Disappointment Day (a.k.a Father’s Day)

Here it comes. In shades of blue greeting cards, barbecues, and goofy tee shirts proclaiming World’s Greatest Dad, Father’s Day is upon us. At any minute, Facebook will overflow with gushing remembrances and salutes from little girls (long since grown) who adore their daddys.

I envy them. I envy all women loved by fathers who showed them respect, love, adoration, selflessness. I envy their happy memories of a daddy’s arms- safe, warm, tucked in.

Father’s Day is the saddest day of the year for me.

As an adoptee, a cat-drowning, wife-beating, son-of-a-bitch father raised me. Yet, I’ve spent a lifetime aching for his love. As a child, I tried to be a better daughter by appealing to his masculinity. I thought if I grew harder/more boyish he might like me better, or at the very least, stop trying to kill my mother and brother.

Later, it became apparent that toughness would never have appealed to Dad. His free-wheeling fists camouflaged a hidden gender rage that would blow up my life. My father transitioned to become a woman in her seventies. She died in 2015 on the very spot where my terrible, twelve-year-old self, planned to kill her. (My memoir Transgressions in Rouge coming soon).

My biological father, a retired Delta Force officer, whom I found after a five-year-search, is very much alive. At least I think he is, as we have not been in touch for years. He decided that rather than engage in the healthy father/daughter relationship I crave, he would continue to live in a paranoid state of distrust.

When I first found Delta Dad, he was ecstatic. It soon became apparent that he was still fighting the wars he survived. He raged at me like a mad dog one day, and I walked away choosing to distance myself from any further dysfunction. I reached out to Delta Dad again recently, and he decided again that he’s not interested in a relationship. I say again because he also denied me when he found out my birth mother was pregnant in 1963.

Having spent a total of 12-years (pre-internet) searching for the biologicals (closed book NY adoption in the 1960s), I am quite attuned to my needs. I always knew that I needed my history, my story, and the story of my ancestors to feel complete. I searched and found to become solid, defined. Before finding my blood relatives I could not focus on what I would be. I was far too busy finding out who I was.

Likewise, I see patterns in my behavior that reflect the blank space of lacking a father. I need one, and because it is unattainable, I find myself drawn to friendships (or fanships) with men of a certain age. I find solace in their respectability, honor, achievements. I guess they look to me like father material. Desperation casts fatherly shadows over strangers.

Fatherlessness is my wound.

I share my disappointments this Father’s Day for those who have a decent dad to hug; for those who recall tender moments with their father. You have my one missing thing. Love him, embrace him, keep his memory close, share his stories with your children. Make his love your legacy.

Blessings that my disappointments light your way,

V.L.

—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

Advertisements

Decades after Reunion- What Bond is This?

I lead a blessed life. My family is healthy. We have a roof over our heads, and we are free from hunger. Having known times with my adoptive family when this was not the case, I appreciate everything. I am content and feel pretty darn accomplished…until I call my first mother.

Twenty-five years after the reunion, conversations with her turn me back into the given away infant in the photo I keep on my desk to remind myself how far I’ve come.  firstphotoI know this is my wound (Primal, I guess), and an issue I really should have worked through by now.  I do use the brilliant coping exercises in the book Adoption Healing by Joe Soll, which gave me the background chant I use when first mother contact spirals me into an infantile turmoil.

“It’s not happening now. She is not leaving me. That was a long time ago.”

I can hear readers of this blog (especially those who are still in search) clucking their tongues at my daring to deflate the bliss of knowing who bore me. I get it. I am sharing this as a warning, a guidepost to help you understand the feelings of woe that often surface long after the honeymoon of reunion ends. (To be fair I must mention that there is nothing she can say or do to change this. She is kind to me, and giving.)

Despite the effectiveness of Joe Sol’s Adoption Healing exercises,  I still wallow after our conversations in a strange limbo of being an alien in her made-up world.  I belong to my first mother by blood, but unlike her other children (the kept ones) I cannot experience the true/unconditional state of her motherhood. Unconditional love is a feeling I understand and define by my adopted mother.

If you ask me what makes conversations with my first mother so debilitating, I would say it is that she reacts to the kept siblings in a manner consistent with shared experience. While I have shared two adult decades with my first mother, the essential bond of being present in my formative years is missing.

We have all witnessed the ribbing, joking and comfortable behavior of family units. Most have a relaxed, informal way of acting around each other. This family interplay is a representation of years spent living together, agreeing, disagreeing, and seeing the world through shared experience. They are a unit.

As an adoptee, I can never be an ordinary member of my first family. No matter what is said or shared, she raised my siblings. She acts differently around me, less comfortable, more formal, guarded. For years, I thought I imagined her awkwardness when we visited, and the opening blossom of her real self with my half-siblings. Only a close family friend’s comment assured my that it was the truth when he said, “she acts so differently around you.”

I am a grown ass woman and a long-reunited adoptee. Still, the ripples of my relinquishment tear at my heart in ways I was sure reunion would settle. Bonds stolen at the moment of separation can be yearned for, but never fully repaired. I am still happy that I searched, but hate the awful truths that adoption has cast on my life.

