An Ode to Father’s Day

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Several adoptees share their thoughts on what the word “Dad” means to them in snapshots of fatherhood and odes that show just how much dads matter.

“I always assumed he was one of ‘those guys,’ the stereotypical birthfather who skipped town when he found out Baby Girl was on the way. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My dad hadn’t wanted to give me up, and his grief over the relinquishment had been so significant that it was noted in the court file. My dad had saved everything for the day he would meet me again—from the court papers right down to the bows off the flowers he brought my mother in the hospital. He had looked for me before I contacted him.

My dad was with my mom when she was killed at age 22. He cried the day he took me to “meet” her at the cemetery. Today, he’s a loving husband of 30 years and a dad to two other amazing kids. He never forgot me, and he loved me all those years I assumed he didn’t care.”
Baby Girl Stephens

This Father’s Day, for the first time, I celebrate both the father who raised me and the father I thought I would never know. My father who raised me loved me, comforted me and taught me right from wrong. He taught me to ride a bike and counseled me with wise advice. And he taught me the meaning of unconditional love through my rebellious teenage years.

I met the father I thought I’d never know the day after I turned 51. From him I learned where I came from, who I look like and where pieces of my personality come from. He has given me a heritage and roots. And he has given me his love and the gift of acceptance. This Father’s Day I honor two fathers who love me and helped make me who I am.
— Becky Drinnen

Becky is from Ohio, a state where the ability to access information on your origins changed dramatically for 400,000 adoptees this year, thanks in large part to another Ohio adoptee and her father.

Prominent Cleveland lawyer William B. “Brad” Norris, played a role in closing adoption records in the early 1960’s. He wanted to seal his adopted children’s birth certificates from the public, but he never intended for the law to close the records to adoptees as well. One of his children was Betsie Norris, who grew up and founded Adoption Network Cleveland.

Unaware of her father’s actions, Betsie began a battle in 1989 to reverse the law that closed the records to post-1964 adoptees. After her father confessed his involvement to her in the 1990’s, the two forged an alliance to push for a law that would restore access for all Ohio adoptees.

“When my Dad came to me, several years into my effort and confessed his role in closing the records, it was like a Greek tragedy where the child is, unknowingly, trying to rectify the ‘sin’ of the parent. From that point on, my dad partnered with us in our fight to change the law. My Dad passed away in 2006, and I know this piece of unfinished business weighed heavily on him. He didn’t live to see Ohio Governor John Kasich sign the legislation into law in December 2013. But thanks to my father’s help, Ohio adoptees will be able to access their original birth certificates beginning in March 2015. I carried his picture in my pocket to the bill signing.”
—Betsie Norris (More on Ohio’s story: New Era for Ohio Adoptees Began Today)

My father, Willis, was a quiet man who loved his two children (both adopted) very much and we loved him the same. My father would have done anything for us. I lost him 30 years ago and still miss him dearly. Unfortunately, I was never able to meet my birth father. He passed away when I was 19 years old.

I would like to say Happy Fathers Day to my newly found uncle in Michigan—Happy Fathers Day uncle Jim! I consider myself one of the luckiest fathers this year. I’ve been getting to know members of my birth families and I’ve been blessed with a wonderful new family.”
—Daniel Koerselman (Daniel’s story: An Iowa Adoptee’s Thoughts the Night Before He Meets His Birth Mother)

At eleven days of age, fate led me into the arms of my adoptive dad. Although all four of my parents made me who I am, I feel infinitely blessed to know my dad’s unconditional and eternal love. Today, my dad is one of my best friends in the world.
—Heather Katz (my cofounder Heather’s story: Sometimes a Reunion Gives an Adoptee New Secrets)

I’ll end this ode by saying the image above is from the card I sent my own father this year. I met him when I was 19. A few months later, he sent a card that said: “I think there is such a gap between reality and the dream in this situation. Do you know what I mean? I guess I’m trying to say that I want to be everything you want me to be, but, realistically, I’m not sure I have the foggiest idea what that is—do you?”

I didn’t have any idea either, but those words and a mailbag’s worth of letters over the years fostered a kinship and a second chance to have a father. From 19 to now he has become all the things mentioned in the card above. . . except maybe “fixer of things,” unless that “fixing” comes in the form of being there, through emails and phone calls, at concerts and shared beers at a pub (especially shared beers at a pub), and recently, for his wise and funny stories that give me insight on ways I can parent one of my sons who shares many of his traits.

As so many of us adoptees know, it’s hard to put into words what it means to know someone who looks like you, or is like you, in small and large ways. All I can say is meeting the people responsible for my life on this planet has helped me to feel more tethered to it. And I’m more appreciative still to have this window on the invisible threads that link generations. After many Father’s Days filled with longing, this year I’m counting the many blessings.

Happy Father’s Day—to my own and to all you fathers out there!— Christine (Portrait in Nature and Nurture)

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