I’ve been wanting to talk about being adopted, but it being a pretty complex and emotional journey for me, I’ve resisted getting started.
First of all, being adopted is a journey. I would think it would be different for those with an open adoption, but for those of us who were adopted while everything was still so hush hush and our records sealed, it can be a journey.
I must preface this by saying that I grew up around many other adopted kids, and I don’t recall any of them having the issues that I had growing up. (This creates a question as to whether my issues growing up were from being adopted, from undiagnosed juvenile bipolar disorder, a combination of both, or something different entirely.) I am writing this from my experience only. I cannot speak for my parents or my grandparents, as they are all dead.
**Oh! And for the sake of clarity, my parents are the ones who raised me. When I refer to a biological parent, I will refer to him or her as my biological – birth or natural – parent.
I am writing this today, because New Year’s Eve is the anniversary of my adoption.
I was adopted by a businessman and a teacher, when I was less than a month old. They raised me, supported me, and loved me as if I was their own flesh and blood. My maternal grandparents lived only about two hours away, and they were always present. From infancy, I was surrounded by an incredible family. I am fortunate, lucky, blessed.
My grandpa was my hero. He was well over six feet tall with sparkling powder blue eyes, and a long shock of almost-white hair that fell down over his forehead. He called me Smiley, introduced me as Sleeping Beauty to strangers when I was asleep in his arms, and took me for nighttime walks past the Boogey Mans house. He was my conspirator when I was a disgruntled, angry teen, taking me shopping for all the junk food I could think of whenever I came for a visit (even though I was perpetually on a diet). My grandpa called us the black sheep of the family, and I took pride and comfort in being part of a duo, rather than being bad all alone. As an adult, he told me that I was his favorite person. No matter how bad I was, no matter what I did, he loved me unreservedly.
My grandma was a tiny birth of a thing, not standing even five feet tall, with emerald-colored eyes that missed nothing. She had been a teacher too, and had subscriptions of Ranger Rick, a science and nature magazine for kids, sent to me at home. When she came for a visit, she would do the science experiments that were in the latest issue with me. She taught me words in Spanish and French, opening my mind up to the fascinating world of language. When we went to sleep at night in her big bed, she would scratch my head while telling me to float on clouds, each one a delicious color; butter yellow, lettuce green, seashell pink. She would have loved the wealth of knowledge available to us today on the internet. It would have fascinated her.
My mom. My mama. It’s hard to write this without crying. I loved my mom fiercely. From my earliest memory, my mom could not go out for an evening and leave me with a babysitter without me bawling like a baby until I was nine or ten years old. She was my safe place. I spent my late teen years and my twenties terrorizing her with my partying and drunk driving, but she never ever gave up hope that I would someday be okay. After I got sober (she paid for my rehab), she revealed how her experiences with me helped her to better understand the special needs kids she was teaching. She told me that I’d finally become what she’d always hoped: her best friend. As she lay dying, she apologized to me for the way she’d raised me. That’s the kind of loving person she was, although no apology was needed.
My dad. Yeah, this is the hardest one. I was the one person who could infuriate my dad to the point of violence. He’d give me a good beating then send me off to my room, coming in before he went to bed to apologize to me, kiss me, and tell me he loved me. Ugh. That was the grossest feeling. I annoyed him. I irritated him. And he had no idea how to deal with me. In school, I never lived up to my potential and was a constant source of disappointment for him. However, at some point after my Homeless Experience, he softened with me. He would give food to the homeless people by his work and say I inspired him to do so. He was proud of my artistic ability and had my poetry and sketches hanging on the walls of his office. Once I got sober, he was really proud of me, and he learned to accept me for the person I was rather than my “potential”. After my mom died, I became his trusted confidant and his spiritual advisor.
My brother. He’s three years younger than I am, but was five years behind me in school. My parents applied to adopt a baby boy, and BOOM! She got pregnant. So he is their biological child. He is tall like my grandpa was, and soft spoken like him. He was a mild child, never loud, challenging, or argumentative. He and I couldn’t be any more different. As a child, I had a love-hate relationship with him. I couldn’t bear to see him hurt unless I was the one beating him up. We developed a close relationship once I was out of the house, and we remained close until he met his wife. I won’t go into that here.
Ingrid. She was a beautiful, buxom, blonde, Scandinavian woman who moved in nextdoor when I was three or four. Ingrid loves me as though I was her own child. She used to invite me to spend the night with her when her husband was out of town. She made me blueberry soup and taught me to count in Swedish. I love her. She’s always been my champion. Even now, in the rift between me and my brother, she is Team Sunny all the way.
I know now, and I have known for quite a while, that I was given this family for a reason. Well, many many reasons to be sure. With the exception of my brother and Ingrid, they are all dead, leaving me to navigate my life in this world alone. None of them lived to see me diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I am sure they would be relieved to know that there was a reason I was so erratic and emotional all my life. I wish I could talk to them about it now.