Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Secret is out - I Exist.

On January 17, at 7:20pm I got this message:

Hi, I am [Child2]. Evidently, you are my little sister. I wanted to send a note just to introduce myself. I'm still a little shocked over everything, but would love to get to know you. I'm at a loss for words at the moment, but I didn't want you to think that I'd be angry or anything. I'd be happy to call you my sister...
It was the beginning of many such messages.  A day later other sisters, Child1, Child4, then Child3 sent me similar words.  Then a stream of nieces and nephews.  I was living the adoptee dream.  They were looking through my Facebook pictures, gaining what little insight into my character that they could and telling me I was worthy of their acceptance.

Being worthy.. that's so important to an adoptee.  When acceptance doesn't happen we like to tell ourselves that it isn't about us.  We try to affirm that this is not a reflection of who we are as human beings.  We even seek help from our support groups and loved ones around us.  Convincing our hearts that there isn't something so fundamentally wrong with us that our own family doesn't want us is the toughest battle we will ever face.  Not all of us win that battle.  Not really.  We learn to fake it. We learn to laugh it off, brush it off and live it off, but the smallest little reminder drives us right back into that abandoned building we feel like we came from.  Even after the huge reception I received, I still hear the creaking hinges behind me, reminding me that it is still possible to be stuck in there again.

On the same night, L called me and we talked for 4 hours.  It was a heartwarming, uncomfortable, crazy conversation that I was afraid to end.  His voice was more soothing than I imagined, and his words had a rhythm to them that was almost lyrical.  Sometimes he would say things and I imagined he practiced that part in his head a few times, because it was a beautiful delivery.  I thought it was strange of me to pay attention to these things, but a couple days later, I went to see my newborn grandson and I watched him listen to me sing to him.  That's what children do.  I may be an adult, but in that moment, I was no different than any other child.

Over the last few days, I have interacted with my sisters, niblings and D through Facebook.  It has been a fascinating adventure discovering similarities and sorting out personalities.  We are all in a honeymoon stage of the relationship, where everything is brand new and exciting.  I see glimpses of myself and my children in them and I want to feel warm and cozy in this soft blanket of relatives.  I know they can't be this perfect and wonderful forever, but I am just going to enjoy this perfection for what it is as long as it is this way.  It's what you do when you bring a newborn home.  It's what you do in a marriage.  It's what you do with family.

Without my mother or my grandmother, I was merely a legal issue to my maternal family.  Where do we put her?  How much is that going to cost?  Are we still obligated to buy her a Christmas present? Do we name her children in the obituary?  Does she qualify as a child, or a grandchild in the will?  Is she considered one of us? Or is she considered someone else's kid because she lived in foster homes? It always felt like I was trying to stake a claim in a family I never belonged in.  If I stopped trying, it was disloyal and ungrateful.  If I continued to push to have these relationships, I had to squeeze my round self into that square hole.  It seemed like an endless cycle until my grandfather died and the estate was settled.  After that, all but one cousin just stopped talking to me.  I am nothing.  I no longer exist.  In truth, to them, I only existed on paper.

I can't be a legal issue for L and his family.  I was legally adopted and cannot inherit anything according to the law.  The only reason any of them have for speaking to me is because they want to. This is my tribe. These are my people. I am built like them.  I think like them.  I love like them. Everything about me that made me an outcast in my mothers world fits in my fathers world.  My inner shield maiden is screaming "Do Not Believe That This Will Last!" while that little 4 year old girl makes a nest so she can finally lay her heart to rest.  I can exist here.

I am still very afraid of L even though I have no reason to be.  Since our conversation I have chatted to everyone but him.  I don't know what to call him.  I don't know how to approach him.  I don't know how to be a daughter to him.  I don't know what I am supposed to do now.

What do daughters that exist do?


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