Thursday, July 17, 2014
At the age of 20, I placed a baby for adoption. I did it because I already had two children and I could barely care for them. I did it, not because I didn't want him, but because I wanted something better for him than I had to offer. To this date, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I placed my children in a foster home, traveled to Waukegan IL, lived in a maternity home, gave birth to him, and placed him for adoption. I returned home and resumed my life, thinking I had given him (and myself) a fighting chance. Not once did I regret that decision.
I thought of him often and had twice initiated a search on my own, in 1994 and 2004. I registered all my information with the state, adoption agency, and adoption registries. I stopped short of looking for his information. Both times, my goal was to leave my information for him to find, so that the timing would be on his terms. That day came on June 17, 2014, twenty years later.
The email simply stated that my son had registered his information with the adoption agency recently in his attempt to find me. It also had his name and contact information included. I waited an hour. I breathed in and out. I felt the blood drain from my fingers and toes. I looked over into the great abyss that was my knowing and not knowing, my loving, and not knowing how to love, my yearning and my not daring to hope. Then I called him.
We talked for an hour. We waited a week and talked again. In that first week, I didn't tell a soul, except his bio-Dad. I wanted to savor the moment and keep it to myself. The morning after our first conversation, I called his bio-Dad and gave him the contact information. His bio-Dad and I had kept in touch throughout the years just for this purpose. Whoever found him first was to tell the other. He and his bio-Dad met and had lunch together a week later.
My son and I talked about getting together. I thought we would wait until he could fly down to meet me and his half siblings, but I was so full of anticipation the day he and his bio-Dad met, that I decided I should get in the car and drive up and see him. I asked his permission to come see him. Then I enlisted my best friend Ann, who knew immediately why I suddenly needed to go to Chicago. With only two weeks planning time, we put together a 3 day Thelma and Louise style road trip. We were to meet my son and his brother (their parents were both deceased) as well as his bio-Dad and his wife, who lived in the same city. We made the drive up in about nine hours. The first time I saw him, I knew it was him right away. Ann pulled up to his apartment and he was sitting on the stoop waiting. I got out of the car (barely waiting for it to come to a full stop) and hurried up to him. We hugged. He is a good 10 inches taller than me, so his hug totally engulfed me. I closed my eyes and felt myself soar right into and through him and into the clouds. I was surprised to open my eyes and find my feet still firmly fixed on the pavement. As Ann drove away, we decided to walk to the beach, 3 blocks away and sit and talk. We talked for hours. We asked and answered one another's questions. After walking back to his apartment, we changed and went to meet everyone for dinner. My son had invited his family members, and his bio-Dad's family. We all had the best time getting to know one another. We took pictures, ate Chicago-style pizza, laughed, and cried. I looked around the table at my enlarging extended family and felt full of gratitude. As Ann's natural warmth and loquaciousness is put to use engaging family members, my son, his bio-Dad and I sit next to one another, our three hands forming a tight triad, as we soak in a moment of shared physical reunification. "This is the gift I wanted to give you", I tell him, "all of us together." I resist the urge to kiss away his tears and instead stroke his cheek. "Isn't he beautiful?", I ask his bio-Dad. "Yes, he is", he answers simply as we all gaze back and forth in amazement at one another. All the others pretend to be busy with other conversations and allow us this small public privacy. Someone has the foresight to take a photo. It is my favorite one of the trip, our three heads tipped toward one another in a tripod of hard and earnest concentration.
The next day my son took me to a meditative garden and we simply sat in silence and held hands. I couldn't stop looking at him, drinking him in. He took Ann and I on a tour of all the places he had lived and the schools he had went to as he reminisced his childhood. We had dinner that evening at an Indian restaurant. I plied him with mango lassas and garlic naan as we all sampled each other's main courses. We have discovered a commonality; our love of Indian food. After dinner, we went to the beach as the sun was setting and sat in silence in the sand.
The final day, my son and I went to breakfast with his bio-Dad, and my son's brother came along. His older brother told us stories about our son from his childhood that had us bursting with laughter. After breakfast, my son, his bio-Dad and I made a quick trip to visit the adoption agency. We spoke to the social worker who had sent me the email. She hugged us all and made a fuss and had someone take pictures of us. It had been my son's idea to visit her and I could see she was very pleased. He had made several trips there during years of searching and she had been very helpful to him. My son is a wonderful man full of promise and vitality. He is a quiet reserved soul like me and his bio-Dad. He has world weary eyes, but an infectious smile. We talk with ease, and try to understand one another. His life has been difficult. He is fresh returned from two tours of duty in Afghanistan. As we leave the agency, I observe quietly from the backseat as his bio-Dad advises him on car repair. They tip their heads toward one another in a quiet exchange. The city sights and sounds fall away. The dream child of my imagination gives way to the flesh and blood man occupying the seat in front of me. We have all fallen together in a disheveled heap- blending our disparate lives- getting messy along the way. Since our reunion, I have ascended the heavens with joyous rapture, and wallowed in the darkest depths of black despair. Too many emotions to describe. What the future holds, I cannot say, but it is my earnest hope that we will all face it together.