Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Year

This past year was pretty full.

I had my first birthday with my (first) mom. Well, sort of. We spoke, and she sent me a birthday card and gifts. It was probably the first birthday I had that I looked forward to.

I got to meet my other three biological brothers and spend more time visiting with my mom.

I sent several letters to my biological father, only to have them go unanswered and the last one returned unopened.

Ignoring the problems getting my biological father to respond to my attempts at communication, and the current difficulties with my (adoptive) mom, it's been a good year. I'm hoping the next year is a bit less complicated, and more straightforwardly good.

I'm also hoping Shelly has some luck with her own search.

Thank you all for reading this year. See you in 2009.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

christmas with the family

i am going to write a screenplay. a holiday family type thing. i know, it's been done. done to death. but, as i have told many an anxiety-filled teen or friend at this time of year: it's everyone! it isn't your crazy family. it isn't that you are particularly bizarre as a unit. it's a cultural thing. it's a US thing. there is a reason that all the already-existing "fucked-up-family-christmas" movies are disturbingly popular among the masses. it is a universal US American experience. and i am going to write a screenplay about the absurdity of it all. fiction, of course.

so after another six days of fun-filled family festivities with the family i already have, i am sort of back to wondering: do i really want to risk taking on another one of these?!

the paperwork is done. just have to write a check. but i think i will wait until my dad is out of the hospital. again.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Adoption and Vacation

Adoption itself came up exactly once during my visit with my (adoptive) family in Ohio. Christmas Eve, my brother came over to the hotel with his wife and their son. This was just before we would go over to my dad's extended family Christmas gathering.

My nephew said, "Uncle Phil, I know you are adopted." And I replied "I know it, too. Indeed, I'm acutely aware of that fact." My nephew is eight years old, so he probably didn't understand the implication in my words. He said nothing else, as the television was on and he is easily distracted.

That was it. There was no follow-up from his mom, who was in the room at the time. But it told me that his parents must have discussed my adoption at some point. I have no idea what they might have said. Maybe I should have used it as an opportunity to broach the subject with my sister-in-law and, when he returned to the room, my brother. But I didn't. It was so out-of-the-blue, and none of the adults seem interested in talking about it at all. So that it was it.

Having been in New York visiting my in-laws for a day and a half, I've already talked quite a bit about adoption with them. They seem very interested in my experiences and my reunion.

I also had the chance to go to an adoption support group meeting down in the Village. It was of special interest because Betty Jean Lifton was supposed to be in attendance. (She wrote Journey of the Adopted Self, for those that are unfamiliar with the name. One of the books I highly recommend.)

It was a good group. It always seems to help me, not just to talk about my own things, but to hear others working through some of the same issues. The support and shared experiences in that setting (and others - such as the forum online) are very helpful for me, I have found.

Lifton participated in the group. It was nice, actually, to have her simply as a participant, rather than a speaker. She gave her reactions to some of the stories that others shared.

I also got to talk with her for several minutes after the meeting ended. It was a little odd to be sharing some of my story with such a well-known author and therapist. But it was a good kind of odd, you know? We exchanged e-mails (as she did with others in the group) and asked us to keep in touch.

The difference between my time in Ohio and my time in New York (even though I've been in NY for only a day and a half) is the difference between night and day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mostly a Good Day

I had a good Christmas. I talked to my (first) mom right away this morning. Then I spent the rest of the morning with my (adoptive) father and siblings. Good breakfast, and fun watching the kids (my niece and nephews) opening gifts. For a little bit, the family was together. And it was nice.

Then my wife and I, as well as my dad, went over to his parents house and visited with them a bit. (We had had Christmas with that part of the extended family the night before, so not too many people were over.) Then we went over to my brother's house and spent the afternoon and evening there. My sister came over, too. (My other brother did not.)

It was a lot of fun, really. But when we passed out gifts to the kids (these from my adoptive mom), there was a gift for my wife and I from my mom. I tried to ignore it. It was just an envelope, so I set it aside.

Then, while we were playing cards, she called. My brother talked to her for a bit, and then he tried to hand me the phone, but I shook my head "no." She talked to my sister, and then they hung up.

