Dear Blogosphere (I love that term):
I have had a great time blogging and “meeting” fellow bloggers. As of this post I am signing off from Stuckout. Its been a wonderful adventure and I may return, but for the forseeable future this is all for now. I greatly appreciate those who have read my jibberish and am so grateful to the other bloggers who have inspired me to delve deeper into issues of adoption, family and ALS.
B-logging has been the single most influential thing I’ve done in terms of exploring my own adoption experience and adoption in general and has been the most helpful way for me to think positively about my father.
Much love and thanks! Hopefully I’ll be back before too long.
Holy crap! Yep, USA published a story with this idiotic title, the part in quotes. I blame the title on whoever the editor is and the ignorant content to Wendy Koch, the author. Thanks to Adoption News and Events on Facebook for publicizing this article. Thanks to them for also spreading the word about Terry Achane. If you’re looking for news regarding adoption, all news, good and bad, I certainly recommend checking them out on the good ‘ole Facebook.
I have found Wendy’s article under two different names, but here is the full one I found titled: “Adoption Options Plummet As Russia Closes Its Doors“. Check it out.
I don’t have the time to tear into this as much as I’d like but its short and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out most of it for yourself. Here’s my initial reaction though. One quick thing, I’d highly recommend sending Wendy, the author, a message if you find her article misleading, damaging, disrespectful….etc. Its quite easy once you click on the article to find the form to contact her. The link is entitled “Send Wendy Koch a Message” under her little bio.
Mostly, I find it troubling that Koch’s article frames the problem as a lack of adoptable children for US families. The focus is meeting the needs of the families that wish to adopt, not to mention say, the wellbeing of the children or their birth families. In fact, her article paints birth parents in a negative light by saying that “She said some, traumatized by costly failed attempts to adopt abroad, may not be ready to risk fostering a U.S. child only to lose guardianship later to birth parents whose parental rights are restored.” Really? This just fortifies the mentality that relinquishment is voluntary, that first parents don’t want their children. That once you’ve relinquished your child that’s it. You don’t get a second chance you don’t lost your opportunity. It also denies the possibility that a child could have BOTH sets of parents actively parenting them or actively in their lives. Whatsmore, this framing of the situation immediately places the adoptive parents and first parents as adversaries fighting over the child.
This section and the entire article frame the prospective, American, parents as the victims of a shortage of children who need families. What the fuck!? I think I’m beginning to understand what people are referring to when they speak of “the adoption industry”. An industry designed to function in order to provide children to parents that desire them. Its a transaction they are interested in, not creating a healthy living environment for a child or helping a struggling parent to keep their child. (FYI, I don’t really know who I am referring to besides the people in this article, as the adoption industry because I know there are plenty of people doing a splendid job as well).
“Oregon’s Patt Murphy and her husband Lawrence, who adopted their son from Russia in 2004, are now looking at foster care for another child, because they fear other countries may suddenly close their doors. They find adopting from foster care can be competitive but, she adds: “It’s definitely worth it. The children really need you.”" So adoption is charity? Nope! And parents you aren’t saviors even if it was.
“There are fewer foster-care children available, because more are reunited with birth parents or adopted by relatives and foster parents.” Um, is this supposed to be a bad thing? I’m gonna get all semantical (definitely not a word) now, but using the term “available” makes it seem like children are a commodity (re: adoption industry, again)!
I have found one thing I have in common with this piece of work though, we are both asking the same question, “Where are the children?” They of course are wondering where they are so that they can be adopted by the wonderful saviors of the world (American parents) whereas I’m wondering where the hell are the children in this article? As far I can tell this article could be about anything: baby squirrels, pet rocks, or freaking ferbies!
So Wendy Koch, even though you are writing a piece asking where the children are, I want to know where the hell they are in your article? And who appointed you authority on adoption anyway?
Just don’t read the comments section, it’s never healthy to read a newspaper’s comment section, ever.
This is a piece written by Lesli Johnson. It was published by the huffington post last week. She does a great job of writing about the adoption experience generally speaking, which is incredibly difficult to do without being offensive.
Her article is by no means perfect but it is by far the best of its type I’ve read. A few excerpts that really resonated with me are:
“Adoption is not a substitute for having a biological child nor is it a way of “replacing” a child who dies. Adoption IS one of many ways to make a family.”
” Hoping if they go along, they will keep their place in the adoptive family. The adoptee is forced to develop a “false self.”
