It’s a universal question asked by most who share this beautiful planet: “Who am I?” and usually asked simultaneously with “Why am I here?” We question who we really are and why we’re here. We want our lives to have meaning. We want our minutes of oxygen use to count for something – to go beyond the daily grind.
For adoptees, there’s a more primal question that most people never have to ask. For these people it’s been answered for them since their first breaths of air. It’s a part of them, woven throughout the fabric of their existence. It’s never been a relevant or necessary question for the person who has always known their biological family. Personally, I doubt these folks can appreciate the enormity of the benefit of never needing to ask the seemingly insignificant question:
“Whose am I?”
Recently, I was helping out at my new-found family’s farm market stand. The family farm name was clearly displayed right in front of the tomatoes. Many people were crowded around waiting in line while farm stand workers and family members bustled around gathering black eyed peas, cantaloupes and watermelons for the long line of regulars. An older, kind woman approached the stand and looking at the family farm sign asked me if I was one of them. At that moment, the universe stopped, all noise ceased, and every eye and ear turned to me – waiting for my response. In the deafening silence, I paused…I didn’t really know how to answer that question. I knew I was a welcomed family member and ecstatic to be one of them, but I didn’t know if publically, I was supposed to answer it correctly or keep it a secret. Adoptees are used to secrets – keeping them and being one. Finally, after fumbling for her tomatoes while having an internal discussion with myself about how to respond, the words slid out, “Wellllll … actually, I am.” Another woman nearby laughed and said that my pause gave her need for concern. So, we all laughed it off and no explanation was necessary. Whew!
I never could’ve guessed how knowing who I come from would impact my life in such a profound way. I know it doesn’t always work out this way but when I’m around my new people, I feel “at home.” Swimming in my own gene pool feels easy. Of course, there were and occasionally are awkward moments due to not knowing them and then all of a sudden 50 yrs. later I pop up out of nowhere. My dad and brothers and their families couldn’t have been more loving and accepting. Honestly, I’ve lived the fairytale ending of all adoptees – finding a dad and brothers who love me and my family and have welcomed us into their lives. For this, I could be the poster child for adoptee reunions and not for one second do I take this for granted. I’ve experienced the alternative with my birthmother. I know this is a blessing that I can never repay. However, not for one second do I think this journey couldn’t take a detour and find myself on a road headed in the opposite direction. But just as I’ve said from Day 3 of my reunion with my Dad, if everything went away today – my dad, brothers and families – I still win! I’ve been able to absorb so much of “me” just from being around my family. I know where my toes, eyes, knees, goofiness, hard-headness, and love for gardening comes from now. But it’s even more than what can be observed … I seem to fit into the family mold somehow. It’s hard to put into words, but I feel like a puzzle piece that just finally seems to fit…kinda like Cinderella’s glass slipper.
On visits to my Dad, I love to hop in his truck and tag along with him on the farm. One particular visit, it was cold and I didn’t pack a coat. My dad noticed and said he’d get one for me so he went into the other room and retrieved a camo jacket. I didn’t know the significance of it until he told me, “Here, you can wear my old army jacket.” He helped me find the armholes and away we went. At one point, I found myself inside the truck waiting while he got out to check the water for the cattle. I lowered the visor to look in the mirror so I could re-work my hair that was falling out of my clip but what I noticed on the right chest of the army jacket took my breath away and brought me to tears – my Dad’s last name.
My name. I was literally wearing my name – it’s who I’ve been all along. It’s who I was 50 years ago and it’s who I am now.
It’s whose I am.