Have you ever lost someone in your life, found them again and then lost them another time only to wonder if you'll ever see them again?
Have you ever opened your heart so fully to let someone in just to be rejected over and over without any explanation why?
You might be thinking I'm talking about love and although I am, it's not the kind of "love" you might think.
When we're young, we often have experiences with unrequited love or what we think at the time is love. For example, I was absolutely positive that I was marrying this one guy in the 3rd grade. He was taller than me (plus 1), he was awesome in sports (plus 2), he was smart (plus 3), he was an only child like me (plus 4) and he couldn't do a cartwheel (plus 5).
If you're wondering about the last one being on my checklist, I couldn't do a cartwheel either and was the only girl in the 3rd grade who couldn't. BUT I could play a kick butt game of nation ball, kickball and bombardament. (Anyone out there remember those red rubber kickballs?)
But I digress... this isn't even close to what I wanted to talk about.
Obviously I really wasn't "in love" at that age despite my "Hello Kitty" notebook being filled with declarations otherwise. I would go through many unrequited crushes and awkward situations with boys and guys before I would learn to understand what the feeling of falling in love for the first time was truly like.
What I want to talk about in this blog is not one-sided romantic love, but instead the one-sided relationship that I began when I was in elementary school and learned that I was adopted. From that time onward, I always yearned for a connection with both my birthmother and birthfather. I fantasized about them regularly, using the little bit of information I had been provided about them and my heritage. I planned to search for them when I graduated college and turned 21.
Don't get me wrong. I have fine parents and always loved them. I don't think they'll come across this blog but if they do, Mom and Dad, I LOVE YOU! This blog is about me getting out some feelings that are bottled inside and I don't want to hurt you in any way. If you do happen to read this and want to talk about it, please let me know. I'm always here for you!
My parents and I had our challenges over the years, especially the teenage and college years, but I'm sure raising an undiagnosed Aspie gal like me with odd food preferences, sensory and organization issues and other "stuff" had to be something they weren't expecting at the adoption agency. I'm so glad they chose me though for I would have had a completely different life and I can't imagine not having gone through some of the experiences in my life that I did. I suppose I wouldn't have known any differently and in some alternate universe (for you Sci-Fi Fringe / Sliders / Stargate guys and gals), maybe I'm living out those other options. :-)
No matter if you give birth to your children or they are adopted, they don't come with instruction manuals. Each is unique and incredibly special with his/her own gifts. Parents learn along the way and it is an ongoing process. The unconditional love I have for my kiddos seals the deal. I didn't go through 3 days of labor (seriously... 3 DAYS, 2 of them induced) with my first and zero pain medication during the labor of my second to not be able to withstand a little pain and discomfort during the parenting process. It was unconditional love from the get-go.
Okay, so what I'm going to talk about or I guess, WRITE about if you want to be technical about it, is something I don't get or understand.
I will probably be all over the map so if you like a good challenge, feel free to hang out and see where we end up. If you're not interested in adoption or the feelings that a daughter has for her birthfamily that she has little contact with, this may not be the particular blog posting for you. For those who stay, thanks! I have the feeling this will be one of those blogs I'm going to want to edit over and over again but I'm going to try and just write freely to start.
What I don't get... is how a birthmother can give birth to someone or a birthfather can assist in bringing a life into this world and then not want to get to know that child?
You see it in the news all the time. Single mothers, deadbeat Dads, single fathers, deadbeat Moms... Unplanned pregnancy... youthful indiscretions, adult indiscretions... So many children out there in this world have been raised in an environment where they did not have a secure loving relationship with both their mother and their father.
In my case, my birthparents were quite young. They were in their senior year of high school when I was conceived. Both were leaders in their school and had a lot going for them including scholarships to college. I don't know if their friends knew. I would probably have been conceived in late February so my birthmom might not have been showing at graduation. I never asked. (By the way, I didn't know too much about my birthparents growing up. All that I'm telling you about now came after my birthmother found me when I was 18, almost 19. That is a story in and of itself but I'm not sure what of it I will share in this blog.)
