Native American culture has always fascinated me. One of the many techniques used to hunt buffalo, was called a buffalo jump. Different tribes used different ways to accomplish the buffalo jump. Whichever technique was used, the result always came out the same for the buffalo in the end. The idea was to somehow stampede the buffalo towards the edge of, and over a cliff, where they would fall to their deaths. Sometimes the tribe used quite sophisticated techniques, such as, a type of natural holding pen with only one way in, and one way out, that way out being over the cliff. Some of the plains tribes, not having access to natural holding pens, and runs, would set fire to the prairie surrounding the buffalo. The fire then drove the buffalo toward the edge of the cliff, and finally, over. The buffalo, in the front of the herd, would try to stop, but the force of the herd would push them over. Those that followed, driven by fear and the will to survive, would blindly go over the cliff, because, well, what else were they going to do? In a buffalo’s mind, it was their only chance to survive, so realizing it or not, over they went. What choice did they really have?
I think I can understand what it must be like to be a buffalo in a stampeding herd headed over a cliff. It’s how I felt that week prior to making “the call”. I was caught up in a herd of stampeding emotions. It was fear, apprehension, uncertainty, but mostly, it was a need to survive some kind of threat I couldn’t even consciously acknowledge. Sometimes, jumping, head first, eyes closed, and over the edge of the cliff is the only way, especially when, or if, you don’t know what, exactly, you are doing to begin with, much less, why. When you smell smoke, and feel the heat, Sometimes, in life, you find you are the buffalo, when you would rather be the Indian.
I hadn’t said a word to anyone about what was going on inside of me in the days leading up to “Just doing it!” Heck, I had no idea I was even going to “just do it” myself. I had spent the majority of the past 15/16 years convincing myself that this man wanted nothing to do with me. Rejection was eminent in my mind. The stories my birth mother had told me led me to assume that my birth father was a jerk, who had taken advantage of her naivety. In such a case, wasn’t rejection inevitable, or, was it?
In my mind, confusion had set in. The research I was reading showed that men, whose children had been placed for adoption, felt the same types of feelings as birth mothers. From the stories of birth fathers I had read, they too grieved the loss of their child. Would my birth father be like that?
I had spent years feeling anger at, what I believed, was his denial of my existence, but how could he have denied my existence if he didn’t know I existed; didn’t know he had a daughter? My birth mother had told me he knew she was pregnant, but she never called him after my birth to tell him he had a daughter. How could he know about me, his daughter, if she had never told him?
I contemplated, as to whether or not, all the men I knew, had they ever been in that position, would want to know they had a child? I came to the conclusion, though some might not be inclined to build a relationship, they would be curious, or, at the least open to giving medical history. Logically, I had to wonder why my birth father would be any different, so what was stopping me from finding out?
A friend of mine had been trying to convince me for years to contact my birth father. I had gotten the information to do so years earlier by hiring a sort of private investigator. A few weeks and $100 later, I had all I needed to find my birth father. I even called the phone number I had been given once just to see. See what I’m not sure. I hung up when I heard the answering machine pick up. I don’t even know what I would have done had a person answered. I just wanted to know if it was really, I don’t know, real?
Every time my friend would bring up finding my birth father, I would get this disconcerting feeling I couldn’t describe. I would tell my friend that I didn’t want to disrupt my birth fathers life. (Side note: Isn’t that another common statement made by adoptees, who are terrified of being rejected, or may feel guilty, for a number of different reasons I wont get into at the moment?) My friend would always end those discussions with, “You have a right to know.”, so why did I feel like I didn’t? Did I really feel like I had no right to know my birth father, or was I just, simply, afraid he might not want to know me? Was it both?
I’ll let you in on a little secret that I haven’t shared with many people. I had always, silently, hoped he would find me, and save me the trouble of someday having to find, and contact him. I would fantasize about bumping into him on the street some day. He didn’t even live in my state. Still, at times, I would wonder, while, maybe, attending a Cowboys football game, what if he was there? What if he was sitting just behind me a few rows up? What if I happened to be downtown for some reason, and passed him on the sidewalk? He could have been on vacation, or maybe he was in town for business. What if we saw each other, and just knew? It’s a nice fantasy, even if it is a bit unrealistic. Stranger things have happened. Wouldn’t it have been nice though?
I much prefer my fantasy of being found to the reality that I was going to have to be the one to do the finding. In my mind, I kept telling myself he knew, but what, really, did he know, especially if my birth mother had never told him when I was born, or, if I was male or female? It hadn’t crossed my mind that it might be a bit difficult for him to contact me, when he really might not know he had a daughter out there somewhere. I wonder why? Was I really so afraid of being rejected that I would concoct some unrealistic fantasy in my mind to protect myself? Was it just easier to be angry with him by telling myself he knew and had turned his back on me, Or was I afraid I might find out it wasn’t like that at all? What if he didn’t know? What if, I wondered, my birth mother hadn’t told me the truth, exactly? My head was spinning. What was real, and what wasn’t? Why couldn’t he have just found me, and saved me from all this frustration? Which was I really more afraid of, finding out everything I had believed for the past 15/16 years was not true, or that it was?
Apparently, my fantasy wasn’t going to become reality anytime soon, especially if the man didn’t even know he had a daughter. Along with my curious nature comes a bit of an impatient nature, which leads us to another part of my nature, that of, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Can you feel the heat intensifying? I could. I heard the rumble of the hooves coming towards me. I smelled the smoke, even though I still could not see the fire. Fear was in the air, and I was overtaken by, and caught up in the middle of a stampede of emotional turmoil I could not control or stop.
With the heat of the fire intensifying, and the edge of the cliff getting closer, my emotions were like the little ball in a pinball machine, bouncing from here to there, being hit and thrown back in to the game to hit more bells, bumpers, and the like. Still yet, I had no idea what all these emotions were, or why I was feeling them. I just was. Something was happening inside me, something I didn’t understand, and it scared me. I had moved from the “what’s going on here?” of my weekend with my birth mother, to a desperate need to know, but know what, I wasn’t exactly sure. I just wanted to know.
As the old Nike slogan goes, “Just do it!” Those were the words that kept screaming through my mind as I tried to convince myself to just dial that phone number one more time, and not hang up. “Just do it! Just do it! Just do it!” Those three, little words, screaming through my mind, were really beginning to get to me. I smelled the smoke. I felt the flames from the fire burning my heels. I was terrified, and there was only one thing to do, so I just did it. I jumped, head first, eyes closed, and over the edge of the cliff. What else could I do? I was the buffalo. I made the call, and there was no turning back. There was nothing else to do but pray, and wait for the: oh, my God, would he call me back?!!!!!