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My adoption is about everyone but me. Or so it seems most days. I can hardly tweet, write about, or discuss it without someone having an opinion that centres them in the narrative. This doesn’t surprise me. In the context of adoption, babies are the merchandise. It’s society, the legal system, and the adults involved in the transaction who have a voice. Some have more agency than others, but ultimately, the baby is neglected.

And adoptees are babies in perpetuity. The legal system has seen to that. Our files, original birth certificates, the identities of our parents and their extended families, our heritage, and really the foundation of our identities are walled off from us. Largely because there is no room in the adoption scenario for an adoptee, who will one day be an adult. Even now, as I steadily approach my sixth decade, I am viewed as “the baby” when it comes to my adoption. My opinions, and even my lived experience, is dismissed because I am forever a baby in the eyes of the adoption industry and its proponents.

My adoptive parents, and though generally I refer to all my parents as “parents” without distinguishing them, so I will add the descriptors of “adoptive” and “natural” for the purpose of clarity, were not the worst parents. When I think about the era in which I grew up, the 1960s and 70s, and recall the parents in my extended family, those of neighbour kids and school friends, my adoptive parents were more or less typical. They were Silent Generation, who reached their near adulthood under the shadow of WWII. Adopted Dad joined the Navy as soon as he graduated from high school and caught the tail end of the war like many of his peers. Adopted Mom grew up, as he did, on a farm and in a big family. They had expectations that were typical of the time. Marriage. Suburbs. Kids. Hanging out with family and friends on the weekends. Basically your American Dream life stuff. They were not expecting infertility to upend what everyone took for granted.

To say that neither of my adoptive parents dealt with the trauma and grief of infertility would be vastly understating things. For my adoptive mom, adopting me and later my three siblings, allowed her to paper over the pain. She wasn’t really cut out for mothering a hoard of small people. At one point there were three of us under the age of four. It was overwhelming, lonely, and she really had enjoyed working outside the home, which the adoption agency forbid if they wanted to be eligible to adopt. Stay at home moms only was one of the Catholic Charities criteria of the time. I have always thought that had they just adopted me, she might have been okay, but adoption did nothing for my adoptive dad.

My adoptive dad’s upbringing was literally dirt poor. They were the poor relations. Tenant farmers as a result of a bank failure in the early 1920’s, and my adoptive Grandad’s being saddled with a very elderly father and having to support his three younger sisters. There was never much money, and the family eventually ended up living with my adoptive Grandmother’s father and farming his land. Dad came back from the Navy to a household in turmoil and immediately was handed the financial responsibilities in a way that his own father must of recognized from his own life. Consequently, he didn’t seriously date until he met Mom about eight years later. He just didn’t have the time or the resources to think about a life of his own.

It had to have been a huge disappointment, and then a life-altering shock, when they couldn’t get pregnant and then couldn’t stay pregnant when it manage to happen that one “magical” time my adoptive mom still talks about. All around them, family and friends were adding babies to the landscape, and they just couldn’t.

I have been through infertility myself, and let me just that as an adoptee, it’s quite the mind-fuck, so I have more than just passing sympathy for what my adoptive parents must have gone through. But in no way was I the preferred solution. And I know this because it took them seven long years of disappointment before my adoption finally made them parents. Had they struck baby at any point during that time, I would be somewhere else right now. As much as I was “chosen” I was never the one they wanted.

My adoptive father always blamed Mom for denying him biological children. As I told my natural father in my first email to him, my adoptive dad really never understood any of his children. It puzzled, disappointed, and even hurt him, that despite all his efforts to mould us to be more like him, we were all stubbornly the children of someone else.

The fact that we didn’t look like he or Mom ate at him. Not knowing what my natural parents looked like, he was convinced I was too fat from an early age and not near feminine enough. Consequently, there were many snide comments and allowing everyone from my pediatrician to our crackpot next door neighbour to put me on diets well before I even hit junior high. I was not smart enough because I had a learning disability that made math extremely difficult for me while it was like breathing to him. I was a effortlessly natural athlete, but I had no competitive drive, which made him insane. Unlike my younger adoptive brother, who rebelled wildly against them almost from birth, I was more subtle, and I won far more of my battles with my adoptive father than he would’ve ever admitted, and this angered him too.

This is not to say he didn’t love me. He did. It was one of those “in his own ways” sort of thing, but he did. He lived in terror of our natural parents coming back for us. In the summer, Mom would leave our bedroom windows cracked to let in air and he would sneak in during the night, close and lock them. Mom would find us in the morning, dripping with sweat, and was outraged he’d do this to us, but Dad persisted because he was sure if the windows weren’t locked, we would be stolen.

He had his moments when he really stepped up for us. Though many of them were reactions to outside forces. And at the end of his life, I think, he’d found some measure of peace with the fact that he’d raised other people’s children. It was likely his grandchildren that brought him to that place because he loved them to pieces in a way that was far more genuine and open than he’d ever been with us.