My birthfather bought a ring and asked my birthmother to marry him and raise their baby together. She declined. (I actually have the ring. It was given to me by my birthfather the 2nd time I met him and I am so grateful and honored that he gave it to me.)
Okay... where am I going?
This is not as easy to write as I had hoped.
Okay... focus, Karen...
My birthmother declined. I believe she felt she was too young to raise a child and she wasn't "in love" with my birthfather. They were together as a couple but she didn't feel that he was the one she was meant to marry. They ended up deciding to put me up for adoption and they went their separate ways. He went to college at one university, she went to another. From my understanding, after high school graduation, they did not speak again for about 19 years.
(Note: If anyone from my birthfamily happens across this blog and has a different version of anything I wrote, please let me know. I am doing my best to keep this respectful and honest as I respect you very much. Please know I am not putting this out into the blogosphere to hurt you in any way. I love you and this is just what I need to do for me. I don't think any of you have been to my blog before but if you have and/or if you're reading this now and are uncomfortable with anything, please drop me a line at email@example.com and we can make arrangements to talk about it. Okay? Thanks!)
Is this getting strange for anyone? I'm not trying for it to be. I realize probably very few people you know in your personal life put things all out there like I do. Maybe your husband or wife. Maybe a sibling. In person, this definitely does not happen unless I am with with one of a very very few people. So consider yourselves lucky (or perhaps unlucky?) having the free opportunity to peek into the life of another person you're not related to or in love with!
I wish I could just get this out without having to go off onto little tangents. It's part of the process I suppose.
If you're wondering what prompted this, today is my birthfather's birthday. Happy Birthday Terry!
It is coming up on 24 years from the day that I first had contact with anyone in my birthfamily. That is a blog in and of itself. At the time, I was 18, about a month away from 19 and I was in my sophomore year of college at UC Santa Cruz, living on campus in my own dorm room. It was a Thursday, two days before my boyfriend's 21st birthday and when the phone rang, I thought it was him. We were soon going away for the weekend to celebrate in Monterey and I thought he was checking in to say hi.
It was my birthmom, Carol. Of course she didn't introduce herself that way. Although I believe I have the vast majority of the conversation memorized, I'll share with you the most significant part and will paraphrase for you...
"Hi. This is Carol ___ from ____. Is this Karen?"
"Yes, hi." (The city she was from was ironically the name of a temp agency I had worked briefly through the previous summer so at first I thought it was someone calling me about a temp assignment.)
"Are you sitting down?" (???)
"Is your birthdate, November 25th, 1967?" (Okay, maybe this wasn't a temp agency, maybe I had won a sweepstakes or radio contest. Seriously.. this is what I thought.)
"Well on November 25th, 1967, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I'm your Mommy, Karen..."
(Insert stunned silence here....)
I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
There is much more to that call and to the story, especially the story of how she found me when it was a closed California adoption with sealed records. I'll tell that story some other time as adoptees or those with a tie to adoption might find it very interesting how she got around the system. This was back in 1986 so it wasn't through Google! :-)
I learned a lot in that first phone call. I learned about her. I learned that I had two little sisters who at the time were 4 and 6. They had different fathers. She was single and had been married once but never remarried. I learned my 6 year old sister was born on November 26th which had to have been really bizarre for Carol, giving birth to her daughter the day after I was born. I learned that she had contacted my birthfather, Terry during the search process after having not spoken with him in almost 19 years (he didn't even know what gender I was). She told him that she was looking for their daughter and did he want to help? He preferred not to. She gave me his address and said if I wrote to him and sent him pictures, that he would probably change his mind. He did... then....
She wanted to meet me right away and I told her I was going away for the weekend so she suggested the next Tuesday at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz. Apparently she had stayed there before which was odd since she did not live in that area. Can I tell you something, Aspierations visitors? That walk down the hallway at the Dream Inn to knock on her hotel room door felt like the LONGEST walk I had ever taken in my life.
