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Adoption and Child Separation at the Border

On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grandparents and Adoptees

Is at a difference in the way one becomes a grandparent, biology or legally … I’m not too sure but I’m starting to think that it is. 

Why else would there be special classes aimed at future or soon to be grandparents. I am a intercountry Korean adoptee so naturally my now parents attended adoption education courses, but at the time of my birth in the middle 80s there were few if none for prospective grandparents.

Picture Shaula Haitner via PikiWiki on the 9th of August 
I wonder what they discuss at these classes the grandparents I mean, do they have to talk about ethnicity and race … ? I’m guessing that they do. Although I love my grandma there are times, I have to admit that she really manages to upset and irritate me. I don’t think she’s aware of it , or would understand my feelings if I tried to tell her how upset she makes me. My grandma adamantly refuses to acknowledge my new name (which deserves an entry all to itself) she seems oblivious or ignorant to the fact that I’m not ethnically her granddaughter yet she manages to present  rather contradictory sides of herself whenever she mentions my birth family; my first family.

She seems to think and I’m quite convinced that the adoption process and approval somehow managed to erase my ethnical belonging because to her I’m as Swedish as can be as she once told me. For obvious reasons such a statement doesn’t exactly make me happy or helps to further lighten up my day. And I think you could see why it wouldn’t….

It’s true of course that I legally speaking belong to another family and even learned their ways, habits and values. However nothing can change the fact there once was other parents that looked forward to my birth … I know it might seem totally unnecessary and unexplainable at that but whenever grandma makes a statement such as the above it honestly only manages to produce a rather unwelcoming feeling of infuriation inside me. Because too me she’s not only insulting me but furthermore or more importantly she is insulting to me and my birth parents.

Maybe she can’t help to think the way she does because I and my brother are the only grandchildren on our mother’s side… So you see grandma has no other children that she can call herself a grandmother of, maybe she just doesn’t know the difference because nobody bothered to tell her. And now it may all be too late because my grandma is quite old… And grandma is the only grandparent that is still living, my dad’s parents have both passed as my grandfather did very long ago.

It Follows Me

Rudy and I were on our way to meet up with my sisters for the first time. I was nervous as heck (understandably) so Rudy was a gentleman and offered to drive. I spend most of the ride staring out the window trying to focus on my breathing. We got stuck in traffic (the worst) so I was trying my hardest to keep calm. My natural father called me, a call which I naturally missed because I was focusing out the window and missed the standard "buzz buzz" of the phone.  I listened to his voice mail wondering why he was calling.  Were they cancelling?  They'd already pushed the time back an hour due to a rescheduled previous commitment.  Could I handle that?  The voice mail itself offered no clues as he merely asked that I call him back. My panic rose. What if they cancelled?  What would I do?  I took a deep breath and dialed.  He answered right away.  He just wanted to let me know they were leaving and asked again where we were meeting even though I thought we'd figured that out the night before.  Sigh.  We confirmed that we'd meet near a particular store and I hung up pretty quickly.  I did not want to talk on the phone.  I just wanted to meet my sisters.

Back I went to my glazed over look.  I counted cars as they passed by.  I read bumper stickers.  I absentmindedly hummed along with the songs on the radio.  Anything to pass the time in traffic.  A song came on that I hated.  My blood pressure was high enough without listening to something annoying so I changed the station.  I got to hear a special treat on my choice of a new station!  It was a country top forty show, one of the ones where listeners can write in letters and sometimes they get read over the air.  This weeks letter was from an adoptee.  I kid you not.  Here I am, on my way to meet my sisters for the first time, and the letter was from a reunited adoptee.

Rudy and I looked at each other as the letter went on.  Long story short, the adoptee grew up happy in a fantastic adoptive family, just like me.  She started searching because she realized just how important it was to have an accurate family medical history, just like me.  She was able to easily find her natural parents, just like me.  Her natural mother didn't want anything to do with her, similar to me.  Her natural father did, just like me for a while.  Her father had other children, with whom she had a fantastic relationship with.  How much I hoped that would be just like me too!  The letter ended with the adoptee writing that she finally felt like she belonged and how happy she was in her reunion.  It was her "Live Like You Were Dying" moment.

Rudy started laughing first, and I shortly joined in.  I've never heard something like that on the radio before.  I've heard about others hearing things like that, but I've never actually been privy to a radio or television plug before.  Rudy had to catch his breath before he was able to choke out, "Oh my goodness, it follows you everywhere!"  It really does though.  No matter where I go, I seem to find references to adoption.  I can't escape it.  There's the overheard conversation about adoption.  There's the adoptive parent I work with.  There's the sign on the bus we're talking on our way back to the sign-making party.  There's this on the radio.  I'm constantly being bombarded with adoption stories and advertisements no matter where I go or how much I try to avoid it.  Or perhaps everyone is and I just notice it more.  Either way, Rudy says he only seems to notice it when he's with me.

I got to meet my sisters an hour later.  We met in a crowed public place during the height of tourist season.  I'm sure we looked like an interesting group.  Very clearly we were a family unit, or at least we should have been a family unit.  We looked like we fit together.  We're all around the same height with the same facial features and the same coloring.  My sisters and I are nearly carbon copies of each other.  We even sound alike.  We have some of the same mannerisms, have similar accents, and our personalities are pretty alike.  My youngest sister was even wearing an outfit I nearly chose for myself.  To someone on the outside, it must have seemed like a normal family outing.  An observant person would have noticed how everyone looked just a touch uncomfortable, or how a few people weren't really speaking to each other.  Or that the conversation was pretty basic, getting to know you sorts of things.  I'm not sure what I would have made of it.

There will be things that I'll always remember about the day that I met my sisters for the first time.  And I have hope for the future that I'll be like that adoptee on the radio.  I want to have a successful reunion with my sisters more than anything and so far, it seems like we're on the right path.  So I'm going to live like I'm dying and enjoy this time with them.  I'm going to focus on the good things in our relationship and look forward to the future.  And when adoption seemingly follows me everywhere, I'm going to smile because now I've reclaimed something that was taken away from me, a chance to get to know my sisters.  It's a chance I for one will not throw away.