My story, once again, continued from the post “The Wait Part 2: End Of Innocence“
It seemed that it had all happened so fast, my being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, causing the need for my family medical history, getting my non-identifying information, then the opportunity to communicate with my birthmother, and sending my first letter. Up until that point, I hadn’t even known such a thing as reunion was possible, much less, given it consideration. Perhaps, if finding E had been my idea, something I had thought about and wanted, then initiated, I might have recognized, and considered, all those feelings and emotions beforehand. Perhaps, I might have, at least, been more aware of them. As it were, the opportunity had arisen, on impulse; I jumped at the chance, and why not?
Not having, ever, really, been aware of my, for lack of a better way to say it, need to know my biology, I hadn’t really had enough time to formulate any real expectations of the situation. At 23 years old, with little life experience to draw on in such matters, so very naïve, and still trying to figure out just who I was, I certainly hadn’t given much thought to what would happen after I sent that first letter. Maybe, if the day had come when I began wondering about E on a more conscious level, questions began surfacing, and I felt some sort of need driving me, or just simply wanted to find her, I might have given the thought of a relationship with her more consideration. What I knew at that particular moment, was that a tidal wave of questions was beginning to overload my brain. What would happen in the future had not occurred to me.
I suppose, I was doing the best I could just trying to deal with the emotions that were simmering just beneath the surface. At only 23, it could be that I just assumed contact was the same as a relationship. Contemplating bonding as a parent and child hadn’t really occurred to me. That too, however, may have very well been assumed somewhere deep inside. Had it not, would it have been possible to experience any of the emotions that had begun coming to the surface? I believe, as I think back, whether I knew it or not, understood it or not, or acknowledged it at all, the expectations of the mother child bond were there in some way. When I look back I cannot deny that. Had those feelings not been there, somewhere, and I truly thought of her as just this person, who had given birth to me, meaning nothing, would it be possible to have all these feelings, questions, and the anger the confusion brought about? If our biology really meant nothing, would we ever wonder, ever have questions, and ever think about it in any way, shape, or form?
At that time, however, whatever expectations I had, they were still deeply buried. On the surface, the only expectation I allowed myself to acknowledge was that she would reply. All I understood was that I had questions. I needed answers, and E had those answers. It might have taken her, what seemed to me like, forever, but she hadn’t let me down. What a relief to finally be holding her letter.
I rushed through the door of my apartment. Ignoring my poor little dog, who was thrilled I had finally come home, in desperate need of a walk and would just have to wait a bit, (poor little fellow), I anxiously, opened the envelope. I pulled out the letter. The first thing I saw was a picture. As you will assume, it was a picture of E. I put the letter down as I stared at the picture. For the first time, ever in my life, I was looking at someone biologically related to me.
Having grown up in a family where I didn’t resemble anyone, I hadn’t ever considered it important to look like my parents. I hadn’t considered that not looking like your family was unusual. For me, it wasn’t. I had never known how important it could be to a human being to look like another human being.
There was something about looking at the picture of E; something that gave me this odd feeling. I had known, from the time I was a preteen, a brief physical description of E. According to my non-identifying information, she had blond hair, and blue eyes. Judging by that description, I didn’t resemble her in the least, so I guess, it shouldn’t surprise me that I never felt anything when considering her physical description. As I stared at her image, the first thing to really stand out about her was her eyes. Her eyes were green; green like mine.
The letter all but forgotten, it was like being entranced by some kind of spell. It wasn’t a feeling of looking in the mirror and seeing my own image. There weren’t that many immediately obvious, recognizable, similarities. It was just that looking at her felt so strangely familiar, and so confusingly comforting. It wasn’t some miraculous feeling of familiarity, and comfort because I recognized some deep emotional mother daughter bond just by looking at her picture. It was, however, something just as emotionally deep, at least for someone, who had never experienced such a thing before.
Putting the feeling into words doesn’t seem to do its importance justice, but I’ll do the best I can. It was this comfort of, well, seeing yourself in someone, of being connected to someone, who was physically real, being a part of someone, by nothing more than you’re just being alike. It is a feeling of belonging like no other that all humans have. It is something that, long ago, we had to have for survival; something very primal. Finally able to break the trance, I got back to the letter.
The letter was brief, only a few paragraphs. As I read, I’m not sure I really absorbed the words she had written. I seemed to be a bit numb, and a bit caught off guard by the effect of the picture. I wasn’t sure what to feel, to think. What she had written, in her letter, had not upset me, nor had it made me feel angry or rejected. She hadn’t been unhappy about being found, but there was something about her letter that hadn’t given me much comfort either. Her letter left me feeling even more confused than the long wait for it had.