I haven’t forgiven him like I have my adoptive mother. He was the one who didn’t want to tell us we were adopted. That was one of her rare defiance, which was probably the best parenting move she ever made. He was the one who destroyed all of our identifying information because “they don’t need to know”. This included original birth certificates, adoption files and decrees, and any medical or family information that might have been available. Frankly, he deserves no forgiveness for this. The man had a memory like an elephant. He knew and deliberately kept everything from us. In fact, they both knew the name of my natural mother from the day they got me, and they both lied to my face about until I confronted my adoptive mom after doing an DNA test, and she finally confessed. Six years after my natural mom had died. And yes, I am still way salty.

It’s hard for me to say I don’t have an attachment to my adoptive parents because of course, I do. And I do love them. Though what choice does an adopted child really have in that regard? It’s not like we had any say or any opportunity to choose our own destiny. But I feel the loss of my natural parents keenly and probably more so now that I know who they are and what I lost when cultural norms robbed me of them.

My adoptive parents did not see themselves as saviours. Though I know many adoptive parents do because it helps them justify helping themselves to someone else’s child. Mom and Dad just wanted children like everyone else they knew. It was really always that simple for them in a situation that was always to complex for them to have even navigated on their own.

But at the end of the day, do I wish my natural mother had been given the assistance she needed to keep me? Yes, I do. I will never be okay with the fact she was forced to give me to strangers.

I have written about being adopted a few times before. Most recently, I wrote a tldr synposis about the finding of my original self and learning who my natural parents are. At the time, I was fairly new into what they call the “reunion” process, and there was a lot of players I hadn’t met and information I didn’t know. I know a lot now. As Little Red Riding said so well, “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit not.”

The pandemic really interrupted my quest to discover the whereabouts of my natural father but my natural mother’s family did their damnedest to muddle things too. I suspect my Uncle and his wife are the not the out of the loop bystanders in the drama that led to my being relinquished that they claim to be and getting my dad’s name out of them was a months long odyessey that did not endear them to me at all.

In the end, it was good old Facebook that revealed my paternal family to me thanks to a group started by the peer group my mom grew up and went to school with. I joined the group hoping to find someone who knew her but ended up discovering someone who knew my dad through the motorcycle clubs that flourished in the early 60s in their hometown. I would remark to my dad later that their teenage years sounded a lot like the move, American Graffitti, and he replied, “It really kind of was.”

I saw a post about motorcycles and I knew my dad was very into motorcycles around the time of my birth because it was one of the “non-identifying” pieces of information they adoption agency shared with me when I contacted them. When I saw his name pop up in a conversation about the motorcycle clubs, I reached out to the gentleman who had posted the information.

And here is where fate intervened. The gentleman told me that his neighbour was my bio dad’s younger brother, and he would be happy to contact my uncle and have him contact my dad.

My dad’s reply was less than an auspicious start to what would become a relationship of sorts. He told his brother that my mother “had other boyfriends” and that I could easily be someone else’s child too.

So I thought, “well fuck you too, dad” and let it go. I knew he was my dad. I had no proof at that point but I am a very good researcher. All roads led to him. And then I let it go until about a year later when my nephew by my dad’s daughter from his first marriage turned up as a match on Ancestry. I knew who the young man was instantly. Most people (even now) don’t understand how easily Facebook can be used to track them down. I knew all my siblings’ names, where they lived, and even had pictures. A guest on the podcast The Making of Me, said recently that adoption research makes adoptees really good stalkers, and she isn’t terribly wrong.

As soon as my half-sister’s son turned up, I sent him a message and explained how we were related, and then I sat back and waited. It didn’t take my nephew long to contact his mother who went to the brothers who then confronted our dad. Dad folded like a chair.

My youngest half-brother acted as intermediary between us for several months but eventually, I got tired of waiting on Dad and sent him an email. In the email, I was pretty blunt and basically guilted him into initial contact. I regret nothing about doing that. The way I see it, he owed me. The same way my adoptive parents owed me the truth but withheld it anyway. The same way my mother owed me the bare minimum courtesy of reaching out to me when I became an adult and searches were possible through the agency I was placed with.

Searching shouldn’t be difficult. The onus should not be on the adoptee. We are genuinely the victims, if that’s even the right word, in this whole scenario. We didn’t ask to exist, be born, or traded like a commodity. We have a right to the basic information about how we came into the world and where we came from that is the same as those who are kept by their natural parents. Denying people their origins and heritage is criminal. I’ll never be convinced otherwise.

Do I know everything now? No. My maternal Uncle and his wife continue to evade when they aren’t straight up lying about the circumstances that led to my mother being exiled to a Catholic Charities home for unwed mothers. My dad is cagey about what he knew about my existence and when he knew it. The social worker in charge of post adoption searches at Catholic Charities literally has the whole story in a file that can’t give to me and it’s frustrating for both of us, but she has confirmed many things I have discovered through my persistence and my willingness to ask question and let people talk until they trip themselves up with facts.