“Many adoptees deny their desire to search thinking that they are going to hurt their adoptive parents’ feelings.”
Thanks for others sharing this as well. One of my big concerns though is that huffington post published this under their “women” section which doesn’t make and damn sense. Silly newspapers.
Anyway check it out here.
This is quite frustrating and complex in multiple levels. The two most apparent are 1) that Utah law would allow for something like this to happen AND once they realized what had happened not immediately “righting” their wrong and 2) that this family continues to pursue a child that should never have come into their custody.
I strongly encourage people to follow this story and help Terry out in anyway you can. Please share this and check out his support sites below.
“Achane and his then-wife Tira Bland were living in Texas when she conceived, Teleah, their first child, who was due in mid-March of 2011. He received a transfer to South Carolina and was told to report for duty by Feb. 1, 2011. His wife planned to stay in Texas until the baby’s birth and Achane planned to come back for the delivery.
But 10 days after Achane left Texas, Bland decided to place the baby for adoption. She contacted the Adoption Center of Choice, then located in Orem, and told them her husband had abandoned her and had no interest in the child. Bland traveled to Utah in mid-February and gave birth on March 1, 2011. She relinquished her parental rights two days later, and the baby was placed with the Freis.
Achane did not learn what had become of his child until June 2011, when Bland finally told him she had given birth in Utah and placed the child through the Adoption Center of Choice. At that point, he contacted the agency and its attorney to demand return of his daughter, but they refused and proceeded with the adoption.
The dispute finally went to court last October, and in December McDade issued a 48-page ruling admonishing the Adoption Center of Choice and the Freis for ignoring Achane once he stepped forward as the child’s legally recognized father.” – Salt Lake City tribune.
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I do a lot of odd jobs. Mostly things like house sitting, pet walking, plant care and carpentry. Recently though I’ve become an airport driver. Mostly for friends of relatives. It’s cheaper for them than taking a cab and makes me more money than I get an hour working my day job. Plus, they get a conversation although come to think of it I’m probably not as interesting as a cab driver.
Recently I picked up a Jewish rabbi (no this isn’t the beginning to a joke). He looked sort of like a rabbi. Long beard and black clothes. He was quite talkative and the uncle of my good friends. Most conversations begin the same when you are meeting someone for the first time, especially if you don’t expect you’ll ever see them again.
We began by talking about what each of us did for a living. He told me of his work in a yeshiva and I told him about my carpentry work. Every once and a while the car would fall silent. We’d each look out the window as we rushed by sound barriers, 60-foot fast food signs and housing development after housing development.
I’m pretty ok with silence. I don’t mind sitting in a room or car with someone without talking, I find it sort of relaxing. The rabbi, after one of these silences looked at me and said,
“Kumar” but not like he was trying to get my attention. He was just saying the word out loud.
He continued, “Kumar is an interesting name”
Not really sure where he was headed with this one I looked at him to acknowledge I was listening but remained silent.
“You know Kumar is very similar to kohan which in Hebrew means priest”
“Holy shit” I thought to myself “is this rabbi really about to give me the god talk? I thought only Catholics and Christians did that”
He continued, unfazed by my silence. “You would be surprised the number of words that are derived from Hebrew.”
“Really? that’s interesting. I didn’t know that.”
“You know, you must have something priestly about you to be named Kumar, your parents must’ve seen that in you.”
“Uh,” I stammer, now realizing where this was headed. I hate it when people say things assuming I will be able to answer their question. I wasn’t as annoyed with the fact that he was saying there is something priestly about me as I was with the fact that I know had to explain to him how I didn’t have any clue why I was named Kumar.
“Well,” I begin, “I was adopted and the orphanage didn’t really have any sure records of my name when I was born. I mean Kumar could have been my name when I was born or it could have been a name the orphanage gave me.”
“Oh” the rabbi responded sounding decidedly less enthusiastic about my priestly potential.
“It’s more commonly a surname than a first name”
“Yes, that’s what I was talking about. Kumar as a surname” the rabbi confirmed.
Trying to save face and not disappoint my client I explained what I assume to be the most likely possibility,
“What probably happened was that Kumar was my surname when I was surrendered or when the orphanage received me and since they didn’t have a first name for me I just went by Kumar.”
I took a quick glance at the rabbi and he seemed content with my answer.
