I have been on both sides of this coin. On the one side I had a first family greet me with open arms and one the other one that displays no interest in acknowledging me. However, that is not entirely the case. I have a half-sister who, while very busy, has shown genuine interest in meeting face to face. She comes from my paternal side in the first marriage my birth father started in his married life. She, in many ways, has a similar circumstance of breaking away from her birth father as I did through adoption. While mine was from birth, hers was from the time her parents split apart from the tender age of two.
She later reunited with him after her own search when she was twenty-four years old, but that reunion did not take hold. Considering the circumstances of their separation it is a wonder that she actually befriended me and took me into her trust; although her father’s second family wants nothing to do with either of us. He laid the blame of his separation on his first wife’s infidelity, but it was his own indiscretion that ruined their marriage. Thus admitting this lie to his second family would be acknowledging that the past forty-eight years was based on a fraud he kept from them all. Something he will likely take to his grave.
My maternal side was quite the opposite. My birth mother was friendly and welcoming to my family and me. It felt as if I had arrived on the scene to fill in where a hole had been left many years before. Over the course of several months we have become familiar and friendly, acknowledging many facets that blend into the missing nature that many of her family share with me.
Most profound was a trip I recently returned from in Texas. I met my grand mother, my uncle, an aunt, and two great aunts. While visiting the graves of my great grand parents, we stumbled upon my great, great grand parents’ graves; quite by accident. The trip was filled with a rich history of the regions of both east and west Texas. A great deal of family history was revealed and embraced. My grand mother also introduced me to everyone in the assisted living home she resided in, as her grandson. It was much warmer and special than I could have wished for. I am blessed with a maternal family I never would have expected. Everyone of them were rich with stories, memories, and acceptance to someone, who all but a few months ago, was a total stranger to them.
Even if there was an effort on their part to put in a bit more exertion just to make me feel better, I still would ingratiated by their benevolence. I find many adoptees contend with mixed feelings when society asks us to be grateful for “just being accepted into our adopted families”. However, how can we not be grateful for finding our birth families who can make room in their busy lives to take us in as family? Like many others, I know I cannot just step in and have any equal say in the hierarchy of family who have spent their entire lives with one another, nor am I expecting that. Yet given the chance to have my fifteen minutes of fame to “feel” like family, is good enough for me.
In my visit, no one gave me the impression that I was temporary, but I know I’m a newcomer amongst family who are quite familiar with one another. Still given time to speak to my flesh and blood relatives, even for minutes or hours, means a lot. Every inflection, joke shared, conversation on one topic or another, has added leagues and leagues to the nautical depths of my ocean. There are parts of me that I never knew were empty until blood began to flow through them for the first time. My story may be no different than many adoptees on their journey to find family, but from my perspective no one can rob me of these experiences again, they only accumulate more, day by day, as I make my way into the farthest reaches of my family reunion.