Full circle

I’ve come full circle.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays I will be traveling to British Columbia to hook up with my brother. We will be burying our father’s ashes with our mother in New Westminster, B.C. This is my birth father, the one who abused me for decades.

My brother called me a few weeks ago to tell me he would be back in North America briefly, giving us time to bury Giulio’s ashes. (Turns out it would be Thanksgiving weekend; no turkey for me.) I have been in contact with the funeral home, the pastor and the cemetery to coordinate everything. As usual, where my brother is concerned, I will do anything. Since he travels the world three weeks out of the month, he’s rarely around and doesn’t have the time for such mundane matters.

We will have a small service at the gravesite where we will watch the ashes of our father, Giulio, be buried with Gwen, our mother. They will finally be together. Giulio pined for her ever since she died in 1972. (I pined for her ever since I learned about her in 1978.) Then we will spread some of his ashes along the beach in White Rock, his beloved retirement home. From there, we will take vials to Italy to spread on the family farm with Uncle Luciano, my dad’s brother. In addition, I will keep one vial.

Hence the circle. It’s no secret that my relationship with my birth father was turbulent. It’s no secret that there were times I hated him; yet there was always love there. It truly was a love-hate relationship. Now I’m going to have his ashes.

And you know something? I want his ashes. I’m going to get a small urn and keep them in there. Some might think that’s creepy, but it’s actually very common. Truthfully, I never thought I would want to keep his ashes in my possession. I expected to bury him and be done with it. Just forget. Move on. But with the passage of time, I’ve come to know and understand him more. There is no more hate. There is now a wistfulness for him. A wish that he was still here, obstreperous attitude and all. I miss him.

I want him near me. I miss him. I miss him very much. He was my father. He never held me. He never taught me. He never watched me open the Christmas gifts he purchased. I understand.

I want him near me. I never got to make an awkward Father’s Day gift in school for him. I never got to have him show me how to drive a car. I never got a decent compliment from him. I understand.

The past is over. I’m finally free. I can move on. And I want to move on with him near me. I will remember the good. Only the good. And I will thank God for that. Forever. Because now I can.

I’m scared

I’m scared. It might happen. It’s gradually looking more positive. I’m getting encouragement and feedback. The details are not as daunting. Could I truly have an opportunity to live out a dream?

I’m not talking about my writing. I’m already living that out, even if I’m not making much money yet. No, I’m talking about a move to Italy.

I know I’ve written about this on Facebook. And apparently I wasn’t clear because people still think I said that I’m definitely moving to Italy. All I said was that I’m going to Italy for Christmas and I’ll stay if I can find something. Even if I were to find something, I’d have to return to America to tie up loose ends.

While I’m in Italy for Christmas I’ll be speaking to a couple of people there about my book and possible work opportunities. Tonight, while Skyping with my cousin, he broached the subject of me moving to Italy “for a year just to see what happens”. This is what I’ve entertained. This is what others have encouraged. My cousin seems to think it would be good for my aunt and uncle if I were there, especially since my uncle is now struggling with depression. Perhaps I could be of help if I’m nearby? That’s what he’s thinking. I know my cousin would be jazzed if I moved to Italy.

Of course the prospect of helping my beloved aunt and uncle thrills me to death. And the irony is that I was always concerned about moving to Italy and the impact on them. Knowing my aunt, I could see her bringing me pasta dishes every day to make sure I was eating right! I could see her coming over and washing my boxers. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but my precious aunt is like that! And I wouldn’t ever want to be a burden.

Now, with this imprimatur of encouragement, I’m giddy but frightened. Have you ever been stunned into silence when you’ve been faced with achieving your dream? Have you ever been frightened of being happy because you’ve been miserable and empty for so long? I have. And I am. I am comfortable struggling. Will I sabotage my dream?

I don’t care. I’m going to thrust forward. Reluctance be damned. We’ll see what the results are. I will try to write every day while I’m in Europe. Leaving 12/19/13!

Not more bipolar disorder

I’ve ruthlessly discussed my bipolar disorder and the havoc it has wreaked on my life.  I felt for the longest time that my bio grandfather struggled with it, too.  I met him in Italy when he was 84.  It was a glorious reunion.  Over the next few years during my visits, I would observe him and see traits similar to mine.  He seemed to be just existing.  He would sit, slump-shouldered, seemingly incapable of much joy or happiness.  The most telling statement appeared to me one day when I saw him walking down the street with his hands in his pockets, looking down almost dejectedly.  Why didn’t I go up and put my arm around him?  Why didn’t I try to comfort him, me, his long-lost grandson?  So I couldn’t speak the language, was that any reason to recoil? The language of love is transcendental.

And my father struggled with BP, too.  In early 2012 when I went to visit him in B.C. I met with his endocrinologist, primary physician and dialysis technician on the same day.  They all told me that he was doing quite well but that he was severely depressed.  His physician said that my father refused medication.  That damnable Italian pride.  That damnable machismo.  That damnable arrogance. He could have had a better quality of life.  But he refused.  Eventually the doctor convinced him to take half a pill and I noticed a substantial change.  Why didn’t he want to go all the way?

