Sunday, August 25, 2013
As you may know, here in Australia, we not only had a Federal Apology for the sufferings of forced adoption, but State Apologies as well. I am lucky enough to live in a State which took the Apology very seriously and made every effort to get it right, to set the right tone for the occasion and to ensure that the wording of the Apology reflected all that was and had been experienced by Adoptees as well as mothers. For the first time Adoptees were recognised, validated and the inhumanity of adoption understood. It was a landmark for us all, no matter where we live or were adopted. It set a precedent and has shown that Governments can show understanding, compassion and be willing to accept the wrong-doing of those who carried out adoptions so long ago. It gave hope to many and I hope it will continue to do so, as we proceed down the difficult road of adoption reform.
We are poised on the cusp of Winter and Spring here in the South of Australia. All is green and lush, water is abundant and it is hard to believe in the harshness and deprivations of Summer. I have just passed the 70th Anniversary of becoming an Adoptee. It is only a few days from the Anniversary and for the first time I have recognised and marked the event. I am lucky to know the story of that day, told me by my mother and by my amother. Two sides of a coin, two views of the same picture. For one a tragedy, but a relief from her dilemma; for the other a life-changing event, which her whole life had been leading towards. My amother and her father, who became my beloved aGrandfather, were great fans of the books of Gene Stratton Porter - lots of orphan saving, compassion and good works. It was predictable that when the plight of War Babies became known, the family would put their hands up. Had they been at the age when adoption was still possible for them after the Vietnam War, they would have adopted an Operation Babylift baby. If it hadn't been me it would have been someone else.
Knowing the actual day when I was parted from my mother, knowing the circumstances, being familiar with the place, gives the event a reality, because it is a parcel of information to which others are witness. My feelings, my pain and the suffering I endured are my own entirely. I have grown with them, learned from them and held them to account. They are the part of my adoption experience which has brought me to being a survivor and a thriver. It is still a work in progress, it will always be so and adoption will never be finished, completed, over or ended. It's effects will live on in the next generation and maybe the next. We make it up as we go along, there is no guidebook, no rules and no road map. It ambles along from day to day, sometimes smoothly and peacefully, sometimes with highs and lows, sharp peaks of learning or points of revelation.
I am lucky to have reached a time when quiet reflection is possible, when reading all day is feasible, when my need to write is taken seriously and I have the space and the place to do whatever I need to do. Reunion is completed for me and has no surprises, no power plays or manipulations, no hurt or disappointment. I would like to have been able to be a sister, but it was too late to learn how and one of my dearest wishes as a child did not reach fruition. There are many disappointments and dead ends in life, seeing them as opportunities to turn in other directions, to make fresh starts and clear the decks is sometimes arduous, painful or difficult to do, but the rewards are usually many.
As Adoptees we need to be flexible, open to the new, to synchronicities, to unlikely possibilities and to seeing the extraordinary opportunities we have to deal with the losses, the traumas of adoption, to be who we want to be. Identity, that 'thing' we have taken from us in adoption which is replaced by a new identity invented by our adopters, is not a fixed point in our lives. Identity is ours to create, we can be whoever we want to be, no matter who we were told we were.