My Adoption – As Far As I Know
This is a somewhat difficult topic for me to write about, not because I don’t know what I want to say, but because it’s a sensitive subject that has the potential to upset some people involved. It already has. That being said, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.
I’ve always known I am adopted; it’s not something that my parents ever kept from me. I’m glad they didn’t. If they hadn’t told me I think I would have found out eventually anyway. It isn’t exactly a secret that can be easily kept; some cousin, uncle, or aunt would have eventually spilled the beans. My parents must have known that, so they decided it would be best for my mental well-being to never conceal it. I wish I could compare how many adoptions there have been in the last x years with how many people know they are adopted. I wonder what percentage don’t know.
The Need for Adoptions
It is a sad reality of life that some people who want kids can’t have them. It’s also a fact that some people who have kids can’t keep them, for whatever reason. It’s also a fact that most kids who are up for adoption are school aged kids who come from poor, minority, broken homes. I was a baby when I was adopted with my twin sister. The only similarity between our adoption and those more ubiquitous cases is that our biological mother was poor. She was poor and she couldn’t take care of us. That’s about all there was to it. It wasn’t a matter of drugs, or violence or anything like that. The State did not bust down a door and forcibly take us away. No, we were good little kids who just needed a loving family that had some money. So we moved from a loving family with limited means to a loving family with sufficient means. Most adoptions aren’t that smooth. Most kids who need adopting need special sorts of family that can deal with all their myriad problems. Check out the National Adoption Center to read up on all the hard luck cases. Don’t know why people keep getting kids from Africa when there are plenty of equally poor pathetic little kids here in the US.
It wasn’t anything my parents did to me. They were perfectly good parents; my childhood was pretty damn good in hindsight. I had friends and played sports. I had lots of toys and my own room. We went on cool family vacations too. But, I always knew I was different. My adoption was something that always nagged at me. My opinions and my actions have always been completely antithetical to those of my family. I am what people call The Black Sheep. I’ve always known it, and it’s been fine with me. I can’t change who I am, and I never wanted to. But, I had a suspicion that it had something to do with genetics. I’ve always thought the way I act has something to do with my biological family. And it wasn’t just a half-cocked idea. There is solid research that points to genetic reasons for how our brains work. So I made up my mind when I was a kid to find out who my birth parents were. It wasn’t a slight against my parents and my family. It was because I had to know. It was a burning curiosity. It might sound self centered to say, but I wanted to find out what my genetics have to say about me. My sister, Tammy, never had the same hang-up that I had. She seemed perfectly at peace with the whole adoption thing. That turned out to be another oddity to me. If we were twins then why was I the one who didn’t quite fit in. Maybe it was just me making excuses. Either way, I had to know.
Nobody has ever successfully told me no. I have always been a determined person who does not let rules get in my way. I think it drove my parents nuts when I was little; I just never followed directions. It turned out to be a necessary trait in finding my birth parents. When I first contacted the Children’s Home Society of California a very nice lady told me that California adoptions were sealed and I had no chance of finding my birth parents without a mutual consent form on file. Forms? Ha! I hate forms. So I said, “thanks for nothing, Lady,” and I devised another plan. My birth certificate might have been changed in 1975, but the original was still somewhere. All I needed to do was find the original and that would tell me everything. In the old days I would have had to bribe someone at the courthouse (it’s the government. You can find out anything with a bribe). These days all I need is a working knowledge of SQL and a database to search. It turns out that LA county has digitized all their birth records. All I had to do was search the records and narrow the possible outcomes down to “all births in LA county on June 14, 1974.” With that I narrowed it more with another select all statement. “All Births in LA county on June 14, 1974 between 1 pm and 3 pm.” I just kept going with the information that was already provided to me on my altered birth certificate until I uncovered my original certificate. It was really only slightly more complicated than I’m making it out to seem. Anybody could do it.
With all my bravado and self confidence in conducting the search I found I was completely unprepared for the actual reunion. When I found out who my birth mother was (she didn’t list a father), on paper, I sat there looking at my computer screen for about half an hour not knowing what to do next. I pulled myself together and called my best friend with the news. He happened to be in Los Angeles at the time and agreed to go, with another high school friend, to knock on doors at the addresses I found (I did what people do to steal identities in order to find them, but I’m not saying what that is). It was the next day that I got a phone call from Dennis (the friend who agreed to knock on doors). He wound up knocking on my sister’s door. Yes, I have another sister! I knew I had another sister all along, but I had no way of locating her so I thought it was a lost cause. Talk about a bonus. And, not only a sister, I also have another grandma (she’s the one who answered the door). My first indication that my birth mother and I functioned on the same brain wave was when I found out that she is untraceable. She has no public records anywhere that could trace her to any address. That’s a huge feat considering it was me who was looking for her (because I can find just about anything). Luckily, my sister and my grandma or normal human beings who haven’t fallen off the grid. Ha!
I can’t remember the exact date that I talked to her for the first time, but I remember the conversation. It’s was scattered and stiff. Neither one of us knew how far to push the conversation. We didn’t know if there were off limits topics, so we spent about an hour dancing around issue after issue. We mostly talked about factual sorts of things like what my birth father’s name was (Warren Schultz). Things changed entirely when I bought a plane ticket and went to LA for a face to face. That’s when things really got interesting. I knew her immediately when I saw her at the airport. It was like looking at a shorter, older, female version of myself. My sister also came. We all went out to eat. I remember I pigged out on my food and ate half of my mom’s food too. The three of us talked about everything. They were so happy to see me (I was worried about that) and I was so happy to see them that, as 30 year reunions go, it was perfect.
Everything I knew about myself in my childhood has been confirmed by knowing my birth mom and where I came from. It was just as likely that I would have taken more after my birth father. If that had been the case then I probably would have been left with more questions (he died in the early 80′s). As it turned out, my personality comes directly from my birth mom. We share the same distrust of government; we are both libertarians. We complete each other’s sentences and have the same writing style. We also have the same smile and some of the same facial expressions. Our relationship, since our reunion, has been mostly on the up. We’ve had one huge falling out over a stupid misunderstanding. I expect things like that to happen. Let’s face it, we might be similar, but we aren’t the same person. We have completely different life experiences that have formed us into completely unique people. I grew up in suburban Los Angeles county, and Amherst NH. I have a whole lifetime full of experiences that my birth mom never saw. Her experiences were completely different than mine. There are simply some things that we will never understand about each other. But, you know, that’s fine. The reunion was two years ago now. We see each other frequently considering we live in different states. I’m convinced that our relationship has turned from a mere curiosity on my part to a lifelong love and appreciation of each other.
My family, both of them, are dear to me. I wouldn’t trade them or my experiences for anything. My birth mom did what she needed to do when we were babies. She couldn’t take care of us; I understand that. My parents might not have been thrilled about my nagging desire to find my birth mom, but they never stood in my way or discouraged me. I think they knew, deep down, that if I wantedto find out that nothing was going to stop me anyway. I recognize the willpower it took my mom to not step out and say, “Hey now! I’m your mom. You have no need to go looking for your birth mom.” I’m not dumb, I would have had the same urge. But, now that it’s all said and done, nothing much has changed. I still think of my parents the same way I always have; I haven’t traded one parent for another. My life is simply complete now. I have what I wanted all along. I have my birth mom who I unashamedly call “mom.” I also have my Mom and Dad who will always also be my mom and dad. I am not a religious person, but if I were I would say that I’m blessed to have two families. One that cared enough about me to give me up so I could have a better life, and another that cared enough about two little kids to accept them as their own. These days life is just good.