Yesterday, my friend Bethe sent me an email telling me I HAD to watch Oprah. Bethe knows that afternoons are pure chaos here. But I tuned in, knowing that Bethe wouldn't insist without good reason. The show revealed that Oprah has a biological half sister who was placed for adoption at birth. Bethe was right, I was interested in this story.
I sat on the edge of the couch, tuned into every word. Mikias was equally interested, he sat with his arm around me. The only times he ever sees me this engaged with the television, the Red Sox are on. He knew what was on was somehow important to me and he didn't want to miss out. He quietly asked me questions during the commercial breaks and hushed Jemberu (who kept screaming, "This is BORING!") with me during the show.
I realized that Patricia (Oprah's sister) and I had some things in common. We were both born in 1963 to mothers who placed us for adoption. We both had reunions with our birthmothers. We both discovered half siblings. We both initially looked for information at the age of 20.
Watching Patricia interact with Oprah, it was clear that she was sweet and open with a genuine desire to embrace her newfound family. I suddenly hoped that no one in my birth family was watching. She was making me look bad. I could imagine them sitting together or calling each other, "You see Oprah's sister? Too bad Alison couldn't be more like her!"
Patricia didn't bristle when Oprah referred to her mother as 'our mother'. I would have probably said, "Well, your mother, my birthmother."
When Oprah asked her what the most rewarding part of this journey had been to Patricia, she sweetly replied, "Getting my family."
I don't consider my birth family "my family". I already have a family. I have one family and I also have birth family. The distinction is important to me.
Patricia's path differed greatly from mine when our birthmothers left the hospitals without us. Is it because I was a much desired (both in 1963 and continuing to this day) white baby girl? During that time in the history of adoption, "matching" a child to an adoptive family was all important. Transracial adoption was virtually unheard of. Was it because there were more African American babies than there were African American parents seeking to adopt? No matter the reason, the adoption system seems to have failed her.
I know nothing about Patricia's relationship with her adoptive family. I don't know what it is like to spend the first seven years of life in foster care. No one had ever told her she was a pretty baby until her birthmother said during the interview that the nurse asked her why she didn't want to take her home, she was such 'a pretty baby'. This revelation made her cry. Her childhood was difficult and she longed to be reunited with her birth mother. Her desire to connect with her birth family makes sense to me. She was seeking a peace, a wholeness, a family. Isn't that what we all want? To be loved, valued, wanted? I got those things as an infant and have carried them with me everyday.
I was in tears by the end of the show. Mikias rubbed my back and asked why I was sad. Did I wish Oprah was my sister? "No way, I already have Auntie Candace (my sister, who is my parents biological daughter), you can't top that." He agreed that Auntie Candace is the best. I told him I was crying because I was so grateful for the life that I have had and the family that I have now. He told me that he knew exactly how I felt. He told me that we are the luckiest people in the world. I couldn't agree more.