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.

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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
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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

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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

 

A Post Mother’s Day Tribute to Two Mothers

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

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~SAVE THE DATE~
SYP Publishing cordially invites you to the launch party for
Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel by V.L. Brunskill
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
July 10, 2015 6-9PM ET at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.

Pre-orders now available at  Southern Yellow Pine Publishing /Waving Backwards.

 

 

23andMe Adoption Reunion- A Sibling Story Sixty Years in the Making

I have been reading quite a bit about adoption reunions enabled by mail order DNA testing.  Most of the stories are about adoptee’s reunions with distant cousins. However, this recent article in the Parsippany Focus tells the reunion story of sisters Sherri Parker and Jan Mattaliano. DNA-Strang 2

23andMe shares similar stories on its customer story page.

As an adoptee, who searched pre-internet, in an decade when DNA was primarly used as a  means to prove paternity, these reunions always amaze me. We have witnessed the moving of mountains in terms of adoption search technology. Of course, if we had access to our records and original birth certificates (OBCs), we wouldn’t need any of these functional family finders to reach the search summit.

A happy reunion story. Please share.

Reunited after 60 years: Florida woman finds her long-lost sister in N.J.

Two sisters, unknown to each other for 60 years, met for the first time in a Florida hotel recently. Sherri Parker, a Realtor from Florida, and Jan Mattaliano, of Fairfield, met after Parker’s decades-long search for her birth mother led to the half-sister she never knew about. DNA testing finally brought them together – and proved… READ MORE at Parsippany Focus

Blessings for a DNA matching miracle,

V.L.

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Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO Amazon/Kindle/Nook and a BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

Why OBC (Original Birth Certificates) Matter to Reunited Adoptees

Last night, as we discussed the editing on my debut novel Waving Backwards, my adoptive mother (an avid reader of this blog) asked me a question that made me consider the way non-adoptees view the quest of reunited adoptees for access to their OBCs (Original Birth Certificates).

Mom asked, “If they already know their birth families, why is it important for adoptees to get their original birth certificates?”

My immediate response was, “Because it belongs to them. It is a document that every other American has access to, and adoptees are denied access because of decisions that were completely out of their control.”

Pondering this further, I added, “Equality, Mom. We adoptees want the same rights as every other American. We want the paper that officiates our arrival on this earth. It may be a simple piece of paper, but for me it a document that makes my existence more solid. It connects me to the lineage that I fought so hard to discover. It is also a document of healing. It does not heal the wounds of separation, but acts as a band-aid covering at least one gaping crevice of my identity.”

As a believer in birth certificate and adoption record access for all adoptees at the age of eighteen, I continued, “We also want any rights that might be tied to our birth certificates.”  In my case, my birth mom is Canadian and as her daughter, I would be granted dual citizenship if I had the birth certificate that proved my lineage.

As a reunited adoptee, my original birth certificate is the first page of my life.

On the promotional page for the adoption search documentary A Simple Piece of Paper filmmaker Jean Strauss quotes adoptee Darryl McDaniels of the musical group RUN DMC as saying, “No one starts a book from chapter one, But adoptees’ live their lives from chapter two. All we want is to know the beginning of our own story.”  (View McDaniels adoption story on Fuse)

Explaining the significance of my OBC to a non-adoptee is difficult. It is easy to describe hunger to revelers at a feast, but few will feel the gut-wrenching pain of lack that adoptees feel everyday.

In an effort to obtain equal OBC access, the New York State Adoptee Equal Access Group has started a photo challenge.  They ask that you post/tweet/blog/share a photo of yourself  (or someone famous) holding a sign that reads- #‎SimplePieceOfPaper‬  and include the url NYAdoptionEquality.org.

NY's Prime Sponsor: Assemblyman David Weprin

NY’s Prime Sponsor: Assemblyman David Weprin

If, like me, you are a New York adoptee, this is a great way to help increase the visibility of our cause. Please post your pic on my FB community page-Adoptees who have found their biological families.

Blessings for equal access,
V.L.

—————————————————-
Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO Amazon/Kindle/Nook and a BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

Adoption Search Resources (Facebook & More)

Pleuntje/Flickr.com

Pleuntje/Flickr.com

I realized this morning that I have an abundance of helpful adoption search links bookmarked on my laptop.  Sharing is caring. So here are some of my favorite resources for finding your family.

 

 

Search & Support Sites

People Locator Sites (perfect for surname searches by state/location)

Facebook Resources and Groups

If you are unsure where to start your search- I also recommend these adoptionfind posts-

Letter to use when requesting non-identifying information

How non-identifying information identifies

Organize your adoption search

Step by Step search advice

Please email me if have a resource you would like added or questions about searching.- vbrunskill*at*gmail.com

Blessings for a productive search day,
V.L. Brunskill

——————————————————————
Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO Amazon/Kindle/Nook and a BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

Kentucky Siblings Reunited- Help Find Missing Adopted Brother

Today’s adoption reunion story comes from Louisville Kentucky where 65-year-old Charles Dingledine has been reunited with a sister he never knew existed. After his mother’s death, Dingledine was told by an uncle that he had an older brother who was relinquished for adoption.