I felt sort of strange explaining something that seems so integral to me and my life, my name, to someone I barely knew. I divulged some of the uncertainties of my life that I don’t share with my friends or family. He probably didn’t think much of it but if I had said the same to friends they might get uncomfortable and feel sorry for me. The rabbi did not seem to pity me, just curious.
Its interesting how since I have begun this cute little blog I have found myself in many more situations where I am attempting to answer questions I don’t know the answers to.
I grew up assuming that I was adopted because my biological relatives could not take care of me. Implicit within that assumption was that they did not want to take care of me. I never found it to be very harsh. I just assumed that they were unable to care for me and so they gave me up so that I could have a better life, never looking back.
I can’t recollect anyone every actually reciting this narrative to me. Not my parents or my sister. I do recollect learning about adoption and orphans, albeit vicariously, through public discourse. I was probably first exposed to it in a movie or a book. Maybe from another child at school as an elementary kid.
Somehow, someway I internalized that narrative. Interestingly enough, I also internalized the response to that narrative. The response to accept that narrative as true for the world and myself and to not question it. There was no need to question it because it was considered The Truth.
Its kind of fucked up that I internalized that information so well and for so long without ever really challenging it. I scare myself sometimes when I realize how effectively I subscribe to, and abide by, dominant social norms. Needless to say I’m quite impressionable, which I might add is probably largely influenced by being adopted (not going to go here in this post though!).
Now, here I am, solidly barreling towards my 24th birthday and I’m starting to wonder about my biological relatives and let me tell you it’s scaring the shit out of me.
For the longest time, well probably 20 years, I’d never ever even considered the possibility that my biological family didn’t want to give me up. Or that they wanted to see me again. It pains me to no end to think about a family who loses a child or gives up a child unwillingly. I guess I’ve just never allowed myself to be that child in that narrative.
This personal revelation has come about through reading blogs. Through hearing other people’s experiences with reunion, failed adoptions, failed reunions, and many other stories of search. Reading first mothers’ posts and adoptive parents’ blogs has allowed me to think about my own situation, my own circumstance and has empowered me to question that dominant narrative, as terrifying as it seems.
I think it terrifies me because it allows me to begin to consider my biological relatives as family. Something I’ve never allowed myself to do. Never wanted to do. It seemed like too much work. Too much drama. Too many emotions to deal with. Plus, if I begin to consider them family what comes next?
That has never been a desire of mine. I’m unsure whether it has become one, but it’s now on the table. I remember my father (presumably my mother said the same or he spoke for them both) saying that he would help me as much as I wanted in returning to India or reaching out to biological relatives. I never thought I’d ever take him up on the offer, now that he is gone, I’m beginning to wonder if I should’ve.
Should I take my own initiative?
It is quite interesting and often times amusing how strongly the realm of possibility is determined by what is believed. Not by physical means or by so-called facts but by opinions and impressions, opinions and impressions that form our beliefs.
People ask where I’m from, a lot. They mean all sorts of things when they ask that question. I can’t really be angry with their curiosity, but I do get fed up with it once in a while. I mean I don’t go around gawking at white people trying to figure out why the hell they speak English fluently and live in rural Ohio. I digress.
I get pretty annoyed by this question so sometimes I’ll make people guess. The most recent time was with my new boss. I’ve been working with him for about 4 months. He is a bit of an asshole, very knowledgeable, a great teacher and quite hard of hearing.
At any rate, a few days ago I was talking the electrician on the job about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and my boss takes an interest in our conversation. He seems to think that I might be talking about the conflict because I have a direct stake in it (as in he is wondering if I am Israeli or Palestinian), so he asks me, in his long drawn out voice and odd pronunciation of my name (he emphasizes the Ku part so its sounds like Koohmar),
“Kumar, where are you from?”
I look up from the floor where I am trying to pry a full 2 foot square porcelain tile off the floor. I’m tired and don’t really think he gives a shit so I make him guess.
“Where do you think I’m from?” I almost yell at him with a slight grin curling across my face.
He takes a look at me and then says, “India”.
“Good guess” I shoot back to him as I return to my painstaking attempt to remove these damn tiles.
That night as I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep I had a bit of a realization. When I ask people to guess where I’m from I’m asking them to stereotype me. I’m saying, I bet you can figure it out. I bet given the information you have at hand that you can tell where I’m from. Which also means I’m subscribing myself to that stereotype as well. Meaning I am saying I am enough like a stereotypical Indian that you can figure that out by just knowing my name and seeing my face. I find it a little funny that I do this because I get really pissed when people assume things about me. But in this case I am assuming they can tell where I’m from, based solely on superficial information.
