MIAGD: Make it a great day
One of the most critical areas of being an adoptive parent is to help our damaged children begin, or continue with the healing process. Sometimes, we never even make a dent in the can of potatoes that weighs down the child.
Some adopted children are easier than others when it comes to desiring or permitting the healing process; others take more time. And just when we think our children are in a good place something – even the tiniest thing – can happen to pull the rug out from under them. It can trip them, or it can bring their world crashing down around them, and us, the parents and family.
Now, my sons are adults and though seemingly healed may still deal with sneaky little thoughts or reminders of what they endured with their biological families, or even some of the horrors of foster care.
I’ve freely shared some of my own experiences with each son.
My birth father was alcoholic and came from a paternal line of alcoholics. His mother married three alcoholics and a number of her brothers were alcoholic. My birth father, a man of handsome features, great humor, a big heart and a love for US history and music, didn’t stand a chance against the disease that overtook him. His gene pool of alcoholism was a tidal wave.
As time progressed, the gentle, loving, very hands-on father evolved into the familiar Jekyll to Hyde world that began to crumble beneath his feet and ours as a family. As an adult, I can now clearly see the tremendous inner tug-of-war that ravaged his body and soul. My birth father was tender-hearted, and as I continue to put together the pieces of his life’s puzzle, clearly abused by his mother from whom he ached affection and love.
The Mr. Hyde side of my father was unkind, cruel, and extremely abusive to my mother. I never once was the recipient of abuse, save neglect. At one point when I was probably in third or fourth grade, he decided Mother could do well on $40 a week to feed a family of five. Even in the 1970s that stretching it a lot.
At one point when I was probably in third or fourth grade, he decided Mother could do well on $40 a week to feed a family of five. Even in the 1970s that stretching it a lot. Mother did all she could to make meals stretch and due to her diligence and creativity, and I imagine, self-sacrifices, we never were hungry, nor did she allow us to ever feel as though we were poor.
My maternal grandparents were our saviors through those years. They went far beyond the call of grandparent duty. Were we spoiled? Yes. However, their generosity was more along the lines of adding to the basics of what Mother provided so that we had a good life.
During the siege on grocery funds imposed by my father, my grandparents began a personal mission program and I began a part of the covert project. My bedroom and closet became the food pantry. My grandparents would buy boxes of canned goods that were stored beneath my bed and in my closet.
By the time I was twelve my birth father had left the family. The dark clouds over the tall Victorian home at the corner of Ninth and Main streets lifted and the grocery siege also departed. Life moved swiftly forward and before I knew it I was in college and Mother was set to remarry my soon to be adoptive father – Mother remarried and two days later my birth father was killed in a tragic automobile accident, the result of alcoholism.
My parents were preparing to move into their new home around the corner and I was instructed to clean out my old bedroom. Somewhere in the process of packing and tossing, I reached under my bed to retrieve an item. A can of potatoes rolled out.
A can of potatoes rolled out.
I knew what it was but my mind struggled to accept what my eyes were taking in. That can of potatoes was a boulder of agonizing reminders of what we had earlier endured as a family and a punch in the gut of the humiliations I had experienced as a child and teenager due to my birth father’s alcoholism.
I began sobbing uncontrollably. I was nineteen years old and felt like I had lived several centuries so long ago those former memories seemed to live when in fact it had only been six to seven years since the grocery siege ended. But I had journeyed so far past those days. Mother was always encouraging but terribly demanding with the mantra, “Do your best.” It was her way of saying, “be strong and never allow anything to get in your way.” As I was to later tell each of my five adopted sons, “if you do your own personal best you will always win.”
As I learned and as I was to later learn with my own sons, part of the healing process is understanding that at any time a can of potatoes will come rolling from beneath the bed. That can of potatoes can be a crushing blow. It can also serve as the reminder of how far we’ve come. Sometimes it is not for the individual to decide how to receive that can of potatoes for we each receive, perceive and react differently.
Yesterday while walking I chatted with Mother on the phone and discussed how my eldest and youngest son dealt with their own cans of potatoes. Every time I pass through the canned vegetable aisle at Kroger I seem to spy a can of potatoes. Sometimes I get that little kick in the stomach but mostly I just chuckle to myself.
I am glad my earlier life’s journey included a can of potatoes because I didn’t imagine at age nineteen just how vital that can would be seventeen years later when I adopted my first son who would come with far more cans of potatoes than I could ever imagine.
Make it a great day!