Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for the adopted individual can feel more substantial than for the average accidentally conceived “John” or “Jane.” I don’t purchase many big-ticket items – and, never do I buy things site unseen. So, the premise of procuring a little person this way makes my head spin.
Returning from visiting my mom in the hospital this week afforded me some inescapable solace during the long drive home. I pondered the time I’ve had with her, and was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. As an adopted adult, I know full well the dedication, sacrifice, and momentary lapse of reason that goes into adopting a lonely, disgruntled, orphan child. For the prospective adoptive parent, the want of child must far exceed the desire for money, time, peace, and sanity. It’s the kind of love that transcends modern logic. Adopting anything is a crapshoot at best, and one fraught with a million unknowns. “Will he love us back?” “Will he grow-up normal?” “Does he carry communicable diseases?” “Will we regret the decision for eternity?” “Why is he so miserable?” “Will he hit us with a bag of hammers in our sleep?”
To keep the orphanage inventory moving, I believe there involves some crafty salesmanship on behalf of the adoption agency, along with a robust “No Refunds/No Returns” policy. Make no mistake, this is nothing like buying a car or Floridian timeshare that you can offload once bored or fiscally upside down. This is an all-encompassing, point-of-no-return, life altering commitment. I once adopted a hermit crab, named “Herbie,” from a Petco pet store, and had to sign a declaration that I would protect and care for the little crustacean to the best of my ability for the duration of its natural life. Had I known that hermit crabs can live 12 – 15 years, I would not have entered into such a pact, and left the unaffectionate ‘lil guy on the checkout counter while sprinting away, elated that I had shirked the responsibility of regular salt baths, twice daily warm water misting, and constant humidifier monitoring.
I cannot imagine signing on the dotted line for an actual child – or just how many signatures such a covenant requires. I was never privy to the documentation regarding my purchase. My parents could have chosen the simpler, semi-vogue option of an exotic, foreign child. Instead, they opted for the multi-year bureaucratic stall and emotional investment of a good ‘ole domestic towheaded kid, homegrown here in the U.S.A. Perhaps they didn’t want to pay shipping.
An often unrecognized advantage to an adoptee is the notion of “family.” When you are not adopted and decide to banish a sleazy family member, that person forever remains flesh and blood. Sadly, there is no knocking anyone out of the family tree. But for an adoptee, things are much more loosely defined. The adopted individual can simply choose whomever he/she wants to be “related” to within the family org chart. I find myself exceedingly proud to be related to some extended family members, while I relegate others to the “acquaintance” pool.
I have successfully dodged these individuals at WalMart, BBQs, and weddings. I simply deny all pseudo genealogical ties, and remind them, “It’s nothing personal – I am adopted, after all.” It also comes in handy in the instance of a really hot second or third cousin – though, society frowns upon such unions. On the flip side, never seeing an actual blood relative is a reverse mindbender. The realization that I’m as related to my own mother as the Easter Bunny is unsettling at times.
Each time I see my parents, I notice questionable habits they’ve developed since retiring and facing the sudden influx of time. One of my father’s most perplexing habits that I failed to notice until his 70’s, is the rampant use of cruise control in his Lincoln sedan at inappropriate times. My dad would use cruise control to parallel park if it were possible. He can occasionally be seen on California’s crowded highways, speed locked at 70 mph, dodging between moving cars like a game of “Frogger,” while seeking the next open space to navigate his 8-foot American-made steel hood, never allowing himself to touch the brake pedal or cruise control “pause” and “resume” switch. When I asked him “Why, Dad? WHY?” he retorted, “It saves gas!” Growing up, I just assumed he was a lazy driver. But, a cost-cutting measure?
Another interesting characteristic of my dad that seemed typical until I was an adult is his anxious hoarding. He rarely parts with, or discards anything. If the family wants something gone, it must be covertly disassembled, stealthily removed from the house under the cover of night, and buried under the existing garbage in the outside trash bin. It’s best to do this the evening before trash pick-up, at the risk he has time to sort through the garbage to ensure nothing has been thrown-out of potential value. Otherwise, he will remove the object from the trash unbeknownst to us, and it will be cleaned, reassembled, and placed in it’s original location. Over the years, he has slowly turned his home into a 2,300 sq. ft. museum of absurdity. He is cognizant enough to know this, which is why he has compartmentalized his house. Certain doors, closets, and rooms are locked, never to be opened except by him when no one is around. Behind these entryways are troves of random electrical gadgetry and worthless relics from yesteryear.
Nearly everything my dad squirreled away in his garage is rummage – with the exception of a 1941 Ford Coupe. In the trunk of this classic he locked away all contraband confiscated from my brother and me in our youth. Old Playboy Magazines we stole from under the bed of our perverted neighbor, a wrist-rocket slingshot, a homemade crossbow, pellet guns, Chinese throwing stars and knives (I was a self-taught, white Ninja), and an assortment of other illicit material coveted by prepubescent boys. Since my dad is the craftiest man around, he has an impressive collection of tools. Not once did we have a repairman at the house, and he was known as “MacGyver” throughout our neighborhood. The drawback was that I never got anything new. Everything we owned was of industrial grade from Sears or affixed with a “Craftsman” label. If something did break, dad would quickly fix it and we’d be on our way.
This went for clothing as well, as my mom had the skills of a commercial seamstress. My pants and shirts all consisted of the “Toughskins” clothing line from Sears. This was clothing made from the weather resistant wool of wild Himalayan Mountain Yaks. If I was somehow able to tear something, my mom would sew it back together using grit and 50lb. test fishing line – also from Sears. She went so far as to sew actual pockets from the rear of retired jeans on the knees of all my Toughskin pants so I had little chance of tearing them. No matter how rough and tumble I tried to act as a boy, I could never be taken seriously with patch-worked clown pants.
I am my parents’ son – adopted, or not. Though I have gleaned neither my dad’s penchant for cruise control; nor my mom’s resolve, grace, and strength as she fights stage IV cancer, I see many other characteristics from my parents in the mannerisms of both my brother and me. I could not possibly love two humans more. When I paused for a moment and looked at her this past week, I could see the age in her comforting face. I knew I had much to do with it, and wondered why they ever took on the challenge of my brother and me. And though they may seem increasingly bonkers as they age, given the choice, I’d choose them every time. I wonder if “Herbie” the crab feels the same way.