Now I find out my wonderful uncle in Italy is struggling with depression.  I had no idea.  Every time I’ve visited Italy he has been happy-go-lucky, animated, carefree, jovial.  You wanted to be around him. I loved just being by his side.

Finding out from my cousin that he’s struggling has pierced my heart.  I don’t want him to have this curse.  I was happy to think that he had escaped the dreaded “BP”.  I secretly envied him for being “normal” and having a wonderful life.  He still has a wonderful life, but it is tainted with bipolar disorder. My aunt is worried, so is my cousin.  They want to speak with me when I arrive in Italy for Christmas.  We are going to try to fashion a way to open my uncle’s eyes about his condition.  

I have to admit that i am honored beyond comprehension.  To think that I could have an opportunity to bless my family and help them is worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox.  I don’t expect much, all I expect is for God to use me as an instrument in my uncle’s life.  I will play my part, the rest is in His Hands.  What could be more fulfilling than that?

And it’s funny.  With the death of my birth father last year I have been rudderless.  I’m uncomfortable unless I’m helping someone.  Yet, after my birth father’s death I was so spent that I wanted to crawl in a hole and tell everyone to bite the wall.  The store was closed.  The inventory was gone. Nothing more to offer.   I wanted to just veg and never reach out because I felt I got nothing in return.

But the fact is that I got a lot in return.  I got an identity.  I got a purpose.  I got blessings galore.  And now I’m ready to get back on the horse.  I had truly felt that there was no more purpose for me.  And I fought the dichotomy of wanting to be left alone yet yearning for purpose in my life–the purpose of helping, of participating.  Of course, not being engaged impacted MY bipolar disorder.  

In my eyes, my family in Italy had it all together.  I was never stupid enough to think they were perfect; no one is.  But I never would have guessed that bipolar disorder had raised its ugly head.  Once again, I made the classic mistake of making assumptions based on observations.  Now I wonder if I should have said something to my aunt sooner.  Could I have helped my uncle years ago? Shoulda, coulda, woulda. The past is irrelevant.  We have only today.

I can feel it

So much to say. Why do I wait so long between posts? I guess it’s because so often I feel that I have nothing of importance to offer so I recoil. Now, tonight I could write three or four posts. Hmm, maybe I will despite the fact that it’s 1:19 a.m.

I’m thinking I’ve found my calling. I went to an adoption symposium tonight and it was wonderful. I only went to one breakout session but it was interesting. As I sat there and listened to the speakers I thought, “I can do this”. Basically, they told their stories and gave their opinions. Isn’t that what This is My Lemonade is all about? Isn’t that what I’m doing with this blog? With Facebook?

I harbor no illusions. I would also like this potential opportunity to turn into something profitable so I can start generating income and support myself. But that is not my main thrust. When I look back at my life, I understand that I have evolved to this point because it’s who I am. I am relational; that is my priority. It’s never been money no matter how often I excoriate myself for such. I will never be wealthy or influential to any large degree. I am okay with that. But I would at least like to feel like I’m accomplishing something, like I’m making a difference.

I’m already scheduled to attend two more adoption functions and I’m psyched. It’s fascinating being around all these people who have experienced adoption in some form or fashion–adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents. Everyone has their own story. Although I’ve always known that adoption is a huge issue and impacts literally millions, I’ve always faced it alone. How exciting to mingle with people who “get it”.

And I truly think that this will be beneficial for me. I want to meet other adult adoptees who have met their families. I want to know their experiences and how they’ve dealt with rejection, abuse, grief. I want them to hear my story. I want that sense of community that comes when you’re with other people who have walked a mile in the shoes you’re wearing.

It’s funny, but I never realized until tonight that I’ve traversed this journey completely alone. I had no one that I could go to who would understand. No solace from someone in the same boat. I had to blaze my own trail. My journey started when adoption still had a certain level of gaucherie. It was still swept under the rug. Now I understand why everyone was so flabbergasted when I started my sojourn and was so open about it.

But there was no one to guide me, and I started at a tender age–18. I was a kid. Didn’t know shit from shinola. Still don’t to a certain degree. Nowadays there are all these seminars, groups, organizations, websites. I have to admit that I’m kinda pissed. Why couldn’t any of this be around when I started searching? Why couldn’t there have been any support when I was struggling?

You know, I’m REALLY pissed. I guess I just don’t understand why I’ve never had what I needed to help me through things. Why did I always just miss out? Sometimes it feels like a conspiracy in the heavens even though I know it isn’t. I don’t believe in victimhood, but there’s a very real part of me that wants to lick my wounds and have someone take over for awhile.

But that won’t happen. I’ve made it this far and I will continue the trek. I really feel I have no choice. I’m compelled. There’s something inside that pushes me. An obsession? A need? Even though I want to be pissed, I truly don’t have the time. When I stop and think, I get irked but I don’t dwell on it because there’s something else out there. Something bigger. I can feel it.

It’s been so long…

I’ve purchased my airline tickets for the holidays. Arrive in Rome, hop a bus to the family compound (I know, that sounds mafioso!) in Ascoli Piceno for about seven or eight days, then up to Turin for a few days with my cousin. From there it’s a five hour train ride to Paris where I will ring in the New Year. Just can’t freakin’ wait!

