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Monday, April 23, 2018

Dear Mom~A wonderful, uplifting, emotional conference in Indy put on by Indiana Adoptee Network! Kudos to all!

From left; Jennifer Fahlsing, Suzanne Bachner, Lorraine Dusky
and Marcie Keithley at the IAN 2018 conference in Indianapolis,
Racing to Records, The Final Lap
Dear Mom~

Just back from a  conference in Indianapolis organized by the Indiana Adoptee Network where I talked about you in the keynote speech. I told everyone how understanding you were when I told you about Jane in 1974, six years after she was born. I can still see us in the restaurant--you picked the place--on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. We ordered drinks and lunch and between the drinks and the time the food came I told you that I'd had a child and given her up for adoption and furthermore, I was going to be public about it. It was time somebody had to be public, and that was going to be me.


My mother, Victoria Dusky, daughter Jane in rear,
granddaughter Kim at 3, and Lorraine
"How was your labor?" were the first words you said. No blame, no shame, just--how bad was it, you were there alone, it must have been hard. It was so empathetic, and you didn't think about it for a second, the words just shot out of your heart.

And then you said: I think you are doing the right thing. Everybody who's adopted must want to know who they are, don't you think? I'd want to know.

I never told you how deeply those words affected me and now, even though you've been gone since 1999, I hope this reaches you somehow. I've talked about you before, and I put the story in my recent memoir, Hole In My Heart--everybody says "your Mom was great!" and you would have been pleased and proud, I like to think. Back when nobody talked openly about relinquishing a child to adoption, I was going to be public about being that woman, and you made it so much easier with your instant and unqualified support.

Pam and Marcie at work 
Now it will be 19 years on May 1st since you died, and here I am doing what I did with your full support. The hard-working brains behind the operation were four fantastic people in Indiana--Pam Kroskie (she's adopted); Marcie Keithley (natural mother); Jennifer Fahlsing (both an adoptee and natural mother), and Alison Plavchak (adoptee). Together they are the moving force behind the Indiana Adoptee Network (AIN). More than a hundred people from all over Indiana and several other states came for two days of workshops, talks, and camaraderie. Most were adopted themselves--mostly women but about 15 men; a generous sprinkling of natural mothers; a couple of adoptive parents, a few social workers, a mother of a birth mother who tried to get the baby back, and even a found sister of an adoptee whose birthday we celebrated Friday night with a huge chocolate cake.

If you are going to be a speaker--and open the conference--you had better have something important and of value to say. I knew most of the people who were adopted in Indiana will be able to get their original birth certificates on July 2nd this year, and I knew many would be searching for and meeting up with mothers from my era. So I talked about what it was like way back in the supposedly swinging sixties (not really so swinging) and later, what it was like after Birthmark came out in 1979 and I was on a book tour all over the country.
With author Barbara Robertson and Chrissie Gaddis; Barbara
and I traded books--she contributed to
Black Anthology: Adult Adoptees Claim Their Space 

I said I was still pretty much a pariah in polite society. People were still throwing the equivalent of rocks at me. You were there when that young woman in Windsor, Ontario excoriated me with her overt hatred. And you were there when the adopted guy I'd just met casually a few weeks earlier had a dozen red roses delivered on the set of the first TV interview. He hadn't signed his name, and so there was no way I could track him down to thank him.

From left: Becky Drinnen and Eileen Drennen (surely they
are related, right?) I'd met Eileen at an AAC conference in 2003. 
At the conference, an adoptee, Steve Lickteig, showed Open Secret, a film he made about learning when he was 17 that his older sister was really his mother. He was told he was adopted, but not that his "adoptive parents" were his grandparents. Can you imagine? Everybody in his small farm town in Kansas knew, but kept the secret. His high school buddies told him the truth the night before their graduation. Open Secret was pretty raw towards his birth mother, but it was honest. You know, the same thing happened to Jack Nicholson and Bobby Darin. It's better to be raised in your natural family than not, of course, but it's also best to let the truth be obvious from the beginning.

