there are some situations where things get complicated—should a child who was conceived in rape only think of his bio-father as his father? I think he’s a criminal and a sperm donor. My adoptive parents are still alive but when they pass it will be my mother and father (or stepmother/father) who died.
Did you know that not all adoptive family members accept a non-blood related child as their relative? Did you ever think about the fact that many adopted children feel that they are neither fish nor fowl and believe they have to tiptoe around and not make waves to be accepted and kept in the adoptive family? And that too often adoptees end up feeling as if they have no family at all other than their own spouse and children? And what about the fear of rejection and the fear of taking risks that too often plague adoptees? Did you ever consider any of those concepts? Would you have even cared?
In my specific circumstances, my natural father was old enough and independent enough from his (our) family to marry my mother and raise me, but he chose not to. In a word, he’s an a$$hole. And yes, I’m allowed to refer to my own father as an a$$hole. If the shoe fits… You see, he was hardly a kid. He was in his late 30s when I was born. At that age, people have seen enough of life to know that all is not as it seems. I take a much harsher stance against someone in that stage of life rather than against a teenager or young adult who was still heavily under the influence of his parents.
Yet, I do consider my natural father to be my father. But I would certainly have the right to not consider him my father except in the strictest sense, along with my entire paternal family, since he provides one-half of my medical history. I cannot deny the biological connection. I carry his genes, for better or worse, and that can never be changed. To deny that I share my family’s medical history would be to lose touch with reality. If I had had a closer relationship with my adoptive father, I would most likely be even more dismissive of my birth father.
Speaking of medical history, at a recent doctor’s appointment the physician mentioned that the condition I was being treated for is usually genetic. And it hit me like a thunderclap that even though I had found both sides of my family, my medical history is still incomplete. A medical history is not static. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish growing up with your blood relatives because it’s important to both know and see family members over the years and watch them as they age. With so many of my blood relatives deceased now, there are too many questions that I will never have the answers to. And then I got to thinking about the legions of adoptees, most of whom have no idea of their blood families at all, and of how difficult (and even dangerous) their lives must be.
Father, you also denied me the opportunity to grow up looking in the mirror and seeing myself reflected in my family members. It must be wonderful to look around one’s family and see other faces that look like yours, and to know where you got your various traits, especially when you grow up in a family where everyone looks alike. What a sense of connection! But you denied me my birthright. You forced my life to be a lie. You denied me my heritage and most importantly, you denied me the opportunity, which I desperately wanted and needed, to live my rightful life in my rightful hometown and with my rightful family. And you denied me my surname which reflects my ancestry on the paternal side. And here’s something else you denied me–that familial familiarity, that sense of belonging. That sense of fitting in. Of course, some people say they don’t feel a sense of belonging even though they were raised in their bio-families, but I found so many similarities after finding both sides of my family it was uncanny.
So, Father–and no–I will never call you dearest Father, Dad, Daddy, or Papa. You do not deserve any of those affectionate appellations. And I will never be a daddy’s girl. You may not be the apotheosis of a bad father but you are certainly guilty of dereliction of duty. You knew my natural mother desperately wanted to keep me. I’ll never know the answer to whether you cared or not, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that giving me up was not your finest hour, since, as far as I know, you took this secret to your grave. So I lay this entire burden at your feet, for that is where it belongs.
There’s an old saying in real estate that goes, “There are only three things that matter with property–location, location, location.” Well, I, too, have only three words to say to you, “stupid, stupid, stupid!”
Oh, and did I mention, cruel?