Roots; Is that the One she Adopted?

Roots

For much of my life I was defined by the circumstances of my birth. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always known that I was adopted and it defined me, in both the ways I have regarded myself and in the way other people considered me.

I don’t remember being told I was adopted so I am guessing I must have been very young. Growing up I was told a story several times about why the need to explain it to me had arisen, I had heard something said that had caused me to question its meaning.

The story goes that an aunt of my adopted mother had called to visit, not having seen the family for some time. After initial greetings she had looked at me and said, “Oh is that the one you adopted?” which caused me to ask the question, “What does adopted mean?”,  resulting in the need for hasty  explanations.

I have no recall of this happening and whilst it is possible that it is true, I have reason to question it. In the context of my upbringing it seems too innocent and naive and almost as though it was created in order to erase the truthful events of its disclosure. An overriding feeling  and  possibly a deeply held subconscious memory, it is more likely that the facts were hurled at me during one of many vitriolic rages and verbal attacks, as were many other details of the circumstance of my beginnings.

I was, however, to hear a similar sentence once again many years later at the age of thirty at my adopted mother’s funeral. Her sister whom we had not seen for many years attended the funeral and the wake afterwards. There was chatting for a while and then, when she thought me to be out of earshot, she asked, “Is that the one she adopted?”

Already reeling with the shock and grief of my mother’s sudden and unexpected death, these words were to hit me like a clap of thunder, transporting me in an instant back to my roots.

Despite having spent the previous week together with the family, organizing the funeral, drinking numerous cups of tea, crying, laughing and talking about my mother and her life, I already had a sense that the person who had tied us all together was now gone and that the family, as we knew it, was likely to drift apart. These words served as another reminder of what separated me from the rest of the family and isolated me from their blood ties. They once again defined me and the way people regarded me, and I was acutely aware that, for many people, I was viewed as and I would always be ‘the adopted one’.

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18 thoughts on “Roots; Is that the One she Adopted?

  1. Oh wow! Such a heartfelt post, I’m sorry about your mothers passing.
    It’s so sad to read that some people still define you by such a circumstance. I think you’re very strong and an amazing person that every family would be pleased and honoured to have you as one of their own (forgetting any other labels).

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  2. I’m sorry your aunt wasn’t sensitive and/or savvy enough to accord you the respect you most certainly deserved.

    When my father died ten years ago, I believe that is when our family structure began to crumble as well. My dad, never very hands on and prone to drinking more than he should have at times, was nevertheless a charming, lovely, funny, good, kind, endearing and loveable man. It struck me as odd – still does – that my mother never commanded the love and affection I felt for my dad even though he could be a son of a bitch!

    Anyway, the point I’m hoping to make, is that even in families where everyone is biologically related, those who are left behind can fall apart when either the mother or father passes away. It’s a struggle to pick up the pieces and probably even more so when there can (sometimes) appear to be no motivation to even make the attempt.

    All the best. I wish you well!

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  3. Your words cut, and I am sorry for such critical words that show a heart that is so cold. Although I do not know how you feel, I do know what it feels like to lose a child that you hoped would be your own. This grandmother still longs for three little ones that filled our hearts with joy.

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  4. This was a heartfelt story. So sorry about your mother. This is a tough one cos you love your family- and ultimately their definition of us – forms the foundation of who we are. But you know what? What an amazing opportunity to begin to define yourself?
    I’m doing it ( I look on it as another chance in life)- and I suspect you are too.
    Great post/ I’m hooked now😊

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  5. Touching and heartbreaking story. People can be so insensitive. Am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Being adopted doesn’t define who you are. It is how you see yourself despite what others might think or say. You were your mother’s daughter and deeply loved by her. She didn’t see you as the “adopted one” but as the daughter she was blessed to have.

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  6. Enjoyed reading about your life and trust you’ve come to terms with your upbringing. So many children, raised by birth parents, adopted or fostered, have rough times because of their particular situations.

    I was never adopted; I was taken in and raised by my aunt & uncle from the age of three months. Because my aunt was my dad’s sister, of course I knew my siblings, but didn’t really belong in their family. They were more like cousins to me. I constantly had to explain to new friends (we moved often) why my name was different than that of my parents.

    My aunt and uncle had one son twelve years older than I and he NEVER counted me as a sister. “Mom” never counted me as a daughter because I really was her brother’s daughter. Yet I never had any other parents but my aunt and uncle all those years. When they died I was never mentioned except as one of the “numerous nieces and nephews.” Really the whole situation was crazy — that’s just what life hands some kids.

    On the other hand we adopted our daughter and she’s always been totally our child and accepted as part of us by the extended family. Now we have four wonderful grandchildren. 🙂

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  7. Your post aptly describes what must have been terribly trying experiences and unwanted revelations. Adopted or not, it is difficult when we realize our family is not as we want it to be. I am glad you can write about what happened and find some comfort in the fact it is the ignorance of others, not your roots that are the cause of any issues.

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  8. That’s awful, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Those words are so cutting. I overheard something similar a few years ago where a relative, who thought I was out of earshot, introduced me to someone else as the one who was adopted. I felt sick. Please try not to take it to heart. I believe that whilst some relatives never forget that we are adopted, there are others who forget that we are.

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