While searching for his brother, named ‘Howard Hook’ who was born around 1941, Dingledine found that he also had a sister who was placed for adoption. Watch the heartwarming reunion of siblings Charles Dingledine and NovaJean Monroe below.

WDRB Dingledine Reunion

Let’s help Charles and NovaJean find their missing brother. If you know of a male adoptee named Howard who was born in the early 1940’s in Kentucky, please contact WDRB news anchor Valerie Chinn at (502) 585-0875.
The only other clue in this adoption search is that Howard’s father was Edward Holloway.

If you have an adoption-related blog, feed, twitter account or facebook page, please share this story.

Blessings for a three sibling reunion celebration,
V.L.

———————————————–
Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.
COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU JULY 2015

Adult Adoptee’s Messages to Adoptive Parents

Earlier this week, I shared things that adoptees would like to say to their birth mothers.  As moderator of the Facebook page –Adoptees who have found their biological relatives, I ask members to comment on reunion-related questions. Community members share their feelings with insight and honesty.

2953403454_7dd3a9740c_zToday, we look at the opposite end of the adoption coin, with answers to this question-

If you could say one thing about adoption to your adoptive parents (without guilt or censorship) what would it be?

  • “I love you. I’m thankful for the life you afforded me. I wish you’d been able to know me rather than trying to make me the child you’d wished for- who was more like you.”
  • “I wish you’d known how to act like parents. But we loved each other and in the long run you probably did me a solid. You weren’t a good mother. Dinner on the table every night, house so clean it shined, every game/toy that came out and I wanted, check check check. Love, kindness, understanding, acceptance, affection- not so much.”
  • “The one thing I would say to them again, and to ALL adoptive parents (and I am an adoptive mom myself) is ALWAYS be honest with a child about their adoption.”
  • “Thank you for being my mom and dad.”
  • “Thank you for always being open about it and giving me the option to search for my biological parents, and have a relationship with my mom.”
  • “Very simply, Thank you for being there with me every step of the way! Miss them oh so much!”
  • “I am thankful. I hope nowadays adoption is taken more seriously and they do home checks for years. Make sure the child is in a loving environment and not abused! Yes, that means you Catholic Charities!”
  • “You gave me a loving home & opportunities in life I would never have had with my biological mother. I will always love & respect you as my parents! Even more so after having met my biological mother! I now know what a lucky baby I was 45 years ago to be put in your arms!”
  • “Why did you go along with the farce, when there were far more willing and acceptable contestants available? I love you and I wish you could have loved and accepted me. All you left me was a sense of uselessness, hopelessness, lovelessness and death. I feel so sad for you. You don’t even REALIZE what you have missed. Thank you though for all you managed to do. I truly wish you all the very best. Love & Prayers.”
  • “To prospective adoptive parents: When you have a child for a reason, you better make sure that reason never ceases to exist, or it will be hell for that child.”
  • “Why the need for secrecy? You should have felt secure enough to share and be open.”
  • “You should never have adopted, but should have learned to live with your infertility. Saying you “love” an imaginary child who you pretend is your own, while lying to your adoptee about information you have about their real name, and referring to their mother as “that whore” is NOT love.”
  • “I love you both until the end of time. You taught me how to never give up or give in and thank you most for loving me when I was most unlovable or feeling unworthy of love.”
  • “I wish you would have filled in all of the gaps regarding the things I don’t know.
  • “Thanks Mom and Dad for being so forthright and open about my beginnings. You always allowed me the positive memory of my biological mother, Emma. Everything that I am or will ever become is because of your love for me. Now it is my great privilege to “pay it forward.” With love and gratitude, your daughter.”
  • “I love you and I miss you. I wish we had more time together.”
What would you like to say to your adoptive parents?
Leave a reply below.
Blessings for honest adoption conversations & healing,
V.L.
———————————————–
Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.

COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU AUGUST 2015

Heartwarming Story of Twins Reunited on Facebook

If you are searching for your family on Facebook, you will love this reunion story. I share this beautiful reunion to give adoptees who are still in search, a glimmer of hope.

sun dazed/Flickr.com

sun dazed/Flickr.com

Nothing less than miraculous, this reunion will warm your heart.


(CNN) — Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman have the same laugh and the same freckled cheeks. They wear their hair the same way and have since they were babies. They share a hatred of cooked carrots, a love of the same color nail polish and the need to sleep 10 hours a day.

The pair tease, poke and prod each other like they’ve grown up together, but they didn’t. Neither woman knew she had an identical twin sister until less than two years ago.”

Read the rest and see the video here.

Blessings for the miracle of finding,

Vicki-lynn