July 1 – I meet him standing at the top of a short dusty road, turned onto from a long hot highway that had stretched decades behind me.
The journey to my paternal birth family had begun at my first breath, a trip that would last 40 odd years. Siri would have told me “I can’t seem to find that location” yet even then, just seven years ago, Siri didn’t exist and neither did I fully, and for sure not legally.
Seven years before the photo you see above, my birth father stood at the top of that long road waiting to meet me, buoyed on a hot July afternoon breeze, arms open wide, my home-to-be spreading as wide and as welcoming behind him. These are the moments we adoptees dream of, the stuff of all night brain streaming fantasizing about all the what ifs and could be’s that common sense says can never be. But here it was and suddenly it could be, but would it?
A flood of desire and fear, anticipation and anxiety charges my central nervous system. This is the closest I can imagine to an out of body experience. I float toward him, senses amplified, tunnel vision taking over. The dancing trees seemingly celebrating the moment, the dust settling in the drive, the goats offering a throaty welcome, dissipate into a still moment.
Miles and years are reduced down to steps and feet and then he is holding my hands and kissing them, pushing me back so we see our own eyes reflected there, compelling a long and unexpected embrace that rocks my soul and takes my knees away. I didn’t expect this. I don’t know what I expected but not this kind of feeling that I can only call “magic memory.”
“Pop,” I decide to call him, only to later learn this is already his decades old moniker. He pulls me back for another look, and we are tearfully transfixed. Mama goats call their babes, and the lone Mama cow, heavy belly, calf bearing, moans a laborious and glorious cry… a calf will be newly born today and so will I.
Yet the cacophony of new life on the farm is silent in my ears. Everything is slow motion and still, watching us it seems. Then a joyous laugh and a “We just can’t believe this. I just can’t wait. I’m Susan,” eases us back to earth with a joy and tenderness and familiarity I will never be able to explain. Susan completes the circle, and we three embrace; and I know them both already. It is instant and real and obvious. I had not arrived but only returned.
This reunion would not be like the last. As amazing as all this feels I know I will know better. I have learned the hard way the what-not to do’s. The pitfalls to avoid, the pace to set, the feelings of those on the sidelines to concern ourselves with. I will have to teach them about all this. I will have to watch each step, to build this bridge back to home one board at a time. No matter how perfect it all feels, I know it depends on respect, honesty, integrity and not being afraid to talk about the hard stuff that I know will come down the road.
The look in Pop’s eyes at this moment only speaks of certainty. Certainty that he has his daughter in his arms and home at last. Only two weeks before he didn’t know I existed, today my absence explains a hole in his heart he somehow always knew he had. I can say the same thing.
We head on in for margaritas and steaks and to try to start this thing called reunion, which includes blending of families, walks sometimes journeys into a past neither of us want to talk about, moments of soul searching and trust buckets and buckets of trust. And let me be clear – this is not just me and Pop. This is every member of our family.
Reunion is a family event no matter how you slice it, and if you forget how it impacts your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your aunts and uncles and cousins, if you don’t find a way to help them down this path, then you are asking for troubled waters. Even at its best, it is not easy, but it is worth every long phone call, every carefully crafted letter, every late night porch conversation you need to have.
Seven years later I can say we did exceptionally well. We blended. My daughter (who had her loyalty to her grandparents – her Baba and Nana), my adoptive families on both my mother and father’s sides, Pop’s family (wife Susan, son Bart and daughter-in-law Marlene and Bart’s son Morgan and step-daughter Kaylie, Pop’s sister and my cousins (also adopted children), so many personal relationships to inform, assure and comfort and nurture along the way. But we did it.
In our seven years we have shared some serious life events. While some would strain the best of relationships, we not only managed, we passed with flying colors. First came my divorce. Pop helped me move, provided fatherly advice and was there for all my worst moments resolute and supportive.
Then came the fire, again what could have become a divisive event, only served to strengthen our bonds. Next we shared in the glorious event of seeing our grandson Ethan born into this world. I saw Pop and Susan become great grandparents, my brother Bart become an uncle to Victoria and then great uncle to Ethan, his wife an Aunt and Great Aunt. If there was ever a loose seam in the fabric of familial bonds, the birth of Ethan seemed to tighten that right up.
Over the years we have gathered together for five plus Fourth of Julys, one which included a proposal of marriage to my daughter, by my today son in law, and most recently the welcoming to the Fourth at Camelot of my Aunt Tweet (my Daddy’s sister and four of my six cousins from my adoptive family). For me this culminated in the first blended group photo of all of my family (adopted and birth), and at the click of that pic I can truly say my world was complete.
Over the years we have had more solemn moments to come together. We have held hands in the surgical waiting room through various procedures designed to keep Pop’s ticker ticking and our hearts from breaking. We have laughed, fought and cried, danced, bragged, poked fun and stirred the pot.
And we have had many joyous events as well. We have come together to witness the wedding of my daughter Victoria to her husband Kyle; and through Pop’s diligence to right fraudulently created court records, I have been granted a legal and factual birth certificate by the State of Texas.
Yes we have come a long way in just seven years. As I look back at the reunion video of my drive down Camelot Lane to meet my Pop that fateful day, I realize now how many gifts our future can hold if we are only brave enough to open ourselves up and say ‘Come on in, I’ve been waiting on you. What’s taken you so long.’ I reply, “Yes Susan I certainly will.”
~ “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland I am this: Reunited Adoptee/Daughter, Inspired Writer/Author, Wanna Be Yogi/Techie, Advocating Adoption Reform/Komen 3-Day 60 Mile Walker, Hungry Organic/Optimist, Lover of Coffee/Wine/Cheese, that’s me.