For me, it cast a bit of a pall over the rest of the evening. I didn't talk about it, and just got back to playing cards. Neither my brother nor my sister said anything to me. I was grateful for that. But I still found myself upset with her.

I am angry, and I don't know how to stop being angry with her. I don't think I want to cut her out of my life. That doesn't solve anything. It doesn't make me feel better thinking about it. But I also don't know how to stop being angry with her. I expected the hurt to fade. But her not being here, her choosing to be elsewhere today, continues to bother me whenever I think about her.

The trip has generally been positive. I haven't been thinking about her much during this week. But today, there were just enough reminders that it was hard to ignore it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adoptee Rights Day

They are working hard on the Adoptee Rights Day in Philadelphia in July.

They have a new logo up and the page seems to be updated almost daily. (I keep seeing updates on Twitter and Facebook.)

Here's the new logo...


You can click on the logo to go straight to the site. Check it out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bad Attitude

I'm home. And by home, I mean far away from any place that I might reasonably be expected to call "home."

I'm in the city where I spent the majority of my under-age years. (For reasons best left for another time, I don't feel right calling it my "childhood.")

I've spent time with my father. Good time, actually. We've gone out to eat a couple of times and had nice (and relatively light) conversation.

And I talked with one of my brothers. But I was too tired after the flight yesterday to go visit him. I'm sure I'll see him this week.

Today, my wife and I went to my old college town and hung out with friends of mine from those days. We're still friends, but I met them in college. Indeed, in some ways, I think of them as my third family. Sometimes maybe even my best family. We've been through a lot together. And I feel most at home with them, I think. I don't see them nearly enough. And these visits make my trips back to where I grew up all the more meaningful.

And now part of me is wishing I could just leave.

I mean, I want to see my siblings, and visit with my dad some more. But I feel so out of sorts. I feel so disconnected from everyone. And I came wanting to find a way to make this enjoyable. But I feel like I've got a bad attitude about it all.

Part of me is surprised that I'm still upset with my mother for not being here. I guess this really was the last straw in some ways. To be this upset with her for this long... It has cast this whole trip in a negative light.

But I don't think it's right that, because I'm upset with her, that I should suffer or make others suffer. I'm trying to enjoy myself, to be present for those people that are around. But it's hard to feel part of a family when you aren't staying with family, when you are staying in a hotel, driving around visiting people. It's hard to feel those connections when it all feels like an afternoon visit.

I know I need an attitude transplant. Or I'm going to return home with a worse feeling than when I came. But I don't know how to set this aside. As much as I've enjoyed the first two days, I just don't know how I'm going to stand another five.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas (a week early)

My (first) mom and I had Christmas tonight (Thursday night). We had each sent the other a box of presents. We opened our respective gifts and then called each other.

I had gotten her a t-shirt from the school I teach at (their school mascot is a dragon, and she has been doing a lot of research on dragons in literature) and a dragon figure. (I don't want to over-do it with dragons, but both of these things were things I had been wanting to give her for a long time.) I also gave her a copy of the film Wall-E from Pixar, probably my favorite film of this year.

She gave me J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard and a digital picture frame. She loaded a memory card with pictures of our extended family. She also printed out a family tree that she had been constructing (inspired by questions I asked at the beginning of our reunion). I was blown away. I just sat there, looking at all this information and these pictures. I was on a family tree. I have dozens and dozens of blood relatives.

Then we talked on the phone for three hours (until our cell phones ran out of battery charge). It was so nice to talk and swap stories and reactions to gifts and everything else we could think of. There is something so healing about talking with her. It was good.

I mentioned my (adoptive) mom not being home for Christmas and wished I could be visiting her (my first mom). And part of me wanted to talk about it with her. But I stopped myself. I didn't want her to tell me that I should understand, as that would upset me. At the same time, I didn't want to upset her. I didn't want to tell her how negative I was feeling about my (adoptive) mom, and I especially did not want to dig up the past. If she didn't dismiss my feelings, then she might very well feel guilty for giving me up in the first place. Neither reaction would have made me feel better. So I thought I should keep it to myself at this point.

