|AP Photo/Patrick Cummings 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick with his adoptive parents|
She's tried. It was an open adoption in 1987 in Wisconsin, and Heidi Russo stayed in touch with his new parents until she couldn't stand the pain of hearing about him any longer. "I couldn't move forward with my life," she recently told a Denver TV station. [Note: does anybody know when this happened? How old Colin was at the time?] At 18 she sent him a letter, according to one report, but after reading it, he had no interest in contacting her. Another report states she found him on MySpace--he has been a star in football as he was coming up the ranks, and she always knew who his parents were--and they exchanged a few messages, as he wanted to know about his father, but he has refused to meet her to date, and has not responded to any of her messages since that lukewarm reception several years ago.
Fellow blogger Jane and I wrote about Keapernick earlier (link below) and some of the comments we've received there are the negative kind: Russo only wants to meet him because he is famous. People who make comments like that certainly don't like birth mothers, and are looking for any reason they can to shoot them down. From the opposite angle, I've been there, especially after I wrote Birthmark and it caused quite a ruckus, to put it mildly. I only wrote Birthmark, some said to my face, to be rich and famous, which is kind of a scream. It gave me notoriety but certainly didn't make me rich. Others behind my back, I've been told, said nasty things, pounded on table, and called me names,--"What right does she have!?!" People are always looking for ways to put birth mothers down, keep us in our place. In the closet. Out of sight. Gone.
But Russo is not a needy person looking for a handout. Today she is not broke or down on her luck: She is a 44-year-old nurse living in Thornton, Colo. She played volleyball, basketball, and track in high school. She's smart and attractive, and loving mother to an eight-year-old son, Kaepernick's half brother. Both of Kaepernick's natural parents, were 6"2', according to Wikipedia. Kaepernick is 6"4' or 6"5', depending on your source.
She only wants to meet her son.
She says she will understand if he never wants to meet her. “Yes, there’s always that, but I just stay positive for him,” Russo said in an interview with NBC. “That’s what is important. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a parent." Kaepernick has avoided commenting on his biological mother, although he avoids commenting too deeply on most things since becoming the 49ers starting quarterback.
Part of me totally understands that meeting his first mother, now, when the pressure is on his passing arm, is more than he can handle. Kaepernick ought to be left alone to play the game. From our experience, from all we have read and known ourselves, we understand that the emotional impact of coming face-to-face with the woman who bore you and gave you up is boundless, unsettling, a double whammy to the heart and the head. People have written that they feel as if they are practically coming apart. Okay, we get that. Not now.
But I'm also sorry that this meeting didn't happen before. His refusal to meet her at least once seems cruel. Today I am not going to say that he "owes" her one meeting, but lord, wouldn't it be nice if Kaepernick could bring himself to meet her, if only once? Maybe after the lights go out, and the press isn't following him around, he will find the courage--for some adoptees it does take courage--and the forgiveness in his heart--for no matter the circumstances it does take forgiveness, understanding and acceptance--to pick up the phone and say, Let's meet.
That's what will be on my mind as I'm watching the game today. Downton Abbey will be recording on our DVR and I'll wonder if Ethel, who's given up her son to his wealthy grandparents, is going to make it with the good help of Mrs. Crawley. Or will the mores of the times and the unforgiving attitudes of the other servants kick her back out on the street? However, she does need a good cookbook.--lorraine
A call Kaepernick should make
A sensitive commentary written by an adoptive father at ESPN
Adventures in Off-Sports Subjects: Rick Reilly, Colin Kaepernick, and Adoption
An angry response to the above ESPN column by an adoptee
Colin Kaepernick, birth mother remain strangers
A neutral story
A son refuses to meet his birth/first mother
And the BOOK
Man and His Mother: An Adopted Son's Search
I've raved about this memoir before, from a former pro football player Tim Green. A success in life, raised in a loving and supportive family, just like Kaepernick, Tim always longed to find his biological mother. After the mother of an ex-girlfriend confessed to him that she had given up a son who would have been about Tim's age he embarked on a journey to find his first mother, always empathizing with the feelings of loss and regret that a mother who had given up a child must feel. I read it in two sittings, and for my money it is one of the best adoptee memoirs out there, probably because Green comes across a kind and understanding person. You see Green on TV now and then--he's become an attorney, and sometime TV personality, and was a co-host of the short-lived show about reuniting adoptees and their first parents, Find My Family. Perhaps someone should send Green's memoir to Kaepernick.