Tag Archives: adoption

How We Must Love As Parents (part 2)

The night before our apartment-hunting trip to East Tennessee, my mother called.

There was silence after our hellos and then, my mother said, “Your father and I do not want you to live with Patrick.”

“Why are you telling me this now?! I’m bringing him tomorrow,” I said annoyed.

“Well, people might talk about you living with a man,” my mother replied.

“I live with a man now,” I responded.  I was living with a Puerto Rican man in a platonic living arrangement.

“Yes, but Alberto isn’t gay,” said my mother. “And you will be living an hour away from home when you move to Knoxville.”

“Is this really about me?” I asked. “Or are you just afraid of what your friends might think? I’m bringing him to Newport tomorrow because I know you will love him once you meet him.”

My thoughts forbade me to sleep. Why had I told them he was gay? 

The next morning, I drove with Patrick to East Tennessee and my hometown in Appalachia. On the way, I tried to maintain an air of normalcy. Exhausted from a sleepless, fitful night, I fell asleep at the wheel. The car careened across all four lanes of Interstate 40, and we slammed into a bank as I awoke. I made an excuse about not sleeping well because of my excitement. Patrick still knew nothing. I needed him to be himself. 

Drawn to his sincere smile, my mother took to him immediately. My father did not. Rather, he kept Patrick at a distance, until he asked him to “Help move this big table.” “Man’s work” spoke to my father, and while Patrick’s muscular frame easily moved the table, he did not move my father.

The ride back to Clarksville was quiet. Towards the end of our journey, I explained my father’s opinion to Patrick. “We can still move in together,” I said, “I’m a grown woman, and he cannot rule my life!”

Patrick listened intently and said, “Rosita, we can’t change people by fighting them. He will come around in time, and I won’t move in with you. I’ve lost my family already, and I won’t be the reason you lose yours.”

Saddened, I accepted Patrick’s decision. 

That following fall after my move to Knoxville, I returned to Clarksville to see Patrick. We relived our early days of merriment. He made plans to come visit.

A month later, he disappeared. When he failed to arrive at Red Lobster for a shift, co-workers went by his apartment to find his door wide open, and his wallet and money on the coffee table. Patrick was nowhere to be found, and the authorities were notified.

Up next … what happened to Patrick.

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How We Must Love As Parents (part 1)

“To have a child is to embrace a future you can’t control.” — Journalist and Father Tom French

This quote, from a Radio Lab segment, stuck. It is stuck in my head with the memory of an old friend. His memory is constant. I have no photographs of him so I must keep him in my memory. I lost contact with him in late 1990.

His story was always meant to be here, but it is long and painful. If you are considering adoption, please read the entire story.

In early 1990, I met a man while training at Red Lobster in Clarksville, Tennessee, the town where I finished my undergraduate degree. His name was Patrick. He was a handsome blonde with sculpted features, and I was instantly attracted to him. Our first days were the things of awkward teens.

One night, I admitted my fear of relationships. Patrick patiently listened to the story of my first love, a soldier at Fort Campbell. While dating me for a year, the GI from Wisconsin revealed that he was engaged to a woman in his hometown of Appleton, and that he planned to marry her.

Hearing this, Patrick revealed that he, too, was from Wisconsin and had recently finished his service in the military. He said he had been married and was now divorced. His candor and honesty dispelled my fears, and he won my trust.

With mutual trust, Patrick explained that he was gay and that he had been married to a lesbian during his time in the military to mask his true self. His fear was a deep-seated one. He wasn’t always able to be himself.

One evening, as I lamented my inevitable move to graduate school and my fear of being alone in Knoxville, Tennessee, Patrick suggested, “I could move with you. It doesn’t matter where I live, and we both could work at the Lob!” We felt our fears of being alone dispel.

We made plans, and I wrote the following letter to my mother.

Up next, the trip home …

Comic Relief

Using Facebook this week, I found a fantastic project called “Adopted, the Comic,” by Jessica Emmett and Bert Ballard. Their project’s images mirrored things in so many of my posts. (They have graciously allowed me to show some of their work here.)

This one reminds me of what Adam Pertman was saying in this post. We’re all families with parents and children.

This one reminds me of my discovery of other adoptees at the age of 44 (post). The bottom half reminds me of my friend, David, but that will be another blog post.

This one reminds me of my daughter’s fascination with Kim Yu Na (post).

And this one reminds me of the fabulous kids at the WISE Up conference (post).

