Dear Ms. Feverfew –
I must confess something. I am an adult adoptee.
But not in the usual sense. Oh, I had the same parents “parent” me until I was 27 or so. When I say that I am an adult adoptee, I mean that I am literally an adult adoptee. As in, I was adopted when I was an adult. In fact, February 24 marked the 10th anniversary of my adoption – the day this Rose got a new name.
Without boring you to death with details, here is how I ended up being adopted at 27 years old:
I have seen much affliction in the course of my days, but unlike Nephi, I was not born to goodly parents. My parents where what you could politely call “dry” alcoholics – to the outside world, they appeared to have it all together but on the inside, things were rotten to the core. My biological father (also commonly referred to as “Dad DOS” or “bio-mass”) was abusive in every sense of the word. And horribly so. I will never forget the time when it really hit home how terrible of a person he was is.
It wasn’t in the middle of one of his late night visits to my room to “teach” me how to “be a real woman.” It wasn’t during one of the beatings with the buckle end of his belt (being careful to never leave marks where they might show from underneath my perfectly pressed Sunday dress). It was when I was in school and my drama teacher gave us an assignment. She wanted us to write down on a slip of paper the one piece of advice we remembered our father’s giving us the most when we were growing up.
I sat there. And sat there. And then started crying.
I couldn’t decided what to write down on that slip of paper.
Should I write, “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire, you filthy pigs and dogs!”
Or was the piece of advice he gave me the most “Get out of my life – I wish you were dead, you puking whore of an animal!”
I left that class and went and sat in my car and cried for nearly two hours. This is the kind of “advice” my father gave us. Day in and day out from the time we were tiny until we were old enough to just laugh at him for his stupidity. But really – Who says those kinds of things to their tiny children? WHO???? It was like the scales had finally fallen away from my eyes and all pretense and hope for what could have been was stripped away.
I saw him for what he really was: A small-hearted, mean, cruel man treated his children like chattel and used them for his own perverse pleasures. He would never be the father – the daddy – I prayed for, that I thought “if I am just perfect enough, maybe then he will love me.”
I realized then that he would never love me because he was incapable of love.
So back to the main story: When my older sister was killed in a car accident there on I-15, my mom and I went to her apartment to collect some of her things before the funeral. While there, my mom came across her most recent journal. Inside of the journal was a letter written on paper from a yellow legal pad, cleanly creased into two folds. I remember my mom sitting on the edge of my sister’s bed there in the apartments at College Terrace, the tight Berber carpet under her feet as she unfolded the letter and began to read.
I stood there paralyzed…I knew what the letter was.
I watched my mother’s grief stricken face crumble into dust. The letter was my sister’s first attempt at confronting my father about the abuse she had endured at his hands. It was her voice from the grave, shattering the walls of the whited sepulcher my parents had built.
As some point that evening, my mother took me aside and asked me if my father had done “anything” to me. Still terrified of the man (I still lived under his roof after all and he threatened to kill my mother and me if I ever told anyone), I only said, “Well, there was this one time…” I didn’t have the courage to tell the whole story at that point. She proceeded to go to each of her other daughters and each of them had something to add (Remember, her oldest daughter is not yet buried and now she has just found out that her husband of 20+ years has been molesting her daughters – I don’t know how she endured that time period in her life…)
Late that same night, she confronted him and he admitted to it all. After the funeral, my parents legally separated but my mom tried to “make it work” for the sake of her temple marriage. After another two or so years, she filed for divorce. It was a supreme act of courage if you ask me – she still had 8 children under 18 and no education whatsoever but she knew she could no longer be married to this monster of a man. My father proceeded to spread rumors about her, about me, and about my sisters that poisoned our entire community. After all, he was a prominent church member, businessman, and volunteer in the community. We were just a bunch of “lying, thieving women.” It all came back to bite him in the proverbial butt though when my mom turned everything over the authorities and he ended up in the big house at Point of the Mountain, doing the time for the crime.
A few years later, my mother moved to a new community and was working on her Ph.D. when she met an incredible man. Through a curious turn of events, they ended up getting married (an equally supreme act of courage on his part. After all, when they married, my mother had 12 children AND an ex-husband who was in prison for child molestation!!!) But this man…oh, this man. I wish I could clone him a million times over so every one could have a Papa like him. From the moment we became a family, he was most assuredly my father – the daddy – that I had longed and prayed for. In the shelter of his expansive love for me and my siblings, I finally felt like I had roots and wings.
The idea of him adopting me had never really crossed my mind until one day I was at an electronics shop and was picking something up. I said to the young guy behind the counter, “My name is M. Schmo and I am here to pick up the aforementioned electronics” (or something like that). He quickly looked up and said, “Ooooh, are you related to Joe Schmo, like the Joe Schmo in Happy Valley?” The tone in his voice made it painfully obvious that he knew my father was in prison.
At that point, I knew I had to ditch the last very-uncommon-in-Utah yet very recognizable last name. I didn’t care how, I knew it had to go. I simply did not want to be connected to that man or his evil deeds again.
A week or so later while I was over at The Parents for dinner, I told them of my experience. It was then that my mom casually said, “Hey, maybe your New and Improved Dad (my name for him) can adopt you and you can legally change your name!” It was a decidedly brilliant suggestion and one we promptly acted on. Within a short time period, not only had my New and Improved Dad legally adopted me but also three other of my adult siblings. We all changed our surnames to our New and Improved Dad’s surname (even my married brothers did this!) and went out to eat Mexican food to celebrate our new family ties. It was awesome.
I hadn’t realized how terribly important it was for me to shed my growing-up last name until I got those adoption papers. It was….it was freeing. Liberating. I know is sounds horrible but I absolutely LOVE seeing his name on my amended birth certificate. (Yes, I got a falsified document, just like you! Hey – now we can be twinners. Difference is, I have my original one tucked right behind my falsified one. You probably don’t. Well, at least not yet – I have a copy of your original birth certificate and will give it to you when you want it.)
I personally think that my adoption story is one of the best ones I have ever heard. I decided as an adult what family I belong to. I decided what my name would be. I requested an amended birth certificate with my New and Improved Dad’s name on it. It was all about empowering me as a person instead of disenfranchising me and erasing my identity. All of this was my choice and that, IMHO, is a happy adoption story.
So that is the story of this Rose got a new name. And let me be the first to tell you – life by another name smells even sweeter than I imagined.