Dear Adoption, Abandoned, Separated, Abused; Still Going Strong for 7 Decades
As one who was abandoned at about 2 years of age in 1948, left at a dog pound with my younger sister by our parents (who kept our brother with them), later adopted in a closed adoption/sealed adoption state to abusive adoptive parents, I have stories that are unique in some ways but not unique in others.
What is not unique is, that like all adoptees- even those in denial, we all search for the face, the hands, the eyes, the skin tones, a place or places, a voice, a touch, and a heartbeat that cements us with those from whom we are estranged. Even the aromas and odors we remember from our sometimes-distant pasts.
The uniqueness is the journey I began or, rather, the one I was literally pushed into.
But before I explain, I would like to share what Islam teaches about bringing into your homes children who are not your DNA relatives. Its importance is that it preserves the integrity and birthrights of the child and forbids taking a child’s heritage and identity from them. Above all, no child-natural or not-is to be abused or abandoned:
Quran Surah 33 Al Ahzab (The Parties Ayats) 33:4 -5
[33:4] GOD did not give any man two hearts in his chest. Nor did He turn your wives whom you estrange (according to your custom) into your mothers. * Nor did He turn your adopted children into genetic offspring. All these are mere utterances that you have invented. …
Do Not Change Your Names
[33:5] You shall give your adopted children names that preserve their relationship to their genetic parents. This is more equitable in the sight of GOD. If you do not know their parents, then, as your brethren in religion, you shall treat them as members of your family. … you are responsible for your purposeful intentions. …
Please remember these words as you read my narrative. I knew these truths long before I discovered Islam, as well as knowing what identity theft was before the so-called millennials or Boomers invented it.
As Charles Dickens stated in the first line of David Copperfield, I was born. Being an infant, I remember nothing of the birth, and little of the next year and a half of my life. I still remember a young woman, her young son named David, her room with a beautiful turquoise transparent glass vase, the coverlet over her mattress, the paint on the wall, the wood of the flooring, and the crucifix & rosary hung on the wall behind the headboard of the bed. And the name ‘Mary’. Other hazy memories were of being on a blanket in some grass, and crawling off toward an unseen/unremembered object. I also remember being on a steam engine train and of jumping out of a car – the then ‘woody’ station wagon. And of being in a barn with a new-born calf, and the outside of a door to a shed or garage.
The longest memory I have is of the funeral of a catholic priest. I remembered no other faces or names to attach to them, yet it would be these fragments – fragments others are so certain that others have told me – that would help me find at least some of myself and the heritage taken from me with the stroke of a judge’s pen on the final adoption document dated August 1950 in Sarpy County Nebraska. In an instant I was forever – or so Nebraska believed – sealed and barred from my younger sister and brother, my two sets of grandparents, my cousins, aunts, and uncles-and, of course, the very parents who had abandoned my sister and I with the simple statement to some caretaker at a dog pound in Douglas County Nebraska in 1948 stating that they did not want their daughters but would keep their son.
The latter statement was all the state of Nebraska required then and requires now of a parent or parents or guardian to rid themselves of a minor child they no longer wanted/want the responsibility of. Nothing was signed, the parents left with our brother. No birth certificates were copied or transposed by agents or parents. The agents took our names and those of the abandoning parents, the latter left to head east to Ohio. I was put in a children’s hospital, ostensibly because it was believed that I had polio myelitis. My younger sister was adopted long before I, and I have yet to locate her. What is sealed – or was until I retrieved the adoption file – was her whereabouts, just as the details of the adoption.
My adoption was complicated because of my condition and because the prospective adoptive ‘parents’ lived in another county from where I had been made ward of the state. Douglas county provided my guardian, a Parole Officer who worked for the Juvenile Justice System and the Superior Court. It was he who transported me to Sarpy County Court procedures and made home visits to the home of the adoptive ‘parents’ on a weekly basis. I also had a social worker from Douglas county until my sophomore year in high school.
Early on I knew about a thing called ‘justice’, of ‘fairness’, of ethical and non-ethical behaviour and, worse, of brutality. When the judge read out the final decree vis a vis the adoption, reaching the part about “and the said child shall from henceforth and forever more be known as…” I let out a blood curdling scream announcing, “YOU CANNOT TAKE MY NAME FROM ME!” His Honor was none too pleased at my outburst and told me to cease and desist. I did not obey. A bailiff was summoned to remove me from the court room. At barely five years of age, I knew that no one had the right to take from me what was my birth right, in this case a name. When the legalities were completed, my adoptive parents collected me to escort me to my new quarters which for me were a torture chamber – of horrors.
This is just a brief introduction into my life. It would take me 32 years from this point to locate my original birth certificate, and another 28 to locate a paternal uncle and a maternal cousin. Nebraska has attempted to thwart me all the way, but I knew that perseverance would see me through, and, also, that there is a higher power than humans’ delusions of power. I learned at a young age never to accept no just because an adult with ‘authority’ said it. I was determined to find my own identity, and to date have a family tree of almost 4,000 names, 5 DNA analysis, and some history of my ancestors that I might never have had if I had listened to all who said No! to me.