My mother said that I cried uncontrollably the day she told me I was adopted. “You mean that someone didn’t want me?” I asked through sobs. “No, it means that we wanted you,” she answered. I was three.
I don’t remember if it made me feel better then, but it gives me comfort now. I never doubted that my parents wanted me. In fact, my father would never admit that I was adopted. Somehow, his silence was as much an affirmation of my bond with him as my mother’s openness to talk about it.
I grew up with his tales of England: the bombing of Yorkshire, steeple chasing, his mother fighting off teens attacking an old policeman during the war. He called himself a missionary to Canada. I remember laughing at him saying it, but now the meaning behind the word is lost. What was he trying to preach; the love of his country? Even if he wasn’t trying, his stories held me enthralled. I developed many of his British words: brolly, chips and a strange way of saying garage that can still make most people laugh. My father’s love of England, and his culture was mine.
One day on a visit to the hospital where my father was dying of pancreatic cancer, I walked in while the doctor was there.
“Ah this must be your daughter!” the man said cheerfully, “Your father is always talking about you. He says such wonderful things!” Now I know that most parents speak well of their children, but there seemed to be a different dynamic between my father and I. He was my champion; when I walked in the room his face lit up. I felt the same. Every time I heard the bus stop outside of our home, my heart would leap at the thought it might be dad. After the doctor spoke these words, a shadow passed over my father’s face. “I will do it for as long as I can,” he looked down. We both knew what this meant- his nearing end. Even now, writing this so many years later, the tears flow. He didn’t really go; my daughter knows about him, calls him granddad. I can hear his jolly laugh and can remember the way it felt to hug him.
In a quiet moment he asked that I scatter his ashes on the Yorkshire moors; a true testament to the country that he called home.
In a strange twist of fate, I now find myself exploring the possibility of calling England my home. There is little doubt that the initial connection with my new British love came from my bond with my father and his stories of Yorkshire.
Just recently, I found out that because I am not the blood child of my father, I have no claim to his homeland. This will never change the way I feel about dad; he will always be my hero. But it has changed the way I feel about being adopted. It saddens me to think that the British government interprets only biological family as worthy of status. I was privately adopted; my parents took me home from the hospital the day after I was born. They are, and will always be, my parents.
I have never faced any negative feelings about being adopted; most people didn’t know. Those who did know accepted it as part of who I was. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it hurts to be rejected by the country that my father loved simply because I am not his biological child, but with or without a piece of paper no one can take away the connection that we shared.