Table for 11

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I was given up for adoption as a baby. This describes my first encounter with my biological family when I was a teenager.

Submitted: February 12, 2015

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Submitted: February 12, 2015

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One day shortly after my 18th birthday, I found myself in the kitchen of a run down farm house, sitting at the head of a rather large, beat up table, surrounded by ten or so mismatched chairs. In those chairs, sat a variety of faces strange to me. Strange but somehow familiar...at least I thought there was a familiarity in there faces. There must be, they were my brothers and sisters, along with my Mother and Aunt. Eight siblings, one Mother, one Aunt.
I looked around the room, the shell, the house...framing exposed in areas, insulation exposed, cupboard doors missing. All of it foreign to me. I was raised in a 3 bedroom bungalow, in a small suburban neighborhood. One sister, One Mother, One Father, One Dog named Sandy, not this farm house. I didn't want for much, there was always food, and I didn't have hand me downs...but yet all these faces before me, siblings, family, blood....they were in worn clothes, tattered shoes. All these faces familiar to one another, close even, loving, smiling. Then me at the head of the table. The eldest son...but yet not family...at least not in my mind...not yet.
That was the Day I met my Biological Mother and her 8 children...my siblings, plus one Aunt...her sister.
One week before I was sitting in the living room of another Aunt, watching her child...my 1st cousin Ashlee, who was 3 years old. I had been taking care of her every week end for the past couple years, because this aunt had an important job managing a bank in town. It was shortly after my 18th birthday, shortly after graduating high school in fact. Its that time in your life; that you facing a brand new future, but still unsure of who you are.
I've always known that I was adopted...I don't remember the exact day or age I was when I found out...I just remember always knowing. So obviously it wasn't that big of a surprise to me, at least not one that was burned into my memory. At 18 now, I was starting to question where I came from, you know, you're roots. Not sure if it was that longing for something exciting, or to find some unseen connection. Being adopted you always create these fantastic stories in your head when your mad at your adoptive parents for one reason or another...I use to fantasize that my real mom was a famous singer or actor...I've seen so many that I idolized on TV in my teens. Yes I was Madonna's long lost half brother, or Cagney's son that she gave up before she became a cop.
So one afternoon sitting in the living room of this other aunt, with the cousin, that I've been looking after, watching once again, "the Little Mermaid" for the 150th time. I decided to call my adoptive father at home...My home....the conversation went kind of like this.
"dad, was I named before you adopted me"
"Yes you were...Francis Amadee Sudsbear was your birth name"
Some more inconsequential conversation...I hung up satisfied.
Next step, open the phone book....go to "S" run finger down page...hey there's only 7 in the phone book. I must be related to at least one...I'm not sure how many I called before I reach Dottie...I explained to her my situation. "18 years ago...yada, givin up, yada....general hospital....1974?"
You get the idea right. Anyway she was hesitant to say anything to me...asked if she could call me back. She just wanted to check something out with her family. I said sure, gave her my aunts number, the aunt with the cousin, little mermaid...you remember.

Well anyway....I need a break...I'll come back in a bit and write some more....

OK...so again like I said she was going to call me back.
So I went back to watching "The Little Mermaid" with my little cousin Ashlee...Obviously she knew something, this Dottie. So nervously humming along, to the songs I've now heard 150 time watching Ashlee, waiting for Dottie to call...I began to pace. Finally the phone rang.
"Hello" I said.
"Hello, Jeff?"
"Yes" I replied.
"Jeff this is your Mother."
Dottie was the First aunt, one of the faces in the farm house around the table...You remember. Well she knew who I was right away apparently; but was afraid to say anything without checking first...Checking with her sister Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen, being the voice now on the other end of the phone, My Mother.
Not really prepared, I started the day like I normally do cup of coffee at Tim's, a few smokes, head to the Aunts with the little cousins...now I'm talking to this other mother....now what.
Step one find mother...Step Two meet mother.
Now not to get side tracked but I called this story "Gays of My Life" just because I happen to be gay, and I love "Days"...you often think that the stories are so far fetch that they'd never happen in real life. So just remember that.
Now not exactly sure how to approach the subject of meeting my birth mother with my adopted mother...I decided just to blurt it out...
"Mom I'm going to meet my birth mother"
"Why?" she asked.
"Curiosity"
Well she was upset...you can usually tell because she makes a point of saying that she doesn't care whenever possible....
"I don't mind if you want to meet her...just don't forget who raised you"
So now this is just getting so long winded...but there are so many little things I keep remembering...
We decided to meet for the first time at my Aunt's, the first aunt, farm house Aunt...Aunt Dottie's. Which was an apartment on the West Side of Saint John, not like you'd know...but you know, just in case you ever find yourself in my home town.
One day your eating a pop tart looking at the bird feeder out the window like every mundane morning before...the next you're in your long lost Auntie's apartment and your long lost mother has her arms wrapped around your neck.
So after a couple of hours of talking, tears and tea, photo albums and old documents. This is what I found out so far. My mom was a troubled teen, recently born again, but when she was 16 years old she met a man that was staying at the local "Y", and they hung around together with a group of friends, he was a bit older, but liked Mary Ellen.....bada bing bada boom, she's knocked up and he's left town. (Now at a future time I'll tell you the story of meeting My dad. the skid row junkie, that woke up with a toe tag in the morgue, but that's getting way off track) Like sands through the hour glass...you get the picture.
Now first meeting over...back in my car driving towards my home, thinking about my parents that raised and loved me...I didn't feel any particular feeling about this new mom...anxiety...I mean I did just get invited to Dinner with all my brothers and sisters, all 8 of them, oh and my Aunt, and Mother...at a farm house.
Ok...it's 2am here...I need to sleep....there's lots more.

