My adoptive mother passed away on June 15, at the age of 91. She endured a lingering illness that spread over eight years. With the exception of two years, she spent the rest living in our home.
During the last eighteen months of her life, Hospice came multiple times each week to give her baths, dispense medication, and meet her spiritually. Throughout the day, she would sleep in her lift chair comforted by television often with the volume screaming at level fifty. Her expectation was that we would speak love over the loud disconnect the television brought into our lives and in spite of her lifelong cantankerous nagging behavior.
My mother grew up and lived most of her life in rural Michigan. As a girl, her family was poor and periodically she would speak of the multiple times they went through bankruptcy just to load up the wagon and move to another farm and begin all over again. She would shake her head in amazement at the strength of her mother during those hard times. During her youth, she was fortunate enough to graduate high school, which was unusual for a country girl whose primary goal seemed to work as house labor or marry. Throughout her formative years, her family attended church, but her father was harsh, cruel, and abusive; he would leave his wife and children alone to go celebrate over cards and homemade wine. It was poverty 30’s style.
In the early 40’s she married, only for more disappointment. My adoptive father was predictable if nothing else. Much of the time he was half in the bag, could not be described as a workaholic, or undemanding. In many ways, he filled her life with further anguish. The worst for her being infertility.
After thirteen years of marriage and much paperwork, they were presented with an infant from Social Services. They were told that I had a “pretty mama” and that there were “sad circumstances.” Years passed. However, nothing else in their lives seemed to change. They attended the same church, with the same family members, delivering the same message.
As a small child, I remember playing and being happy. My mother stayed at home with me, and I got to spend my days being in the kitchen, playing house on the front porch, and dressing the cats in doll clothes handmade by my adoptive mother. However, once I turned five life changed. My father always wanted to live like the Jones, whoever they were. It didn’t matter to him at what cost, but he wanted to drive a new car, live in a nice house, and wear expensive clothes. That meant, my mother had to work. He was of the opinion that she wouldn’t get a job on her own, so he went to a local factory and got a job for her. She began second shift in a local sweat shop, and she worked that shift for almost two years. I missed my mother; I only got to see her for a few hours on weekends. Eventually by mid elementary school, she was moved to first shift where she worked until I was in my thirties.
This is also when I began to understand that I was adopted. It made a difference, especially in her family. By the time I was twelve, they had nicknamed me the “adopted trash.” From his sister, I was “the bastard” which came straight from the King James Version of the Bible. The bashing came authoritatively from inside the walls of their respective churches, from which a child cannot win. As a child, I was amazed at the level of lying and storytelling adults would voice if it bought them special attention, even if the attention was bad. To a child with a deceitfully slanderous bad reputation, it means that the sky is the limit in the amount of abuse you are likely to endure. That’s what child perpetrators do to get away with their crimes. Adopted children are easy targets.
My teen years can be described as nothing less than a living hell. I survived. My adoptive father was extremely narcissistic and would look the other way for any type of compliment thrown in his direction. My mother was unhappy with her own life and choices so had little regard for me. I raised myself the best I could in the midst of the cruelly legalistic religious. No easy task.
Something happened in my early thirties that changed my heart. It was a twelve step program, a group of codependents, who finally got through to me about the love of a higher power. Christ became real. It didn’t take me long to understand that I grew up surrounded by religious beliefs that failed the Jesus test. Christ is love. He loves the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the foreigner, and the lost. Christ was not the reason I was adopted and survived a life of people who only sought hatred and condemnation on anyone different from themselves. I understood for the first time that adoption was not just about selling the children of the poor for vast profits, or pitting the childless woman against the poor despairing pregnant girl. It was the lack of compassion on the hearts of those who are to care for these two groups.
The fatherless child is snatched from the breast the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. Job 24:9
They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow show no kindness. Job 24:21
In Ephesians the apostle Paul speaks of adoption and sonship. “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—“Ephesians 1:5. Paul is referring to the Roman tradition of adopting older men to step into a family business or political family to immediately assume the family reputation and profession through legal inheritance. It was more of a marriage where the families bargained over the adoption and the adoptee was in full agreement. Nothing like today.
I’m one of the blessed, I survived a childhood filled with bigotry and religious disorder. I stand firmly on Christ whose message is to love one another. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. That doesn’t mean that I’m to lay down and let people walk all over me or my family, it does mean that I will love others in spite of themselves. I’ve forgiven my adoptive parents and their failures like I want God to forgive mine. I can honestly say that my adoptive parents probably tried to do better by me than their parents did to them. For those of us who love Christ, our world is about love, forgiveness, and the power of God’s redemptive authority.
God’s peace to you.
“White Peony” by Sattva from FreeDigitalPhoto.net.