Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adoption and Reunion: or, Travelling Without a Map, or Landmarks, Or a Destination, Or Sandwiches, or a Fucking Clue

There is no solid cultural reference for how to navigate the reunion of a child and his or her natural mother after that child has grown to adulthood.  Unless you count the exploitive fuckery of the 'Talk Show reunion', of course, and that only covers the 'OHMIGOD LOOK AT YOU YOU LOOK JUST LIKE AUNT MARGARET' part where people get their minds blown and everyone jumps up and down.   Once the segment is finished, you can pretty much assume that the whole happy group of them go sit in a Denny's and order a Grand Slam and then sit there and feel weird and uncomfortable because after all, everyone at the table is a stranger to each other, DNA notwithstanding.    I think that what people expect it to be like is the kind of explosive emotional reunions you see when trapped miners emerge after 3 months and race into the arms of their families. It's not.
So because it is my life and it figured 'hey, things aren't bizarre enough on a daily basis already',  I found myself reunited with the son I gave up for adoption when I was 19.  It's been three years since that initial meeting.  It's been a trip. There have been no sandwiches on this trip.

Going in, I was lucky in one respect:  The Arborist got my 'running off at the mouth' gene, so there was plenty of conversation.  But even with that going for us I still halfway expected the whole thing to be an elaborate build-up to eventual disaster...that at some inevitable point I was going to be sold insurance or to hear that he had been raised by Mormons and wanted me to convert so we could all be reunited in heaven or that he wanted to borrow money or something.  Worst of all, I dreaded seeing a younger version of the guy who sired him...oh man was I dreading that. 

None of those things transpired, much to my amazement, since this IS my life, after all. We did get to know each other, and thankfully we're enough alike that we became friends. As things stand I see my role now more along the lines of 'weird aunt' than 'mom', so we get high together, go on road trips, harvest dope, discuss composting methods, watch robot movies, drink to excess and sing The Allman Brothers Greatest Hits on the front porch at night to annoy his next door neighbor.  It does, too.

I am continually surprised as our relationship progresses at how much 'nature' as opposed to 'nurture' is involved in forming a personality.  I was adopted too, and the people who raised me might as well have been Martians (and probably were) for all we understood each other on any level.  With this guy, it's different.  And it's a little eerie. It goes far beyond the basic social drive to build a friendship by recognizing and reinforcing points of mutual interest.  It extends into whatever physical or biochemical reasons those interests formed in the first place. We consistently respond to the same things, from subtle to blatant, identically. IDENTICALLY.

This leads me to an uncomfortable subject, but it's gotta be said.  My son is, quite frankly, gorgeous.  I mean absolutely gorgeous.  I still find myself glancing at him and thinking 'hot diggity damn that is one seriously fineass OH JESUS CHRIST THAT'S MY SON I AM THE BIGGEST PERVERT WHO EVER WALKED AND NOW I MUST DIE.'   If he'd been zitty, chinless and sweaty it would have been a lot easier to deal with since my  innate horndog tendencies wouldn't have intruded themselves into the mix with quite so much enthusiasm.

Now...couple that fact with what turns out to have been a delayed oxytocin cascade and you have one seriously freaked out little Muk.

Oxytocin, my friends, is a hormone that typically turns on like a firehose a short while after you have a baby.  It reinforces maternal bonding.

I let him go two days after I had him. It had barely gotten underway at that point.

Come twenty-seven years later? It hit me like the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. I can tell you where I was standing and everything. You don't forget something as cataclysmic and frightening as that. I mean I'm a married woman. I love my husband. The man I'm hugging goodbye is my SON. Suddenly all I want to do with every single fiber of my being is spend the rest of my life smelling his hair. It was horrible. Still, hormones don't make fine moral distinctions. Oxytocin is the chemical component which stimulates human bonding behavior, period. In the case of a mother and child, it's stimulated by your sense of smell.  29 years later, he still smells like my baby.

If I sound like I've been doing a lot of reading about this subject it's because I have.  There were a lot of indecent, creepy and inappropriate adults back in my childhood and my single greatest fear has always been that despite my knowing better I somehow 'caught' it from them. Now dump seventeen gallons of oxytocin into that mix and meet your smoking hot adult son for the first time. Try it. I dare you.

And heres the punchline: I know....and I don't want to know- I really, really don't want to know - that he's gone through the same thing.