It’s just another example of how my behaviors and beliefs are not intrinsically connected, that connection must be intentionally constructed. Not an overwhelmingly surprising realization, just another reminder of how easy it is to be a hypocrite.
I don’t like it when they call cremated ashes remains. It has so many weird and negative connotations in my mind.
It makes me think that somebody took something from him and then gave us what was left over, his remains. Which I guess since he did donate his body to science is literally what happened. so literally here remains make some sebse, but it produces some odd connotations.
I think I don’t like remains because It implies that his remains are exactly that. All that remains of him. In some ways his physical remains are the least significant of what remains of him.
The memories he has left behind are much stronger to me than his ashes, which can be evidenced by them still sitting in the box they came in 7 years ago. He also left a family. Not that he was the sole creator of that family but he sure played a part.
All of his quirky plumbing still remains, his self welded fire place doors, the lift that picked him out of his wheelchair and plopped him on his fancy toilet or in his bathtub. He left a greenhouse, his bikes (fully engraved with his SSN in his defiance of identity theft). His sayings remain. He claimed, on more than one occasion that he didn’t know how to curse. In his attempt to prove this inability he created his own curse words to fulfill the void. The most notably one was “grocery store!” He also said “avocado!” occasionally.
He left old wind up toy cars, old spinning tops, wildly colored counters and a fully tiled bathroom. He left a swath of asparagus that he and my mother planted that is harvestable to this day.
He also left relationships. Many of them. Relationships with his siblings, his mother, his in-laws, his nieces, his nephews and his wife, his son and his daughter. Although the physical things he left serve as frequent reminders of him the relationships give those reminders context.
Sometimes it is hard for me to remember what he was like before he became ill. I feel guilty because I don’t want his life to be defined by his illness since it was such a small portion of his life. Sometimes I can’t help it though, because I have my strongest memories of him while he was sick. But when I see things that he did around the house or remember being in the garden as a child I remember that he cannot and should not be defined by that disease.
Just as he should not be defined by the box of his remains.
It’s a cool fall evening and I just got off the phone with Sean, a good friend of mine. He just finished dinner with his family and invited me over.
His family lives in town. We live outside of town down a half-mile gravel lane, we affectionately call The Vale Lane. The Vale is the name of the small intentional community we live in. My father’s family lived here when he was young and my mother, father and sister moved back here right before I arrived.
I’m 15 and my father has been sick with ALS for almost 4 years.
I close the door to my room and walk down our staircase my hand gliding down the clear plastic banisters. He is sitting in his usual place at the dinner table. He is in his electric wheelchair with his dark blue velvet quilt on his lap and his breathing tube. I tell him I’m headed to Sean’s and give him a hug. He tells me, as he always does, to be safe and have fun.
I close the door behind me and head out to the garage to get my bike. It takes me about 10 minutes to bike into Sean’s. I head up the gravel lane dogging potholes pedaling as fast as I can. I cross the old bridge that used to go over the train tracks. There are no tracks below anymore. Just a bike path.
Once off the gravel lane and over the bridge I ride the rest of the way to Sean’s no handed. Maneuvering with the weight and swaying of my body.
As I approach his house I scan the driveway to see if his parents are home. Crap, they’re both here I realize as I spot their green minivan and battered silver Honda civic parked side by side.
I pull onto their lawn and lean my bike against the large black walnut that towers over their house. As I walk towards their house I begin to regret the conversation that I have yet to have.
Ellie, Sean’s mom, would answer the door since Sean was probably in his room reading or playing chess with Kevin his younger brother. Ellie would ask me questions about my dad. How is he? Is he doing alright? How is your mom doing? How are you? She wasn’t as bad as some parents. But, I still dreaded the conversations and tried to avoid them.
I knock my knuckles against their front door. I hear some scuffling and see Ellie approaching me through a side window.
“Hey Kumar! Sean said you were coming over, come in.”
“Thanks! Ellie, how are you?” I respond trying to avoid eye contact. I step into their entryway and start untying my shoes. Damn, I think to myself, I shouldn’t have double knotted my laces, she’ll have plenty of time to ask me questions now.
Sure enough as she closes the door she starts.
“How is your dad doing?”
How the hell do you think he is doing I want to spit back at her. The question infuriates me. He is dying, that’s really how I want to respond, but I don’t. I breathe in and say, without looking up to see the pain in her eyes,
“Uh, he’s doing alright” and quickly add, “not much has changed.”
I can tell she wants me to talk. She can see the pain, confusion and denial in my teenage behaviors. She knows much better than I do how I feel. But Ellie knows she can’t push me and that if she did it would do no good, that I’d shut off and stop coming over. But she wants to help me.
I look up after managing to get my left sneaker untied and see her eyes. They give me a pain-filled look. A look that says “I ache for you. I know what is to come and I ache. I know not how to ease your suffering or prepare you for what you will feel.”
All I feel is pity and the awkwardness of the moment. I look away more frustrated than before and try to pull of my remaining shoe without untying its’ laces.
“It must be really hard” she says hesitantly as of she sensed my increased frustration.
“Yeah, well he is in good spirits which helps” I respond as my shoe pops off and I toss it into the heaping pile of shoes and coats beside their stairs.
“Is Sean upstairs?”
“Yeah, I think he is reading”
“Thanks,” I respond as I scamper up the stairs hoping to avoid anymore questions.
I had a very difficult time talking to my friends parents while my father was sick. I knew their questions and concerned looks were of the best intentions but I couldn’t stand it. I think part of my frustration same from my own lack of understanding of my father’s illness and his impending death. I didn’t really know much about the disease even though I did a poster project about it in health class as an 8th grader.
I also didn’t really know how my dad was doing. Maybe I was just an exceptionally bad communicator as a young teenager, maybe I just didn’t ask enough questions or maybe my father’s positive attitude deterred me. Whatever the reason I felt very uninformed about his illness, its progression and “how he was doing”. Since his attitude was so cheerful most of the time and upbeat I couldn’t really gage how he was feeling or if those feelings had changes much.
I could only watch as his body morphed and thus could only explain to friends’ parents how he was doing in terms of what new gadget he had gotten to ease his bodily degeneration.
Looking back now I think my friends and their parents who knew me well wanted to know I was alright. Since I never spoke about it unless asked they felt the need to ask. I also think my frustration towards their questions was really my frustration and guilt of feeling like I was unable to answer those simple questions Ellie asked me.
Today parts of my family gathered for about 45 minutes to remember my father since Friday marked the passing of the 7th year since he died.
A few people recited poems and we shared some pictures. I told a story or two, but other than that things went as normal.
As with when he died most people showed no visible emotional connection to him. I know it’s there and that everyone in that room, well everyone who knew him, loved him. But I didn’t feel it, or well, I didn’t see it either.
I guess web I’m processing emotions I’m used to telling people how I feel. As well as doing things like telling poems and looking at pictures to help remember someone. In our family, broadly speaking, we tend not to tell each other how we feel. People don’t say they miss him or that they wish he was here…etc. No one says they are having a hard time or has mental break downs. It’s weird as hell.
My sister and I often talk about it. We try to wrap our heads around how our family members deal with such complex emotions. We have also noticed that this phenomena or not talking about feelings seems rather confined to our parents and grandparents generation. Neither of us subscribe to it and both feel the need for expression of our feelings whether verbal or other (re: this blog).
I think there are a few main reasons why I find this lack of emotional expression very difficult:
- I have no idea what my family members are feeling. I don’t know how upset they are or if they even care about things that happen. Since I know they have emotions, obviously, it frustrates me not to know what they are!!!
- When I was younger I took most of my emotional cues from my family and soon began to realize how differently my parents dealt with trauma than I did. It confused me and made it very hard for me to know what of my feelings were valid or if what I was feeling was normal (of course all feelings are valid, but not knowing if what I was feeling was normal made it exceptionally difficult to acknowledge my feelings as valid)
- It makes me feel very isolated emotionally. Since others don’t talk about their emotions when I am upset I don’t feel comfortable talking about mine since there is no precedent of people openly processing their emotions.
There are certainly exceptions to these points, but they are exactly that, exceptions.
I don’t fault my grandparents and parents generation for their emotional standoffishness because chances are they wish (as probably everyone on the world does) that they were better at processing their own emotions as well. And even more likely is that their expressiveness is also partially a product of the time and place they grew up in. My time and place rewards self expression and encourages me to know, process and express my emotions. Theirs likely did not.