Blessings for reunion and healing,

V.L.

—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

Healthline Names Adoptionfind a ‘Best Adoptee Blog for 2017’

As a blogger, reunited adoptee. abuse survivor, and writer, I live in a whirlwind of emotion. Occasionally, I am able to capture those feelings and heave them onto the page. The result, when I don’t delete the post, is this blog.

This morning, I am honored and blessed to report that adoptionfind has been name one of

Healthline’s Best Adoptee Blogs of 2017.

“V.L. Brunskill is an adoptee and acclaimed author who found her birth parents 25 years ago. Her writings about how the current political climate impacts adoption have a literary quality. One of her most touching posts was from Mother’s Day. She wrote a moving piece in which she speaks fondly of her adopted mother and birth mother.”

Thank you readers and heathline for the love.
I promise to share more and to stop deleting the tough stuff.
Blessings that you may live your truth,
 V.L.
—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
View the Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

A Mother’s Day Post Worth Repeating

Reposted from last Mother’s Day.
Happy Mom’s Day to all the Mothers, and Grandmothers of the world!

As Mother’s Day is folded and tucked away like a treasured quilt, it is hard for me to imagine a more blessed weekend. I had the good fortune of engaging in a day of celebration with each of my mothers.

The mothers in my life wear labels cast upon them by society and the process that brought them to, and removed them from, my life. They are my birth mother and adoptive mother.  No matter what the labels, they reside in my heart with an enormity so wondrous that at times I feel it will burst.mom

While some take the existence of a maternal figure for granted, I count both of my mothers as blessings hard won, and hard kept. I was born into a world that was not ready, and in her desperate need to see me well, my birth mother made a tortured exit from the hospital with empty arms.

After foster care, I was placed for adoption seven months later. While my adoptive family was not the safe haven my birth mother envisioned, my home was survivable because of the heartfelt love of a woman who never once questioned her role as my caregiver. She lifted me from the crib at the adoption agency and never looked back. In sickness, in health, in torture, in want, in love, she became my mother.Nana

During the seven-year search for my birth mother, I was not looking for a replacement mother. I wanted roots, a face and name to stitch myself too. I was never content to just be. I felt an existential craving to know the place from which I came. I could not move on in life without a biological connection, without touching the face of the woman on whose belly I rested after being born.

I hold in my soul a deep bond with both of my mothers. Their fragility, endurance, and lifelong search for happiness, are life lessons that allow me to smile and forge on.  No industry label can fairly represent the way in which these women became the nurture, and nature of who I am.

They are my earth link, and angels. They are loved far beyond Mother’s Day dinners and swapping of gifts. Without either, I would be so much less.
Love you ladies!

Blessings that all mothers know their worth,

V.L. Brunskill


SALE< SALE< SALE
SYP Publishing is having a Mom’s Day sale on all books.
Get 15% off all books now through May 8. Coupon code: MOM
Shuffle over to the SYP site to buy Waving Backwards, or another delightful read.
Southern Yellow Pine Publishing /Waving Backwards.

No More ‘Ends’- Birthday Reflections

As a teen, I requested information about my biological family from the New York agency that handled my adoption. More than curious, I felt incomplete without my roots. When my ‘non-identifying’ information arrived from the Children’s Aid Society, a surprise fell from the folds of typed revelations. It was this photo.

firstphotoDated March 1965, it is the only photo of me prior to my adoption at eight-months-old. Today, as I celebrate my Christmas Eve birthday, I can’t help but reflect on the circumstances of my arrival and survival. As I sit on the soft leather of my decades old sofa, watching the simmer of bubble lights on our memory- filled Christmas tree, I am counting every blessing.

I came into the world quite alone, survived a traumatic childhood, graduated high school, attended college, and found love. I have enjoyed three terrific careers in various writing capacities, and own a three-bedroom house that I would have considered a mansion as a child. It’s all good.

I was reminded of just how good, as I shopped this week for cold cuts to make my husband’s favorite dinner- ‘the sandwich bar’. When the deli counter worker asked me, “How would you like that sliced?” I laughed. The question reminded of my (post divorce) childhood, when sliced meats were rare treats.

“Anyway you like, just don’t give me the ends,” I replied.

I went on to tell the grocery worker how, as a child, my mother could only afford to purchase what the supermarket called ‘the ends’. ‘Ends” were the unsalable hard ends of the meats and cheeses. To my twelve-year-old psyche, ‘ends’ were the pitiful leftovers of rich folk’s sliced orders.

Every other week, the deli set aside ‘ends’ for my mother, each generously priced at pennies on the dollar.  At the grocery checkout, the ‘ends’ embarrassed me to my teenage core. I wondered why we could not buy sliced meats like everyone else.

Today, I admire my adoptive mother’s creative use of ‘ends’ to enhance boxed mac and cheese, and as an alternative to the endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we consumed.  She bought and prepared them with love.

While I consider the bounty we will enjoy for my birthday and Christmas Day, a tiny part of me wishes for the simple abundance of a few choice ‘ends’.

