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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Overtime Mind: Who's in Charge of this Reunion?

Your phone call takes too long to be returned. Your letter goes unanswered for an unnerving number of weeks. You concoct exaggerated scenes inside your overtime mind, clamoring to make sense of it all, to somehow feel sense of it all.  
Ah, reunion.  
-- Marcy Wineman Axness, The Second Rejection

Ah yes, reunion, with those crazy-making spaces between communication. For me, the cycle runs like this:

My biological father sends me a brief e-mail; I experience elation; I draft an oh-so-clever reply and hit send; I wait for a reply, and wait, and wait; my mood begins to drop; I become convinced that I will never hear from him again; I draft a long, crazed e-mail in my head asking him to confirm or deny my fears because I JUST HAVE TO KNOW; I decide to wait a little longer before sending said crazed e-mail because I don't want him to think I am, you know, crazy. Just when I'm about to abandon all hope, his name pops up in my inbox or on my caller-ID list. And the cycle begins again.

I need to make an important point: I am not actually unhappy with the current amount of communication between my father and me. The grown-up me recognizes that the level of contact is perfectly appropriate for two people who are tentatively feeling their way forward in a new relationship. He is a busy adult; I am a busy adult. He hates to type. I get that.

So why am I certifiable?

The reason is that at this stage of reunion, the adult me is not always in charge. Reunion can cause psychological regression. Though on one level I am still a (moderately) reasonable middle-aged woman -- a wife, a mother, an employee -- that's not all I am these days. There's another part of me that feels more like a toddler in the midst of a major daddy's little girl phase. For this inner-child me, no amount of contact is enough. How much would it take to fill the hole left by a 46-year absence?

I'm aware that this is where many reunions get into trouble, and I'm trying not to fall into the trap of expectations that can never be met. I'm trying to acknowledge the child-me and let her have her say without allowing her to be the one in charge. She can sit around wailing "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" all day long, but when it's time to write an e-mail or pick up the phone, she needs to let the grown-up handle the job.

Well, that's the plan at least. Wish me luck.

123RF Stock Photos


  1. Yes yes yes! I think it is so important to recognize the little girl in these reunions. The feelings that confuse the adult in us. By not recognizing the youthful, inexperienced relationship we can twist it to an adult relationship. I have read of women that reunite falling in love with the fathers, an adult attraction. Maybe because they are experiencing the reunion only on an adult level. For me the moment I took my dads hand to dance with him at his class reunion & all his classmates parted the dance floor,all eyes on us. I had this overwhelming 3yr old emotions and for a second I swore I wad standing on his feet as he spun us around the floor.

  2. Thanks, Michelle! Yes, I very much feel like a 3-year-old in some ways, and it's strange how that child coexists with the grown-up me that enjoys discussing literature with him. It can be very disorienting.

  3. It works the other way around too. I am in the same boat with my son. Wondering the same questions, forcing myself to not send another email, to not pick up the phone to call or send a text. I absolutely hate that I can't stop the feeling that it's all falling apart, that I've said something wrong or said too much and finally pushed him away. I wish that unsure 15 year old would just shut up already!

  4. Oh, absolutely Susie. I don't doubt at all that it goes both ways!

  5. Rebecca,

    I can totally identify with the psychological regression. ... We know it's regression, we can see that we're not behaving like the normal, calm adult we know we can be, and yet, we can hardly help ourselves.

    I think Lorraine brings up a really good point ... does he know how you're feeling? And, by this I mean it may not be necessary to pour your heart out, but has he read any articles about this regression, which is actually quite normal and will subside over a short period of time?

    I don't know. I'm actually not a good person to give advice on this. I totally "pushed it" with my bio dad, and he pretty much yelled at me for having the gaul to speak to his wife (who is not my birth mom) on the phone. He yelled at me during our 3rd phone call ever. I never spoke with him again. The last thing I need(ed) in my life was another man yelling at me.

    Dads are tricky. Unlike birth moms, they may not have that deep seeded feeling of loss. Again, I don't know. But, I am really glad to hear that your b-dad is interested in contact.


  6. Thanks Laura. I agree -- dads are tricky! All in all, my b-dad and I are doing okay, but we seem to do best when we stick to talking about books and other topics where it is easy for us to connect. Not sure he's ready to delve into my adoptee insecurities yet, but we'll see.

    Did Lorraine comment? It seems to have disappeared.

  7. ((Rebecca)) I completely relate to this. I'm an adult woman, and yet where reunion is concerned I'm a little girl who is excited to finally have her mommy and daddy. And yet, we don't have those shared memories of them actually being mommy and daddy to me. I have those memories with other parents; they have those memories with other children. And when it comes to my father...I feel so shy with him. It's just the strangest thing.

  8. Thanks, WP, for your comment and companionship! It helps to know others can relate to where I'm at.

  9. Oh my goodness, yes, I've been through this! I've been the one who wants too much contact, and I've also been on the other side when my birth mom would panic if I didn't write to her every single day. I wish I could say it gets easier, but I haven't gotten to that point myself yet. I concur with what WP said--not having those shared experiences means everyone has different expectations, and also as Susie said, we're all a little afraid that something will go wrong and the people we've reunited with will disappear from our lives again.

  10. Thanks Karen. Big yes to the fear that the others will disappear! I remember feeling that way at the beginning of my reunion with my b-mom, and now I'm going through it again with my b-dad. I actually _can_ say that it gets easier. 18 years into reunion with my b-mom, my relationship with her is just a normal part of my life. But I do remember struggling with certain aspects of it in the beginning. I somehow thought it would be easier the second time around, but it's not!

  11. Damnit, I can't read this without tearing up--read it yesterday and it haunted me all day, and reminded me of things my daughter did. As a first mother, I tell you this will help other mothers in reunion. It needs to be said again and again. I would like to quote this in my memoir.

    my deepest feelings of sorrow
    my warmest feelings of gratitude

  12. Just read through the comments, and was looking for mine yesterday and yes, it must have disappeared@! Weird....

  13. Thanks for your comments, Lorraine. So much emotion on both sides of reunion. By all means, quote away!

    I have no idea what happened to your earlier comment. Strange indeed!

  14. Sorry, out Intense Debate system keeps going in and out. I have no idea why. I think it is because of the custom layout. I changed it back to a Blogger layout and, hopefully, the problem will go away.

    Thanks for the discussion, ladies. Despite the technical difficulties <3

  15. I had to ask myself if I wrote this and just did not remember! I am moving past this stage a bit, but there are still some days where I am right back there even though we are 8 months into reunion and I am 46! Some days I am 5, some days 12 and other days 46. SO glad that someone else gets what I am going through...SO GLAD.

    1. Thanks Julie. I'm glad you get it, too!


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