“I’ve always loved you…just like you were my own.”
The evening sun streamed through the dining room curtains on what had been a calm August Sunday only moments before. The long-distance connection was clear but I was sure I had misheard. I lost a few of the words that followed but she didn’t even break stride, continuing a paranoid tale that she was convinced would end with her losing me forever.
It wasn’t me they were looking for, Mom insisted. It was the other me. She was beside herself with worry and I was only able to calm her by promising that I’d leave Virginia for her Greenwood, South Carolina apartment as soon as I could pack a bag.
It must be her medication, I thought. What else could it be?
On the road, I placed a call to my favorite aunt. Mom was talking out of her head, yes, but a question was digging at me and I had to ask. Is it true? My aunt’s silence was answer enough.
I’m thirty-two years old and I just found out I’m adopted.
Her doctor said that it was a problem with Mom’s medication and within a week she was fine and back at home. We talked a lot those few days. Another woman gave birth to me, but I only had one mother.
Months later when curiosity finally got the better of me, I learned that there would be no first-hand accounts to answer my questions. Mom had suffered many traumas over the years and her memory was failing. Surviving family knew little more than I and all others had passed away. The only chance lay in a phone interview with the retiring lawyer who had handled the adoption.
South Carolina does not give up her secrets easily but two weeks after our talk, struggling through his shakily-written response, I lingered on one sentence. There are some things you might not want to know.
It was not an easy decision, but I let it go.
Today, I remind myself of why I made that decision nine years ago. A childhood climbing trees beneath a bright blue sky. Graduating near the top of my class. Proud years serving in the US Navy. Standing on both coasts, the islands of the South Pacific and the sands of the Middle East. Four brilliant children. A beautiful and loving wife. And now, making decisions daily that steer the jobs of dozens of people. My life isn’t good.
Forty-one years ago, a woman walked into an attorney’s office with a baby boy. She took a pen in her hand and changed the lives of her family and that of a childless couple. I do not know her thoughts then or if she thinks of me now, but on that day she gave up her six day old son to what she believed was a better life.
Life is wonderful and we all deserve a chance to live it. This I believe.
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