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Friday, July 7, 2017

Adoption Matters (A Reflection on My Mom's Experience)

Another post by Jenn, Susan's daughter. Susan died in April of 2014 from malignant melanoma, eight months after being reunited with her sisters.

This is a picture of my mom and me from some long ago time (the 80s), on a long ago mountaintop, with her arm around me. She loved to ski and mentioned more than once that she would have been a ski instructor were she not a mom living in suburbia. This picture is so old, from so long ago, that I can barely conjure the memories to go along with it. But it matters. The fact that I was there, on that mountain, with my mom's arm around me, matters.

The same could be said about adoption. My mom, born 67 years ago this July 9th, was adopted six months later, leaving behind a 5-year-old sister she wouldn't meet for 63 years. She also left behind a mother, of course, her mother, the one whose heartbeat and voice she first knew, and would never know, save one brief phone call 50 years later in which she told my mom, "I always loved you in my heart." My mom was a secret, though, the fruit of an affair with an older, married man, a "family friend," and therefore could never be known. All she knew of this man, her father, was that he was from Denmark, like her mother, and that he was a pilot. Apparently there was a time when his son and wife were going to adopt my mom, but that never happened. Instead, she was adopted by Betty and Clarence Thomson of Haddonfield, New Jersey, where she joined her older brother, Doug, also adopted through the Children's Home Society of New Jersey. They lived a charmed life, with trips to the beach in the summer, a neighborhood full of friends (one of whom my mom would marry), and lots and lots of love. My mom is gone now, three years (the shock of it beginning to fade), and so are her parents. "No one loves you like your mom," she told me, after losing hers, in April of 2003. How lucky she was to have known a love like that.

But history, even without memory, still matters. There is a truth to my mom's life, one that extends to mine, and to my children's, that begins with how she came to be. Not knowing or being able to know that history, so personal and pertinent, she suffered. She did not die from this, of course. She died from malignant melanoma that presented itself as a tiny spot under the nail of her big toe when she was 47 years old. But the way in which that presentation resembles my mom's experience with adoption itself -- at first, pushed down into the tiniest corner of herself, and then, years later, unleashed with a wildness that could not be contained -- haunts me a bit. Adoption matters. It was a part of who my mom was, and it is a part of who I am. Time passes, but this remains. The truth remains, whether known or not.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Letter My Mom Wrote

My mom (Susan Perry) in 2009 with my daughter and nephew
Before my mom, whose blog this is, passed away in 2014, she asked me to keep the site going if I could. "Maybe just once a month or so, I know how busy you are," she said. At this point in her life, with the end clearly in sight, she focused on spending time with loved ones, and not much else. Yet she used some of those precious last months on earth advocating for adoptees, and on making sure that we (her family) knew this was important to her. It was not one of the things that no longer mattered. It mattered. It still does. This month, I'd like to share some of my mom's own words. This is the letter she wrote, in 2003, to her original mother. Several years before, she had been diagnosed with Stage 2 malignant melanoma and had thus begun the search for her biological family at the recommendation of my sister, a doctor. The adoption agency in Trenton, NJ that had placed her contacted her original mother for her. She was not allowed to contact her herself (something that she found deeply offensive). Her mother told the social worker that she wanted no contact. That was the end of the story, for a bit. Eventually, my mom found her mother through an "enlightened individual" and sent her this letter. Being able to do so was crucial in her own journey as an adoptee. As readers of this blog know, my mom eventually found so much more, perhaps miraculously (we thought so), but it shouldn't take a miracle to find those we are related to by blood. Here is her letter.

September 19th, 2003

Dear Mrs. ______________,

I am writing this letter in the hope that you will be able to share just a little health and personal information with me about my genetic past. I am the little girl, now a middle-aged woman, whom you gave up for adoption 53 years ago. I want to assure you right up front that I have no need to meet you face-to-face and that I will never call you or come knocking on your door. I try to live my life according to the maxim "Do no harm," and for that reason, I thought long and hard about locating you privately and delivering this letter. (The agency was true to their word and would not release any information or forward this contact to you). I am doing this because I have a great need for healing and closure in this area, and I need to communicate with you, just this once, in my own words.

Perhaps the communication from the social worker at the Children's Home Society may have shocked and scared you. In a way, their letters scared me because they were so bureaucratic and impersonal, and really, this is such a personal event, fraught with emotion. I know that I will feel a much more satisfactory sense of closure by delivering this message to you personally via this letter. Please understand that I have no desire to hurt you in any way. I am so grateful for my life, and I imagine that this chapter in your life was absolutely excruciating.

