My Italian grandfather – Grandpa Joe – was one of the best people in my life for the fourteen short years I was blessed to know him. During that time, I was his one and only grandchild which left me open for all his attention . . . in other words, spoiling.
And my grandfather was one of those characters who loved his little “tales.” Those white lies only grandparents can get away with like when a light bulb burns out it means somebody has told a lie. I can’t tell you how many times, as a little girl, I would rush frantically back through everything I had said during the course of the day to make sure I wasn’t the one being, “caught.”
But the tale I remember the most. The one that sticks with me to this day and I would probably still believe had I not been in a situation where my grandfather had to finally come clean with the truth was his so-called warning that if well water ever touched you, your skin would wrinkle up and shrivel away.
To this day, I still can’t figure out what encouraged him to tell such a story, especially since he had to have known, with a well in his backyard, that sooner or later I was bound to come into contact with well water.
And I did, one warm, summer day, when I was about ten years old. Grandpa Joe was watering the front yard and the spray of the water hit the edge of the path leading to the door. I thought I could beat the stream before it came back around, sneak inside with no damage done. But I wasn’t successful and water splattered my arm just as I was getting through the screen.
Oh the fear after that. I remember watching my arm, waiting for my skin to shrivel up. I didn’t know what it would look like, but I KNEW it would happen and it just couldn’t possibly be a pretty sight.
I don’t recall how my grandmother found out what had happened. But I do remember her dragging my grandfather into the kitchen and insisting he tell me the truth. I remember my grandfather’s guilt for scaring me earning me a trip to the ice cream parlor for a DOUBLE scoop cone. And I remember, most of all, being relieved that my skin was going to stay intact and there would be no wrinkling or shriveling involved.
So what does Grandpa Joe, well water and ice cream have to do with adoption . . .
It’s the relation of the power in our words. In what we believe, when we haven’t experienced it ourselves and base our opinions, fears and acceptance, on what others tell us.
Some, like my grandfather, truly mean no harm and never intend to hurt anyone. Others don’t seem to care if they cause harm or not as long as they can get others to hear them, believe them, and promote their agenda for whatever it is they seek.
In my last post, Sadness Not Allowed, there were some interesting comments that spurred the beginning thoughts for this post . . . brought about the need to see how we so often believe what we hear from others, especially those we respect and trust and would never think to question what they say – even when it is something as far-fetched as shriveling skin or the “roses and sunshine” tale of adoption.
Could you imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had come across another little girl who perhaps spent her summers running through those sprinklers of well water? Could you imagine what she would have to say if I told her that her skin was going to wrinkle up and shrivel away? To me, I would have believed it because that was what I was told by my grandfather who I trusted and had no reason to doubt. For her, it would have been ridiculous to hear because she had actually experienced it, knew what it was like and had no knowledge of anything relating to what I had been told and was spouting off as truth.
Which is exactly what many first/natural moms and adoptees face over and over again in the world of adoption.
Organizations like the NCFA (National Council for Adoption) and the FRC (Family Research Council) along with various religious leaders and even those in the media and news outlets, claim they know the truth of how adoption has affected us. They stand up and declare they are speaking for us, know what is best for the poor pregnant woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.
They are respected, trusted by many in society, and so their words are believed, accepted as fact.
And not only are they accepted. They are repeated. Over and over again. In real life. On blogs. In online forums. Like a script society owns and reads from, word for word. A broken record those who have lost and suffered hear so often it at times brings about the need to crash our head against a wall in frustration . . .
**Adoption is a wonderful, loving option. **
**A baby is so hard to take care of at your age. You are going to lose your childhood if you decide to parent.**
**There are so many great, loving couples out there who can’t have children of their own and would love to adopt an infant.**
**Your child will be grateful and thank you for giving him or her a chance at a better life.**
**Children are better off being raised in a two parent home.**
**You will go on and be able to finish school, get married and have more children.**
**Your child deserves better than you can offer at this point in your life.**
**Adoption is a selfless and brave act.**
**Women who choose adoption for their children are happy and satisfied they did the best for their child.**
And on and on and on and on it goes. The very same things heard everywhere. The very same beliefs. Repeated like a constant drone. Never changing. Never altering for the truth and experience of so many others. Just the facts, as so many see it, told to them by those who claim to know even if they have never walked in our shoes.
And they are believed. Unquestioned by so many. To the point that we who have been there, lived a life of loss and grief, struggled with the true pain of adoption, are the ones doubted. The ones so many refuse to listen to.
Our words are not trusted because we are not to be believed in the same respect as those who claim to “know.” And so the cycle repeats itself. The power of the words continues in a never-ending circle without the true experience of so many others being taken into light.
Because, just as I wondered with Grandpa Joe, why would they tell such a “tale?” Why would they lie, create something that wasn’t true? If you believe in the greatness of the person telling you, how can you possibly see any reason for them to do anything but tell the complete truth?
And so you get the little girl I was insisting to the other little girl running through the sprinklers that she is the one who is wrong. She is the one who doesn’t know because I believe what someone else has told me, even if I have never experienced it myself. I know, because that is what someone I trusted gave me as fact so how in the world can you, someone I don’t know or trust, be right.
That is the up and down, over and around, reality of adoption. Some, like my grandfather, will realize how their words have actually hurt another who has experienced it and realize the fear or pain they caused. Others, because of a need to hold on to such beliefs, will try to argue with those who have gone through the experience. And still others, simply won’t care because they have their own agenda, their own needs to fulfill.
And in that, those of us who have true experiences will continue to battle those who claim to speak for us. Those of us who know better will stand up to the beliefs of what is best for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.
We are the ones who are and will continue to counter what others spread as truth. Because we know better. We have run through the sprinkler, come out on the other side, and know exactly what we went through along the way.
In Other Words: Susan Harness and Sandy White Hawk
22 minutes ago