Back to Angola, Indiana… Daughter, wife and I flew from LAX to Chicago Midway and then took a rental car across to Angola where the family reunion was. It took 3 hours to drive across to a motel I’d rented near the campground where the reunion was at.
Let me tell you about my biological family. My father was a truck driver and a widow with three nearly-grown children. He married my mother as a teenage girl half his age (her age varies from 16 to 18 depending on who is telling the story). She became pregnant with me and I was born at home.
Knowing this solves the mystery of why I was uncircumcised. Every other boy I knew for the first twenty-odd years of my life was circumcised. Their ignorance led to serious psychological trauma in the locker room. They’d never heard of circumcision and thought that was how penises naturally looked and that I was defective. There was no education forthcoming to fix this misapprehension. Even if there had been, it was yet another way I was different and strange. These little burdens accumulate..
It was one of many “Why me?” situations I had to deal with.
Circumcision was something hospitals routinely did for purported “cleanliness” reasons. No hospital birth, no circ. Simple as that. The actual reasons run much deeper and originate in a bizarre 19th-century notion that circumcision discouraged masturbation. (And somehow that was a “good” thing?) It is only “cleaner” because uptight parents are too embarrassed (or ignorant) to teach their little boys to retract their foreskin to clean the area. Eventually, enough boys were being circed that one needed it just to “fit in”.
The big question on the list was, “Why was I put up for adoption?”
When I was born, dear old Dad claimed I couldn’t be his. I have no information on how he could assert such a claim and the gene test proves this was a lie. I guess it was too soon for him to want a child by a new wife. Or maybe he was using “protection” that failed. That happened a lot back then.
Dad was a trucker. He would take my mother on his trucking trips. I was left behind with my very pregnant aunt. While they are gone she goes into labor and I end up a ward of the state.
Mom tried to get me back but she was not the sharpest tool in the shed and it was a time when the husband’s word was law. I stayed in the system and within 4 months of my birth I was adopted. The details of this are fuzzy. Fast forward 62 years and due to a spur of the moment blood test by 23 and Me, we are reunited.
This trip reminded me of how little I fit into my biological family. There is nothing to talk about other than family and how all the branches the family tree have grown and constant reiterations of how saintly my mother was. For me, that gets very old very quick. A recital of a family tree that holds little meaning and won’t be remembered.
I can’t “love” a mother I never met in any but a theoretical way.
There were lots of hugs and “I love you brother.” I get that. It is love in a very abstract sense. Your mother spent her entire life wishing she still had you and looking for you to the very narrow limits Michigan’s adoption laws would allow. That will rub off onto one’s younger siblings. If “family” as a concept is important to you then you are required to “love” the prodigal son on his return. They aren’t hugging the older brother they grew up with. They are hugging the concept of a long lost brother being found.
This family story is not an entirely happy one. Some of my siblings are not winners in life’s lottery and many of the rest barely broke above even. Some of the current generation of recent adults have thrown away their lives and their children for drugs. Some cannot hold a job.
My father died at 47 of lung disease, probably from chain-smoking his entire life. When he died he left behind several adult children from his previous wife, five children from my mother and three children with my aunt. Birth control was obviously not a priority. Apparently, his sex drive was so voracious that it burned my mother out and she simply gave him permission to pursue her sister. Hence I have 3/4 siblings. Jerry Springer, eat your heart out.
When he died, my mother was utterly destitute. The state was going to remove her children since she was incapable of supporting them. They fled to Kentucky where they all lived in a one-room dirt floor shack and the children had to hunt for any protein they might get. This is a kind of extreme poverty that few – if any – reading this post even have a clue about.
My wife got on well with my sisters and my daughter got on well too. So that’s a good thing. OTOH, nobody was sad when the reunion ended. I think everyone got on everyone else’s nerves. All kinds of undercurrents I could barely sense and not identify. It left me very uncertain and uncomfortable.
OTOH, much beer was drunk and I could always hide in my smartphone. I met my soon to be adopted niece again and also her brother. I gave her Astronaut Barbie and Firefighter Barbie for gifts. Within minutes they were both undressed, as all Barbie Dolls usually end up. Mattel has decided to affix frilly girlish undergarments to their dolls, astronauts and firefighters included. I guess we can’t have children forgetting what femininity is really all about. Or seeing anatomically incomplete nakedness.
One thing I can say about my family is that no child gets abandoned. When one shows up with nobody willing and competent to care for them someone steps in to fill the breech. In this case, it was my sister and her wife for the little girl and a distant nephew for her brother. Yet another nephew was taking in their infant sister. If you really believe that family is an important value on its own, you tend to walk the walk.
We have blacks and Hispanics in our family too, from the Detroit side of the family. It is a truly diverse group.
In the past, I’d had a long talk about living in the closet when I was a boy with my sister and her wife, something they understood better than most people. (Sister-in-law had even visited a nudie resorts in the past.) Even if it is a completely different closet, the concept is the same.
Northern Indiana has turned into a more accepting place than it once was. The Mayor of South Bend is evidence of this. There are strong Amish and Mennonite communities which appear to be accepted. The community of Angola where the reunion occurred appears to be accepting of diverse lifestyles as well.
We dropped my daughter off at Detroit Metro Airport as she had to be back to work after only 4 days off and headed off to visit my adoptive family in the northern LP of Michigan.
September 3, 2019 at 22:25
What a story. Family is (IMO) a theory that we’re supposed to regard as a fact. In best cases, it puts us in the area of people we wouldn’t otherwise know and end up loving. In worst cases we’re alienated, heart-broken and even frightened by those people. I think you’re brave and good for venturing into this.
September 3, 2019 at 22:39
Wait until I get to the survivors of my adoptive family. I “belong” even less.
September 3, 2019 at 23:49
Oh god… 😀