Many things were strange today. My car drove down the 101 like it was riding waves. I pulled over and looked to see if there was a flat tire and then got back in the car and drove to Palo Alto, waiting for the engine to explode.
I had bought new sneakers, and I made it ten minutes before a blister formed on my heel. Walking hurt. I had planned to walk through the Stanford campus and then up around the accelerator, but every step was broken glass, so I turned around and went home.
I felt on the edge of migraine, everything shimmery and tentative. I tried to remember what I’d eaten to cause stabbing pains in my gut. I thought maybe it was the milk I’d put in my ice tea. Here it was, a beautiful Saturday morning, and nothing felt right. Even the TedTalk podcast I was listening to grated on my nerves. Guy’s voice was so…assertive.
A week from today I will be with my birth father. I don’t worry about the meeting going badly because I’m a nice person and he seems like a nice person, and we’re not out to hurt each other. We’ll have one day to spend some time together and then we’ll go our separate ways. I’m not hoping for a new life, for a new sense of being a daughter. I don’t know that I’m hoping for anything. I’m just happy he’s flying out here to meet me. More than happy. Stunned. Disbelieving.
All week my sleep has been off. I had one dream where a tall man wanted to hug me and I was reluctant, but when I let myself fall against him, I felt…safe. I sighed. I leaned into him more. I have been thinking about that feeling all week. I love my parents very much. I have been bigger than both of them since high school. My father is taller than I am, but he is finer boned than I, thinner.
As an adult, when I found out my birth mother weighed 150, my weight, my sense of self dramatically changed. My mother weighed 135, and I got to that weight when I was in college by living on grapefruit. I thought that was what I was supposed to weigh because it was what my mother weighed. To find out that I’d come from a planet that had a body like mine was like being let out of jail. I was okay. I was free.
I have always been a body that didn’t know its source. From what I understand, I came out of my birth mother and never touched her, and since my birth father was not in the picture, I never touched him. That means my body knows this world, this world where my parents, my relatives and my parents, my DNA and the DNA of my parents and my relatives, vibrate differently, but I’ve grown up with that feeling, with learning to vibrate with people who are not me.
This is confusing to you, I bet.
Let me try to explain in another way what it feels like to be the body of an adopted person. Imagine that someone poured you a glass of liquid to drink and then quickly hid the original container from you. You take a drink of you don’t know what, and you like it. You just have no idea what it is and no one will talk to you about it. They tell you it doesn’t matter what you drink as long as the liquid quenches your thirst. Every day you are given this mystery liquid that you love and every day you wish you knew what it was. Why do you want this information? Well, this liquid is going in you; it is becoming your flesh and blood, and yet you don’t even know the ingredients.
What if you drank this for 52 years and then, one day, someone lets you see the bottle and it says TEQUILLA?
Your whole sense of self shifts. You’ve been drinking alcohol every day of your life for 52 years. You are most likely an alcoholic. You need to get to a meeting. If only someone had told you. It’s so hard to know what to do when you aren’t clear on who you are.
Here I am, 52 years old, and I have been drinking from the HEFFRON and MICHELMORE pitcher my whole life minus the first ten weeks. I have become HEFFRON and MICHELMORE. Only…only…my DNA belongs to other surnames. I’ve been swimming in the lake of HEFFRON and MICHELMORE for so long, I think that’s normal. And yet…and yet…my skin did not come from that lake. My cells were not formed by HEFFRON and MICHELMORE They were formed by nameless others.
One of these nameless other that I get to meet in a week. I can feel my cells vibrating in anticipation. I don’t know how else to say it, and I’m guessing most of you think I’m overly sensitive and very imaginative. And of course, that is an option. But you saw E.T.’s face when he thought of going home. That little guy was fairly buzzing. It’s not that he didn’t love his Earth family—it’s that he was going to the creatures that had formed him, and I’m sorry because I know this will hurt many of you parents who adopt, but E.T. was going home. And, yes, I have a home always with HEFFRON and MICHELMORE, but I also have a DNA home, and it matters because it is who I am, and who I am matters.
My whole self is re-organizing around the fact that I’m going from a person who never met a DNA parent to one who has. Why does it matter so much? I’m not even sure, but I can tell you I am amazed by my body’s response. I am reminded of how unmoored I felt shortly before going into labor, my body and mind preparing for a different life. It wouldn’t surprise me if the ground I walked on today suddenly tipped sideways. I feel as if I’m on some sort of ride. I guess it’s the ride of change, the ride of going from I am the daughter of Frank and Margery Heffron to I am the daughter of Frank and Margery Heffron and X and Y (two people who, for this about adoption and adoption is often about secrets, would rather not be identified). In a week I will understand myself better than I do now because I will have more information.
How is this not an excellent thing? Why was my mother so afraid of me finding my birth parents?
When you have a second child, you do not love your first child less. People have multiple children and they love them all (hopefully). Why isn’t it the same with parents? Can’t I have two fathers and love them both, not sacrificing the love of one for the other? My mother did not believe this was possible, and so I did not talk about my birth mother to her because, in my mother’s mind, it was one or the other. My heart wasn’t big enough to love them both was what she feared.
My heart is enormous. It was created to love. That’s all it wants to do.