I was okay watching Steve Jobs until the last ten minutes.
Then I needed to wipe my face with my sleeve because I would have had to walk across the room for a Kleenex.
I was at home, and I was watching the movie on my computer, so I was able to rewind and watch the last two scenes again and again: the one scene with Jobs and his daughter Lisa up on the parking structure where, for the first time in his life, he was willingly making himself late for a product launch, and the next scene where he is on stage, walking towards Lisa, ignoring the crowd, focused, for the first time perhaps, solely on her, on Lisa. The daughter he had once publicly claimed was not his. And now there he was, publicly claiming her. It was like a fairy tale magnified a hundred times, a happily ever after many other adoptees and I will never have.
It has been my experience it’s pretty easy for birth parents to deny either the existence of their child (my birth mother) or the importance of a meet and greet (my birth father). I can’t imagine what it would be like for either my birth mother or birth father to walk towards me, beaming with love or acceptance.
Do you remember being a kid and doing something really cool, like jumping off the diving board for the first time or tying your shoes or getting a 100 on a quiz at school? The kind of thing that had you running to your parents because you knew they were going to be thrilled? That’s a big part of being a kid. Accomplishing one thing after another and having your parents mirror your excitement, proving to you that you are a good person, you are worthy of this life you were given, that everything will be okay because you got this.
Imagine showing up at age 24 or 52, and saying to your finally-found mother or father, Here I am. You made me! We get to see what each other looks like! and having that person shrug and turn away or shake her head and say, You have the wrong person. It’s not me when you know 100% this person is in fact your birth mother. Or imagine if your birth father writes, My wife says you’re not family, so I can’t talk to you.
Imagine you find out you have half siblings, and either they don’t want to meet you, or they do want to meet you and suddenly, for no reason you can know for sure, cut off all contact.
This is part of adoption a lot of people don’t talk about. It’s one of the reason adoptees commit suicide. It’s one of the reason there’s a disproportionate number of adoptees seeking mental health care. When blood relatives turn their backs on adoptees, the effects are devastating, and yet many adoptees do what I did, which is to shrug it off. I didn’t want to meet her/him anyway. I already have brothers/sisters. I don’t need more.
We shrug it off because the alternative is to feel a level of rejection so deep it can’t be compared to anything else. We shrug it off because the alternative is to feel.
When blood relatives turn their backs on adoptees, it’s often a knife in the part of the brain where the adoptee stores self-worth. Why would I want to exist if the very people who made me either deny my existence or don’t care enough about me to meet? It’s not rocket science, and yet it’s a point a lot of people seem to miss.
I don’t get it.
I must be missing that part of my brain.