November is National Adoption Month. There are two million adopted children in America today, some adopted during their infant years and some during their adolescence. There are also 423,000 children living in U.S. foster care. Of those that are lucky enough to avoid the U.S. orphan, most are likely to lead healthy and normal lives.
I am one of those.
Being adopted was something that I did not fully understand until I was around eight years old, but before then, I knew that I was. The difference for me was that I had a larger vocabulary than most, not that I could comprehend what had happened in my earlier years.
I was taken by child protective services after what I understand was an alcoholic episode of my biological mother.
I was then placed in a foster home of two caring grandparents, one of whom I had contact with until her death in 2010. Adopted by a pair of married teachers in 1987, they jumped through hoops in order for the state of California to declare their humble abode ‘safe.’
Comprehending my adoption was difficult growing up and even as an adult. The “whys” would swirl and the questions sometimes grew with any given inquiry. There was a veil of secrecy regarding certain facts, in large part to laws permitting little information being freely given to anyone without a state name tag.
I was somehow put in contact with my birth mother, by ways I do not know, when I was five or six. Encounters were brief and our conversations were limited to the basics: school, weather and friends.
January of 2007 I went to a church in Sacramento, the last location listed in a people finder search. I was looking for my father, a figure that I had heard virtually nothing of growing up. He was not there and I heard stories of his death in jail, death in Mexico or death from anyone who knew him.
The trip back home was one that is difficult to put into words, but quiet for sure. One year later however, I received a phone call at work.
The other party seemed excited and being the suspicious person that I am, I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t a prank call. I told them that I’d call them later and I did.
“Your mother’s name is Pam? You were adopted and grew up in Martinez?”
“Yes,” I responded, wary of the fact that those two facts would probably come up after five minutes of Google searches.
Then he asked a question to which no Google search could answer.
“Yes” I said, with my throat in my stomach and stomach near my throat.
The next day I left work and drove back to Sacramento, nearly one year to the day of my trip to the church.
I met my father for the first time and wasn’t a hint nervous until I shook his hand. He had pictures of me as a baby and others that had been sent to him over the years. We talked about a lot of things and I finally got the only answer that I believed as to why I was adopted.
It wasn’t surreal and it wasn’t an angry encounter. I was excited, along with other feelings. It was a soul-searching type of drive, three hours round-trip that couldn’t be put into words by Edgar Allen Poe or Hunter S. Thompson. Of any moment of my life regarding being adopted, this was the most important.
I also knew to what extent that I was not alone.
I stopped by my friend’s house on the return trip and told him about it. He wasn’t adopted but had not met his father. A week later he mad the same journey, his to Reno.
The more I looked around, the more I saw so many people that were in the same predicament. Whether adopted, seemingly forgotten or just lost, I was far from alone.