My parents recently moved to a retirement community. Ten years ago, when they moved from our multi-level family home to a somewhat smaller, one-level house, my siblings and I dealt with the accumulation of childhood memorabilia. This recent move necessitated some deeper cuts. There was extra furniture, an abundance of kitchen appliances and utensils, many sets of china, dishes, and glassware, rugs, books, etc. that had to be claimed or donated. There were also 1000s of slides my father had taken, beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the 1980s, to remember his work, his courtship with my mother, each child’s birth and development, extended family gatherings, and a multitude of trips, with and without children. I volunteered to weed through the slides and convert them to digital form.
It was a time-consuming but enjoyable process – enjoyable because I could revisit other times and places I had not thought of in many years.
Even with pictures I remembered, I often saw something in them I had not seen before. For example, as I converted my dad’s pictures of his young bride, I was intrigued by her poses and his desire to capture her beauty. They were the kinds of pictures – G-rated pictures – that lovers take of each other.
I also noticed my paternal grandfather’s crooked smile and thought: “THAT’s where I got my own crooked smile.”
Indeed, I noticed lots of family traits and likened them to the younger generation created by my siblings.
My brother, Timothy…
My nephew, John David
The baby pictures were enchanting. Such beautiful babies, I thought.
and with her Daddy
And then it hit me – like a sharp pain or ache: “I wish I’d been able to have a baby that looks like me.” My next immediate thought was: “Where did that come from? I love my children.” Yet, there it was, the old longing, the infertility sadness. I’d dealt with that, right?
Surely a longing to create children who look like us is chiseled into our DNA. It’s a demand to propagate the species. It is no wonder to me that adoptees long to know the people and family into which they were born. It is no wonder to me that birth parents continue to feel grief about being separated from their offspring. We are all hurt by this process of adoption. And the hurt goes on, over time, even with open adoption.
Of course, different individuals feel the hurt to different degrees. Some infertile couples never even attempt to adopt because the alternative to their own biologically related children is unthinkable. Likewise, some pregnant women (and their partners, if involved) would never consider placing their child for adoption even when the odds of raising that child successfully are stacked against them. And while some adoptees seem content to know only their adoptive families, others may search their whole lives for genetic kin.
The best scenario – to my way of thinking – is to acknowledge the hurt. It is when the hurt is brought out into the open and dealt with honestly that we can move on. The hurt may – and probably will – erupt again. But this is true of so many of life’s imperfections. We must address them over and over again. The hurt may be a broken heart, a disability, a major illness or death, a natural disaster, poverty, addiction, and so forth. Whenever those hurts interfere with living our lives to their potential, we must face them and find our path anew. Or so it seems to me…
On the other hand, Love is Love. I challenge you to discover any difference between the way this grandmother loves the grandchildren that are genetically similar to her and the ones who aren’t.