With that in mind I look forward to watching This Is Us, NBC's breakaway hit that has an adoption reunion in one of its subplots. For most of the season, it has been THE story line dominating the series. It centers around a biological father found by his adult son (Randall, played by Sterling K. Brown), an adoptive mother (Rebecca played by Mandy Moore) who knew who the father (William, Ron Cephas Jones) was all along but never shared that information--with anyone, even her husband.
Randall's biological mother had died years earlier, and is not part of the plot. Randall's early insistence that he only wanted to see his father's face once--and ask why he was given up--morphs into a relationship. William moves in with Randall's family. The writing covers the initial adoptee reluctance hiding a desire for a relationship; having to tell Randall's young daughter's that William is their grandfather; Randall's rightful anger at his adoptive mother for not telling him about William in the 30-some years she could have. William has terminal cancer by the time we meet him, and in a beautifully done episode last week, dies with his son at his side. By this time, William has been totally rehabiltated as a person. His lover calls to tell the son something wonderful William did for a young addict trying to break his habit. The postman tears up when he hears William has died, as they had a lot of conversations on William's walk around the middle-class neighborhood. Last night's episode had the memorial service.
The resolution to mother and son break was bold and spectacular: Adoptive mother Rebecca apologized in no uncertain terms for her lie of omission. On national television. Bravo! Because the dialogue was so perfect, I rewatched (my DVR records this weekly) wrote it down for you here. Rebecca approaches Randall and says:
"I really thought I was doing the right thing for you. I really did. I haven't said this before --I need to now, okay?
"When I first met him he was so far gone, Randall, and then when I saw him years later, he was so much better...and I got scared. I always planned on telling you. I did. I would set an age in my mind. I'd say, when he is fifteen, and then fifteen would come and go, and I'd lose my nerve. And I would decide on sixteen. Because the truth is I was so terrified because I knew it would devastate you.
"It was such a big lie. And such a long lie. I knew that I could lose you over it. I couldn't lose you, Randall. I couldn't.
"But that is no excuse. It was selfish. and it was wrong and I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry that you didn't have more time together."
I wept last night and in watching it again today, I couldn't get through that scene without tears again. You know I am a regular weeper, but at the same time I had tears in my eyes, I was also cheering that this story--this central story of adoption reality--is a hit on prime time. It's not just our select circle watching--a whole lot of others are too. The general public was confronted with issues they haven't thought about before. Somewhere out there a legislator or two was also watching. So were adoptive parents hiding secrets. Adopted people afraid to talk about "it" with their adoptive parents. Adoptees who want to search, or ask their adoptive parents if they have a shred of information, but do not do so because of fear. Here on This Is Us, they are all seeing their how characters resolve the numerous knotty issues in adoption. Adoption is not the only plot line on the show--also explored are the relationship between the biolgoical twins and Randall; fat issues, as the female of the trio is obese; and the white brother trying to make the break from acting in a TV sitcom to the stage. Perhaps because it is not only about adoption, the show appeals to such a wide audience.
Stories like this in the mainstream bring the adoption plight to the forefront of people's attention, and beathe energy into the movement to unseal the birth records. Books, movies, TV shows, magazine pieces and newspaper stories all propel us forward. So, yeah, This Is Us is loaded with triggers for us. The same is true of Long Lost Family, which I record every week and watch later, never without tears, for the emotional impact of reunion is that powerful.
For adoptees or natural mothers or adoptive parents, such shows and books might be the way in to begin a conversation that has been gnawing away at us..."Have you seen that show, This Is Us? Well...let me tell you....and then bringing up that forbidden subject that has been buried might not be so hard after all.--lorraine