Mom and Dad, again, if you're reading this, I don't want your feelings hurt or old wounds re-opened. I know you definitely did not approve of the way she found me and you did not approve of me meeting her then but it was something I just had to do for myself. She and my sisters were a missing part of my puzzle. My love for you never changed. My love for my birthmom, my birthdad and my sisters was always very different. Not better, just different. You, Mom and Dad, will ALWAYS be my parents who raised me and never, ever will anything change that. I love you too much.
Okay... so if you get the sense I might have been caught in the middle of something at the time, that is the understatement of 1986. I won't go into that here but it was a huge time of difficulty and stress for me. My boyfriend was the only one I could talk to and although he naturally didn't have any experience with anything like what I was going through, he was totally there for me. If he ever comes across this blog, thank you for your love and support during our relationship and during a confusing time in my life that I was thrust into an avalanche of emotion and caught in the middle of what felt like a tornado. I'm sure listening to my shock and tidal wave of emotions after that first phone call wasn't what you had in mind for your 21st birthday weekend but if you think about it, at least it turned out better than my 21st birthday ending. (I have never had a Tom Collins or Long Island Iced Tea again to this day! I think my parents are still ticked at our third wheel of the night, JB for that little escapade!) Thanks for your love. I still love you!
I am so far away from where I had intended right now. Transition time again. I wonder how much time this blog will spend in the editing room.
As I was saying above, that walk down the hallway at the Dream Inn to knock on my birthmom's hotel room door felt like the LONGEST walk I had ever taken in my life.
My sisters were so adorable. I saw myself in each of them. We shared some of the same mannerisms. It was strange and wonderful. Growing up as an only child, this was my first glimpse at a biological connection and even though my sisters were technically half-sisters, I felt connected to them almost immediately. When I saw my birthmom, I was overwhelmed. All my life I had pictured what my birthparents might look like, what careers they had, whether they ever thought of me on my birthday... and here the woman who gave birth to me was standing right in front of me.
This is a picture from that day. Unfortunately it got damaged and really faded but I still want to put it up here on the blog. It's grainy but you can see detail better if you click the thumbnail to enlarge it. I remember she had her camera on timer mode.
Dream Inn - October 28th, 1986
She was 36 at the time and beautiful. She looked young and I thought if I could look half as good as she did when I was that age, I'd be doing pretty well. It's weird to think that I'm older now than she was at that time. I remember that she, my sisters and I all went to have lunch at Gilda's on the pier in Santa Cruz. This restaurant, although certainly not fancy holds tremendous sentimental meaning to me. So many memories...
She sat on one side with one sister and I sat on the other side with the other sister. We were at a booth looking over the water. The waitress came up, smiled and complimented us on our cute daughters. She had thought my birthmom and I were sisters. It was only later that I processed that she must have also thought I was old enough to be the mom of a 4 year old. (I was not yet 19 but maybe I looked older.)
We talked, had lunch and eventually parted ways. She wanted to know everything about me and it was so overwhelming. I felt like I had to protect my parents along the way. I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I didn't want to hurt my parents. Here was someone who I kind of looked like staring at me with big brown eyes like mine, big brown eyes like my sisters. I remember going back to my dorm room and feeling like I couldn't move or breathe. Did what happen really happen?
The thought of going through all of that again with my birthfather was not something I was ready for at the time. Fortunately I had a little time to process that as he wasn't quite ready to see me yet either. He was married and although he didn't have any other children (and never did), my so-called surprise announcement into his life and his wife's was not the easiest for him. When we shared our first phone conversation it was also surreal. He lived in Washington (still does... same place, I think) and his mom really wanted to meet me.