All through life, I was curious to know something about my genetic past (which I believe is a very natural inclination for all of us, however loving our adoptive families), but my desire to know more intensified six years ago when I had a very scary bout with malignant melanoma. This experience included a life-threatening diagnosis, surgery, and numerous follow-up exams. Of course, all the doctors wanted to know my medical history, and I had nothing to tell them. Also, my older daughter is a physician, and she too was eager to know my genetic medical history. So much of what doctors study today are genetic links to disease.

Because we know without a doubt today that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to who a person is, I feel a definite sense of loss not having any information at all about the people whose genes I carry. That's why I tried to initiate come contact through the Children's Home Society, because I felt in my mind that I was asking for so little. Perhaps for you, my life ended the day you signed the adoption papers. I, on the other hand, had a life-long fantasy that somewhere in the world was a woman who must have wondered, on my birthday and from time to time, where I was and how I was doing. The death of this fantasy hurt so much that I sobbed like a baby for a couple of days and went about my business with a knot in my stomach for weeks.

I have to believe that your decision to close off all contact was one of self-protection and that you certainly didn't mean to cause me so much pain. For this reason, I hope you will listen to my modest request with an open heart. If you can share some information, in just one letter, you would be giving me a gift beyond all measure, and perhaps we both can feel a sense of peace and closure about this long-ago chapter. Here's what I'm hoping you will be able to tell me.

  1. Although I have a fine life outwardly (had loving adoptive parents; have an extremely kind husband and two daughters who have been and are incredible blessings; have interesting work as a writer and teacher), I have struggled since I was very young with intermittent bouts of depression. No one in my adoptive family did, and it took me a long time to figure out that my sad thoughts weren't part of some horrible personality flaw, just a physiological condition that can be controlled very well with mild antidepressants. I have been told that this condition could be a direct result of the closed adoption system itself, the result of a genetic predisposition, or a combination of the two things. Can you tell me - Is there any history of depression in my genetic past, either in you or in other birth relatives? Also, would you kindly fill out the enclosed medical form? Both my daughters and I would really like to have this information so that we can practice preventive medicine, and I've included a self-addressed envelope for your convenience.
  2. Are you able to tell me anything at all about my birth father? I know that he is deceased, but I am interested in knowing who he was and what he was like, if it is not too painful for you to describe him. 
  3.  For me, the greatest gift you could give me if a photo of yourself -- as a young girl, and as a young or middle-aged woman. It is a very odd thing to go through life having no physical similarities to all the people around you. I have a strong desire to know whether I look like you or other birth relatives. Again, I'm not looking to hurt anyone -- it's just that I feel my genetic make-up is an integral part of who I am, and I need some information to fill in the empty places. 
  4. Is your daughter, born in 1945, still living, and does she know that I exist? You may be aware that after your death, I do have the right to contact her through the Children's Home Society. I do not want to hurt you, so it would be helpful for me to know whether or not she knows I exist. 

I know that back in the days of my adoption, social workers counseled you that secrecy was best. Now, the thinking among adoption professionals has changed, and I am sure this is very frustrating for you. But we know so much more today about genetic links to disease and behavior, and without more complete background information, adult adoptees like me are stumbling in the dark in some ways. Again, I do promise that I will never come knocking at your door. I bear you no ill will. I am a good and sensitive person, a person of integrity. Perhaps I'm hoping to hear that you could have loved me had I been born in a different time -- a time in which out-of-wedlock pregnancies weren't so impossible and when society's rules were not so oppressive. You may be unable to do this, but please -- please don't refuse my request for background information just because I represent a painful episode in your life. Like so many adult adoptees, I simply have a need for some health information and for some knowledge about how I came to be. I know intellectually that my birth and your situation at the time must have been impossible for you, and I need you to know that your choice to give me life has been good for me, even though I feel I missed something, not knowing you.

There are other people in my life whom I love dearly and who love me too. I am not looking for a new family, just the information that I've requested. I pray that God will open your heart and that you are capable of giving me this one gift. I don't know you, but I believe that I can feel your pain and I am sorry for being the cause of that. I hope you can overcome it for the space of just one brief letter. Thank you for reading this letter, thank you for my life, and may God bless you for the rest of your days.