One thing I have learned for certain though is I still have no real family aside from the one I have created myself. I have detached near completely from the adoptive substitute heritage adoption gave me to replace the one that was legally stolen from me but I have no personal attachment to the history I am learning because the people (though I look like them) are strangers I never met. My grandparents are dead. Aunts and uncles are mostly dead. My cousins and siblings are strangers I have no lived experiences growing up with. I am keenly aware that the “home” I was searching for was destroyed by my adoption. There is no way to build it again because it never got the chance to exist.

An adopted family is like the set of a family sitcom. It looks real until the camera rolls back and reveals it’s all a very clever illusion.

I was chatting recently with a friend, who has teens the same age as my own and will be heading off to university next fall. We were both fuming about the recent attack by our provincial government on funding for post-secondary education, and the tuition hikes and staff cuts that have resulted.

“I was talking with my mom about this, and she reminded me that we will be fine. Between them and our own efforts, we can make sure our kids get their degrees,” she told me.

It wasn’t until a few days later I started really hearing what she said.

We’ll be fine.

Famous last words of the entitled and very true.

We are solidly in the professional class. We have degrees of our own and the ability to plan ahead for our children’s education, save when we can, and make whatever budget adjustments in the moment that are necessary. Our kids will be fine.

Not that it won’t be an inconvenience, or mean readjusting expectations for our own lives and retirements even perhaps, but my teen and her teens will go to university and graduate with a minimum of debt. In today’s world, the only bigger advantage would be having parents who can foot the bill entirely.

But the more I thought about “we’ll be fine” the more it angered me.

Why is my kid going to be fine, but some of her classmates not so much?

And from there, I went on to assess current events in Canada and in the United States and realized the “we'[ll be fine” mantra is the root of more issues than not and has been for a long while.

I won’t blame the Boomers. Entirely. They were taught this bit of selfish. They didn’t invent it. But they, and their parents in the Greatest and Silent (what an aptly named bunch) Generations certainly perfected it and embedded it deeply within our societies and our politics.

We’ll be fine is what stops the privileged from taking the extra step or stepping into another’s shoes in the first place. It allows people to pretend their known outcome requires so much of their time and resources that nothing is left to spare for others who aren’t going to be fine no matter what they do.

It’s why people vote their conscious or agitate for revolution. When you’ll be fine, the unintended consequences and collateral damage to others really doesn’t matter.

Best example today of “we’ll be fine” is the Democratic primary in the United States. Where two groups with different visions of what fine looks like largely ignored a substantial base, their issues, and a vastly different idea of what fine means in real time.

In Canada, this same mantra has morphed into people who are fine trying to convince people who are slowly getting to fine to give that fine opportunity up because it’s not fine enough.

A cousin on Facebook today lamented the discord not feeling fine creates on their feed, but instead rolls by in a steady wave of discontent. Why can’t we all just appreciate the bits of fine flotsam and jetsam in our lives? And while the point about appreciating what’s right in front on you is well taken, I can’t help but wonder if the maybe the veneer of fine is wearing as thing for others as it is for me?

On a personal level, I have no complaints. Not really. Irritations maybe. Normal worries. But serious discontent? No. Those days are so far in my rear view they seem like a life someone else lived.

But I am not okay pretending “we’ll be fine” – because it’s true – is a good enough reason to not rage at the machine, which makes sure this isn’t the case for everyone.

Why should I turn a blind eye to racial injustice preventing people from voting and being represented by folks who could improve lives and communities? Why not point out the stubborn resiliency of misogyny? Or how inequity in education access is a waste of human potential that could benefit all of society and not just individuals in pursuit of material gain?

Why should I keep silent when my elected officials are greedy and corrupt? Or not remind people Google is their damned friend when they are sharing garbage websites written by weaselly trolls and fattening their own purses in the process?

I am supposed to sit silently by? Like the people who watched Jim Crow terrorize black communities? Like the people who did nothing when their drunk friend was led away to a bedroom at a frat party, knowing what was going to happen? Like the coworkers who say nothing when the usual suspects make racist or misogynistic jokes?

There’s that poem, right? They came for X but I was Z – and just fine – so I did fuck all.

Easter on the horizon reminds me of the horrible Passion. I can’t even remember anymore how many times we had to read that during Holy Week. Father was Jesus. The congregation played the crowd. The crowd who shouted for him to be crucified.

“Cruxify him!”

I never said it. It incensed me. I didn’t even pretend to mouth the words.

Once my dad chastised me for it, and I told him, “I would never have said that.”

He didn’t correct me. He never brought it up again.

I feel like that now. That I am part of a crowd giving tacit consent to something that I don’t consent to whenever I stay quiet.

My privilege is part of the problem. I understand this. But I don’t know what to do about it other than refuse to stay silent.

I told my teen I need another outlet than annoying my cousins and high school friends on Facebook.

“Maybe I should write angry fan-fiction about a Prime Minister who is a secret superhero ridding the world of injustice?”

She grinned wickedly, “Do it.”

If only I could draw. It could be a graphic novel. I can only draw stick people however. This might be a problem.

I still have Twitter, where everyone speaks up, so like Hamlet in England, our madness is not much noticed.

I know one thing. It’s nothing is fine right now and people will not be able to hide from that much longer.