It is Not Reunion I Resent — It is Being LIED to and Harassed

I was checking my trackers when someone’s search words caught my eye: “adoption reunion resentment”.

Let me make this clear: I will not be the Poster Girl for Bad Reunions. You will have to read my book to know the whole story.

I was lied to be my adoptive parents for the first 18 years of my life. They did not EVER want me to know my own siblings. Siblings that they knew I had! Siblings who lived just a 20 minute drive away! When those siblings called me on the phone and shocked the living hell out of me when I was 18 years old, I was not mad at them. I was in deep, profound, emotional shock! My adoptive parents lied to me and prevented me from having meaningful relationships with my own siblings and my blood cousins, but it was alright for other members of my adoptive family to socialize with my own blood kin!

I was happy to meet my siblings, my niece and nephew, my father, and I was grieving the loss of my dead mother for the first time in my life. Do not for one second label me as against reunions!!!!

My reunion turned sour because I was getting abuse from my adoptive mother who never wanted me to know the truth. I was getting abuse from adoptive relatives who believed I was disloyal to my adoptive parents for accepting a phone call from my own siblings! I was seen as the villain by my many of my adoptive relatives.

A few of my adoptive aunts took me kindly aside to explain what they knew. The point is: if THEY knew, I should have known all along. Not only that, but my natural father was completely unaware that the adoption contract was broken. He put his trust into the couple he chose to adopt me, but he was not told that there would be socializing going on with his deceased wife’s family. If my adoptive father’s family and my deceased mother’s family allowed themselves to socialize, but left my father out of it, then his rights were violated. He was also unaware that rumors were spread about him, rumors that affected how I was treated by my extended adopted family.

In my beginning stages of my reunion, and for decades after, I could not be everything to everyone. I was expected to learn my family history, learn names, dates, go here, go there, finish high school, go to college, and be OKAY. No one was concerned for my emotional or mental health. I was alone, until I went to a support group for adoptees. The group met once a month. Then, I went to an Adoption Forum of Philadelphia Day – long adoption conference. I met authors, natural mothers, and adoptees who felt just like I did. I found friends. Back home, I was criticized for being in a reunion, and ridiculed by natural family and adoptive family for writing Letters to the Editor about adoptees rights. This was in the 1970s.

I have been ridiculed for being an adoption activist, for standing up for what I believe in.

I am not against adoption reunions!!! I am against the lies, the deception of entire family groups, I am against being discriminated against for being an adoptee writing about my life.

My reunion went sour for many, many reasons. Too many for a blog to explain.

Message to adoptive parents: do not ever lie to your adoptees. THAT abuse destroys the parent-child relationship. To prevent an adoptee to live as a “only” child, knowing that there are siblings nearby, is child abuse. Divorced parents would face charges if they did that.

Reunions with blood kin can only work if all people work at it. My father worked at it, but could not handle me going public. He did not understand the politics of me being adopted. He felt guilty for giving me away and I have told him repeatedly that I never blamed him. I have a lovely step mother. My adoptive parents and my natural parents visited with each other. It was hardest on my adoptive mother since she did not want me to ever know my father. And my siblings and I had wonderful times together. I had a hard times adjusting. I was one person. They were many. I was overwhelmed. I was alone in my suffering.

Reunions between families separated by adoption are positive, natural events, that, if handled with respect and dignity and honesty, can and do, work.

Reunions happen with and without open birth and adoption records.

DO NOT pin negativity upon me and blame “bad” reunions on me! Many relationships ebb and flow and some end. It is part of life. Not all families get along even without adoption separation and reunion. It is now nearly 36 years after my initial reunion. There are many relatives that have sustained relationships with me, and many who have not. The younger generations now are asking questions. Adoption, just like marriage, grows and changes as we all grow and age and die.

My adoptive mother is dying. She has faced some difficult issues. She has accepted that the falsified birth certificate must end, and in its place, an adoption certificate must tell the truth.

My natural father read my book as I wrote it, twice, in these last few years. He gave his own input as to what happened. He also answered questions about the relinquishment, and, no, he was never promised confidentiality. He was told by the judge: “you must not interfere with your daughter’s life. She now is the adopted daughter in this new family. When she turns 18, you may find her again.”

Ahh, but single mothers who give up their babies, or rather, who are coerced into giving up their babies, are, and have been, told that they will never see their baby again.

There is so much that is wrong about adoption itself.  We need to focus on fixing those issues, which will then fix the reasons why relationships break down. There is much in adoption psychology of the entire family systems that cannot be explained in a blog. Read some adoption psychology books. They apply to family systems, and not just finger-pointing at the adoptee.

Society always must have scapegoats. That’s why illegitimates are called bastards. Cuss words. I resent it. Especially since I am a half orphan who should have been given respect, dignity, and honesty right from the very beginning of my adoption. Too many rumors. Too many untruths. Too much confusion for the adoptee.

The Meaning of Two Christmas Concerts Today

One of the blessings of attending the Unitarian Church of Buffalo is that we have great music. Today, in addition to our wonderful professional choir, we had The Chamber Orchestra of The Buffalo Philharmonic Musicians performing Puccini’s “Magnificat”, Mozart’s “Te Deum”, and Handel’s “Sound an Alarm” from “Judas Maccabaeus”.

