Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Being Adopted

I don't remember not knowing I was adopted. Sometime when I was very small, my parents told me I was adopted, that someone else had been my 'real mommy', but she couldn't take care of me, so she gave me to a family that could take care of me. As I was growing up, it was no big deal, an odd fact about myself on the order of 'I have a mole on my left shoulder'.

When I was two years old, my parents adopted another baby boy, who became my brother. Same song, second verse.

When my adoptive mother left my Dad, and Dad remarried, we were suddenly transformed into a blended family, with people having come from multiple different directions, so I almost lost track of the fact that I was adopted - we were busy making one family out of two, and who cared what path had brought you here?

Every once in a while, something would 'come up' that would remind me I was adopted - I'm pretty musical, whereas my Dad can't carry a tune in a basket - but it was mainly no big deal. By the time we were all grown, I was the only male in the family shorter than 6-2, let alone 6 feet, but since I was practically the oldest, it took a while for that to become obvious.

Looking back on my childhood, it seems clear now that my parents' (most particularly my adoptive mother's) infertility was something of a '900-pound gorilla' - the huge fact that you can't really ignore, but you don't want to talk about it. Some time back, I got a copy of my school record (I forget what I was looking for), and I was struck by the fact that, on the line for 'Relationship to Student', my adoptive mother had written "Step Mother". When it came down to it, she didn't really think of herself as my mother.

When Molly and I were engaged, and I told her I was adopted, it didn't faze her a bit. When she told her mother, though, her Mom said, "Don't ever tell your Grandma; he might be something she doesn't like." (*sigh*)

The next time I gave any thought to being adopted was when my first child was born. It hit me like a ton of bricks - this baby girl was the first person I'd ever known who was genetically related to me. She had a peculiar pattern in her hair that I also have, and that was just incredibly poignant to me.

When my second daughter was born, it began to bug me that being adopted meant that I didn't know any of my genetic health history - what if I had some pre-disposition for some disease that meant I should take special precautions for my kids? I made a few efforts to find out what I could actually know in that regard, but I didn't really know what I was doing, and I didn't get anything helpful out of it.

Some years later, I took up genealogy as a hobby, and got fairly adept at searching through public records to learn about the history of my family. Over the next few years, a whole series of circumstances came together, to the point that I decided I really did want to know who my birth-parents were.

I want to be very clear that searching for my birth-parents had nothing whatsoever to do with any perceived deficiencies in my relationship with my parents. I loved my parents as much as I ever had (still do); I was simply looking for something that they didn't have to give me. Where did I come from? Who do I look like? Etc., etc. Those are questions which, for most people, are plain and straightforward; for the adoptee, though, they refer to a blank page. It was almost as if I'd fallen out of the sky; at some point - Ploop! - there I was! That's all I knew, and I wanted the whole story. That's all. Before I started searching in earnest, I talked to my Dad about what I wanted to do. I wasn't really asking his permission, but I suppose he could have stopped me, if he'd wanted to. He didn't, though; he knew it wasn't about him, or our relationship. And for that, I'm grateful.

I won't bore you with the details of the search itself. It took about two-and-a-half months (pretty fast as such things go), and a lot of that time was just waiting for letters or phone calls to be returned.

Ever since our first contact, my birth-mother and I have had a very warm relationship. Knowing her has been pretty much all that I'd hoped it would be, and more besides. It has been wonderfully solidifying just knowing where I came from and how I got here. I now have a sense of being 'rooted to this earth', that I didn't have before. I hadn't anticipated what it would be like to come in touch with people who, 'in their bones' were 'like me' in some intrinsic way - the genetic components of personality took me by surprise, and it was a wonderful surprise, for sure.

I was also unprepared for the emotional impact of the search and reunion - for several weeks afterward, I was an emotional wreck. They were, in the main, happy emotions, but the experience of them was orders of magnitude more intense than anything I'd ever experienced. Poor Molly must have wondered, on occasion, if I was losing my mind.

By now, that is 16+ years ago, and knowing my various parents, 'birth-' and otherwise, has become pretty much normal, daily life (except that Molly now has three mothers-in-law; for which she has now mostly forgiven me).