Yeah, it's....pretty interesting.

Now we're past the initial stage of reaquaintance. All our baggage is beginning to unpack itself and strew itself around the room, and a lot of it needs to be washed, and most of it smells really weird.  Reality is taking the stage and a certain amount of disillusionment as well.

I have an easier time with this than he does. I'm older, and I'm married to a German. I can take in the fact that my son can be kind of a dipshit, and doesn't eat very well, is a martyr, and needs to go to therapy and deal with his issues, and I can go 'yeah, he's being a guy' and leave it at that (while simultaneously tormenting myself about it and agonizing over the fact that I can't fix it, because I am also a dipshit.) He, on the other hand, is a pretty tender soul. He has all kinds of mommy issues (only part of which have to do with being adopted) and no coping skills whatsoever because he is, in fact, a guy...and then here my ass comes into the picture.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...but they expect the Spanish Inquisition way before they expect me. I am decidedly NOT living up to his expectations...both unrealistic and otherwise. The sweet mommy he wanted is not the fool-baiting, menopausal, cigar-smoking hippie he ended up with. And it's messing with him BAD.

Now add the following...

This isn't a perfect relationship, but it's better than the one he has with the people who raised him; and that's kind of flattering at the same time it's sad. What's not so flattering is realizing that he'd give a year of his life to be having this relationship with them, and that what we have makes him feel guilty. 

His mother and sisters absolutely haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate me. Just the whole concept of me. My 'existing in life and walking among the living' me. Never met me. Don't know me. Just, me. They've made his life miserable since I came into the picture. I'm above this kind of bullshit, of course.  In fact I wouldn't mind meeting his mother at all. I'd be happy to share a number of opinions with her I've formulated over the years about drunks who beat their children, and I can deliver them in a way I'm certain she'd understand provided she doesn't lapse into unconciousness too quickly.

My presence and it's repercussions has also served to throw into high relief the fact that his present relationship sucks, for a variety of reasons I'll spare you reading about. He sees it. He'll even admit it. At length. In detail. He has some very good, very valid, extremely serious reasons for feeling the way he does, too.

Right up until you agree with him.*

This is all very difficult for me to deal with.  I didn't raise the guy.  I keep expecting him to react to 'x' situation the way WE react to it, and when he doesn't I register it as wrong, and an affront. Which is stupid.  Which realization does nothing whatsoever to make it not happen.  Which I'll eventually grow out of. I hope.

As much as my presence has complicated his life, so his presence has complicated mine. My daughter and husband have gone through some horrifying bouts of sulking, jealousy, pouting, abandonment fears, pouting, feelings of betrayal, pouting, sulking and mourning the loss of their exclusivity in my life. I've been a wreck...the ancient history I've had to re-visit, the emotions I've been going through and the issues I've had to deal with surrounding this whole thing have been legion and it's made me act like a total fucking insane harpy maniac; and as such, somewhat less than pleasant to live with.

This is where it stands now.

Me, I have no doubt we'll continue to be a family. We're right on track, if the present degree of retardation and dysfunction is any indicator (see previous post.) It's just going to be a roller coaster ride. A roller coaster ride with me standing up in the car with a rifle shooting at winos, my dil barfing uncontrollably, my son and daughter heatedly arguing about which one of them is the most irrational, the granddaughters bungee jumping off the rear car, the grandsons crying, and my husband eating a corndog and refusing to admit he's on a roller coaster at all.

Wish me luck.
*OK fine that was my mistake. I'm juggling a lot of plates here.


  1. perhaps you should set some of those plates spinning on broom handles.

  2. I think you have me confused with Senor Wences. S'allright? S'allright.

  3. Joan Collins not withstanding a fool baiting , menopausal , cigar smoking hippy is about as ideal a rediscovered mother as one could wish for ;-)

  4. @Beast: But can she make a chickpea curry like YOUR ma?

    @RedPeril: He really IS gorgeous and I've always felt dirty for thinking so.

  5. BEAST: Oh, you're adorable! Here's your $20.

    MJ: I know. I know. Go ahead and think it. He is.


Let me know what you think, my darlings! Always bearing in mind, of course, that this is not a fair and impartial forum where everyone has an equal voice and has a right to a fair hearing. It's not. It's a fucking blog. Annoy the hippie? Watch the hippie hit the 'delete' button.