This I Believe

Joseph - baltimore, Maryland
Entered on October 12, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

This I believe

I believe that stories are an important part of life. And of all the stories hear and tell, our own is the most important to us.

When I was six I overheard my mother tell a friend that my brother and I were adopted. I began to wonder what the word meant, the first step of my search.

Until recently I was not sure what I was searching for.

I now believe that what I was searching for was my story.

The search did not formally begin till I was 32. I was nine when our parents told us what remnants they had of our adoption story. They told us there were adoption decrees in a safe deposit box and that when we were 18 we were free to “search” for our birth parents. They also made it clear that they did not want to know anything about it. For them it was to remain a secret.

For me the safe deposit box was like a curtain I felt drawn to look behind.

It was in June 1979 that I met my birth mother after an on and off search that took less than six months.

There in a small softly lit room at Catholic Charities in Pittsburgh, I met her. It was then that the curtain I opened became a pall. For, my birth father was a Roman Catholic priest.

A Catholic from birth who had spent two and half years in a minor seminary, I believed I had a rather formed, sense of good and evil. I was certain it was more than just a sin for a priest to sire children.

My birth mother told me she could not take him from God. She would not keep him from the priesthood. So, unable to support us back in 1948, she allowed us to be adopted. Soon after that meeting I experienced a pall like darkness over me. It either covered me or marked me.

Until my birth mother’s death in spring 1981, I regularly talked with her, trying to find more pieces of the story. After her death, her older daughter, my half sister helped with more of the pieces.

I decided I needed to tell the story. I needed to piece together what I had come to know with what I imagined.

I continued to search. Then, in the laundry room of a friend of my birth father, in Flagstaff, I sat with boxes of his books he had left after his death in 1973.

One of the boxes held a folder labeled Parenting. I believed this was what I was looking for. There in that folder I would find an acknowledgement, make the connection that we were part of his story.

It was empty.

The secret was the pall.

And the only way to remove it was to tell the story.

For I believe we need to know and tell our story, to at least someone, if only to ourselves.