 The following are notes written by our music director, Barbara Wagner:

 “Sound an Alarm”

“The political context is the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Handel, in 1746 hastily composed the Occasional Oratorio for the encouragement of the English. After the success of the British forces at the Battle of Culloden, he started a work in honor of the victorious Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The first performance of “Judas Maccabaeus” took place on April1, 1747, at Covent Garden. It was to become one of Handel’s most popular oratorios…”

I listened intently. My first reaction was to be insulted, for the British slaughtered Clan MacDonald at the Battle of Culloden. That’s my clan. Of course I didn’t know it most of my life because I did not find out I was a wee bit Scottish on my mother’s side until I met my blood-kin in March of 1974 when I was 18 years old. One of my great grandmothers was a McQuiston, which is part of the larger MacDonald Clan. When I went to Liverpool, United Kingdom, in 1976 to meet a sister there (spoiler alert for my book), I quickly learned some of my heritage from folk music. Particularly, “The Massacre of Glencoe”, sung by Roy Williamson of The Corries, a Scottish duo. For the past 30+years I’ve immersed myself in that haunting recollection of an earlier British-Scottish battle on December 31st 1691 in which the Brits murdered the Clan MacDonald.

Now, today at church, I tried to hear the beauty in Handel’s music portraying the British version of one of the Battles that killed my ancestors. Yes, it was a beautiful piece of music, but I couldn’t shake being startled. As I contemplated, another observation came to me. The man singing this “Sound an Alarm” had the last name of “MacDonald”. I scratched my head on that bit of irony.

Then, slowly, I thought about my adoptive father who died in 1982. He was half English, his father was English. Fortunately for me, his English heritage was never stressed during my childhood. No, my father’s Polish mother was more important, probably because his father died young and the English heritage of the Wheeler family died with him. So, thankfully, the famous Battles of Culloden and Glencoe between the British and the Scottish were not part of my childhood stories while I was growing up.

Since our society is so big on forcing adoptees to choose: “No, I’M your REAL mother!”, here I sit today thinking: so, which side of this battle am I on? The British or the Scottish? If a Clan MacDonald killed a Brit, and my Wheeler family is of British ancestry, would that be an insult to my adoptive family? The battles were British victories in killing my Scottish ancestors. Obviously some of the Clan MacDonald survived else I would not be here. So, whose side should I be on? Should I be loyal to my adoptive family’s ancestors for being the victors over my Scottish blood-kin? Should I rise up with pride at the Scottish singing of “The Massacre of Glencoe” so I may honor my murdered ancestors?

Ahh, the blessings of being adopted.

The other Christmas concert was even more bitter-sweet. My friend, Nan Hoffman, and her long-time friends, Joe, Kathy, Tom and Mary, sang one of their Christmas-season concerts this afternoon. When my children were in middle school, I took them, and their grandmother, my adoptive mother, to see this folk music concert. We may have missed a few concerts here and there, but these last few years, I brought Mom. Last year she was in a wheel chair. This year, Mom is in a nursing home.

Nan and her friends bring their talents to Christmas favorites, but for me, their shows give me the chance to remember the two Christmases I spent with one of my sisters in Liverpool, England.

There, my sister and I went to see The Liverpool Spinners in their Christmas concerts. They sang songs I had not heard in Buffalo, so when Nan and her friends began their Christmas concerts long ago, I have been  recalling the special times I had in Liverpool. Songs such as, “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” and, “Jamaican Christmas Carol,” and “Mary Had a Baby Boy” and “The Holly and The Ivy” and “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Tears filled my eyes as I hear Nan’s sweet voice, and the harmonies of the others, but my mind also hears the voices of Cliff, Mick, Hughie, and Tony of The Liverpool Spinners.

 I am also reminded of another Liverpudlian folk duo, Jacqui and Bridie. I did not meet them in Liverpool, however. No, they came to Buffalo with their musical talents and wonderful wit for over twenty years. Bridie died many years ago. After that, Jacqui traveled and sang with Lynn. And always, Jacqui sang “Mist Over the Mersey” for me. That song was written by another Liverpudlian folk singer, Jack Owen, who I met in Liverpool.

So, Nan and friends not only fill my soul with their lively voices, but they bring back to me my joyful memories.

These last few years, Nan and friends have stopped singing John McCutchin’s, “Christmas in the Trenches”, about World War I: “My name is Francis Toliver, from Liverpool I dwell…”

The biggest flow of tears came for me this afternoon as the group sang Peter Mayer’s “Holy Now”. That song is so touching, so wonderful, contrasting a child’s memories of going to church with the grown child’s realization that “everything is Holy Now.”

 It is a sad reminder that this will be my mother’s last Christmas. I’ll remember it for her.

“Everything is Holy Now” is also a sad reminder that 53 years ago, my pregnant mother did not know why she was so sick during her pregnancy with me. She went into the hospital two days after Christmas and never came home again. Neither did her baby.