With Will and Grace making a comeback, I’ve been rewatching the series on Hulu. This morning, waiting on an upload to CreateSpace, I was watching the Thanksgiving episode when Jack comes out to his mother. After he finally tells her that he’s gay, she tells him her big secret: That she has no idea who his real father is.
Two years ago, having dinner with an acquaintance, he commented to me he didn’t understand my hurt over my father’s passing, since he wasn’t my “real” dad.
Earlier this spring, on a hike with a male friend, he commented that he could really only remember one meeting with his “real” father when he was sixteen.
Dear World: as an adoptee, I’m going to ask this once. Please stop using the fucking word “real” to qualify a parental relationship when there’s no real parental relationship there.
DNA does not entitle a person to the right to call themselves “mother”, “father”, “brother” or “sister”. Nor does a legal document. What gives a person that right is when they earn the right to call themselves by any of those titles.
In February of 2006, I gave my adoptive mother the choice of getting help for her anger and physically violent tendencies or not seeing me and my daughter (and any other children I might have) after she grabbed my brother by the face, scratching up his cheeks and forehead with her nails, and ripping off his glasses and then actually grinding them on the driveway of his house, all done in front of his wife and my then one-year-old nephew. To this day, I can still hear my baby nephew screaming in terror in the background when my brother called me to tell me what had happened.
She chose her anger over her daugher, son, and eventually seven grandchildren.
When I told a family member about what had happened they looked at me in shock. “But that’s your mom!” they had said.
“Only legally,” I responded. “Rick was my husband and was abusive in every sense of the word. Legally he was my family, just as she was. Would you like me to get back together with him?” I can’t remember what their response was, but they never brought up the subject of me allowing her back into my life again.
My point in all this is to not retell the story of my abusive adoptive mother, nor of the hell I went through with my first marriage. My purpose here is to illuminate something that actually hurts to hear.
For me, as an adoptee who had the right kind of father adopt her, anytime someone qualifies a parent as a “real” parent by DNA alone is painful. Because my “real” father is not the man who gave me my red hair and green eyes. My real father is the man who took photos of me stomping around in his cowboy boots with his purple ski mask sitting on my head like a deflated party balloon. My real father was the man who took me to dinner once a week to catch up and see what was new in my life once I hit the teenage years. He’s the man who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, to never lose my faith, to ride a bike, drive a car, balance a checkbook. He’s the man who spent many hours by my bedside when I was in and out of the hospital at ages fourteen and fifteen. He’s the man who taught me how important forgiveness is. He was the grandfather of my children. My real father was the man I’d spend a couple of hours hotly debating important topics, both of us red in the face as we stubbornly stuck to our sides, followed up by a few drinks and laughter. He’s the man I tricked into thinking he was eating a chocolate cupcake that was really meatloaf topped off with mashed potatoes. He’s the man who despite any reservations he might of had, any hurt feelings, helped me search for my biological mother when I turned twenty, and then welcomed her into his home and told her “thank you” for the gift of his first born.
I’m asking for consideration here: not just in being polite to those of us who are adoptees or adopters, but consideration in really THINKING about the words you use before you speak them. To call my biological father my “real” father is disrepectful of the man who put in over 37 years of love, work, kindness, and support into raising his first born daughter. He didn’t clock out once I hit age eighteen and moved out of his house. He continued being my father, being there, supporting me, loving me unconditionally until he passed away in July of 2014.
Something to think about.
Love and light,