Through most of my life I struggled with the fact that the family I lived with was not my biological family. I am sure this is something that many adopted people go through at some time in their lives. I think much of that came from the fact that when I was younger I knew so little about where I came from and who I was. Your birthday and background are such an important part of your identity and for the first 15 years of my life this was surrounded in mystery.
I think this also stemmed from the fact that I could see my little brother as the child of my parents. He was like them is so many ways and I was so different. Not having people in my life who were like me and who understood me was hard. Then I found my family and I found a piece of myself. However, part of me would not let go of those childhood dreams of seeing my mother again. How are you just supposed to let go of the one thing you wanted all your life?
In the last interview my sister asked at what point did it all start to make sense? When did everything change for me? I can remember the day. The day where I was finally able to let go of my birth mother and accept who I was.
It was May 2003 and I was in Central America visiting Eva. I was talking with her about our biological mother because May 19th is the day that she was taken from us and a day that I always think about her. It used to be a very difficult day for me. For in my mind, this is the day that my world was ripped apart.
I was talking with Eva about this. I was so sad and trying desperately to understand why this happened to us. Then Eva said something that I will never forget. She said that I had a great mother in Margaret and behind her, looking down on us, was our mother.
A few days later I was back in Boston. I think I was still feeling a little down. When I got home Margaret had something for me. It was a letter she had sent me while I was in school. The letter was part of something the school was doing and was supposed to be posted somewhere in school. For whatever reason they received the letter too late and ended up sending it back home.
I opened it up and started to read. The letter said how proud she was of me and what a joy it was to raise both Derek and myself. On the back she wrote “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Do you remember I used to sing that to you when you were little?”
I broke down. I remembered very clearly when she used to sing that song. I remembered all the difficult times we had. But most of all I remembered how she loved and cared for me over the years. How both my adoptive mother and father gave me so much when I was little. How they stood by me when I struggled to understand who I was and what had happened to me. How they always believed in me. How they taught me right from wrong and so many other valuable life lessons.
It was exactly what I needed to hear. My sister was right. Behind my mother was…my mother. I couldn’t believe it. This letter I was supposed to receive during school got sent back but arrived when I was away, so I ended up reading it just when i needed it the most. I guess you might call it fate, but from that moment on things got easier. I felt a sense of peace about the situation that I had not felt before.
Looking back years later I can appreciate so much more what my adoptive family was able to give me. Perhaps my longings for growing up with my birth family came from my youthful ignorance. Or maybe it was easier for me to dream of my perfect family then face the difficulties that every family deals with. Whatever it was, I know now how fortunate I was to have them. After getting to know my biological family more, I see how they struggle with the love and understanding that was given to me unconditionally. How they have a hard time looking past each other’s short comings and just love each other for who they are. What I realize now, is that the perfect family I longed for in my youth, I had all along. Not the family that was my blood but the family that became my blood.