Thursday, June 18, 2009

Learning About One's Birth Family at the Kitchen Table


My husband's son and his family are visiting and last night as we sat around the dinner table, my husband, Tony, told stories of his mischievous youth to his grandson, who is ten-going-on-eleven.

There was the story about being found out playing with kids in houses under construction. His mother happened to drive by and catch him hanging from second-story rafters. She used a yard-stick on his behind afterward and grounded him for two weeks. (Corporal punishment! I can imagine that's how that would be interpreted--because, yes it technically is--by a social worker, but that sounds so much worse than the story in context.) Earlier in the day, the grandson mentioned to me and Tony that he was related to Franklin D. Roosevelt on his mother's side, a fact we had not known. Later in the evening, Tony and his son were reading side by side, and their common love of history and lifetime learning was evident, while grandson Dylan watched a science show on television.

I remember how pleased I was when my eleven-year-old granddaughter mentioned that she was determined to learn French when she could take a language--rather than Spanish. I don't think there was any way she knew then that I was a Francophile pretty much from the age of reason. She's seventeen now, and called the other day to say that next year she would go to France with her fourth year French class. And by now she does know, yes, I am a lifelong Francophile. Her prom pictures show her wearing long white gloves, just like the ones I wore to the prom, while the other girls in the picture have forgone the gloves. Yes! I said, she's my granddaughter all right! Jane has written before about hearing Megan, her daughter who was adopted, talk about how different she was from her sisters...while they all sat there in the Birkenstocks.

Though I never met her, I know that my father's mother was well educated in Poland, and came to this country at a young woman by herself--a rather daring feat. Here she was a bit of a rabble-rouser as she wrote letters to the newspaper in her small town in Pennsylvania (though I'm not sure which town the newspaper was in--Jenners, or Boswell, or an even larger town farther away) and for extra money (my grandparents were very poor, with six kids) made bathtub moonshine she sold for 50 cents a bottle. When she was caught, my grandfather took the rap and spent a night in jail. Cool grandma, I thought, but...handed down from a social worker that probably would have been translated into: Criminal activity--even imprisonment--in your family.

What does all this have to do with the resolution--A Right to Human Identity--that Jane wrote about in Wednesday's post, (6/16/09) and the author (Rev. Mark Diebel) of the resolution commented on? Just this: if we are not adopted, we learn a great deal about who we are from our ancestors and people who are genetically related to us in the daily course of our lives. Denying anyone the right to know whatever is possible to know about him or herself is so grievously wrong that the mind boggles at even trying to explain why. It simply is.

I'm bringing up Rev. Diebel's comments here because readers might otherwise miss them:
...the real point of the resolution is to assert that a person has a right to their history...in the case of birth it means knowing the identities of the parties involved. In the old times that meant parents. Today it means donors, surrogate mothers...commissiong parents...first mothers and fathers.

The means for passing on this information must be examined. I certainly hope that the resolution in the Episcopal Church can help put the discussion of this important subject in another forum.

The EP has no pull in the legislature. Statements like this serve to indicate how a group of people are coming to think. It has an indirect value (we hope!)--Mark Diebel
We need more adoptees making noise like this. We need more adoptees demanding their birth identities. We need change in our lifetimes. Act up and make it happen! --lorraine

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