                                                                                        With hope and peace,

                                                                                         Susan Perry

P.S. I pray that you are able to share just a little in one letter and that you will. My address is ... Woodland Ave., Haddonfield, NJ 08033.  If you can do nothing else, I would so appreciate the updated medical information and photographs. I believe, if I had to, I could secure comprehensive medical records through legal action, but I don't want to take that route. You are not my enemy, and I do not wish to intrude on your life any further.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 9th, 2017: Opening Day in New Jersey

This is the cover of a book I gave to my mom's sisters -- the ones she finally found when she was 63 years old -- two years ago. My mom had passed away the year before, having only known her sisters for eight months, but their bond was deep, and our bond continues. The book was simply photocopies of my mom's journal from when she was 13 years old, allowing her sisters a glimpse into her life, into the years they missed together.

My mom's life was a happy one, as maybe you can tell from these few photos (and isn't she cute? I love her sweet face in the photo on the right), but like many adoptees, she also had a bone-deep need to know her roots, and a persistent hope, one she couldn't even admit to herself until actually reunited with her sisters, for a connection to these roots. She spoke out about this for the last 15 years of her life, and even in those last months, when all other things by necessity had to fall away, she continued to fight for adoptees' rights to know their identities (or at least try to know without government interference).

That is why my heart is so full tonight, and why it will be so difficult for me not to be in Trenton, New Jersey tomorrow for the celebration of "Opening Day" along with the many other advocates who fought so hard for this right over the years. Pam Hasagawa, the leader of NJCARE, the organization with which my mom was involved, has tirelessly persevered for more than three decades in order to see this day. (Click HERE to read more about Pam). My mom often spoke about Pam's incredible integrity, and I have seen her faith and strength myself. I am so happy for her. My mom's brother (with her in three of the pictures above) and my dad will also be in Trenton tomorrow to celebrate, and to mark this occasion for my mom. It is so important.

If you are an adopted person from New Jersey, you can go to NJCARE's site for the paperwork to order your birth certificate (Click HERE).

In July of 2013, less than a week after she was diagnosed with stage 4 malignant melanoma, my mom wrote about adoption and what it had meant in her life. As she pondered adoptees' rights to know their full identities, she wondered if this day, Opening Day, would ever come. Reading her words again now, I am so heartened that it finally has.

Throughout my life, I have learned that the road to peace is never through falsehood, and I think that is the reason I have always felt so devoted to truth, fairness and social justice.

It is truly misguided and so very wrong for the state to attempt to block two grown adults from knowing the truth about each other's identity -- especially when those adults share such a deep, primal connection.  We cannot and should not ever block a human being's path to truth, peace, forgiveness and love.

I was told through the agency that placed me that my original mother did not want any contact with me.    With help from several enlightened souls, I found her on my own and sent her a sensitive and compassionate certified letter, asking her also for medical history.  As a human being facing a medical crisis 16 years ago, I felt that I was worthy enough to at least ask for information.  I received it, and eventually my original mother told me over the telephone that she had always loved me "in her heart."  Not every adopted person will seek out her original parents or get even that far in the journey.  Some will get further.

But how dare the state block the possibility for that love to be expressed?  How dare they?  Let people -- adults with minds and souls of their own -- find their own way.  Facing a critical illness at the moment, I can tell you with certainty that there is nothing that is more important than love.  Nothing.  Please, let's let the light, the truth and the love overcome the misguided fears and the ideology. 

Congratulations to all those who have fought so hard for this light, truth, and love. May it surround you tomorrow as you celebrate, and may it continue to grow for us all. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

I Feel The Need To Protect Her, Part II

Another post by Jenn, Susan's daughter. Susan passed away on April 7th, 2014. 

This summer, not writing
I didn't write over the summer because I was angry each time I sat down to write, and though anger has its place in the adoptee rights' movement (as my mom wrote back in 2013: click HERE to read her post), it alienates those we most want and need to change. And it is not good for my heart, which I am determined to protect. What I've learned is that love will protect my heart. Truth, too. Anything else must go. So I was busy swaddling my heart in love and truth this summer.

This has been useful as I've worked to forgive those with power (read: The Catholic Conference of New Jersey and The Catholic Star Herald) who have done so much to harm those without power (read: adoptees, their adoptive parents who want to help them, and their biological parents). For some time, I was not sure as to how to proceed, so dismayed was I by the harmful messages put forth officially by the Catholic paper (and the harmful lobbying undertaken by the Catholic Conference in Trenton). But somehow I found my way forward. My faith is stronger than before. Not in institutions, which are run by human beings, whose own faults and shortsightedness are often reflected therein, but in a Loving God, one who rejoices in the truth and cares for the powerless. I believe. You cannot take this away from me.

