Sunday, July 23, 2006

They Went Bad

Beginning a conversation with my adoptive father about my adoption has never been easy. His body stiffens. His face takes on a pained expression, as if a headache is about to erupt into a migraine. This time, I lie. It's easier. An excuse to talk about the unspeakable.

"I saw a documentary about adoption last night," I say. In fact, I've been reading about adoption. About birth mothers who are just mothers. About the history of adoption. "It just happened to be on T.V.," I add, as if the accidental viewing makes it more acceptable.

"Oh?" he replies guardedly.

"And I was wondering..."

My father sighs loudly. "Oh God. Here we go again."

The new-more-empowered-therapist-going-me says, "Dad. It's my history and I'm curious. You would be, too."

"Okay, okay," he concedes, sounding defeated.

"Remember the boy next door? What happened to him?"

The boy next door. I had forgotten about him. Until I saw picture of us together. He about eight years old. A beautiful blond boy wearing a western shirt and a huge smile, leaning over the Baby Me reclining in some sort of infant chair. He was adopted, too. By older and wrinkled parents who looked like their health was in serious jeopardy. We had grown up together. He my handsome protector. The boy who always found time to give me a piggy back ride or defend me against the local bully. The boy who grew into a gorgeous teenager with long, shaggy hair and rode around on a motorcycle. A sufer boy living next to East Los Angeles. What had happened to this fellow adoptee?

I ask my dad. "Oh, he went bad," he says sadly. "That's all I know."

"Details, Dad. Details. What do you mean he went bad?"

"He turned out to be a bad one. He got married to a Mexican girl up the street when he was around twenty and she kicked him out after he threw boiling water at her. Then he was arrested for stealing meat from Ralphs. And then he joined the Army. Or something like that."

"He was always so nice," I say. "I wonder what happened?"

"Sometimes they go bad," my dad says vaguely.

Now it's my turn to stiffen. "Who do you mean they? Adopted children?"

"Yes," my dad replied reluctantly. "Thank goodness that didn't happen to you. I guess we got a good one. But remember what happened to Hope's girls? Look how they turned out. Bad."

I had forgotten all about Hope and her girls. Hope was my mother's friend. She had two daughters, around my age. I remember Hope crying to my mother and wiping her tears when I appeared in the doorway. They ordered me outside to play with the girls in Hope's big backyard where we never talked about the one thing we had in common. Adoption. It never occurred to us. The younger daughter was very aggressive and I found her scary.

"Hope had some funny ideas and I had to talk your mother out of them," my dad says, also reluctantly.

"What do you mean funny ideas? How funny?"

"Hope put a lock outside the door so the older girl couldn't get out when she was a teenager. She had a boyfriend and Hope didn't want her to see him and get pregnant. When you started giving us trouble, your mother thought we should do that, too, but I put my foot down."

Which may be the only time his foot hit the ground in defiance of my mother. Because whatever problems my adoptive father had, my adoptive mother had him beat when it came time to being domineering.

"No wonder she turned out the way she did. She was imprisoned. In her own home!"

I am appalled. And then I remember more. The girls were never - on threat of spanking - allowed to discuss their adoption. Hope pretended to everyone that they were biologically hers. Those poor girls. And then there was the boy next door. His adoptive mother died of liver failure due to drink when he was about fourteen, his adoptive dad two years later of lung cancer. His mother had always drank. Was drunk on vodka by ten in the morning. And these were the parents chosen for him. And those girls. What terrible confusion they must have experienced. All that pretending they had to endure. All that rage built up until...what happened to them?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

im an adoptee and when i was a child my adoptive parents gave me to choices i could get beaten and be thrown down the stairs if iwa nted to eat food or i could not have a beatenning ect but i couldnt eat all day it seems like my adoptive parents had all these rights to abuse me and nobody cared thats why i didnt like being adopted because there was no way out of the abuse

2:41 PM  

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