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

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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
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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

Find Courage- A Message from Trans Dad’s Grave

 

Mother’s Day weekend had me thinking of a woman who was not my mother, but my father. My father died a transgender woman last year. She transitioned in her late sixties, after living most of her life as an angry, abusive man.
(pronoun warning- it’s about to get messy)

About a month ago, I requested that a volunteer at findagrave.com take a picture of my father’s tombstone. I wanted the photo added to her public memorial page (for which I am the paid administrator).

When my father died, I attempted to publish an obituary on the funeral home’s website. However, my father’s friend (who inherited all of her things including my childhood home) feared that someone would loot the empty house if the death were made public. She stopped publication of the obituary. So my father Joann died, without a single published memorial, other than the emotional eulogy I penned here.

This weekend, I visited my adoptive father’s findagrave.com page because she was in my head. Hours spent reliving my father’s life, as I write her story into a novel, allows her to sit by my side in a sort of self-haunting. However, I believe that the macabre regurgitation of her story will ultimately free me.

When I looked at the page, I found that volunteer photographer Kimberly LaFountain had graciously taken a photo of the tombstone and posted it on the memorial. I expected a basic military gravestone. However, the words carved there were a heartbreaking affirmation of the heart and soul of my new novel.

FIND COURAGE TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE

dad tombstonenoname

Enlightened words from a woman who did not get to live her truth,
until it was too late to save my family.

My father lived a tortured life, that along with a terrible upbringing, caused him to become a masterful torturer. He was cruel in every sense of the word. One source of his cruelty was that he lived as a man for sixty plus years, all the while knowing he was a woman.

Of late, states across the nation are up-in-arms over where transgender people should be allowed to pee. My father’s story, and the message on her grave, should serve to remind us that there is danger in denying one’s truth.

My father was not a danger when she used the woman’s restroom. She was a danger when she pent up who she was, and tried to live as a tough as nails iron-worker, and fists-first father. She was a horrible person, because she lived everyday in as masculine a manner as she could muster. Her idea of masculine behavior was defined by her own abusive father. Men hit. So she bloodied my childhood while trying to prove a maleness that did not exist.

In my father’s case, there were additional psychological issues that capitulated her anger into abuse. However, I believe the main source of her cruelty was the daily squelching of gender truth.

I defend transgender rights today, despite the turmoil my trans father caused in my family’s life. I want to shout from the rooftops that where trans people pee is inconsequential. They have been using their restroom of choice for years. You just didn’t notice.

When discussing transgender people, the focus needs to be on encouragement for all people to live the truth, without cultural, or societal mandates that make them want to hide their differences. I am living proof that acceptance would mean less suffering for all.

FIND COURAGE TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE

Blessings to know and live your truth,
V.L.

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
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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

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Truth and Bad Behavior- A TransDad Twitter Reply

Happy New Year blog friends!

As I write my next book, Transgressions in Rouge, based on the story of my abusive, adoptive father who died in 2015, I’ve been thinking about the connection between hidden identity (stolen by adoption or squashed by society) and emotional/erratic behavior.

I have also been exploring #healing thoughts on my Twitter feed @RockMemoir.

My adoptive father was a transgender woman who transitioned very late in life. During the years when he abused my family, he hid his gender truth. He was tough, tortuous, and egotistical. I never knew him as a woman. I only knew him as a horrible father.

A transgender father named Erik tweeted to me yesterday, writing “Being trans didn’t make your dad evil. Sorry you suffered his turmoil! He was evil because he was evil, not because he was trans.”

My reply is way too long for a tweet, so I’m answering here.

I wholeheartedly agree that being transgender has nothing to do with being evil.

In fact, I did not contest my father’s will (which I was left out of) because I didn’t want to go to court, and say that he was not of ‘sound mind’. If I did, my lawyer would have used his transgender status to prove he was not mentally capable of deciding who to leave his/her estate to.

My father was mentally ill, but not because he was transgender. So I agree that his evil was not born of his gender. However, I do think his behavior was magnified by his hidden truth.

My father lived chaotically in self-imposed, and societal hiding. He was angry. He beat anyone who disagreed with him. His behavior was hyper-masculine. He overemphasized physical aggressiveness in interpersonal relationships. Inside, he was a woman, while outside he was compelled to prove he was a man.

I’m no psychiatrist, but I have experienced living with two separate identities, one assigned by adoption and one genetic. I believe that there is a degree of madness associated with living any life that does not reflect your truth.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings for knowing and living your truth,

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
———-
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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

 

‘Waving Backwards’ Book Launch Reminds that Family is All

To say I was nervous on Friday July 10th is an understatement. I arrived at the Marriott Riverfront in Savannah a couple of hours early for set up and to  sign dozens of pre-sale books. My niece who was visiting from North Carolina sat in the passenger seat assuring me that it would be a grand success. She was one of many angels who helped me shine that night.

After speaking to spectacular Marriott staffer, Cindy Johnson, about the arrangement of food tables, I was finally able to greet my publisher Terri Gerrell of SYP Publishing. She found me a signing spot at a large table, suggesting that I sit and breath. She reminded me that I was the author.booklaunch5

I watched as the lobby was transformed into a sparkling party place. Musician Greg Williams arrived on time, wearing a guitar and easy smile. The palm rose maker, Peanut (the oldest artisan on River Street) sashayed  in with a shoulder loaded with palm fronds. Plans fell into place. Imaginings became reality.

Like the moment when a storm passes, and a first ray of sunlight appears, the literary launch I had dreamed of was born. Three years prior, as I sat in the same lobby writing Waving Backwards, I had no way of knowing that we would launch the book there. I did not even know if the book would be published.booklaunch9

Perched happily at my very first book signing table on Friday night, I had hardly taken a breath before a stream of well-wishers arrived. Family, friends, new friends, book lovers, tourists, all stopped to say hello; purchase a book; take a photo. When the first reader asked to have her photo taken with me, I glanced over my shoulder wondering if she meant someone else.booklaunch2

An hour or so into the signing, a voice rose above the murmur of party goers. It was instantly recognizable, and transported me back to the age of seven. I said, “That cannot be the voice I think it is.” When I finished signing the book in front of me, I looked up and there stood a woman I had not seen in a dozen years. It was my adoptive mother’s youngest sister. The aunt who taught me about Barbies and The Beatles had traveled from New York to Savannah to attend my book launch.

In rare moments, when I was able to pause from signing and look around that booklaunch6night, I witnessed my biological and adoptive families in a wash of commonality that sent shivers down my spine. My birth mother posed with my adoptive mother. My adoptive and blood brothers discussed movies and shared a toast. My nieces from both sides of the adoption triad chatted, smiled, shared.

I searched thirteen years to find my biological family, and while they have met my adoptive family before, this was the first celebration we shared as one brood, one clan, one bright reminder of the importance of nature and nurture.

My friends too, joined the fray of family that night as they learned who I look like, who I grew with, who I love, and who loves me back. From our local book club; to a group  I spend Sundays with exploring the world via documentaries; the night was a perfect celebration of the ‘Waving Backwards’ message.booklaunchbertice

Family is all. No matter how they come to join you, family is made of the connections that define us. 

Open records for all adoptees at age eighteen, and access to Original Birth Certificates (OBCs) is essential! All adoptees deserve to experience the completeness and co-mingling that permeated my book launch.

The time for adoptee rights is now.

Blessings and thanks to everyone who attended the Waving Backwards book launch. Thank you city of Savannah, friends and family!  I love you!
Hugs, V.L.

——

Twitter- @RockMemoir
Facebook- www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwardshttp://www.syppublishing.com/waving-backwards/
Amazon author page- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill