Ronni (my wife) said something to me in the midst of this drama with my (adoptive) mom not being home for Christmas. She described (accurately, I think) my feelings about my family as that of grief.
I think why this comment struck me so much wasn't that it was accurate (which it was), but that I had thought I had dealt with this particular grief already.
It is perhaps a feeling that most people have to go through at some point in their lives, whether adopted or not. It is the realization that your parents aren't perfect, that they are simply human, with all the foibles that implies.
Everyone makes that discovery at different points. For me, it was early on when my (adoptive) parents divorced. I was seven years old. My parents did their best after that, but the various things that happened around that time revealed their feet of clay. Through much of my childhood, and even into my young adulthood, I grieved that loss.
Sometime in grad school, after I had moved out of state, I felt like I came fully to grips with that. My parents and I began forming relationships that seemed sturdy, still between parents and children, but also between adults. I had achieved a kind of peace with their imperfections and thought I had gotten over whatever grief I had felt.
The lesson of this month (and one of the lessons of my reunion, I think) is that that grief will always be there, ready to resurface. Maybe it will wax and wane for the rest of my life. Maybe it will come up when things set it off. I don't know. But I do know it was naive to think it was gone.
For me, the grief seems to be caused by the feeling that my parents aren't willing to put their children first. That something else (their differences, their new spouses, their careers, etc.) always seems to pull them away. It's not because I'm adopted; it's true about all of the kids (in my mind, at least). Maybe I notice it more? Maybe I'm more sensitive to it? I'm not sure.
They aren't going to change. I just have to decide if I can find the ability to live with it, to accept that's how they are. If so, I need to remember that. I need to not expect more from them than they are capable of.
It's a lesson I need to relearn, I suppose. Maybe one I will need to learn again and again over my life.