I was recently asked to serve as a guest blogger for Michelle Madrid-Branch, a life coach, author, speaker and global advocate for women and children. I had been mulling over a post about love for quite some time, and decided to use it for my guest blog appearance. For those who normally read my posts, you can find the lastest one here:
Some of my best memories are anchored in Seneca, SC, where I spent 5 years. Seneca was a great place to be between the ages of 5 and 10 as our house was nestled at the bottom of a hill in a small neighborhood, with a wooded area and creek running right behind it. The best part of my Seneca memories involve my (adoptive) brother, Shawn. Seven years older than me, he was nonetheless my first (and best) friend and playmate. We spent many days (and some nights) playing “ninja” in the woods, riding our bikes, damming up the creek, and playing highly competitive games of wiffle ball and touch football with other kids from the neighborhood. While I knew I was adopted, it didn’t really have a daily impact on my life because I was too young to recognize that having another mom and dad somewhere meant I might have other siblings too. So, I soaked up those experiences with my brother, and stored the moments in the vault of my memories.
Three years ago, when I talked to my (natural) parents for the first time, I found out that I do have other siblings – 2 brothers and a sister – all younger than me. One of the “mixed emotions” of the reunion process (and there are many) is that while I have had the blessing of an awesome relationship with Shawn, I missed out on having any relationship with my other brothers and sister. And while I would love to create memories with them like I have with Shawn, you can’t force any moments in the reunion process without stressing an already fragile fabric.
But, when moments arise, you can soak them up, and I had a few moments with my youngest brother, Jared, last week in Pensacola. At 40 years old, it’s a little difficult to imagine playing with you brother for the first time, but it’s effectively what happened as Jared and I went on a sailing adventure with our aunt, uncle, and mom (he got to steer the boat; I got to help hoist the sails), attended a baseball game, and played a game of cards with our mom, aunts, and cousin. During those moments, I learned more about Jared and the ways we are different, and the things we have in common. And, mostly, I just experienced them so they can go in the vault with my other treasured memories of playing with one of my brothers.
I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to play with my other brother (time and distance is a major barrier) or my sister (she doesn’t know about me yet), but I am thankful that I have had the experience with 2 of my 4 siblings.
Last night, I went to the local mall in search of Father’s Day cards. I found the card for my adoptive dad with ease. And then came the struggle. Finding a card for my natural dad.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me swiftly say that my relationship with my natural dad is progressing as expected. Not too fast, not too slow. Definitely not like my relationship with my natural mom, but that’s because she overwhelms my natural reservation about becoming attached to people.
No, the issue with finding a card for my natural dad isn’t because I’m dissatisfied with the relationship. It’s because the greeting card industry doesn’t think about situations like mine. So, when the very nice lady at the store asked, “Are you finding everything you need,” I found myself responding (very honestly) “Hallmark doesn’t make what I need.”
Because I can’t talk about how he’s always been there. And I can’t talk about memories from when I was a little girl. And I can’t say how lucky I am that he raised me. And I can’t say he’s always been my hero.
The cold, hard facts are that I don’t know him very well, though every discovery points to the fact that we are very similar. And I have approximately 8 hours of memories with him, not years and years worth. But that doesn’t change the other cold, hard fact – he’s my dad and I love him.
It’s not just difficult buying cards for him. I struggle every time I look for a card for my natural mom, my natural brothers, etc. etc. Despite living in a world where thousands upon thousands of people are adopted, the greeting card industry has yet to figure out that we need cards designed for our situations too. Perhaps that will be my next career – writing cards for adopted kids to give their natural family upon reuniting.
In the interim, I will search (and search) for cards that say something, without saying too much. And then I’ll write my own words to try to explain why the sentiment on the card is appropriate and legitimate.
Oh, and just so you know, I did find a good card – well, it’s good after my additions!