The story took on a new chapter this past winter when 1F, my oldest daughter, gave birth to a baby girl. She's giving our grand-daughter up for adoption, so now I get to experience adoption from the side of the family 'saying goodbye'. It's very poignant, but ultimately, I'm happy that my grand-daughter will be able to have a family. I only hope that her experience can be nearly as good, and as rich, as mine has been.

Friday, May 26, 2006

HOW Many Kids?

"So, are you guys Catholic or Mormon?"

That's a typical question that Molly and I get whenever someone hears for the first time that we're the parents of eight (count 'em) children.

"Why yes, we're Catholic, how did you know?"

I was actually surprised at how low the 'Catholic threshold' can be nowadays. When our third child was born, I took a box of candy to work, along with a brief birth announcement, and left them by the coffee station. One of my co-workers dropped by my cubicle later, and asked how many kids we had now. I told her this was our third.

"THREE KIDS!" she sputtered. "Are you guys Catholic?"

So now, you get the Catholic jokes with three kids? Sheesh.

One time Molly was grocery shopping with whichever of the kids was the youngest at the time. Another woman, noticing the exceptional cuteness of the baby, approached her to chat. "Is he your first?" Informed that, no indeed, he was the youngest of whatever large number was current at the time, the woman stepped back with a look of shocked horror. "How could you have so many?" she gasped. Molly smiled sweetly, leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered, "We REALLY like sex!"

I love my wife.

I actually came across a snappy comeback a while ago, that I'm just waiting for an opportunity to use - "Eight kids? How many are you planning to have?" "Who knows, we're only halfway through the Kama Sutra."

Heh, heh, heh. . .

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Good Wife, Who Can Find?

The biblical Book of Proverbs, chapter 31, verses 10-11, says of the 'Ideal Wife':

A good wife, who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.

I am convinced that the writer was thinking about Molly when he wrote that.

GK Chesterton once said that being constrained to only one woman was a small price to pay for the privilege of having so much as one woman.

I think he was thinking of Molly, too.

I have struggled with how I can tell you about my wife without being sappier than a maple tree in March. I'm still not sure I can, but I do want you to meet my amazing wife.

To start from bare facts -

- Molly was the second of ten kids (oldest daughter; seven boys, three girls)

- She grew up in a small farming town in Michigan's 'thumb'

- She's five months younger than me, although she was a year behind me in school

- She has a degree in Child Development. When being introduced to people for the first time, she likes to say that she got the ultimate job in her field (ie, developing children)

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last summer, and our kids threw a party for us, and 150 or so of our closest friends. We were reflecting afterward that 25 years was a milestone worth celebrating, and that if we had stopped to celebrate even 20 years, it wouldn't have been as significant, because the last five years have really tested us.

A friend of mine used to say that he had been married for 27 wonderful years, "and 27 out of 33 isn't too bad." I can remember a time when we had been married a couple years, and Molly was in tears, lamenting that, "I wanted us to have a really GOOD marriage."

Now, after almost 26 years, I think we've got a good marriage. A REALLY good marriage. It's just taken us a while. The first 2-3 years of our marriage were mostly about the two of us (me probably more than her) figuring out what it really meant to be MARRIED, as distinct from 'really good friends who live together and have sex'. Accountability took some time to get figured out.

Then we started having kids, and while that was going on, life happened in a dozen other arenas. And we grew together. Just the way it was supposed to happen.

Sometime around four or five years ago, we embarked on a couple major adventures in the form of a couple of our kids (how shall I say it?) losing their minds. Our comfortable life was kicked sideways, and there were times when we wondered if our family was going to hold together.

Somewhere in the midst of the turmoil, we sort of looked at each other, and made a fundamental decision that, even if we lost all our kids, we weren't going to lose our marriage. We had friends who'd had similar tragedies in their lives, whose marriages hadn't survived the strain (the temptation to start pointing fingers can get pretty overwhelming) and that hadn't worked out to anybody's benefit. So we worked hard to make sure that, whatever else was true, our marriage would be strong - we made sure that communication was good (setting aside an hour every week just to do something as mundane as review the schedule, pays for itself many times over), and we stirred up small acts of affection (our kids tease us because we hold hands in public). And our marriage is stronger now than it was before the trouble started.

