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    May 03, 2005

    Adopted - Part I

    I was six years old when my cousin so kindly accused me of being adopted. My response? "I AM NOT!!! What's adopted?". She didn't know either. She apparently overheard a conversation about it between my Mom and my Grandmother. It wasn't long after that I asked my mother what exactly "adopted" meant. I remember the conversation vividly. It was late on a Saturday afternoon. I was lying on the counter with my head in the kitchen sink, as my mother washed my hair when I asked "What is adopted?". My Mother asked where I had heard that word and I told her that Jackie said I was adopted. She began telling me that she and my Dad tried for years to have a baby and that it wasn't possible. Very gently she explained that another woman had given birth to me and gave me to them to raise and love as their own daughter. This information really meant nothing to me at the time, but I continued to listen. She said that I was legally their child and that she and my Dad loved me very much. I remember sitting in the living room shortly thereafter, eating a bowl of soup and watching HeeHaw with my Dad and Sister, their biological daughter born 16 months after I was adopted. I was apparently satisfied with the answer to my question.


    I didn't think much about being adopted again until my early teens. I often wondered if one of my Birth-Parents were people we knew or perhaps someone on television. I figured it was possible. Because it was never really spoken of, I wondered if anyone else knew I was adopted besides us. No one other than my cousin had ever mentioned it. At this point in my life, I felt certain that at least some information had been kept from me. I was curious to learn more, but because neither of my parents ever spoke of it again, I was afraid to start asking questions. I felt sure that this information must be top secret and was to be kept from me at all costs. I was a child with a highly active imagination!


    During my later High School years, I began snooping around for some answers on my own. A very detailed baby book that my Mother kept for me didn't have much to offer in the way of clues, but I became almost obsessed with it and the many baby pictures my parents had taken. I searched the faces of relatives that I thought I favored a bit. There were a few people I suspected, but I couldn't make heads or tails of anything. One day I finally found some items of interest. I ran across an envelope which contained a letter from the agency of which I was adopted from. It was dated June 29th of the same year I was born. I made note that it was also dated two days after the date of my birth. That piqued my interest! The letter was to inform my parents that they had been approved by the agency and that they could expect placement within six months. I referred back to my baby book where my mother had written that I was brought home July 12th, some fifteen days after my birth! Where had I been all that time I wondered! With my Birth-Mother? Abandoned? I scoured my baby book looking for answers. I found a passage my Mother had written, that said when they brought me home, I had the worst case of diaper rash she had ever seen. I wondered who took care of me. Did I not have a Mother for the first two weeks of my life? Was I given minimal care and neglected? I definitely had some questions! I was afraid to ask them, and even more afraid to hear the answers.


    At some point, I remember my Sister and I needing our birth certificates for something at school. My Mom gave my sister hers and it was the original certificate from the hospital where she was born. Cute little baby footprints and all. I took one look at mine and I couldn't believe my eyes. I was horrified at what I saw! I felt my heart in my throat and immediately blurted out, "Why is my birth certificate black?"! My mother was hardly phased by the question and simply said that it was a photocopy. I tearfully asked her if I had one with my footprints on it and she explained that they were not given a copy of my original certificate because some information had to be changed when I was adopted. Still I was horrified that it was black and the next thing I noticed was that there was no information on it that indicated which hospital I was born in. Although my baby book said St. Luke's Hospital, there was only a dash in that space on my birth certificate. I knew this had to mean something. The next day, as my classmates shared their birth certificates with each other, I kept mine hidden in my notebook. Without appearing to be too interested, as far as I could tell, mine was the only black birth certificate in the class. I felt like the black sheep of my family. Photocopy or not, the color of it had a significant effect on my perception of what it meant to be adopted. There was no way I was letting anyone see that hideous thing. I was ashamed of it and I never turned it in to my teacher.


    On another snooping expedition, I found a sheet with my medical background. The information was contained on less than half a sheet of paper. Not much to go on for sure, but I discovered that I was born at 12:04 AM. I weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. My APGAR score was 10. There was a brief medical history of my family and when I say brief I mean BRIEF! Paternal Grandfather died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 57. Maternal Grandmother had diabetes and my Birth-Father had tuberculosis of the spine at the age of six, which had been cured. He also had slight deafness of the left ear which was due to illness. So there it was. A half a page chocked full of my family medical history! I couldn't believe it. History! I finally had a history! It may not seem like a lot of information to you, but to me it was like finding a chest of buried treasures!

    I didn't learn any more about my adoption until I was eight-teen or nine-teen. I had moved away from home to attend college and during one of my Mother's visits, for reasons unbeknownst to me, she began to come forth with some information. I'm not sure why, or even how the converstation started, but she told me the story behind my adoption. She explained the story as given to them by the adoption agency. My Birth-Mother and Birth-Father were High school sweethearts. He was in Law school and she worked as a legal secretary helping to put him through school. When they found out she was pregnant, his parents refused to let them marry and insisted I be given up for adoption so as not to interfere with his education. My BM followed their wishes and the couple remained engaged. My Mother continued, that when she and my Father arrived at the agency to pick me up, the receptionist asked if she could help them. My Dad said they were there to pick up their baby girl. The woman turned nearly white and said that the BM had just left and that she and my Mother looked easily to be sisters! I could see that my mother loved that part of the story. I was satisfied with all that she told me, but taken aback that she actually offered information of her own free will! I found myself not wanting to hear anymore and I quickly changed the subject. I wasn't comfortable having this discussion after all the years of silence, but I was happy to know at least a little more. Later in my life, I found out it wasn't quite the truth.

    To be continued...
    Jack LaLanne Juicer


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