Going from one day being an only child to the next day having three families with sisters, additional grandparents, a cousin, an aunt... not an easy transition. Now if you throw in the fact that I was undiagnosed on the autism spectrum with Asperger's, can you imagine what it might have been like? Now multiple that by a gazillion. Then square that, subtract two and divide by Pi. Yeah, that's how I felt.
Aspierations viewers, you've been with me for awhile here and I'm afraid I'm not quite done yet. If you need to get up and stretch or take a snack break, I'll be here when you return. Can you grab me a nice gooey hot fudge sundae while you're at it? Yum... Thanks! You rock! :-)
This blog started out asking, "have you ever yearned for a relationship with someone but it was primarily one-sided?"
I'm going to try and speed the process along now and try to explain what I meant by that.
You see, I did end up meeting Terry and his wife and although I'm sure she wasn't too thrilled that there was a bonus daughter in the mix, she was always polite and nothing but nice to me during the handful of times we have met. I always felt bad for her. She was caught in the middle in a way too. Certainly I wasn't what she had signed up for when she had married her husband but I always tried very hard to let her know that I accepted her, that I cared for her and that I wanted to have a relationship with her. It didn't have to be mom/daughter but I was hoping it could be something of significance. She had captured the heart of my birthfather so she had to be special. At least, that's how I have always seen it.
I spent a really wonderful week with Terry and his wife in the summer of 1987. I had gone up to Seattle, WA for a bowling tournament and since Terry lived in WA a few hours away, I wanted the chance to see him again and to meet my Grandma Leota. (God bless you, Grandma!!) It was an amazing week. Terry and I went bowling. He was an avid golfer and even though my Dad (who raised me) was also a very avid golfer, for some reason, he never really had the time to teach me to golf. Terry took me to a driving range and gave me some really good lessons. I immediately wanted to be a golfer. I enjoyed it so much that when I transferred to Cal Poly SLO later that fall, I took golfing as a PE elective. Boy, do I miss golf... anyone out there play? Take me with you? :-)
I met my Grandma Leota during that trip and unfortunately it was the only time we saw each other. I remember she took me shopping. She was very hip. She had pretty red hair and a loving smile and I remember she took me into this cool place and picked out this red and black outfit for me for dancing and another black and white outfit that went with it. The black skirt was short and the outfits were somewhat form fitting but she said I could pull it off. I was more conservative than she was! (This was the late 80s too...) She was very talented artistically, both with painting and other crafts. She gave me some of her paintings to take with me and I still have them. She was a really wonderful person and although we only had a little bit of time together in person, we connected... so much that when she passed away years later that I knew at the time it was happening and I felt close to her and God and.... Grandma, I miss you.
Although I had what I thought was a great time with Terry, we only saw each other a couple times afterwards. Although his wife had family in California and I knew they would come down from WA to visit, he never contacted me. We would keep in touch through me writing and occasionally calling. When he would get back to me, he would say that it was uncomfortable for his wife and although he cared for me, it wasn't the best time. Although he and his wife and my Grandma were invited to my wedding which is also the first and only time Carol has met my parents (another blog!!), he declined saying that it would be too hard on my parents. I always thought that was a bit of a cop out but I had to respect his wishes. I knew that Grandma Leota wanted to be there so it was always a bummer for me that we never saw each other again. We did talk occasionally on the telephone.
Anyway, my relationship with my birthfather grew more and more distant. Maybe I would describe it as estranged, although I still had love and affection for him. It hurt that it appeared he didn't want anything to do with me. I always wondered if I did something wrong. What I couldn't reconcile was that he was a prosecuting attorney and now a judge and was all about honor and fairness and justice... Why not tell your only child why you no longer want to have anything to do with her? Did he ever really see me as his daughter? For a week in Washington in 1987 I know he did...
Despite unreturned letters, I kept the door open. Occasionally I'd get a gift certificate at Christmas-time and a request that I save my money and not worry about sending him and his wife presents. (Boy, did that hurt. Did his wife dislike me that much? What did I do?)
