When the search is over (a book review of sorts).

For the first thirty-two years of my life, I knew nothing of where I came from on my father’s side.  Oh, I knew that his adoptive father was the favored and fun Grandpa of my siblings, though I was too young to know him like they did.  And I’d seen movies of a family trip to New Orleans and Miami when he and his brother were youngsters, catching glimpses of his adoptive mother being the tough cookie everyone remembers.

Once I was old enough to understand adoption and its ramifications, I would imagine strangers walking down the street as my biological grandmother.  Or my grandfather.  Or an aunt or an uncle.  Or cousins.   I would make up fantasies about celebrities or sports stars or politicians, hoping they would swoop down and find us.

Out of respect to his adoptive parents and to his wonderful stepmother, my father chose to wait until all of them were gone to pursue a search for biological family.  Two years ago, he found a half sister and with that, stories of their shared mother.  My biological grandmother.  Now I know where my father came from, where part of me came from.

Although I have yet to meet the half sister and her family, I plan on doing so soon enough, hopefully in the spring. My parents, sister, and her children will be joining them for the second year in a row at their annual family retreat next month.   (Oh, and they are ordinary citizens, just like us, no fanfare needed.)

Many emotions surfaced since my father began searching and began finding – and those are just the emotions I have felt.  Because he tends to keep emotions to himself, it is difficult to know for sure how this has affected him.  While outwardly, this has been a positive experience, there still must be some uncertainty about pursuing this new-found family.

That is why Swimming Up the Sun by Nicole J. Burton affected me so.  While her search was relatively easy, even back before the internet made things infinitely easier, the emotions that emerged as a result of that search were unexpected.

It raises questions about opening adoption records and the well-being of both adoptee and birth parent after a successful search has been completed.  It raises questions on how much of a life to share after decades of not knowing the true biological family.

Burton does not mince words as far as the difficult relationship she endured with her birth mother once found.  She explores her awkward connection to the Jewish faith through her birth father’s heritage.  And she finds the strength to begin her own family, once she knows more of where she came.

Searching for the truth may not always been happily ever after or all the answers to the questions one has been asking his/her entire life.   Though I can imagine it brings a certain sense of peace knowing.   Even as the child of an adoptee, some of the mystery of the past has been solved with finding some of the present.

(Disclosure:  I bought this book with my own money.  I was not paid for this review – it simply came from the heart.)

Posted on July 20, 2010, in Books, Family. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I come from a family with a lot of secrets. I would love to have more answers, but I have to accept they will likely not ever be revealed. It’s a weird way to live, especially because I think there are probably some very interesting and worthwhile people in my family that I never had the chance to know because there is so much crazy.

  2. Scott K. Johnson

    I think it is pretty neat to find out some of your history, but at the same time I think I can understand how it might bring up some unexpected emotions.


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