How many times had Jerald started down that daunting path? And how often had he stopped short when he considered the intimidating possibilities.... the ones that seemed safer to avoid? Was it that way for other adopted sons and daughters? Did they too harbor those inborn longings to learn about their roots....to know the circumstances of their coming, and why their birth mother had felt the need to turn away from them?
More to the point, why had his mother, and perhaps his father too, decided their son ought not be part of their world?
By the time he was old enough to understand the reality of his adoptive status, Jerald had concluded that his Rogers parents, as kind and caring as they were, and as hard as they tried, were effectively replacements....pressed into service when his real parents concluded he was not worth the effort it would take to have him in their lives. Whether or not it was true, that was how it felt. In time it had become his accepted truth.
In the course of his twenty-two years his life view had been constructed from those unpromising ingredients, held together by the glue of his own internal dialogue. Since that unchanging mental input was all he had to work with, it followed that the resulting conclusions continued to remain the same. Now, however, in the evening quiet of their apartment he was surprised to hear a new, more insistent voice asking to be heard.
For her part, Megan was scolding herself for not having understood the truth of her husband’s dilemma sooner. Of course he was absolutely devoted to Tom and Karen Rogers, the only parents he had ever known, and grateful beyond words for their presence in his young life. Yet the recent cracks in Jerald’s stoic notion of ‘family,’ and what that meant, had her wondering how to address his unspoken doubts.
“You ought to talk with your folks,” she had offered earlier over their after-dinner coffee. “It sounds to me like part of your hang-up is a ‘guilt’ thing. Right? You worry about what your Mom and Dad would feel if they knew you wanted to know about your real parents. Right?”
She would be waiting a few seconds for Jerald’s reply. When he finally answered she could scarcely hear his words.
“Yeah. I suppose there is some of that. It feels like they deserve a lot more than an ungrateful son. After everything they’ve done for me.”
“No way,” came Megan’s insistent rebuttal. “They would never think that. You have the most understanding parents in the world. What would hurt them is knowing that you were afraid to let them know what’s in your heart.”
Not surprisingly, it was Megan who orchestrated the visit she hoped would provide Jerald with a forum from which to state his ‘parental history’ concerns. She had called his mother, to let her know they planned to come calling the next evening. Since their visitation was sure to include baby Ryan, Megan was certain they would be welcomed by the doting grandparents.
And so they were, young Ryan most of all. The four adults were seated in the family room, snacking on Karen Roger’s predictable offering of cookies and punch. Grandpa Rogers was trying his best to coax a smile from the baby, while Megan waited for a break in their small talk to steer them in a different direction.
Before she could manage that it was Karen who turned their conversation in Jerald’s direction. “When we talked yesterday,” she began. “Megan said you had something to talk to us about. Is that right?”
Jerald was shaking his head, aiming a grinning scowl at this wife. Leave it up to her, he told himself, to get things stirred up and out in the open.
“I suppose that’s true,” he nodded, though he had no idea how to broach such an intimidating topic.
“Seems like I’ve been thinking about it lately, ever since Ryan showed up in our lives. You guys keep fussing about being grandparents and how wonderful that is. When you carry on like that I can’t help but wonder..........” His words faded, apparently out of reach.
By then Karen Rogers’ soft, knowing smile was signaling her understanding. “Is it about your mother....your ‘other mother’? Is that what has you tongue tied?”
Jerald’s pencil-thin smile was the only answer she would receive. It was all she needed. “That’s okay, you know,” she continued. “We’ve always known those questions were out there, waiting to be asked out loud.”
“I suppose they have been,” he replied. “But I couldn’t think of a way to ask them without sounding like I don’t love you guys more than you’ll ever know....for all the things you done for me, and Larry too.”
“We know that.”
That bit of encouragement had Jerald remembering his earlier search efforts. In the course of his limited internet excursions he had learned about the confidentiality steps the adoption system employed to secure the identity of an unwilling parent. Based on his cursory evaluation, making that parental connection might be an iffy thing.
“Besides,” he continued. “Near as I can tell, the way adoptions work and how the records are all locked away, finding a birth mother who doesn’t want to be found might be impossible. I couldn’t think of a good reason to upset you guys when the odds were so slim.”
Karen Rogers was leaning forward in her chair.... wanting to make her point. “Jerald, your dad and I first talked about this possibility a long time ago. How could we be upset if you wanted to look for your birth parents?
“And if you were able to find one or both of them we would be glad to share these blessings of ours.” Karen paused to offer her grinning wink. “But only to share, mind you. We could never give up our son, or this wonderful grandson of ours. That’s true for you and your family, and just as true for Larry and the family he creates.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jerald laughed. “After the way your guys have been there for me, and Larry. You’ve taken such great care of us. You’re our folks, and you always will be. That will never change.”
“Thank you,” Karen Rogers said as she pushed herself from her chair. “And you were right about one thing. The adoption process we went through for each of you boys was carefully designed to be sure we learned nothing about the families you came from, or any other information beyond your date of birth, and a declaration that you had been examined and found to be in good health.
“That was the extent of what we knew about you when we left the adoption agency. What we didn’t know then, and neither did the agency, was that we were also leaving with an extra bit of detail, kind of a clue I guess, that just might help you learn something about your birth family.
In all these years no one else has ever seen it.... that clue....just your dad and I. It’s been in our dresser drawer all that time. Let me get it, so you can see if it would be a help in your search.”