I think about sitting on the couch and turning on the TV, but I don't do it. The first half of This is Us ended, and I haven’t gone back to watch the rest because I feel so much already in my life, and I am afraid to feel more.
I think about the show every day. I think about Randall every day. I worry about him. I feel bad things are coming. I worry about his health. I worry about what will happen when he loses his birth father for a second time. In my mind, Randall is real, and so I wonder where his birth mother is, for when you are adopted you learn your story is often hijacked by lies that make other people feel more comfortable.
Can you imagine how much more difficult this show would be to watch if we knew that Randall’s birth mother was alive and either deeply regretful she had given him up or afraid he would try to contact her?
That’s the difference between real life stories and adoption stories people can tolerate. You have to take out some of the elements of adoption stories to make them acceptable. Real adoption stories would send you to church where you could pray to a higher power. Real adoption stories often involve a grief so deep someone like Randall has a major health crisis and no way of understanding what is really wrong. We are able to tolerate Randall’s pain, however, because the show gave him a gorgeous wife, beautiful, loving children, loving parents who adopted him, a spectacular home, car, career, and body.
I love This is Us for bringing adoption to television. I love This is Us for making me and a big chunk of the country cry on a weekly basis. Most of all I love Randall because he reminds me of my brother. My mixed-race brother came to us, a white family in a white town, and he didn’t say a word for days. His birth mother had dropped him off at the adoption agency at 4:59 on his 2nd birthday, running out the door before she answered more than a handful of questions. I loved my brother the minute he walked through our door. He was mine.
We never talked about his birth mother, his birth father, the foster care home he’d been in for the months between being relinquished and being given to us, but I thought about them, and last year I found my brother’s birth father. My brother met him, but he still can’t talk about the experience to me. When you don’t talk about your experiences as a child, how can you talk about them as an adult? Everything is left back in the part of the brain that processes emotion, not language. And so adoptees can get strange illnesses, strange pains as adults when all the feelings they can’t language press against the skin of their being.
My brother is no exception.
And this is why I haven’t gone back to watch more of This is Us. I want a happy ending for Randall. I want him to be free in his skin. I just don’t know how the show’s writers, who keep nailing what it means to be adopted, can stay true to experience and still keep the viewers on the couch. At what point do we decide Randall has suffered too much and turn off the TV so we can eat pizza and forget?
In May I am on a panel that will discuss This is Us at an adoption conference in Albany. This means I have to watch the entire season. I was wondering if you wanted to come over and sit with me while I watch the rest of the episodes. I was wondering if you would hold my hand. If you would tell me everything will be okay.
I want real life to imitate TV. I want the stories of adoption to be heard, and this means the level of honesty and open communication needs to increase between all involved, between all the mothers and fathers and children. The fewer secrets, the greater the flow of love. The less pain and silence we have to hold inside, the more of ourselves, the pure essence of our souls, we can give.
Please tell me Randall is going to be okay.
Please let him be happy.