I needed this perspective when I arrived home this evening to find a story entitled Changing adoption law in New Jersey (click HERE to read) in the Catholic Star Herald. Beneath the title is a quote in bold from "a birth mother" who does not want her child to contact her and is opposed to the law. Her story (she never told anyone other than her mother and husband about the child, and her 92 year old mother would be severely harmed were the "child" to ever appear again) is featured throughout the article, apparently to make the point that the Catholic Conference did the right thing in advocating against the law. The story also serves to portray adoptees, once again, as somehow dangerous to the people who brought them into this world ("A simple search could reveal her mother or siblings' identity and whereabouts" "My main concern is for my mother and her wellbeing ... This would just hurt her so").

Something has gone terribly wrong. Sometimes, parents cannot care for their children. Sometimes they can't love them, either, sad as that is. And sometimes (as the birth mother featured in this story speaks of) conditions are so unimaginable, so cruel, that parents have no other choice than to give their children away. But when we as a society make those children feel ashamed for wanting to know the truth of their lives, when we make them feel unworthy of this, well, then, we are lost.

For forty-seven years, my mom was an adoptee who did not search for her family. It was a medical crisis that prompted her search, and at first she stated (and believed) that it was only because of the medical crisis that she was searching. It gave her permission. No one had ever explicitly told her not to search, but she had picked up on all the cultural messages that subtly or not so subtly discourage adoptees from expressing any true desire to search. What she found was not all pleasant, but it was hers to find.

Tonight, I am more sad than angry. Sad that even as we approach the day in New Jersey when adoptees finally will have a right to their own birth certificates, stories like this put fear in the hearts of those who might  hear from them. Sad that there are still birth parents who feel such shame. And sad that there are those in power who perpetuate such fear and shame.

But I am hopeful, too. The law allowing adoptees in New Jersey access to their birth certificates goes into effect in January, and the state is already accepting applications in order to stay ahead of the expected demand. Information and forms can be accessed and filed HERE. It's not everything, but it's a start. The rest will come. I have faith. And I have love and truth. For that I am so, so grateful.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

I Feel the Need to Protect Her

Another post from Jenn, Susan's daughter. Susan passed away from malignant melanoma in April of 2014. She met her biological sisters 8 months before that. 

A few things happened today, Saturday, April 30th. First, I received a letter from my church, Sacred Heart in Camden, about the House of Charity and our parish's goal of raising $51,273. I contemplated what to do. I love that church. They have been good to me and my children. I want to do our fair share to support it. But I don't know about the larger Catholic Church. I just don't know. I put the letter aside to think about it. The rest of the day was spent with my kids. Grace, my oldest, had a
Mom and Genevieve, circa 2008. "I feel the need to protect her."
soccer game in Medford, against the Medford Strikers, Carli Lloyd's old team. Though she didn't win, her team played great, and she had a few nice attempts on goal. Watching her play always, always makes me ache for my mom, who loved watching Grace play and reminded me that what I was supposed to say after a game was exactly that: "I love watching you play" and nothing more (i.e. no criticism or post-game analysis). Can you see this, mom? I sometimes think on the sidelines, watching Grace go.  I hope she can. After the game we raced home to see Grace's younger sister, Genevieve, perform in Peter Pan. She was a pirate. Watching her, so happy, dance and sing on stage, I of course thought of my mom as well, and how she would have been there. "I don't know why but I just feel a need to protect Genevieve, more than the others," my mom told me once. She would have loved to see her so happy, so in her element.

After the second showing of the play tonight, Genevieve went with a friend to the Friendly's after party, since I had to put her younger brother to bed and her dad was away. It was while I was waiting for her to get home that I happened to open the Catholic Star Herald from yesterday. This paper goes to all the dioceses in New Jersey. First I read a nice story about the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden. Dimitrius Eliza, the 17-year-old Senior Farmer featured, is a member of my church and a phenomenal young man. I loved reading about him. Then I turned the page. This is what I saw:

There are so many reasons that both of these articles upset me, and that they should be upsetting to any sentient human being. My reaction upon reading them was to dig out the folder with all my mom's adoption correspondence. I found her letter to the Children's Home Society in Trenton from March 11, 2003. They had just refused to forward a letter she had written to her birth mother (who had been contacted by the agency by phone and apparently indicated in a "hostile" way that she wished for no contact with my mom). I will not include the whole letter here but rather just the postscript:

P.S. You refuse to forward a single letter of reconciliation to my birthmother, who has now rejected me twice and hurt me so badly, because the action could be deemed "legal harassment"? When I have not requested a face-to-face meeting and when there was no written contract guaranteeing her anonymity in the first place? Frankly, I don't believe you could be more insensitive to my feelings and my need to heal; you are simply conducting business as usual and hoping I'll crawl back under a rock. 