It was just a nice time. It did make me wish I could be there for Christmas, but I'm trying to stay positive about this trip. And I know I'll get to talk to her again soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I sent a letter to my (adoptive) mother. It was rather short, but it briefly explained that I was upset that she didn't come home for Christmas. That I was upset that I wasn't a priority for her.

It was the kinder, gentler, and thus shorter version I sent.

But the day before, I wrote a much longer, more explicit, and more emotion-filled letter. I didn't send that one. Maybe I will, at some point, send a version of that letter. It lays out, in some detail, all the things that preceded this disappointment.

I really felt like I was writing a break-up letter. I don't think I've written that emotional of a letter in more than ten years. It's scary to have written it. And scarier still to send it. I just needed to say something.

Well, I needed to get it off my chest, which is why I wrote the longer letter. The shorter letter that I actually sent came from the need to say something.

You see, my mom had been calling me. I last spoke to her when she told me she wasn't coming home. And the different emotions I've been feeling make me nervous to talk to her. I'm afraid I might say things out of anger that I can't take back. Maybe I should say some of these things, but I want them to come from a calmer place, if I do.

Well, I hadn't been returning her calls. And she started sounding anxious on messages. Indeed, after I had mailed the letter, I got a call last night that sounded very worried, indeed.

So I called my sister, who I knew had been talking to our mom, and asked her to tell my mother that I was okay, and that I had sent a letter she should be getting soon.

But I didn't tell my sister anything. I'm trying to keep my siblings out of it. I don't want them to be mad at her. And I don't want them to be mad at me.

I don't think I can just walk away. I'm not sure I would want to, even if I could. But I don't really know how to move forward, either. I guess I'll see how she reacts to my letter. We'll see.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adoptee Rights Demonstration

I know it's the dead of winter where I am. We just survived a blizzard. But July 21st is only just over seven months away.

That's when adoptees will gather in Philadelphia to once again demand equal rights. I hope I can go, but I'm not sure. Still, everyone reported a good time last year. And it is an important cause for everyone who supports adoptees.

If you want to follow developments of the protest, go to the website:

Adoptee Rights Demonstration

Help out, contribute, attend. For all adoptees.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Guilt Cards

I've been trying not to rant about my (adoptive) mom not being home for Christmas. I mean, as I pointed out, it's not exactly adoption related. Though, to be sure, it has its connections. But, in the past couple of days, I've gotten some Christmas cards, heavy on the guilt.

The first is from my mom's older sister. In it, she felt the need to tell me how wonderful my mom is for being their for their sister.

This tells me that my mom must have expressed guilt or concern about me being upset about her not being there. And her sister decided to rise to her defense. I couldn't help but think "if my mom's doing such a wonderful thing, why isn't my aunt going down to help out, too?" And the answer is obvious. She has family back home that needs her. That comes first. So as much as she might wish she could be there, she recognizes her own responsibilities. And that is what my own mother seems not to recognize. Far from making me feel better about this situation, it simply annoys me that she said something to my aunt, and my aunt decided to defend her to me, in a Christmas card for goodness sake.

Then yesterday, I got the card from my mom. In it, she justifies staying there because my aunt is sick. She thanks me for understanding and hopes that I'll forgive her.

Again, this is a Christmas card. A Christmas card. Who does this sort of thing in a Christmas card?

She assumes that I understand, which I don't. And she implies an apology. But I wonder what she's apologizing for? After all, she doesn't seem to be sorry. She doesn't think she's done anything wrong. She believes that she is doing the right thing. She may be sorry that I'm upset, but she isn't willing to do anything to make me not upset. She simply defends herself. Against a charge that I haven't made (except, perhaps, by my silence). That's not sorrow or remorse. She just wants me to not be upset. But she thinks I'm wrong to be upset.

The more this sort of thing goes on, the more certain that I become that she is wrong. That she doesn't even understand why she's wrong. The more she does this, the less inclined I am to try to find a way to forgiveness.

