Two years ago today I learned my birthmother’s name. I learned it because she died and because the state’s interest in keeping us apart lapsed with her death. I’ve spent the past two years writing about these matters. I am now revising the draft of a book.
I started writing in the belief I might discover my family, and in that way my place. Quickly, my writing turned toward exploring the perversity of adoption as both an institution and an industry. More recently I’ve acknowledged that I’m writing about grief.
To be adopted is to live in a state of suspended grief, in a persistent gloom that used to be called melancholia.
I am aware that there are worse fates than being adopted. But it’s a thing. My whole life I’ve been told it’s not a thing; I’ve been told that being adopted doesn’t matter.
Those who insist that adoption doesn’t matter don’t know what they are talking about.
When a culture refuses to acknowledge or tolerate grief, when it refuses to recognize the value or existence of what has been lost, one cannot mourn or move forward. One remains dispersed in sorrow, without a line to solace.
That’s what it’s like to be adopted. At least, that’s what it’s like to be adopted in the way I was adopted.
And my adoption was not atypical.
On Halloween, I visited my birthmother’s grave, not for the first time, and placed on her marker three stems of red roses.
It’s a start. I will continue to write.