What are you afraid of? That this woman, elderly and probably of modest means, will sue because she receives a single letter - and a kind letter at that - about an issue she'd rather not think about? I imagine the likelihood of my taking some legal action is quite a bit higher, since I am totally committed to my rights as a human being, I am economically secure, and I am about as angry as a person can possibly be. 

Please note that in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld two landmark decisions in Tennessee and Oregon, saying that the right of the adopted child to know her origins prevailed over the right of the birth parents' confidentiality. The legal tide is changing, thank God, even as your bureaucracy strives to maintain a safe and noncommittal position on the shore, all the while maintaining that you have compassion for the feelings of the adoptee. You can't have it both ways, and you have made it quite clear in your refusal to make any exceptions or compromises in my case that adoptees' feelings are always considered last, if at all. 
The tone of the Catholic Star Herald's articles (don't they know that in other countries the Catholic Church has apologized for its role in adoption?) has insured that I will not be giving to The House of Charity this year. It is not an easy decision for me. For as much as I am more conflicted than ever about how (if at all) I can continue to be involved in this church, I am not conflicted about my belief in God, nor my belief that God is good. Somehow, some way, my mom is with this God. Ironically, it was finding my mother's sisters, one of the greatest miracles of my life, and certainly of hers, that helped cement this belief for me. I simply felt it to be true with all of my being, even in one of the most difficult times of my life. It is because of this belief that I remain committed to keeping my faith at the center of all that I do. It is because of this that I remain committed to working for good. Whether or not I can do that as a member of the Catholic Church is something I am trying to figure out. While I work on that, I'll keep writing, and I'll keep sharing my mom's words as often as I can because ... well, just as she said about Genevieve all those years ago, I feel the need to protect her. Her and all the adoptees who are not protected at all. May God keep them close. 

Click HERE (scan of physical paper) or HERE (link to website with articles -- scroll down to second and third stories) to see the two stories in The Catholic Star Herald (4.29.2016). I plan to write more about what's so upsetting about these stories, so for those commenting, please know I will incorporate your comments. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Life That Will Not Be Silent

My mom with our dog Ranger. 
Tomorrow, April 7th, is the two year anniversary of my mom's death. By the time I post this, it will
probably be the anniversary. It is also the birthday of my husband's mother, who passed away 12 years ago, when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge this evening, over the Delaware River that separates Philadelphia from my home in New Jersey, with my 5-year-old son in the back, chatting away, I thought about that morning two years ago when my dad called me. "Mom had a difficult night," he said, "You should probably come." I was on the bridge. It seems a fitting metaphor for my life, being on a bridge at that moment. I was crossing over -- life before, with my mom, and life after. I know my husband feels the same about his life, before and after.

My mom was many things to me, most of which cannot be summed up in words. What she was to this community, of course, was "an adult adoptee advocating for her rights." Before she died from malignant melanoma at the age of 63, she had fought for nearly 15 years for justice and truth in the world of adoption. To be honest, this was only a small part of what she was to me, but it was an important part. She asked me if I would consider continuing her blog after she died, "only once a month or so, because I know how busy you are." I said I would. I am so grateful I did, because by writing here I have been introduced to many people of great integrity. I have also learned a lot. "Jenn, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that goes on in adoption," my mom told me. She was right. In my two years of writing, I have discovered everything from simple ignorance to big-time greed and corruption, but I have also rediscovered the beauty of truth in the face of these things. Truth is a gem. Those who work to find it, will.