This time around I am more motivated to look for work in Ascoli. I’ve got a couple of contacts to help me out. I really am going by the seat of my pants. There’s so much to consider–health insurance, living quarters, transportation, taxes, passport, moving, liquidation, storage here in Oregon. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet, as I consider it, I’m warming more to the idea of a move to Italy. I know there would be a learning curve. I know there would be times when I would be cursing under my breath the Italian lifestyle of “La dolce vita”, when I’m trying to get things done. But you know, maybe that would be good for me. Many times I think I’m wound a little too tightly (NO comment from the peanut gallery) and that I need a break from the rapid-fire pace of American life.

I mean, after all, that’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to Italy. I’m really sick of the American attitude of relentless acquisition and success at all costs–family, relationships, spiritual health, emotional health, mental health, physical health. I want to savor life and I can’t do that at Target. I can’t do that sitting in traffic on Interstate 5. I can’t do that with a family that is scattered and doesn’t really exist anymore except in my distant memory.

I run the very real risk of elevating Italy and my family to unsustainable levels. If I move there, I will see them for who they really are–fallible people with problems, issues and idiosyncrasies that are hidden from me during pristine, temporary vacations. And they will see me for the weirdo that I am, with all my foibles and my identity insecurities. Yet, I’m ready for that. I always felt that God gave them to me for a reason. I always felt that it was more than serendipity, more like divine providence, that they were given to me two years after my (adoptive) dad’s death and two years before my (adoptive) moms’s death. I mean, both my Italian cousins got the chance to meet my mom and create a bridge between the two families, the two identities that I have. That did wonders for my psyche.

I miss my family tremendously. I love them deeply. I want to be part of a family again. It’s been too long.

EVERY adoptee should know his history!!!!!

I’m back pretty much. After the joy of prostate surgery, I am, for the most part, back. And it’s a joy to be back, too. I never want any man to experience what I just experienced.

During this time off, I took inventory of the health issues that I have. This surgery was to correct an enlarged prostate. I don’t mean to be too terribly blunt, but it’s something that has afflicted me for about eight years. Very recently I spoke to a prostate surgeon and he told me, “Bob, you HAVE to have this surgery”. In asking why, he informed me that an enlarged prostate can lead to kidney failure.

That got me to thinking. Around twenty years ago, Giulio, my bio father was sharing with me his prostate surgery. At the time I was in my early thirties and not terribly interested in an “old man’s disease”. He talked about how urinating was now like a “dam bursting loose”. But he decried the impotence that (at that time) came with prostate surgery.

Now, twenty-some years later, his words resonate in my mind, along with the words of my doctor. Giulio had prostate issues and, twenty years later, suffered kidney failure. I am roughly the same age my father was when he had his prostate issue corrected. Will I suffer the same fate? My father was in his late seventies when he was stricken with kidney failure and had to go on dialysis. What does the future hold for me? And if I suffer the same fate, is it a result of genetics?

This causes me to wonder…Giulio also had heart disease–it was actually his heart that killed him. He had had quadruple bypass surgery in his early sixties. Is that in my future? From my mother’s side I’m high risk for colon cancer. I’m starting to feel like a walking death watch.

But you know? Thank GOD I have this knowledge! What if I’d never met my family? I’d have no information to help me make decisions. I’d be stumbling around in the dark, wondering what to do, grasping for answers. And now that I’ve seen what my father went through, I have an idea of what could possibly befall me in the next twenty years.

You know, there are only a handful of states that give adoptees the right to have access to their birth records. The reasons for not doing so are truly ludicrous and antiquated. Generally, they follow something along the lines of “the birth mother wanted it this way”, “we want to respect the birth mother’s wishes”, etc.

There are some inherent problems with these arguments. Chief among them is that adoptees never agreed to such a proposal. We are a demographic (a HUGE demographic) that is not allowed to know our genesis, our history, our genetic information. And it is accepted! We are expected to live in silence when life-saving decisions, tests and intercession could be occurring to protect us, protect our families and save our lives. Yet, lawmakers approach the issue with a black-and-white attitude. How many issues are truly black-and-white? How many of these legislators don’t know their background?

Lawmakers could easily address the concerns of the bio family when crafting legislation. Laws allowing adoptees access to their birth records could be crafted that would protect the biological mother. Some sort of clearinghouse providing a conduit between the adoptee and the birth mother could be created for mothers who don’t want to know their child. The mother could provide all genetic information necessary and the adoptee would be able to move forward. Yes, it would be hard for an adoptee who would like to meet his/her bio family, but at least there would be the exchange of knowledge.

And it would provide a place where adoptees could interact with bio families who WANT to know the missing child. This is something that lawmakers seem to ignore in order to placate a loud minority. Why not allow people to make their own decisions? There are ways to ameliorate the situation. Lawmakers, as usual, get in the way.

Perhaps my approach is too simplistic for most people. Perhaps my opinion is colored by my own experience. OK, I’ll give you that. I would be willing to testify if it would help the plight of adoptees. I would love everyone to have the knowledge of their background that I have of my background. Don’t they deserve that?