Do I look like you?
If you are adopted, you might have considered that question along with a host of others. Do I smile like you? Do I have your eyes? Would we laugh at the same jokes? Do we enjoy the same things? Or, more somberly, why did you leave? Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t you love me?
As a kid I thought a lot about those questions. No one really knew how much I contemplated them except for God and me.
My parents told me about my biological father when I was five years old. Memory plays tricks on us. If mine serves me well today, I remember sitting on my white bedroom outfit when my parents told me my dad wasn’t my biological father. I don’t remember the exact words they used, but I think they asked if I would like my dad to adopt me. I think I might have cried at first. That’s quite a bombshell when you’re only five.
My parents had gotten married when I was about 9 months old, so my dad was the only father figure I ever knew. I was lucky to have a father figure. Many kids don’t. Of course I wanted him to adopt me. He was my dad.
My parents had to publish in the newspaper about the upcoming adoption in case my biological father protested. He didn’t.
I didn’t know his name as a kid, but I sometimes wondered about him. Who was he? Why didn’t he want me? Why didn’t he care about me?
The only clue I had about my biological father was he and my mom went to high school together. As I got older, I remember sneaking my mom’s high school yearbooks into my room. I had them splayed across my lime green and orange shag carpeting. (It was the 70’s after all.)
I carefully turned the pages as I explored each boy’s photo. I was looking for an expression that might reflect mine. Which one had eyes like me? Was this boy my father? How about this one? I had selected several suspects, but I could never narrow it down to “the one” I thought might be my father.
It was kind of an off limits topic. I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I didn’t want my dad to get his feelings hurt if I talked about my biological father. There was a lot of hurt lurking under the surface and I definitely possessed issues of abandonment because my biological father hadn’t been in the picture. In part, some of my later approval-seeking from men can be traced right back to this issue. (Psych 101 stuff really.)
Father’s Day recently behind us, I consider the powerful impact dads have in their children’s lives. Not too long ago I saw a dad at church pouring into his young daughter, loving her like nobody’s business. I smiled and thought to myself, “That little girl has got a really good chance. She’s likely to make really good decisions about men as she grows older.”
One day, my father curiosity was finally cured. When I was 16 a meeting was arranged with my biological father. My mom came along. By that time we had moved from my birthplace, so we took a road trip back to Galesburg. I am going to assume I asked for the meeting. How crazy is it that I don’t remember? Often, I don’t remember things. I think it’s some sort of defense mechanism or something. Anyhow, I ended up meeting my biological father. His name was Rex.
There are sad things that stand out to me about Rex. I wish I had better memories. Unfortunately, all I really remember was the game of Sex Trivia on the top of his refrigerator and the bowl on his kitchen table. The bowl I’m referring to wasn’t a cereal bowl; it was a bowl to smoke pot in. It was lying right out in the open for the world to see. My mom didn’t know what it was. I did.
As an adult I think to myself, why didn’t he put those things away for the first meeting with his daughter? My guess is he was probably nervous about meeting me and got high to calm his nerves. I don’t know. But I still find it sad. I don’t remember anything we actually talked about, but the other two images are burned into my brain.
I don’t mean to seem disrespectful. I’m sure Rex had good characteristics and qualities. I just don’t know what they were.
At least now I know who I look like. I have his eyes. I have his dark colored hair. I’m sure I inherited some of his issues, but hopefully some of his good traits too. Maybe he laughed really loud like I do. Maybe my super-silly side can be traced back to him. His eyes twinkled and he had a large, warm smile as evidenced in the picture of him below.
Apparently, he was a really good pool player. THAT I did not inherit from him. I’m horrible at pool.
I think I might have just gotten the answer to a question that will seem obvious now. I always wondered what had driven me to attend church for several months, all by myself, as a 16 year old. Maybe the meeting with Rex is what prompted that desire. Meeting Rex hadn’t filled the deep, gaping hole in my heart that only Jesus can fill. I don’t know for sure, but the theory makes sense on the surface.
That day was my only meeting with Rex. About a year later, he died. Heart attack at age 40. I attended his wake. There’s no other word to describe it but weird. Rex had a huge family, mostly brothers and one sister, I believe. I was overwhelmed with aunts, uncles, & cousins galore. I sat on a picnic table chatting with relatives I had never met until Rex’s funeral. You have to admit, it’s strange.
After the wake I had a visit with Rex’s mom, my grandma. She seemed like a nice enough lady. She loved the Cubs and had a cigarette that dangled from her mouth as she spoke. She had lost her son, but she gave me some of his pictures. It’s all I have of his. That – and his eyes.
I was happy to have met my biological relatives. It’s helpful to know where you come from. Apparently, they were the take no crap kind of family. Ahem. I might have inherited that trait. Apparently, they were a bit rebellious. Ahem. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I never saw any of my relatives again. We lived about four hours away and we didn’t have strong family memories to bind us together. We had no memories, other than a funeral.
There’s one person in particular that has been on my mind lately. She also has some of Rex’s traits. Maybe there are more memories to be made. Time will tell.
I can’t leave you hanging here in this emotional space. In case you missed it, I wrote a blog about my grandma and how God used her to help me come to terms with being adopted.
As an adult, I view being adopted much differently than I did as a kid. I also understand Rex probably had his own wounds in need of healing. My guess is Rex probably had some regrets along the way, as we all do. I don’t know if Rex ever accepted Jesus in his heart. I hope so. Maybe I’ll get to chat with Rex in heaven some day. That would be nice.
How were you told you were adopted (or did you share with your adoptive child if you are the parent)?
Have you ever struggled with adoption issues? If so, what helped you to come to terms with them?
What are some of the positive experiences of being adopted (or an adoptive parent)?