My wife often jokes that while parts of my life read like a lifetime movie, it ties in a pretty bow like a Hallmark Story. This weekend, I was able to enjoy my Hallmark movie by spending some quality time with my biological mom that was long overdue. As I slowly emerge from the coma induced by two young children, it was nice to go out after bedtime, alone, and consume an adult beverage (light beer – I lived it up) with the woman I met at the age of 25. Saturday, we celebrated 16 years since we “Found Her.” Our holiday was actually beautifully named by my wife, who totally digs this holiday and claims it as one of her favorites. Perhaps it’s because she can watch two adult women getting all giddy like school girls.
I met Sue on April 27, 1998. About three weeks earlier, I visited the agency through which I was placed for adoption to start a search. Opening a search requires “pre-search” counseling, intending to make sure I’d be in a decent enough place to deal with a rejection if one came. I paid the search fee. I left with no clue what to expect. I waited until I was 25 years old to start a search because I wanted to make sure I was very clear on a couple of things. I wanted to have no expectations of my biological mother. I didn’t want to set either of us up for disappointment or premature obligation. I also wanted to be sure I didn’t need anything, whether money or validation. For a long time in my life, I craved the validation, so that put the brakes on my search for a few years.
Adoption was one area of parenting that my folks nailed. They truly did. Adoption was spoken of openly, repeatedly, and with my questions answered. I had the right to have mixed feelings. There was one rule: My whole family only ever spoke of our biological parents with respect, and with a belief that their decision was both difficult and loving. Knowing that, believing that, I never needed to sit across from Sue and ask her why. She told me anyway, but I imagine it flowed more easily from her tongue and heart knowing there was no right answer, and no judgment forthcoming.
The day we met I received a phone call at work from a name I didn’t recognize and simply returned it, “Hello, this is Sharlene returning your call from…”
“Hello, this is Sue…your…um…mother.”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Yes, really, that was all that came out of my mouth, for-um-ever.
She chuckled. I moved from the public workroom where all my colleagues are staring at me to a private office. As I put Sue on hold I whispered, “It’s… umm… my biological mother!” They joined me, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” and then kicked me out to run upstairs and pick up the phone.
After 45 minutes of Oh.my.God-ing my poor bio-mom, she invited me to meet her at Dunkin Donuts, and I promptly packed up and went. Who knew I passed by her exit every day going to and from work, or that we’d meet where I frequently stopped for a coffee? A couple of hours later, I knew: I looked “just like her sister;” We both disliked the feeling of hair on our face; The freckles came from her side, but my red face came from bio-dad; She had a husband she told “about me” early in their relationship because she wanted to make sure he was cool if I ever came along; She’s the oldest of four sisters, and my 25-year-old self had cousins that were 5, 3 and 1.
Mostly, however, who knew that my heart would have room for a whole new definition of family, one that has, over 16 years, become as important to me as any? My heart has room for them all. Who knew the blessings my children would have in a woman I may still call Sue, but they have only known as Grammy. I only hope that she feels as gifted by all of us as we are by her.