Open Adoption Roundtable #49: The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community.
The current prompt: Write about adoption and your father.
Last year on Father's Day, I responded to an Open Adoption Roundtable prompt by writing a blog post in the form of a letter to the father I had never met. A few days later, I mailed that post to my birth father, along with an additional letter further explaining my reasons for contacting him. It was not my first time reaching out to him. I had made an earlier attempt, approximately five years earlier, to which he did not respond. In this second attempt I was much clearer in my wording. I made a direct request. I said that I very much wanted to meet him at least once.
I didn't know if I would get a yes. I didn't know if he would respond at all. And I certainly didn't expect that I would get anything beyond the one meeting, if I managed to get him to agree to even that much.
Imagine my surprise to find myself a year later having developed an actual relationship with the man responsible for half of my genetic makeup. We had a first phone call, a first meeting, a second meeting, and then we just kept going. We live about two hours apart and have managed to see each other a number of times throughout the year. At our most recent visit he attended my daughter's soccer game, watched my other daughter perform in a play, and helped my husband install an air conditioner. It was a day most remarkable for its ordinariness, made extraordinary only be the fact of our not having known each other at all a year earlier.
It has been a thrilling and at times difficult year. In the fall I struggled with depression and emotional regression. For a time I pulled inward, avoiding friends and community members and even church. But then I felt myself coming right again. I noticed that I felt more balanced knowing the parts of my history that had long been hidden from me. I recognized how much I liked knowing my father, and seeing the parts of myself that are reflected in him.
Of course, we are still a bit upside down and inside out, and probably always will be. You are not supposed to meet your father as an adult. There is an awkwardness to adoption reunion. My father and I acknowledged this when we spoke on the phone this morning. We are both still adjusting.
And yet I have been surprised to discover this year how much I am still his daughter, and he my father, in spite of decades of separation and the complete legal severing of our relationship. According to the old rules of the closed adoption system, we were never supposed to meet. According to beliefs long cherished and still held by many, we are not supposed to mean anything to each other. And yet here we are, he in his sixties and I in my forties, stumbling toward normal the best that we can. Given the alternative, I happily embrace this second-chance relationship for what it is. I stand in stunned appreciation, actually, for the amazing feat we have accomplished: transforming absence into presence.