Monday, May 10, 2010

An Important Day to Celebrate!

This is a reprint of my post from May 10, 2009.

I was born in California to my mother and father. My father was a loser. Couldn't hold a job and didn't try very hard. According to my mother, marrying him was an act of rebellion. In her stubbornness, she made many efforts to make it work. But it didn't.

When I was 3, mom packed us up and we moved to Lexington, KY to live with her parents. My father also moved home- to Louisville, KY. From what I'm told and from the little I remember, he didn't come around much. I do remember my mom and I driving to Louisville and spending Christmas with his family. By the time I was 5, my mom was fed up with him never paying any child support, never making any effort to see me, of him just being the loser he was. She was getting ready to start dental school, my grandparents were about to move to Elizabethtown, KY and we would be on our own. She stopped making the effort to include him in my life. If he wasn't willing to put out at least a 50% effort, she couldn't afford the energy and time to make it happen. He vanished. Never attempted contact. I was a fatherless child.

I started school. Most of the other kids had dads. But divorce was becoming a growing phenomenon. My mom had me go to a school sponsored group for kids of divorced parents. But I couldn't relate- the other kids all knew their dads and spent most of the time talking about visiting their dad or meeting dad's new girlfriend. I just didn't have a dad.

My mom had started dating a man when I was 5. Once my grandparents moved away, he became more prevalent in our lives. He wasn't around a lot but he and my mom were slowly getting to know each other and spend time together. Things got more serious between them. Mom was in dental school, he was in medical school. He was scheduled to finish a year before her.

They got married the summer before I started 5th grade. Mom and I would travel each weekend up to Cincinnati- where my dad was doing his internship and residency and such. Several weeks before mom and I made our sudden move to Cincinnati, a major event happened.

The man my mom married... adopted me.

I had wanted a dad. All my friends had dads. I don't recall any other single moms in my group of friends. And a dad just seemed like a nice addition to a family. Usually playful and funny, slightly embarrassing, strong and secure and safe. At least that is how things looked from my dadless perspective.

Being adopted was a big deal for me. It meant that I had stepped up. It symbolized full acceptance of me. It was a fresh start. As an adult, the hard part of my adoption was dealing with the fact that my birth father came to the courthouse and signed away his paternal rights. The lawyers made him a deal he couldn't refuse- we would have no claim on all of that child support he'd never paid. In the processing of that, it did feel like he was selling me off. But it was truly the most loving decision he could have made- even if it was done for selfish reasons.

On May 10, I became my daddy's daughter.

My mom and dad went to the courthouse. I stayed in the lawyer's office with his secretary (his wife). I remember being excited to play on her typewriter. And I remember the look on my dad's face when they came back.

Every year, my dad and I celebrate my Adoption Day. A-Day. When I lived at home, it meant a dinner out, just the 2 of us. Once I moved away to Indiana, it meant phone calls and cards. But we still recognize the day every year. So while my family celebrates me on Mother's Day, I have the pleasure of a double celebration.

I wouldn't be where I am right now if my mom and dad hadn't gotten married. And I wouldn't have felt as much a part of the new family unit if my dad hasn't adopted me. And given everything else that was chaotic in my childhood... having that anchor of safety in my dad gave me a level of confidence that I know helped me become the person I am now.

My dad has been my dad from the word go. While he wasn't a perfect dad... there is a lot he has done that means more than words could ever say. When everything from my childhood started surfacing- the abuse- he loved me and believed me and helped me. He paid for my therapy. He paid for my hospital stay. He paid emotionally for the horrible attention-seeking choices I was making. He paid for college- all 5 years. He has made a lot of mistakes. But they are dad mistakes and I am glad to have those unique challenges in my life that only a dad can bring.

Happy A-Day to me and my dad!



Anonymous said...

That was so beautiful! Having been divorced with a 2 yr old, i understand the importance of a dad and it sure doesn't mean that "Dad" is the one who has your blood.

I hope you had a wonderful celebration this weekend!

Jenni said...

That's awesome. My oldest son's birthmom (DH's ex) walked out when he was 5 months old. She was never really a part of his life after that. After I married his dad we started pursuing adoption but the ex fought it so we ended up having to go to court and it wasn't all signed and sealed and legal until my son was 5. It was a good day. :) We should celebrate it like you did/do with your dad, I had never thought of that, but it's a great idea. :)

Katherine said...

What an amazing story. My own father had a similar story and his adopted father was the only father he recognized and the only grandfather I knew. Let's absolutely celebrate the parent figures in our lives, genetically related or not!

Cajoh said...

Looks like an A day to me. This reminds me of the movie with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda who both have multiple children and at the end of the movie they both adopt each of the other two's children. Very touching even though the movie was more of a comedy.

Congratulations all around!

noexcuses said...

I love knowing this about you. Thank you for sharing it. I'm very happy that you didn't have to grow all the way up without a dad.
I know how much it means to you.

Momza said...

After I read this, I had my 15 yo daughter read it too because she is in a similar situation with her bio-father and Mr W is her step-dad. This post opened up a great conversation between us about fathers. I liked how you said your adoptive father wasn't perfect, that he made mistakes, but he's always been there for you.
This was really awesome, Liz. Thanks for sharing it!

Karen M. Peterson said...

Such a great story, Liz. I don't have much of a relationship with my dad. A lot of that is his fault, some of it is mine.

But he is still my dad. I guess I should be grateful he's around and sometimes acts interested in being involved.

C. Beth said...

What an awesome story. Happy A-Day (a day late!)

Amy said...

What a terrific story! (PS -- Love the 13.1 "sticker" on your page.)

Anonymous said...

What a sweet story! I felt the same way about not having a mom when all the other kids did, but my stepmom was a poor substitute. I was so excited when I got a mother-in-law I loved!

Lola said...

Happy Gotcha Day! (I stole this from Erik Deckers- his kids are adopted and he celebrates their "gotcha" day every year and I LOVE that!)