Blessings for a Christmas full of precious morsels & memories,

V.L. Brunskill
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

What’s on Your Mantel This Christmas?

Last night, I went to see my 74-year-old mother, and she gifted me with a plastic garland that has been my favorite Christmas decoration for as long as I can recall. It’s not much really, just a typical 1960’s chain of molded Santa faces, bells, birdcages and holly. Yet, it made my heart sing to receive it.

As a child, Christmas was the one time of year that brought peace to our home. I still recall my mother retrieving boxes of ornaments and the delight I felt when the plastic garland was placed on the metal banister of the attic stairs, or across the fake cardboard fireplace that graced our den. The garland was a beacon of hope that signified another year of survival.

I added the garland to my fireplace mantel last night, the perfect finishing touch to a collection that already holds so much meaning.  Above the garland sits a tiny elf. Below rests an equally nostalgic Santa and reindeer sleigh. Both are gifts from my biological mother.

mantleI have known my birth family for 23 years, and had the miraculous experience of meeting my biological grandparents twice. Two perfect visits are the framework for my memory of them. I see their faces when I look at the elf and Santa that once decorated their tiny Newfoundland home.

When my birth mother thinned her Christmas collection, bestowing her own childhood memories on her three children, she wrote a note on the envelope that held my elf. It reads, “This is one of 3 elves that I remember on the family tree from age ten on. I think Mom (Freda 1918-2009) ordered them from a catalog. Now I give one to each of you. They have sentimental value.”

Born on Christmas Eve, I spent my first Christmas in the company of strangers. Nurses cared for and nurtured me without question. I was a child without family, given up by a poor mother who desperately wished she could keep me. I believe that the loneliness and selfless acts of that Christmas set the tone for all my Christmases to come. For me, Christmas is being kind without expectation of reward, loving unconditionally even when someone is incapable of loving you back, and making memories that will matter for the next generation.

Of all my holiday adornments, this year’s hearth-side decorations mean the most, as they are a perfect co-mingling of the family I fought so hard to find, and the one brought to me by adoption.

As you deck the halls this year, I encourage you to keep family memories close. Whether that family is made up of friends, biological or adoptive branches, they are the roots of Christmas.

For those still in search, this is often the hardest time of year. I wish you peace, love, and the fulfillment of finding.

Blessings for a mantel that makes you smile,

V.L. Brunskill
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

Veteran’s Day Salute to my Birth Father-Delta Dad

My birth father is the kind of veteran that people make movies about. He was a member of the Delta Force unit that attempted to rescue the American hostages held in Iran in 1980. The operation was called Eagle Claw.

I found my birth mother 20+ years ago, and my birth father several years later. I wrote him a letter, and he called me. He was suspect of my motives, and tested my birth and search story many times, asking questions about circumstances  that only I (or my birth mother) would be able to answer.deltadad

After proving my identity, our telephone conversations relaxed into the banter of getting to know each other.  I asked him what he did for a living. His replies were more impressive than any of the fatherly fairy tales I made up during my search.

My birth father told me that he was retired military. He shared that he was hand-picked to be a member of the Delta Force. At the time of our reunion, I had no idea what the Special Forces were. I did not understand the unimaginable level of physical endurance and training required to be a member of Delta Force.

Over the course of many conversations, my birth father shared with me his experience of standing with the hostages in Iran, and watching as one of the helicopters collided with a transport plane loaded with fuel. Upon witnessing the collision and subsequent explosion he said, “There goes our ride.” The hostages were eventually freed, and my birth father was one of several Delta members who met privately with President Carter in the aftermath.

The adventures and heroism of my biological father’s stories grew as he felt more comfortable with his newfound daughter. As a writer, I was ravenous for details. Despite my reporter-like questions, he told every story with frustrating vagueness. Secrecy is the Delta way. Loose lips, even decades after these Delta missions, have the power to sink ships.

When I found my birth father after thirteen years of searching, and told my husband about our telephone conversations, he suggested that I not get my hopes up for the stories to be true. He said, “You don’t know him yet. It could be made up. I mean what are the odds that you’d find a superhero?”

Well, in terms of military service, I did find a superhero. My birth father served in Vietnam, did a multi-year stint in the Delta Force, and stayed in the military for thirty-years. When I met him, he gave me the awards he earned in Delta.  I was the only one (of his three children) who wanted them. I never met his other children, but that’s a blog for another day.

Like many adoption reunions, ours did not survive the honeymoon stage. A life of military service turned my Delta Dad into a steely being, who finds subterfuge and ulterior motives in everyone he encounters, including me. Military service is hard, and there is no escape from the psychological alterations it leaves behind.

I will not go into the details of how our reunion crashed, but will say that I am still happy to have known him. While we may never see eye-to-eye, he gave me a deeper understanding of the might of our military. Meeting him also revealed the source of my my strong-headed determination. I often think that had I been cast from any other biological source, I would not have survived my tumultuous childhood.

As the biological child of a gosh-darn, real-life military hero, on this Veteran’s day, I salute all of our veteran heroes, and their families.

Blessings for healing of all war-wounds,

V.L. Brunskill

———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U