Happy Birthday To Us

by Laura

It’s been a year since our reunion.

In that time, David and I have made a couple of trips to Buffalo, and my sister, Cathy, came here to Dayton to see me. We’ve texted, and spoken on the phone, and goofed off on Facebook.  Building long-lost relationships takes time, and effort, and patience, and a lot of hard work. All the books and blogs and stuff I read in the years I was thinking about finding my birthfamilies all said this was going to be hard work… and it is. I suspect it will be for a while yet.

Part of the hard work is building this “new” family into my consciousness; not that I ever forget that they exist, they are there, in my heart and mind, all the time. It’s more about inclusion: just picking up the phone, setting reminders about birthdays and anniversaries… that sort of thing. Intentional. It’s about being intentional, especially when we live 350 miles apart. I’ve never lived close to any sort of family after I married and moved away into the “wild, blue yonder”. So this isn’t exactly new to me. But in the last 12 years as the wild, blue yonder has settled into “home, sweet home” (imagine growing roots after 30 years?!?) with a nearby-Daughter and her family, I’ve let the daily of my life flow past me in complacency and comfort. And I’ve forgotten about weekly phone calls, anticipating mail times, and setting reminders.

But it’s also about embracing difference. Same-same, but different, we are. Does anyone remember The Patty Duke Show? Patty Duke played a dual role in this funny little sitcom from the ’60s.  Patricia “Patty” Lane (Patty Duke) is a normal, chatty, rambunctious teenager living in New York City. Her father, Martin Lane, is the managing editor of a fictitious New York newspaper. Patty has an identical cousin, Catherine “Cathy” Margaret Rowan Lane (also Patty Duke), who is sophisticated, brainy, and demure. Her father, Kenneth Lane, is Martin’s identical twin brother who works as the foreign correspondent for Martin’s newspaper. Cathy moves to the US from Scotland to live with Patty’s family and attend high school with Patty. While both girls are identical in physical appearance, their style, tastes, and attitudes are nearly opposite… which is why I am bringing up this blast from the past. The show centred around the differences between family who shared a lot of DNA, but were raised in different places and spaces; the old nature vs nuture thing (and I know, I dwell on that a lot; for one thing, it’s fascinating! but, for another, it has been the hardest thing for me to absorb). This old sitcom is a pretty good metaphor for many of the reunion stories I’ve read… as well as my own.

Recently, I’ve been struct by how fragile a good reunion can be. In the years before I did my DNA test, I spent a lot of time thinking…soul-searching, really…about what my end-goal was in “searching for my mother”. And I had originally decided not to. I had a Mother; a smart, beautiful, successful woman who loved me, who loved her family, and who did an incredible thing by taking in another woman’s child to nurture her and raise her as her own. So what was I wanting? Typically for me, I read books, asked questions of other folk; and when blogs began to be written, I read blogs and forums and websites all to try to prepare myself for the possibility of a birth family reunion. I learnt there are very bad ways to do this. And there are better ways. But a good reunion is what you make of it… long before it actually happens.

Here is a good place to start: An Adoption Reunion Roadmap   Scroll down and read the Do’s and Don’ts, especially. Nothing is more painful to watch than a bad reunion that didn’t have to be that way (and, no, I am not referring to mine).

So. Here we are, a year later. I love my “Buffalo Family”, as I refer to them. For me, it’s been baby steps as I’ve been riding the pendulum between obsession and withdrawal, trying to find a place to land. Yes, everyone told me it would be hard. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.  Introverts of the world, withdraw! Lol!!!

Do I have regrets? Not on your life… Would I have done things differently? Probably not. The only thing I would have preferred, and still prefer, is more time spent together. I think our life-long reunion process could go smoother if it wasn’t done in fits-and-starts because of distance and trying to do this over phone calls and text messages. I also wish we could have been a little less careful? with one another.

Happy Birthday, McManus Clan. May God grant us many more years.