Suzanne Bachner brought her fabulous one-woman performance piece (and the extremely talented woman who plays her, Anna Bridgforth) The Good Adoptee. Yow! It was utterly true, funny, sharp, smart, fearless, sad and crazy funny at the same time. The funny parts were amusing only because they reflected the absurdity of what adopted people go through to find out who they are, or more correctly what their original identity is. The script is powerful and Ms. Bridgforth gave a helluva performance.

Suzanne Bachner and Anna Bridgforth in talk back
after the performance Friday night
Various aspects of the adoption experience were explored in workshops, with always an eye to healing. Here's a rundown of the presenters and thumbnails about their programs: Becky Drinnen; Lynn Grubb and Paige Adams Strickland; Marcie Keithley and Eileen Drennen (different aspects of getting your original birth certificate, search and reunion in three workshops); Brooke Randolph and Lisa Floyd (brainspotting, a way of healing through the eyes and since I wrote that book about vision and the brain [Total Vision], I found it fascinating and believable); Shannon Peck (Mom, you would have loved her program, about stitching and textiles, your hobby); Joyce Maguire Pavao (how to find a good adoption therapist) and Pam Greenstone (group therapy); Reshma McClintock (getting adoptees to speak up--she could do stand up comedy about being adopted, but she also had me in tears); a guy named Ridghaus (he ran a seminar just for guys so they could speak freely); Pam Kroskie and Jennifer Fahlsing (legislation); Steven Frank (searching through DNA); and Anne Heffron (an adoptee/author, about writing--her book, You Don't Look Adopted is supposed to be terrif, I must get a copy!).

Richard Uhrlaub of Colorado legislation, where all records are totally unsealed, had time for a long chat; Cynthia Mcguigan, who I had met at a Heart to Heart conference in Boston a decade ago, got to know one another, and I met adoptees and mothers just hanging out in free time in the large room that was always open with coffee, soda and snacks.

That's the nub of it. What's really wonderful about these conferences for me--I'm not in search and you know Jane is gone--is the total sense of relief and understanding that goes way beyond words with these people, strangers in one sense, but life--the right word fails me--partners, connectors,  buddies, friends who quite simply just get it. There's always someone looking at me with a flinty eye among strangers--here in the Hamptons I think that some people think I'm only someone obsessed with these issues and thank god, I started reviewing theater here a couple of years ago. At a dinner party I never know if I'm going to meet someone who doesn't know my story and when they find out they are going to bomb me with questions. Spilling your guts about the most terrible thing that ever happened to you over and over is exhausting.

At a conference like this one, that part of my life is a given and I can cry myself and comfort others, and totally be free and accepted. Nearly everyone here was a  survivor of tragedy and trauma, and being together like this makes all of us feel less alone, less victimized, less like an outlier in society. Much love, your daughter--lorraine 

PS--My speech is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/INADNET2018/?ref=br_rs

The brain trust and me on the left next to Marcie, Pam, Jennifer, Alison Plavchak and Cynthia McGuigan. Looks like Marcie and I got the color block (in black and white) memo that morning. 

3 comments:

  1. Wow, a wonderful conference. I hope to see more of these locally-based conferences. Not only are they more accessible and affordable than national conferences, they have lots of spontaneous energy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes yes yes! Thank you for summarizing this wonderful weekend. Being together with people who understand that - in spite of the ways we successfully survived adoption, both adoptee and natural mother experienced a traumatic separation that transformed us in ways we could not have anticipated. We are the only group of people who are told not not to grieve and to forget about what happened to us. Thank you for speaking your truth. By doing so you have helped heal others with your words.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So wish I could have been there (had a conflict with travel out West). But I did get to listen to your talk on the stream. You're a real pioneer and that takes so much courage and intelligence. Thank you for opening the conversation to make it possible for us to come together and recognize each other. The IAN conference is fairly close to me, so I'm hoping to make it there sometime - maybe next year.

    ReplyDelete

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