Back in March, I wrote about how I was adopted at birth, how I didn’t know I was adopted until I was 12 years old, how, from that point forward, I knew nothing at all about my biological parents except the name (misspelled until about a year ago) of my birth mother, and how, after years of on-and-off searching, I’d finally located and had contact with her.
I didn’t post anything about the two and half hour phone call we had soon after, and nothing at all since on the subject, for two reasons: 1. Nothing against diary-like blogs, but, only with occasional exceptions, Fish & Bicycles is not intended as a personal journal about my day-to-day life; 2. The experience of reunion had been so abstract — just some emails, a voice on a telephone, and some photos on Facebook — as well as emotional, confusing, and even scary, that I haven’t felt able to write anything about it.
That’s all been changed by the trip to Arizona.
Cuz, you see, a road trip to Sedona, Flagstaff, Glen Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Grand Canyon was only the second half of the adventure.
The first half: A 4-day visit with my birth mother and my two “new” siblings, a brother and a sister.
Prior to the trip, and for some years now, I’d done a lot of research about adoption reunions, and so I was well aware that I was VERY fortunate to have not been rejected, and, on the contrary, to have been warmly welcomed into the family.
Backtracking a little…During the phone call back in March, culled from my two, single-spaced handwritten pages of notes, the following highlights:
- I was the result of a chance meeting, no-names-exchanged, one-night fling in the Catskills, and my birth mother never saw my birth father again. Consequently, there is no way I will ever be able to locate him, leaving half of my biological and cultural identity forever incomplete.
- My mother’s family is of Jewish Russian and Polish heritage, making it feel more fitting that I was raised Jewish, even though I’m now more of a Buddhist than anything else.
- My mother, upon telling her parents about the pregnancy, was told to either “get rid of it” or she’d never be allowed back in their home.
- My brother and sister, now both in their early 40s, four and seven years younger than me respectively, were told of my existence when they were in their late teens and have since wished they could meet me. Kinda explains why they so eagerly flew out from the east coast in order to do so.
Fast Forward to June 16, 2012, my wife, son, and I arrive in Arizona in near-100°F heat and are welcomed by the smiling faces of my mother and her boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend, and my sister. We spent our time together sharing our life stories, looking at photos, and going for daytime outings in various configurations.
I should say that I struggled a bit with what my expectations should or should not have been concerning what the reunion would be like. What should I feel when we meet? How will they feel when we meet? Should I cry? Should they? Should I call them “Mom”, “Bro” and “Sis”?
Trying to sort through all of that was confusing, but it in no way spoiled the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone.
That said, it mostly felt surreal. For instance, I really loved meeting my birth mother, and yet, when I was with her, without a lifetime of familial bonding, I was unable to see her as my mom, and I can’t quite think of her that way even now.
I’d be sad about that if it weren’t for something my genius of a son said to me when I tried to explain this to him, “It’s ok to be friends first and then family.”
Finally, after thinking about this a lot, I’ve come to feel this way about it all:
We’ve only just met, we haven’t had 47 years of knowing each other, but now that we have met, we’ve started building relationships, and that is a very, very good and wonderful thing.