, , , , , , , , ,

During Febuary of 1945, my father Richard, stationed during WWII as a clinical psychologist at the 142nd

Is Life a roll of the dice?

Is Life a roll of the dice?

General Hospital in Calcutta, India, began his letter to my future mom as follows:
When we were kids we used to play a game of “rathers,” which called for no energy

but imagination. Right now I am confronted with the problem of would I rather have it cool with no bugs or warm and buggy. Thinking back over the last several days I realize that when it was cool, I complained of the cold, and when it was warm I complained of the insects.

Why all these rumblings? Because last night it turned cold again and I’m chilly—there are no mosquitoes around, however. Since the bugs send me into such a rage I guess I’ll

vote in favor of the chilly weather, despite the discomfort which it brings to me physically. In India it is probably healthier when it is cooler.

My adoptive letter-writing dad goes on to assure my mother of his undying love and encourage her in the search for a child to adopt. Three years later, that child would turn out to be me. Re-reading my father’s letter, I realize that the adoptee’s plight is symbolized by that “game of rathers.”

There are as many variations of the adoption story as there are adoptees, and I speak only for my own situation. Having said that, here’s my own game of rathers: I could have been kept by my original mother, who suffered – according to my half-sister Christina- from untreated mental illness. In that roll of the dice, I would have avoided the stigma of being not the real daughter. Would I rather have been kept by her instead of having the loving adoptive parents who gave me everything (except answers to my questions about being adopted)?

In retrospect, which situation would I have chosen? What I learned of my birthmother makes me realize that had she been able to keep me, I would probably be a completely different person. My sister Christina, who said that our mother was mentally ill, told me that she spent her youth mostly in a detention home. Her brother and my half-brother Johnny took his life before age 30. Clearly, had I been raised by Johnny and Christina’s (and my) mother, the road would have been rockier.

Instead, I had all the outward advantages of being raised by an esteemed college professor and his wife. There was a trade off: I paid an inward price for the secrecy that surrounded my adoption. Was one possible beginning better than the other? All these years later, how can I know?

If life is a game of rathers, I suppose I would rather have lived with the security given by my adoptive parents. And yet, part of me would have rather grown up with the authenticity of being with my original mother.

My adoptive father had it right, with either of the “rathers,” there is a price to pay.

Join me next Monday for another installment of “looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.”

Elaine feels that it's never too late for a fresh start.

Elaine feels that it’s never too late for a fresh start.