Berta Cáceres, mother and activist. 
It felt fitting then, that today on the front page of the Spanish newspaper El País (which I read because of my job as a Spanish teacher) there was an essay, La vida que no calla (Life That Will Not Be Silenced), by Olivia, Berta, Laura, and Salvador Cáceres. They are the children of Berta Cáceres, who was killed last month in Honduras. (Click here to read more: New Yorker article on Berta Cáceres). She was an internationally known environmental and human rights activist, much more famous than my mom, of course, but her children's words spoke for how I feel about my mom, about Berta, about anyone who speaks for truth. (The entire article can be found here: El País article on Berta Cáceres). I was especially moved by the last paragraph:

"El dolor no nos paraliza, no nos impide soñar, pero se volverá insoportable si el mundo calla y olvida a la guardiana de los ríos, a la cuidadora de la vida, a la que también nos cargó en el vientre, a nuestra madre, Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores."

The pain does not paralyze us, does not keep us from dreaming, but it will become unbearable if the world is quiet and forgets the guardian of the rivers, the keeper of life, she who also carried us in her womb, our mother, Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores. 

Tomorrow, the anniversary of the passing of my mom, and also the birthday of my husband's mother, I will not forget, I will remember, the beauty of the truth, the beauty of all moms, and especially mine, Susan Thomson Perry. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Radical Listening and Adoption

Another post by Jenn, Susan's daughter. Susan passed away in April of 2014, eight months after being reunited with her biological sisters. 

Mom and Joseph. The picture in his room for him to remember her by.
In October, adoption blogger (and adoptee) Amanda Transue-Woolston wrote a moving post called "Re-framing Searching as Radical Empathy" (Click here to read) about what it felt like, as an adoptee, to become a mother for the first time. My mom, too, wrote about how when my older sister was born she (my mom) stayed up that first night holding her and wondering about the woman to whom she was so closely tied, but knew nothing about.

I've been thinking about "radical empathy" and that October post lately as I ponder what I can possibly say about the Pennsylvania ACLU's opposition to HB162, a bill that would allow adult adoptees in Pennsylvania access to their original birth certificates. The bill passed the House in December 187-7 (though with a clause included about an adoptee having to have a high school diploma or GED in order to access her birth certificate. What?!) and now goes to the Senate, where it faces intense opposition by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania ACLU. A friend forwarded me the letter that was sent to all members of the House of Representatives by ACLU Legislative Director Andy Hoover back in December, and I have been pondering ever since what I could possibly say in response. What can I say about a letter that ignores the personal stories of so many birth parents and adoptees, including my mom, and then insults them by arguing that "The fairest process in adoption is one that respects the wishes of all parties. Current law accomplishes that"? (My mom is dead, and only by a miracle do I now know and have as part of my life her extended family, so no, no, no, current law does not accomplish that). What to say to an organization that apparently thinks it completely fine that my mom had no rights when it came to knowing her true identity? That would ignore the testimony of thousands upon thousands around the country (and world) to the contrary? After more than a month of reflection, I think the answer, really, is nothing.  If nothing that has been said thus far has moved them, then I do not think that they are really listening.  And what is needed now is radical listening.

We all know what it feels like when someone really listens to us. And we all know what it feels like when someone doesn't. I've had both experiences when telling my mom's story. Once, a new neighbor, now a good friend, came by my house and noticed a picture on the bulletin board of my mom and her two sisters. She asked about it. I told her a little (there were other people over, and I tend not to go into the whole, complicated story in social situations), but I added, "It's an interesting story. I'll have to tell you some time." The next week, as we sat on the front porch while our kids played on the lawn, she asked for the story, and I told her. I did not get into the politics. I just told her about my mom, and how she had to sit across the desk from some twenty-something social worker who had access to the truth of  my mom's life right there, in the filing cabinet at her side, but she couldn't share that truth with my mom, because one phone call, one scared no from her biological mother, meant that she couldn't. My mom had no rights to contact her mother herself. She had no rights to know her family, including her sisters , who wanted to know her.

"I can't imagine how that must have felt," my friend said. I was so grateful to her for listening, for really listening, and hearing the truth of my mom's experience, that I could have cried. When the ACLU is ready (will they ever be ready?) I will be grateful to them too. By listening, they would know that their stance is wrong, and harmful. By listening, they could understand. And by understanding, they could do what is right. For the sake of thousands of adoptees and biological parents in Pennsylvania, I hope that they do, and soon.
My mom and kids, July 2013. When her rights were violated as an adoptee, their rights to know their extended family, and their heritage, were violated as well. More than anything, though, we just wish she were still here with us. I am baffled by the position of the ACLU that "current law" (law that did not allow my mom access to her family, which gave her access to her full medical history) "protects the rights of all involved." It does not.