Not capable, at the time, of understanding where she was coming from, I did the only thing I think I could have done. I put the letter down, pushed the discomfort from my mind, happy for what I had, and went back to something that gave me a bit of comfort, her picture. The letter forgotten, the feelings of anger, rejection, and confusion, forgotten, for the time being anyway, I focused on the picture.
I took it to work. I was thrilled to have this piece of E; this piece of me, and I showed it to anyone who would give me the time, telling them about finding E. I got such a thrill out of showing E’s picture, listening to them as each person pointed out all the similarities they saw in us. Listening to them go on about how I had her nose, her smile, and the like, was like listening to people when they carry on about who the new baby looks like. As an adoptee, it was a feeling I had never experienced. It felt good, damn good. It gave me this feeling of security, and a comforting feeling of belonging like I hadn’t ever felt before. Most of all, it gave me the strangest feeling of relief. Finally, I looked like someone. I was no longer different, and I hadn’t even realized I had ever felt that way.
This time, I wasn’t in quite such a hurry to respond to E’s letter. The picture had been my focus, and her letter mostly forgotten, as it had left me uncertain and confused. I didn’t care what she had written. It didn’t matter. I had a picture, she had replied. That was all that really mattered to me.
As with my first letter to E, I don’t recall what I wrote in my second letter. Because I know what happens next, I will speculate this time, and tell you that I did what, perhaps, most adoptees do. I felt the need to reassure her. I am sure I wrote all the standard things adoptees say trying to give comfort to their parents of origin; only giving the brightest points of our lives, and saying what we think our first parents want to hear. By this time too, as she hadn’t, in her first letter told me much of anything about her or her family, my curiosity was in full force, and was becoming something more like desperation.
There was no going back now, at least not for me. I had to know more. At 23 years old, I suppose, the fact that she had finally replied, secured, at least in my mind, that there was nothing to be concerned about. Everything was fine now, so when, once again, weeks began to go by, with no response, those feelings of my first wait began to surface again. This time, they seemed to be even more intense. It would be another three months before I received another letter from E.
Whatever confusion, anxiety, and now, apprehension, I had felt, would now be compounded by her second letter.
She stated clearly that she was afraid, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand of what, or why. Because, at 23 years old, how could I possibly understand what she was feeling, I ignored her words, ignored my feelings of uneasiness. When you feel happy, angry, and sad all at the same time, with no one to explain, or help you understand, that it is a normal thing to feel in adoption reunion, what else can you do?
I told myself it was all fine. This letter was a bit longer, though she still hadn’t answered any questions, and there were more pictures. She had included a picture of M, and P, my siblings. Thrilled doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt about getting those pictures. Just like with the first letter, the second one took a back seat to the pictures. The pictures captured my thoughts, my focus, and my heart. They were adorable. They were perfect.
M was wearing a drill team uniform, posed sitting on a picnic table, legs crossed, with her elbow propped on her knee. Her head was slightly at an angle resting on her fist. I was more aware of the need to be physically connected by physical characteristics, after getting the picture of E, and I immediately searched her face. It’s funny. At the time, I couldn’t really see any similarities, though E had mentioned that M and I looked alike. I just didn’t see it.
The picture of P was a picture of him in his football uniform, down on one knee, with the helmet at his foot. It was his picture that completely stopped me in my tracks, and took my breath away. I couldn’t believe it. It was so oh my God, like looking in the mirror, well, if I had been a boy. It was remarkable the instant recognizable similarities. Have I already said it stunned me? I felt an instant connection and a bond to P that I hadn’t felt with M, or E. I took the picture and placed it next to a picture of me at about his age. It was incredible. It was like looking at twins. The feeling was quite euphoric.
It was official, even if I couldn’t consciously put it into words. I was connected to them, bonded to them, and they me. I was a part of them, and they me, in a way I would never be a part of my adoptive family, and in a way my adoptive family could never be a part of me. It’s called biological connection, and it is something that you can tangibly feel a loss for, even when you don’t know it.
Now, it would be E’s turn to wait for a response. This new revelation of biological connection, which I, at the time, couldn’t put into words, had completely overwhelmed me. My adoptive family still had no idea, as I hadn’t told any of them about the letters or pictures. I don’t really know why. I suppose, I just didn’t feel ready to go down that road. I suppose, if I’m going to be honest, I was afraid, very afraid, and for all sorts of reasons, that really have very little to do with my adoptive family. It was all becoming a bit much to deal with. Something was going to give. The dam, of my simple, adoptee curiosity, was about to break, and change my life forever.