When Justin was born in 1999, I figured it was a perfect time to let him and his wife know they were grandparents. I think it was one of the last times I ever spoke to him on the phone. Terry has never met Justin. He has never met Ryan. We now live in the same state and I have never heard from him. I have emailed a few times to his office since he is not internet savvy or has personal email. I have left a couple voicemails. I have sent letters once or twice a year. Nothing I have ever done I would consider pushy or smothering. I have never told him that my feelings are hurt. I have always left the door open as an invitation for him and his wife to get to know their only daughter and two grandchildren.
When the boys were diagnosed with autism / Asperger's a couple years ago and I became aware of my own place as an Aspie about a year later, it occurred to me that Terry likely also has Asperger's. We were going through some different testing at the time and needed to have a medical history, something which is hard for those who are adopted to often put together and I wrote to him, called and emailed asking if it would be okay if I sent him some health questions to fill out. I told him that my boys were on the autism spectrum and that I likely was too and there were some health issues I was going through and it would be really helpful to have as much medical history as possible. (I learned the hard way that I have some pretty rare allergic reactions to certain medications and anything he could provide would help.) I do not know if he ever got my emails, phone calls or letters.
It breaks my heart. I don't understand. I shouldn't blame myself but when I'm not thinking things through logically, I sort of do.
You see, not only did I lose my relationship with my birthfather, but I've pretty much lost it with my birthmother and sisters too. We stay in touch through Facebook a sentence or two here and there. Over the years I have sent cards, flowers and small personalized gifts to let them know that I care but I don't hear from any of them very often and I feel when I do, it's out of some sense of guilt.
When Justin was born, Carol came to see him. She was sure he would be a girl but I knew better. She's seen Justin just a few times since. The last time was at my youngest sister's wedding when I was a few months pregnant with Ryan. She and my sisters and other family on that side have never seen Ryan in person. I know that everyone has busy lives but it hurts. The last time my birthmom and I have talked on the phone for more than a couple sentences was 1999. She's in real estate so she's on the phone a lot.
I don't get it.
We correspond via email and Facebook. That is my only contact. When I wrote to her to tell her about Ryan being diagnosed with autism, she was sympathetic at the time but then... I don't know, something seemed to change. I told her about Justin. I told her about me in a very long heartfelt letter. I never heard back from her about that topic. Carol, if you're reading this... please don't be ashamed of me. Maybe you don't know how to process it yourself...
I wonder somehow if my birthmom is on the autism spectrum as well. I won't go into why I think that because it's not important.
I ask myself on days like today... how could you not want to have a relationship with your own child? Here is what I understand...
I understand that I was put up for adoption.
But then 18 years later you came looking for me....
You found me. (In Terry's case, you didn't find me but once Carol did and I wrote to you and we met, you said you were happy to have found me and that you wanted to build a close relationship with me. We had an amazing time in Washington. Grandma and I hit it off in a major way.)
You said you wanted me in your life.
You made amazing declarations.
You wanted me in your life....
and then one day, you decided that it really wasn't all that important anymore.
Not only did you not want to know me, you didn't want to know my children... your grandchildren.
I am not mad.
I am just confused.
I am hurt.
I don't understand...
My birthparents had/have lucrative careers. But they could have something more... the love of a birthdaughter... the opportunity to get to know their grandsons...
I would like to think that the autism didn't play a part in what feels like rejection. Perhaps if they are fellow travelers, they just can't process it all and my existence is too painful and overwhelming.
It just hurts...
to have a relationship and lose it...
to not know why...
to never know if I'll ever see you again...
It's like I lost you twice... when I was a baby, I didn't know the difference.
Now I do.
So this is what I was trying to get to today. I don't know if they think of me on my birthday but I think of them on theirs.
The door is always open. The email box is rarely empty but always has space. My heart always has enough room in it for a relationship.
I have lost a lot of love in my life... never the way I intended or expected.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, please know that I still love you. I don't think that could ever change. I hope one day you'll get in touch again.