As we go along, I'm sure you'll get a better picture of who Molly is. For now, I just want you all to know how wonderful my wife is, and how incredibly much richer my life is for having her in it.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Let Me Introduce Myself

Hi, I'm Desmond Jones; welcome to my new blog

Since I'm new to Blogworld, let me tell you a few things about myself. Hopefully, these will provide some background for you on who I am; in the fullness of time, most of them will provide fodder for blogging:

- I turned 50 this past winter

- My wife Molly and I celebrated our 25th anniversary last summer

- We are the parents of eight children

- Our oldest daughter is 24, our youngest son is 4

- I make my bread as an engineer

- I was adopted as an infant

- My adoptive mother left my Dad when I was nine; she sent me a birthday card every year until I was 13, and then I lost track of her

- Dad remarried about a year later, when I was ten

- My stepmother had three children from her previous marriage, so we went from a family with two kids to five kids (spanning less than three years in age) literally overnight

- I've never called my stepmother 'stepmother'; she's always just been 'Mom'

- Mom and Dad had two boys together, so we ended up with seven kids in our 'yours-mine-and-ours' blended family

- I was eventually reunited with my adoptive mother, after not hearing from her for almost 20 years

- She had stopped writing when she remarried; she'd never told her new husband that she'd had kids

- I've searched for and met both of my birth-parents

- I met my birth-mother when I was 33; we have a close relationship, and my kids call her 'Grandma'

- I've been married longer than my birth-mother has; I like to tease her husband that, unbeknownst to either of them, she was already a grandmother when they got married

- So Molly has three - count 'em, three - mothers-in-law

- I met my birth-father about a year after I met my birth-mother; we have a good relationship, but we're not real close

- He has two daughters - my half-sisters; I've met both of them, and we've enjoyed the times we've spent together

- I'm fairly musical - I started taking piano lessons when I was five

- I sang in the church choir when I was in high school

- I taught myself to play guitar when I was in high school; chicks dig guys who play the guitar. At least, that was the theory

- I can do a semi-passable rendition of 'Stairway to Heaven'

- I sang and played keyboards in a band while I was in college; we got a few gigs playing for friends' weddings (free beer!)

- No, Molly never did 'sing in the band'; sorry

- I've been what I call a serious Christian since I was in high school (God only knows how 'serious' I've really been; Lord, have mercy)

- In high school, I was a good, old-fashioned Jesus-freak, complete with shoulder-length hair

- When I was in college, I became Catholic

- Molly and I met when we were in college - we were part of the same Christian community on campus

- We were good friends for three years before either of us thought of the other as potentially more than that (Molly probably thought of me as a potential husband a while before I caught on, but she was very patient with me)

- I've been overweight my whole adult life

- In the last four months, I've lost 67 pounds; I'm almost back to what I weighed when I was in college (which was still 50 pounds more than I weighed in high school; I've got a ways to go yet)

- It's all because Molly really loves me, and wants to keep me around a while longer (at least until the kids are grown; after that, all bets are off ;) ). She did all the research, she's doing all the shopping and cooking to make me eat (and live) healthy

OK, that's enough for now. In the fullness of time, I'll probably develop some of these into full-blown posts. Hopefully, we can have some interesting discussions over them. I like to tell stories, and I'll post some of them, too. I've enjoyed lurking and commenting on several of your blogs, and I feel like I've already made a friend or two. So if a few of you find me here, we can carry things forward, get to know each other a little better, and maybe even have a little fun together. See ya 'round!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hello, Blogworld!

Hi, I'm Desmond Jones, and. . . I'm a blogger now.

(everybody now):

Hiiiiiii, Desmond!

I've been lurking on several of your blogs for the last few months, and now I'm finally a denizen of blogworld in my own right (thanks, KJ!)

I'm still not really sure that I won't just be crushingly boring to the rest of you, but I've lately been commenting enough that it's probably just time for me to have my own blog.

So then, we're off! (but not by much, I hope)

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