In 2009 I searched for and found my birth-mother. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2003. I was 6 years too late to meet the woman who gave me life. Shortly after finding out who my birth-mother was I found the rest of her family. It is interesting that “her” family is actually “my” family but I still struggle with applying definitions to this new family even after 5 years. I vacillate between calling my birthmother, Mom and Helen and neither seems to fit right. It is small things like that and the relationships after the reunion that no one really gives you guidance as to how to make those work.
There is so much energy that goes in to the search for biological connections; so much anticipation. It becomes the chase; the hunt, that often drives you forward. I found my birth-mother after searching for 20 years in October of 2009(view blog about search here). By the end of 2009 I had met a sister, a brother, a niece, an aunt and uncle and several other relatives that I am not sure how they all fit in to this new family.
Shortly after Christmas that same year, I was exhausted!
People came out of the wood work, messaged me on Facebook, and with each contact I was excited yet more and more exhausted. They were all excited to find the lost relative that many didn’t even know existed. I was the buried treasure that came from an affair Helen had with her black co-worker. This was juicy gossip and many were just curious. I was curious too but at the time I just didn’t understand the light and curiosity would be all directed to me like a scorching spot light and the result was a tiring and overwhelming experience.
Over the next two years contact would be on and off with the new family. The last physical contact between me and my biological sister would take place in 2011 shortly after Christmas. She invited my family and I to come visit her at her home in Plymouth, Michigan. She advised our brother and his daughter would be there as well. I was excited to see them again and made the short hour trip up north with my wife and two boys. We knocked on her small apartment door and someone I didn’t know answered. I asked for my sister and soon she appeared after wading through the apartment that was packed with people. She welcomed us in and walked us in to her living room. In the living and spilling over to the kitchen and dining room were relatives I didn’t know. They were all introduced but their relationship to me didn’t register. I couldn’t comprehend much because too much was being plugged in to me. My brain was growing dim and one circuit after another was shutting down. I sat down in the closest seat hoping to just melt in to the fabric. My eyes searched the room and began to count the guests in the tiny two bedroom apartment. When I reached 20 I stopped.
On a small TV in the corner the PBR championships were on. PBR used to mean Pabst Blue Ribbon but on this day it meant the Profession Bull Riders Championship. They were watching a rodeo and as a person of color that is not the type of TV that makes one feel comfortable. My family and I are the only faces of color at the party so blending right in wasn’t an option. I tried to act unaffected but I was OVERWHELMED and couldn’t wait to leave. The evening finally ended and I was relieved to get in our small car with my small family.
The weeks that follow, were filled with mixed emotions. I understood my sister was happy to show off her long lost brother, but no thought was given to how I would feel. I wasn’t given enough information about the party to make an informed decision as to whether I wanted to be put in that position. My contact with my sister faded over the next several months and I was okay with this outcome. Technically we are family but we don’t have a map as to what that is supposed to mean or what that looks like.
Today it’s been at least a year since I talked to my sister or brother. I exchange messages on Facebook with my brother’s daughter and I enjoy that contact. The risk of re-starting those relationships scares me and as I get older the risk of opening up to people who could potentially hurt me or reject me is more and more unattractive. Surrounding myself with people I know and trust is much more comforting.
Overall I am glad I found and met my biological family and I think they are all interesting people. The difficulty comes in trying to fit them in to my life and them fitting me in to theirs. Right now the logistics of all that makes my head hurt. When you add in my growing preference for a smaller group in my circle of contacts it makes the likelihood of continued contact and relationship building very doubtful.
Looking back on the search I realized the romantic idea of the reunion was the pull for me. Seeing genetic connections, and digging up the lost treasure was what excited me. The chasing of information and connections becomes like a game and all the twists and turns and dead ends made it more exhilarating. What I lost sight of was the information did connect to people and navigating those relationships would take work, energy, patience and risk. I didn’t realize digging up those connections would also dig up and expose my fears about relationships and relationship building.
Although it was not a Normal Rockwell ending the search was necessary for me. I needed to find those connections and I needed to learn those lessons. I am thankful for it all even the missteps. Finding the treasure gave me more peace than the frustration that followed. This journey is never static and that’s part of the wonderful ride that comes with the admission in to this amusement park called Adoption.