My discovery of this series came from my link to the Somewhere Between film Facebook site. What a gift this film has been! Check it out. The filmmaker has commissioned three strips that you can find at these links. They speak volumes.
This one reminds me of my mother’s sense of adoption as I write here in the last paragraph.
In this comic, the constant dilemma of defining race emerges. I cannot tick one box. Sometimes, I am locked in one as I write here.
Lastly, we still struggle with responses to the question of adoption. In my eagerness to connect, I often suppress my desire to ask the question of a child who is obviously adopted. But then again, why must it be a secret. This struggle is illustrated in this comic strip. It’s a complicated one that could be less so as we move from taboo to tradition.
Jessica Emmett has now begun a new project.  Here’s her newest adoption strip.

 

What is family to you?

Amy M. shared this with me tonight. Watching, I had that knot in my chest as I thought of what my family has meant to me.

What does family mean to you?

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/55307071″>New Film Premiere – I Like Adoption.</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user6871850″>ILikeGiving.com</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The Spectrum of Somewhere Between

Looking for an adoption film? Look no further.

While some may read my blog and believe that I am lost, or found, or searching, I direct them to an adoptee in this film, Jenna Cook. She says it so eloquently:

“All of us, this whole adoption community, we have this commonality about us, this unity. But at the same time, we each are at our own place, in our own journey. It’s a journey of our past, and we each have our own road and our own paths set out for us.”

This film, by far, is the one adoptive parents, children and families should see. The director, Linda Goldstein Knowlton, has found four teens that have four different stories. Each is happy in her adoptive family, and each searches for identity. Knowlton, an adoptive parent, has brought this film to fruition for her young daughter, Ruby.

Someday, when her daughter becomes that insecure teen, she will take comfort in the testaments of these four young women, Fang Jenni Lee, Jenna Cook, Ann Boccuti and Haley Butler. I longed for this sense of belonging as I write here.

In the last six months, I have awakened. My adoption sensitivities are keener. I am thankful and rejoice in being a part of this large community of adoptees.

Knowlton continues to post videos that reinforce the feelings I have had for many years, yet suppressed in my loneliness. I see hope in the future for other young adoptees, and Lili Johnson, one of the first Chinese adoptees, gives me hope when she says,

“As an adoptee, I have no ambition to seek resolution. I am not looking to make sense of myself. I’m not looking to have a right answer or a wrong answer. … I’m not looking for like diagrams or any like pictures of what being adopted is, what it means, what people should do, what’s the right way, what’s the wrong way because there isn’t one.”

Hear the call that asks you to think of adoptees with varying degrees of feelings and experiences. Think of us as your neighbors, your friends, your classmates, or simply the person you pass on the street. Just like you, we have our families, our stories, our varied backgrounds. Rather than separate us as different or odd, celebrate us as interesting.

Johnson also says it so very well:

“I get confused thinking about, you know, is being different good? Should we emphasize difference? … Or should we say ‘You’re American just like everyone else.’”

You can see Lili’s full interview here:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/35427472″>Lili at NYU</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/somewherebetween”>Linda Knowlton</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

On the sunny side of life?

What a week it has been! I began my week helping at an adoption conference, WISE Up.

I met some incredible young adoptees … all third graders. The conference allows the kids to talk about their adoptions and feelings in a safe place. It also gives kids the tools to respond to outsiders’ questions. They can walk away, say, “It’s private,” share something about their adoption story, or educate others about adoption and adoptees.

As you can guess, I personally advocate the last two. I understand the need to walk away if a question is offensive, and many of the younger kids just need reassurance that they have the power to control the situation. Unfortunately, when acting out some of these scenarios, more often than not, the children chose walking away. Some scenarios just involved something as simple as someone asking if they were adopted.

That had me thinking … is adoption a negative thing? Why do young children feel negatively about their adoptions? One girl mentioned that she felt jealous of those who asked her why she was adopted. She wanted what she perceived as the normalcy of a birth family. Looking back, I had some of the same feelings. They were often rooted in experiences in public or at school. In the comfort of my home, I would feel reassured that my home was indeed the place for me.

Perhaps what needs to happen is a better atmosphere in which kids can feel proud of their adoptions. As children, we look for a clan. As I have written, there are many of us.

In this conference, I introduced the kids to Kid President. His effervescence, his optimism, his generosity … they speak to us. We watched his pep talk, and then I explained to them that not only was he in third grade, but he was also an adoptee. One little boy excitedly said, “We just watched an adoptee on an invention of an adoptee!” (Of course, I had told them about Steve Jobs too.)

In my childhood, I wasn’t aware of other adoptees. It took close to 40 years for me to understand that my experience was not unique. Adoption seems better supported than it was in the 1960s and 70s. 

But as Kid President says, “We can do gooder!”