“What do you want to be when you grow up my love?” I ask my little one. He says without hestitation, “I want to be a father.”
Too often in adoption, we can be very birthmother centered, and I am guilty of that too. She has been a presence almost all of my adult life. The circumstances in which I was adopted and she no longer mothered me is a sad woeful tale of tradition, miscommunication and many many years of heartache for her. I saw her as the victim, the one who lost and the one who suffered. It is easy to identify with someone like that.
My birthfather on the other hand, turned down two opportunities to meet me and then died the year before I became a mother. I never met him, have no photograph of him, do not know the sound of his voice. I have had my moments of indignation and my moments of clarity that it was not about me at all. But this weekend is Father’s Day and I am finding myself thinking of this man who is half of me and yet not. How do I mourn or memorialize someone I don’t know? How do I honor a man who I frankly thought very little about and thought very little of? He did the best he could, he too suffered under rules of tradition, he did not wish me harm.
I grew up believing he chose this adopted life for me. I believed he wanted me to go away, perhaps for a better life. I know now, he simply did not act and that I came to be adopted not because of a choice made, but rather a choice not made. I do often wonder if he would be proud of me, whether he would be happy to know that I have a good life now. I suppose we always want to be acknowledged by our parents, to validate our existence.
So without that knowledge, I sought in others. I am a seeker by nature and this I have learned thus far. Fathers in adoption get a bum rap at times. Most of the adoption community is women, both in the profession and in the greater adoptee community. I recall a moment when a male adoptee friend of mine came to a group, the girls were incredulous he was adopted. After all, he was a boy. And yet, whenever I speak in public doing workshops or panel discussions and I see a lone father or two, I think to myself, that child must be someone very special to have a father like him. He has got to be pretty special too. The first non-adopted person on the board of an adoptee group in NY was an adoptive father. We all came to adore this man, who so loved his daughter and so wanted to understand and give back to us. He listened without judgment to our thoughts, our anger, our wish to be seen and heard. He gave generously and has remained a friend to many of us as we become parents.
I could go on with other examples, but suffice it say, when we look for the individual good we find it. To speak in generalities does no justice to the kindness we can receive. So, no matter whether there was a choice or no choice in my adoption journey, I believe I have benefitted greatly. Primarily because after all these years, I have found a man who embodies all that a father should be. I married him.
And so, when my little guy says he wants to be a father, it makes my heart sing. Those were the very same words my husband said when I asked him the same question so many years ago. Through him, I have learned what unconditional love is. I have learned that something unconditional is not questioned, challenged, refuted or displayed for others…it just is. I have learned loyalty and love can come in the same package.
Happy Father’s Day GBR!