Darel – A 75 Year Old Adoptee

Darel is an adoptee who felt his heart stirred with long repressed emotions after viewing Closure. Our meeting was Darel’s first conversation with a fellow adoptee about his adoption story. He met his birth mother when he was 50 years old which helped him to better understand how this primal separation affected every single day of his life. His birth mother was secretly sent away to a maternity home for women who are “in trouble” (See Philomena or A Girl Like Her). Yesterday, the disgraced L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling received a punishment for his racist statements of a lifetime ban from the NBA – The sanction imposed on Darel’s birthmother used language not too dissimilar – the documents state that she was to be “forever barred from raising the child.” The general philosophy behind infant adoptions during the 30’s and 40’s was that children adopted in their early years would have absolutely no memory of their birthparents.

I know there are other folks like Darel, whose voices are worthy to be heard. I would love to hear from other adult men who were adopted during the era of closed adoptions as it’d be so enriching for male adoptees to get to know each other and share experiences. I can’t help but wonder how Darel’s life may have looked had he conversed with another adoptee earlier on in his life.

 ** Filmed and edited by Bryan Tucker. **

11 thoughts on “Darel – A 75 Year Old Adoptee

  1. Wonderful and sad story! I always enjoy reading your postings, yet, as I read them, I can’t help but feel completely helpless and sometimes, I find myself double-guessing my decision of adopting my daughter. I know that one day she too will feel like she does not belong with our family, not only because I am Mexican, her dad is Caucasian is she is Black; but finding her birth family will be very challenging. That hole she is going to feel, the feeling of not-belonging, those are emotions that I will not be able to help her with…

    As always, thank you for sharing!

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  2. Hi Erika,

    Certainly adoptions in the 40’s and 50’s were sad! Laden with secrets and shame. 😦 Although, I am sorry that this video made you feel helpless. I feel great hope in knowing that adoptive parents such as yourself have access to so many more resources (films, camps, blogs, books etc) about the effects adoption. Remember that every adoptee is different! I’m hoping to share more and more stories in an effort to show that every adoptee holds their story differently – both positive and difficult.

    Also – I love hearing that your family is composed of an interracial marriage and a transracial adoption. Beautiful!

    Best,
    Angela

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  3. Oh how I wish I could appear at your doorstep and give you a great big hug! As a parent I can tell you it is impossible for any parent to lift all the challenges from our child’s shoulders. Nor should we try. Over time, parenting transitions from doing for them to being supportive while they learn to make their own way in this world.

    As an adoptee I can tell you that having the support of her adoptive parents if she chooses to search would be an incredible blessing. You may not be able to remove the feelings from her, but you can help her understand them. Walk along side your daughter, love her, encourage her, create a safe zone for her to express her feelings.

    For whatever it might be worth . . . my adoptive folks were highly threatened by my desire to search. Made the whole process worse. ;-( Yet, once I had met both of my birth-parents and I imagined what my life would have been like if they had raised me . . . Yikes! I can honestly say I have NEVER been so grateful for my adoptive family.

    You are already making it about her, being concerned about what she needs and what is best for her. Keep that in your heart and you will be absolutely awesome for her. (((hugs)))

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  4. Oh Erika ((hugs)),

    I don’t have the slightest doubt Emma will be happy! The issues pertaining to adoption are only part of an adoptees world. Each adoption experience is as unique as the individuals. My adopted brother has zero interest in searching.

    Putting a group of adoptees together is kinda like putting a group of war vets together. We’ll talk about things with each other we don’t always share with the majority. It doesn’t mean it’s our primary focus but it can appear that way if those are the only conversations you get a chance to overhear.

    Adoption has changed a LOT just in my lifetime. I was born in the 60’s. My birth-mom was sent off to an unwed mother’s home. Most of her own family didn’t know I existed until after we were reunited. My adoptive parents thought they were getting a blank canvas they could turn into a mini-me. (ooops – never gonna happen) Based solely on my personal experience, I place the nature vs nurture debate at pretty close to 50/50. Sharing with friends that I was adopted generally had a very cooling effect on the relationship. Now . . . look at your own example. I’m tickled pink for Emma and the loving family she obviously has that is not only willing to learn what needs she might have but is also willing to support her walk on that type of journey. Let her lead you where she needs to go in this regard. In the meantime, relax and savor every moment. Entirely too soon, you’ll realize she’s grown into a woman and you’ll swear it happened in only a blink of an eye.

    As a society, we are growing and learning. Imagine Emma’s life as part of the family you now have if it was 50 years ago. Granted, we have a long way to go, but the more families that exist where race simply isn’t an issue … the closer we grow to where I think we should be. (IMHO, your family rocks!) Who knows how Emma will tell her story. Love her, walk along side of her as you discover together who she is and wants to be. It can be an amazing journey and she is obviously off to a wonderful start thanks to you. ;-D

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I too think it is good for adoptees to come out and talk about their story (be it good or bad) so that we all learn from them. And I do plan on enjoying every moment with my precious Emma! 🙂

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  6. Each person here has an amzing story.

    Erika, big hugs to you. In so many ways I wished I had a mother that was supportive of my decision to look for more information or to help me be me, not something they wanted me to be.

