I mentioned previously how much we love the new NBC show “This is Us.” It returns tonight from its winter hiatus and cliff-hanger. (Toby!!!) The show hits on some very real subjects such as pregnancy loss, adoption, truth in relationships, obesity, blended families and more. My Mom and I love it. I sincerely hope the writers can keep it honest and true for the rest of the season and years to come.
During one of the last episodes before the break, Randall, one of the three kids, was getting high on ‘shrooms (accidentally) and was exploring the truths and lies about his life as an adopted son, searching for his biological father and fighting through his abandonment issues. It rang so true to me as someone who is adopted but also as someone who has struggled to know their true place in the world, in their family.
This is what Randall said to a hallucinatory vision of his deceased father:
“I was a replacement for your dead baby, that’s all I’ve ever been,” Randall said to the vision of Jack, his father. “I spent my life striving for perfection. You know why, Dad? Because I live in fear that if I let up for a moment, I will remember that I am unwanted. And then what’ll happen to me?”
I remember feeling that exact same way as Randall for most of my life, thinking those same thoughts. Deep in my heart and my rational mind, I know I have always been loved by my biological mother, Liza, as well as my adoptive family. However, there’s always that little piece of me that felt unwanted. I know now after talking with her that she wanted me to have a better life than she thought she could provide as a young college-aged woman. My adopted parents tried their hardest to give me everything I wanted, and even when they couldn’t, my brother John would say “yes.” I know I am loved, I have no doubt of that. I don’t want it to sound like I’m ungrateful. I have had a wonderful life and I had a safe, fun childhood. Yet, there was something missing and I could never put my finger on it so I strived to do my best in school, work and every aspect of my life to impress my family at every chance, like I was winning some sort of prize for their love and affection.
As I’m older now and have had more time to reflect, I think that gaping hole of rejection and loss has to do with my biological father.
My biological parents were young when I was born. My father was still in high school. He was my brother John’s best friend growing up, they were neighbors. Our families had been very close…but then I came into the picture.
My father went to court to have his paternal rights set aside so he would never have to owe paternity or have visits with me. I knew this from a very young age. My family, especially my adopted parents, were very open with me, unlike the situation that many adopted children experience, like Randall from “This Is Us” who spent a lifetime searching for his real father. I knew who my father was. I knew where my biological grandparents lived.
I have a former co-worker who nicknamed me “Lil’ Digger” because I love digging for answers. I’ve always been that way. I love solving problems like a little Sherlock Holmes. When I was young, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I found an old picture in my adopted mom’s drawer. It was my Dad. His name was written on the back of it. In the back of my mind palace, I filed away that name.
Years later when I was still in elementary school, probably around 10 or 11, our class volunteered in the special ed classrooms in our school. There was a young girl I took a particular interest in. I looked her up in the school yearbook and then in the school directory. I secretly found out that this girl was my half-sister. The school principal caught on and let my Mom know. There was an awkward time at a Halloween party for the whole school where I noticed my parents get really cold to an older couple. I ran off with my friends not thinking any more of it.
Years later, I would find out that was my father’s parents. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to my biological father’s family. Even though I have looked him up on the internet to see where he lives, to see where he works, to see if he ever married and had other children.
I never knew what type of special needs my half-sister had that put her in a wheelchair and forced her to need a ventilator to breathe. I don’t know if she’s even alive today. If she is, I don’t know if she can have kids of her own. I have all those answers but something is still missing, now more than ever with Emmett gone. There’s this tiny part of me that wants to go up to my biological father’s doorstep one day and be, “Hi, I’m your daughter…and this is Emmett…” telling him the story of the grandson he’ll never know.
Even before we started to conceive, I had this nagging feeling I should try to reach out to him. Just to see if there were any health issues or things that I should be concerned with as I start to get older. I’m missing half of my life’s history. It’s always awkward when I have to do medical forms because I just say the generic answer to “yes” I have high blood pressure, history of heart attacks and strokes, etc…because I just honestly don’t know.
Then, there’s that other part of me that thinks it’s not fair of me to reach out. He has a new family. How much has he told them? Do they even know I exist? Could they be searching for me? It’s not fair of me to be the person to break that type of news to someone like his wife, his children.
I’m torn. And, I think I always will be torn.
I should be entirely happy with the life that I was given, the family that I have. I shouldn’t want or need the acceptance of my biological father to make me feel like a whole person.
But, I do.
There’s this man. By blood, he’s my father. By all other accounts, he’s a complete stranger to me. He went to court to have nothing to do with me. He rejected me in a most powerful and painful way as a child and as a human-being.
How can I want to even speak to a person like that and how could I ever learn to forgive someone for that?
Since Emmett’s loss, I’ve been turning to the Bible for answers. After this entire year, I can only think that God is truly in control and He knows what’s in store for me and my life. I was raised Catholic, but I’m a bad Catholic. I went every week because my Dad wanted me to, and it was the Filipino thing to do. I can’t say that I’m very good at understanding everything I read in the Bible but I see the good message and the hope that it brings, and how it just makes me want to live a life not full of regrets or hatred for things that have happened to me in my 35+ years on this earth.
It’s because of God and the teachings in the Bible that I can forgive my father for all of the horrible things he’s done to me in my life by rejecting the very thought of me. It’s because of the Bible that I know that I’m not “unwanted” but I am “wanted” by God and his kingdom in heaven.
There was a quote I read in a recent daily devotional that I’ll leave you with:
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)