I hope she stops. I hope that she just lets it be for a little while. I need to come to grips with the fact that she doesn't prioritize me. I need to find a way to be okay with the fact that other people will always come first. Maybe I can find a way to do that. But not if she keeps this stuff up.

Families are hard. They're hard for many people (if not everyone). And I know they can be hard whether or not adoption is involved. I could just really do without this drama right now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Is there a history of...?"

I just had a warm-fuzzy moment I just had to share.

I've been having some back issues and had an appointment today with a physical therapist. He was asking me questions about the pain, and I answered them as carefully as possible. And then, at one point, he asked if there was a history of back pain in my family.


I had just exchanged a couple of e-mails with my (first) mom and she told me that she and two of her sisters had had back problems. So I knew the answer to his question!!!

It's these little moments that both make me feel more normal than I ever have and make me realize just how abnormal I felt before.

Mind you, I still have back pain. And that sucks. But it just felt so good to be able to answer that question without my usual song and dance that basically comes to "I don't know."

It's one of those moments so many people probably take for granted, and I finally get to enjoy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Choosing Your Tribe

I follow Suzanne Vega pretty closely. She is one of my favorite musicians. Yesterday, she posted an article on They New York Times' Measure for Measure blog. In it she talks about her background, her heritage, and its connection to her music.

Which Side Are You On?:

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was raised in a half-Puerto Rican family and spent five years in East Harlem as a young child. At some point, when I was about 9 years old, I learned that my birth father was actually English-Scottish-Irish. Or white, as we used to say in my old neighborhood. Actually, anybody looking at me could probably tell that this was the case, but I felt I was the last to know, partly because I was treated by my Puerto Rican abuelita and my aunt and uncle as one of their own. I was proud, and still am proud, to be a Vega.

She talks about music identifying which tribe we've chosen to belong to. (She gives examples such as "goth, emo, hippie, punk, folk, alternative".) In general, it's a fascinating post.

It gets especially interesting as she includes a recording a song demo, a song that has never before come out, that she hasn't played for audiences. Given her background, it is probably no surprise that the song resonated for me, especially the first verse and the chorus:

"Daddy Is White (By Suzanne Vega, 2007)"

I am an average white girl who comes from Upper Manhattan.
And I am totally white, but I was raised half Latin.
This caused me some problems among my friends and my foes,
Cause when you look into my face, it’s clear what everybody else knows:

My daddy is white.
So I must be white too.
When you look into the mirror, what
Comes looking back at you?

If your daddy is white,
You must be white too.
When you look into the mirror
what comes looking back at you?

If you click on the link for the post (above), you can listen to the song yourself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Card

I think I'm going to send my father a Christmas card. I thought about including a picture, but maybe that's too much. I'm not going to write much, and I'm not going to try to make him feel guilty for not writing. I think I just want to let him know I'm not going anywhere. Just because I haven't pestered him these past few months, doesn't mean I've forgotten him. I don't know if this is too little or too much. I still intend to show up on his doorstep at some point (maybe this coming spring?) if he doesn't write me back. But I figured keeping open that line of communication would at least keep me on his mind. I'm hoping that repeated reminders will weigh on him to the point where he might be open to at least a brief conversation or some such.

That's me, the perpetual optimist. *sigh*

Monday, December 1, 2008

NaBloPoMo and Adoption Month Are Both Over

Well, National Adoption month is finally over. I'm hoping that the news stories lauding adoption will drop off a bit.

National Blog Posting Month is also over. And as a result, I don't have to push myself to post every day now. Not that it wasn't fun. But I don't always want to feel like I have to post. One thing I have learned, though, is that I need to post here. It's good for me to write some of this out.

So I may drop off from posting every day. But I'm going to keep posting regularly. At least once a week again. And I hope to post more frequently than that. Every day seems a bit much (especially since I have another blog I try to post to nearly every day). And I may not always have adoption stuff to talk about. But I figure I can do at least one day a week. More when possible.

I know I've made the once a week promise before. But I'm hoping that the last month of regular updates will help me get back on track. Thanks for reading these last thirty days. And we're not going anywhere.