Sunday, the next day, Nov 9th....Now it's afternoon again. So to continue down the path to the farm house, I just want to give you some understanding of me, at least me at that time in my life, naive, sheltered, unemotional me. Being adopted isn't a bad thing, I think it's a great alternative to abortion, not condemning or condoning one act or the other....really don't know what decision I'd make in the reverse situation, I'll never know, don't have a uterus, plus the gay thing.
Right away my adoptive parents must of known I wasn't the normal little boy, not interested in sports, sensitive, and shy. Not the typical little boy. Adoptive children have this natural need to prove themselves, not sure if it's that fear of being returned, or maybe just feeling inadequate, never measuring up to that biological child that they were never able to have, the one that would of been perfect and just like them. So you over compensate, and agree to just about any thing your parents want you to try...T-Ball, Scouts, Base Ball, Hockey...time and time again they tried different sports, and I tried to like them for there sake. I guess it wasn't the fact that I was not good at any of them, but even at that young age, I was getting picked last, the strange kid no one wanted on there team.
I wet to bed until I was 13, my bladder just couldn't catch up to the rest of my body, I actually went in to have my bladder stretcher when I was 6 or 7...something they would never do now. But I was held down kicking and screaming by a team of nurse, to put in a catheter, a balloon of some sort was put in my bladder to try and stretch it. Now they'd just give the kid some liners and say it's natural, they'll eventually grow out of it.
At three I was given the present of a new adopted Sister Susan...a present I didn't remember asking for, and didn't much like. Today we love one another, growing up we loved one another, but we didn't get along at all. She was my built in scapegoat...anything I got in trouble for, I found some way to get Susan blamed for it.
Even then I was a loner, didn't really have many friends to speak of, school only made it worse. Grade one, I was that kid that wet his pants cause the teacher wouldn't let him go to the washroom, Grade 3 someone on the playground asked me if I was gay...I said "Sure" thinking that gay meant happy, that's what it meant in the "Marry Poppin's" movie; when I asked my mother, "what's gay mean?" after hearing it in one of the songs in the movie. Even then I liked musicals and was singing up a storm.
So that answer, "YES" to that question...set me up for the rest of my academic career. I didn't escape the rumors, the jokes in the gym locker room whenever someone was getting changed, or showered. I even had someone try and push me down a flight of stair in Grade 9...nothing I did...they just didn't like me.
You're probably thinking "why didn't you go to your parents"...well by that point they had giving up on me being a sport star, or jock...which was there childhood, I was the disappointment. I asked my mother once "why did Terry Fox loose his leg?", he was a local hero that ran across Canada in the 80's who lost his leg to cancer...my mother's response was "Because he wet to bed"..."Mom...why did they call me gay?"..."It must be the way you are holding your hand". So I just figured it was my fault somehow.
I didn't have much of a support network...and in the 80's there wasn't much I could do, other than put my head down and try to avoid eye contact with everyone. It worked for most of my 12 years in the school system, no friends, just the looser kid that everyone made fun of...even the teacher's. On days I couldn't take it I'd try and fake sick to stay home from school.
But years of being ostracized you tend to internalize all your emotions. Assume that they don't matter to anyone anyway. Then you just become a shell, unable to relate.
So now explaining all that to you...you can probably understand the lack of emotion I've expressed, or my inability to be emotionally effected by my own situation, so far.

Breaky...need more coffee.

Now faced with the dinner...the one at the farm house...with the faces. The day was fast approaching...and I still didn't know how to feel. Excited to see my siblings, to see if they looked like me, but worried that this is something that I can't undo, once they're invited in, there's no turning back. What have I done...did I open Pandora's Box. For someone not really socialized the idea of being the guest of honor at a dinner for 11, and having to be charming and gracious, was not a natural occurance. My go to was humor in my present family...I may have been a misfit but at least they could always count on some funny jokes...with my family that worked well. Not so well with school.
Now I had to entertain a room of strangers, answer personal questions, share awkward hugs, taste strange food, hear life stories, and at the same time, try and connect?
So hear I was...eyes staring, heart pounding...expecting some huge tear fest, a connection, underlying biological bond to automatically erase the tension.
Sorry Folks....no such luck. I asked question, they asked questions. but eventually the awkwardness overtook me. I made up so excuse to get home. Forget now what it was exactly I said, but whatever it was it was surely lame and transparent.
Damn it was nothing like Donahue, or Oprah...I break down watching those all the time, mom and I love those reunion shows. We always cry together and eat a bunch of junk food.
Now standing in my house...the house I was raised in....I looked at the picture that always use to hang over the fireplace in the front room. The family picture. I look closely at it, and realize I look an awful lot like my Father did then. Come to think of it, I have the same build, the same blue eyes, the same hair line, how could I look so much like someone that wasn't blood, now a flood of memories came creeping in, being a teen I focused so much on the bad, like we so often do, but forgot there was an awful lot of good mixed in there too. Like the trip to Disney, or Skating in the winter, going to the Island every summer. They may not have been there for every thing, but at least my childhood did make me very independent and self seficient...I'd say strong.
Look at that I found what I was looking for, that familiarity, that connection. That family resemblance...I had it all along.
I'm still in touch with my biological family, and I hold no ill will towards Mary Ellen for giving me up, hey she was 16.

That's just the first lesson my friends...Hope you like the story. I'll tell you about my Biological Father next, that meeting, his skid row experience, and morgue wake up call.

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