Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On My Father's Boat: Yet Another Story of Adoption Reunion

My father is at the helm. I am standing just to the port side of him. We are motoring along the coast of Maine, and on the shore that we are passing is the town where he and my mother grew up. Their story, and mine, began in the usual way: boy meets girl. But sometime after that, our tale veered from the usual course.

In a different scenario, the town we are passing now might have been my first home. Instead, I was raised in a different town further up the coast, by different parents than the two with whom I began my life.

I first visited my original parents' hometown in the early 1990s. I was not yet in reunion with either of my first parents, but I had acquired some information about my history, including the name of this town. I pulled off the highway and drove around, feeling like an interloper. Here was a place that was intimately connected somehow to my own history -- my very existence -- and yet I was not connected to it in any practical way. I was a stranger in an unfamiliar town. But if I were to pull over, if I were to dare to enter a store or a restaurant or chat with someone on the street, I might end up interacting with someone related to me or with someone who knew my original family. I didn't dare. I had no way of knowing yet what, if anything, my face might reveal of me in this town, and I perceived myself as breaking the rules. I understood that I was in violation of an unwritten contract -- one I had never agreed to be a party to but whose stipulations I knew all too well. I half expected to be pulled over at any moment by the adoption police.

If I was an adoption scofflaw then, I am a full-out criminal now. I have burned the contract. I claim what is mine.

I have been in reunion with my original mother for 18 years now, and though this newer reunion with my father is still young, we have developed a surprising close relationship in the time we have known each other -- just over a year.

Here we stand now, beside each other with our matching feet and our shared love of the ocean. Later, I will take the helm and he will gently guide and instruct guide me as I get the feel for this particular helm and learn to interpret this particular GPS. When he tells me I am doing a good job, I will beam with pride like a little child. For two days we will travel up the coast, the two of us switching on and off at the helm. On the third day, joined by his girlfriend and their dog, we will pass an idyllic day relaxing in a scenic cove. And then I will return home, still basking in the afterglow of reconnection, my cup full, nature and nurture aligning in me -- for now at least -- with a surprising and unfamiliar precision.


  1. I have a shared love of nature with my dad...same feet, too! I miss him every day...wish we had more time is nice to read this...really nice and affirming. He also really wants to share the beach with me and spend some time with just me and my sister...

  2. "I have burned the contract. I claim what is mine." <-- I love this! And I love how you're now creating memories with your father that you'll have for the rest of your life.

  3. Thank you for this delicately told tale of a bond renewed.

  4. Rebecca, this totally resonates with me! What is it that makes us adoptees feel that we have no right to even breathe the air that a birth relative might have, in the course of our search for connection? There is so much to overcome. <3

  5. What a beautiful story. Thanks a lot for sharing. I really
    felt the love you have for your parents just by reading this one. But I am just
    curious of one thing. Why didn’t you dare to pull over and interact with the
    residents there who might give you more information about your original