    Murphy, it does seem that I am fixtated on just on aspect of my life, my adoption. I was born to a 16 year old mother in the late 60’s. Her older sister, who was also pregnant at the time, was there to witness my birth. Recently within the last two years I have been united with my three younger brothers and my cousin who was born 6 months after me in the same year.

    Adoption has come a long way, but the need for children to be loved and given a little bit of freedom to be themselves is very important.

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  7. Hi Angela
    I watched your documentry as did my parents and we all cryed. I cryed for your wonderful family and for your need to find your birth parents. I have two adopted children. Like your parents we adopted out of choice and not out of necessity. I love both my children so much I sometimes catch my self thiking of thier births and I have to remind myself that I actually adopted them.
    My daughter is African America and as you and Darel mention there is the issue of her not resembling me, her father or exstended family. We live in Israel and in our specific community there is nobody as dark skinned as her. She is seven and has mentioned the issue several times. I just tell her how beutiful and wonderful she is and hope that one day that will be enough.
    I have thought many times about the day both my children may want to look for their birth familys. I realize it is important, and after watching your film I also saw how wonderful it was for you to have your familys support. I just so don’t want to share them. I love them so much. Tears come to my eyes as I write this. I will try my best to support them in their search when and if the time comes.
    Reading peoples responses has been very important to me, esspecaily the adoptees.
    We may actually be your first viewers in Israel.
    Sorry for any spelling mistakes, I couldn’t find spell check.

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  8. My dad was born in the Seattle children’s home in 1941 and met his birth mom when he was 50. I could hear my dad’s voice through Darel’s story.

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  9. Hi Breena,
    thank you for sharing. My heart aches for your daughter, already 7, mentioning her differences with everyone around her. Is there a way you can introduce her to people who look more like her, so that she doesn’t feel so different? Can you move to a different community where she doesn’t stand out so much, or feel like she does, where the community isn’t so homogeneous? She’s clearly talking to you, it’s your responsibility to listen and try to make her feel more comfortable. It may very well affect her self-image, self-esteem for much of her life.

    I was adopted transracially, had siblings also transracially adopted. Although we didn’t have a lot of diversity around me, at least there was some diversity.

    Also, I’m glad you realize that having connections/info about genetic family/heritage is important. I can also understand that you may feel it’s difficult for you, but it’s also your responsibility to love those people important to your daughter. Not wanting to share her with people who are important to her, especially if she’s feeling different and alone, comes across as selfish, unloving, and controlling. She is who she is, and she will be who she will be. Trying to control her feelings, or reactions, or shape her into a square hole when she’s shaped like a circle will create much more friction and animosity between you and her. If you want a healthy relationship between you and her, or a healthy relationship for her with herself, then you should start putting her needs and comfort first, before yours. You signed up for adoption, she didn’t.

    For me, as an adoptee, now grown up, and having gone through different stages of self-reflection on my life, adoption, and my adopters, the people I am most grateful for are other adoptees I have met and shared stories and experiences with, other people like me; NOT those who adopted me transracially and transnationally. Those who adopted me brought me into their world and set me up with people THEY felt comfortable with, not with anyone I had anything in common with. Good memories, but they suit the style of my adopters, not me. Now that I’m older, I’ve found people more suitable for me, and because my adopters were never very interested in really listening to me or respecting what I was saying, thinking, or feeling when I was younger, or especially regarding my original family, culture, and country, I don’t spend my energy educating or entertaining them or looking after them. They had the capability and resources to step towards me and my world when I was younger, but they always found a reason not to and surrounded themselves with people who would make them feel better about themselves. Their choice, not mine. Now, I make my own choices.

    Good luck. And yes, I will reiterate that I strongly suggest that you open your heart more to your daughter, her life, and her experiences, from her perspective. Trying to control her will likely backfire and cause both of you anguish. I can tell you that I lost a ton of respect and trust in both of my adopters when I first learned that they preferred that I not search or reconnect with those I was begotten from and that that scared them. I was nervous about bringing it up, but I thought they would be understanding and supportive. After my female adopter’s response, I never brought it up again, at least not for several years, but I always remembered her selfishness that shone through, even as I/we tried repairing our relationship several times. Now, our relationship is beyond repair and I think we’ve both accepted that. My male adopter was more receptive to listening to me, but never retained whatever I said, nor had any interest in what was important to me. After trying many times to understand my female adopter, I have no energy explaining to a grown, educated, well-travelled adult the complexities he has also spent decades trying to ignore. They both made choices that forever changed my life, and permanently removed my identity, culture, and country from me (no small matter), so that they could continue to experience parenthood and enjoy my childhood years. They’ve had many chances and years, decades to pay attention to me, understand, and respect me and pay attention to other people’s warnings. Now, I’m old enough to make my own choices that suit me and I don’t apologize for managing my life the best I can, despite all that was taken from me. Those who exploit me and don’t support, respect, and value me will lose me and my support of them.

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  10. Erika,
    No doubt you care about your daughter, and it’s understandable to feel helpless. As an adopted person, there is no way I would choose to adopt a child. Even as a teenager, I knew adoption was too complicated for me to do that to another person.

    Regardless, I hope you don’t give up. You can (and should) expose your daughter to people who will be more resourceful in helping find her original family and keeping her closer to her roots/original culture, and people like her. That’s my opinion.

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