Category Archives: Adoption

Sharing My Late-Life Adoption Journey

Yesterday, 11 April 2021, I created a gofundme account in an effort to raise money for a memoir I am writing about my experiences with International—and interracial—adoption when I was 55-years-old and again at 59. As regular readers might know, my wife Linda and I adopted our oldest daughter, Aimee, in September of 2002, when she was 14 months old. We again adopted in September of 2006, when our younger daughter, Alyssa, was 33 months old.

Each of these adoptions took over two years to complete and were both nerve-wracking and fulfilling experiences. We were required to travel to the People’s Republic of China each time, staying at the China Hotel, in Guangzhou, which is in the Southeast of the country, not far from Hong Kong. Each time we went, we managed to get in a little sightseeing prior to our daughters being introduced to us.

Our first time we flew to Guangzhou (it took 15 hours) where we had a three-hour layover, after which we flew to Beijing, which was a three and a half hour flight. The second time we flew directly to Hong Kong. We stayed in Beijing for six days, visiting some of the things tourists are wont to see, e.g. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, etc. We stayed in Hong Kong for only three nights, then took a train to Guangzhou. After our time in Beijing, we flew back to Guangzhou. Each time we arrived, we were met by a team of “assistants” from the organization that facilitated our stay, our travel arrangements, the interpretation and completion of numerous documents, and the transfer of money for the various services we used to complete our adoptions.

I have posted a few times regarding our adoptions, but I’ve been reluctant to share too much about our girls, as I felt it was their story to tell. However, the time has come for me to share my story as best I know how. I had a discussion with the girls yesterday, and they gave me permission to do this.

As a result, I opened the gofundme account I’m referring to where I am seeking a total of $6,000, which I believe will help me concentrate for the next six months on writing this memoir while continuing to assist my girls in achieving their independence. My youngest, Alyssa, is just finishing her Junior year in High School, and it has been exceptionally challenging. She has some issues, which I will write about in this memoir, that required an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and presented some not-so-unique problems that continue. My older daughter, Aimee, is attending (virtually) classes at Moorpark College, but is having difficulty deciding on what direction she wishes to go in.

I am offering copies of this memoir to anyone who donates, no matter how much they give. For donations of $50 or more, I will provide a digitally signed, personalized copy, and for donations of $100 or more, I’m offering a 30-minute telecon via the platform of their choice (Zoom, Facebook Rooms, etc.) I will make the book available in any one of several formats, including .mobi for Kindle.

This is a new experience for me and I’m not completely comfortable with asking for money. However, I need to supplement our limited income and, at nearly 74-years-old, especially during a pandemic, it’s difficult to find ways to earn money and still have the energy to write and edit my story. Whether or not you can afford to donate, I would greatly appreciate it if you could share the gofundme link, which is gf.me/u/zp7gaw. You can click here to get to it as well.

Thank you for reading and, I hope, at least sharing my campaign so I can share my story.

Rick

Although I’ve been blogging for over 15 years, I never wanted to use it to make money. For much of the time I was either working full-time at Rocketdyne or pursuing clients for my business providing social media marketing services to small businesses. Now that I’m approaching my 74th birthday, and have no intention of returning to a regular job, I’ve decided to seek ways to earn a little bit of supplemental income. If you find my writing interesting or useful, please consider a donation to help me continue writing, instead of becoming a Costco greeter. Thank you.

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Fear of Sharing

My wife would say I’m overly gregarious and too willing to share things about my life and experiences, and from all appearances, I seem to have spent much of that life being outgoing and transparent, yet I think I just realized that in actuality, I have always hidden much of who I am from others. Specific others, not everyone . . . and not about everything. Most of the things I’ve kept to myself over the years aren’t deeds I’m ashamed of or thoughts I’ve believed in and now think are wrong. It’s just that it wasn’t important for certain people to know about them.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

For instance, I never shared my experiences in the late sixties with the “Free Love” movement with my mother. Somehow, I felt she wouldn’t have appreciated learning why I refer to myself as a “battle-scarred veteran” of the Sexual Revolution. Similarly, when I first hired in at Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne division, to work on the Space Shuttle Main Engine team, I didn’t think they needed to know I had spent two months in Cuba in 1973 as a guest of the Cuban government. The list goes on.

When I became a first-time, adoptive father at the age of 55, I considered writing about the experience of adopting, but decided against it because I thought it stood too much of a chance of violating my children’s privacy. I’m still a bit conflicted over how much I can share about my experience for fear of sharing too much of their lives, and those things don’t belong to me alone.

Now that I’m less than a year and a half from my 75th birthday, I’m thinking it’s time to stop being so concerned about embarrassing anyone who knows or is related to me . . . and just write my truth and put it out there for everyone to judge for themselves. That is what I’m doing, but I’m also just realizing how seriously I have been hobbled by my unwillingness to risk bringing shame to my family . . . even though I’m hardly ashamed about anything I’ve done over the years. Sorry for some things, yes – because they hurt me or others I loved and cared about – but shame does not emanate from this boy.

Having recognized this serious impediment to telling my story, it’s now my job to overcome what it’s done to me over the years (it hasn’t perzackly helped me overcome “imposter syndrome.”) I can no longer embarrass my parents or grandparents; they’ve been gone for quite some time, and I need to get these stories out, regardless. Even if I live to be ninety, I won’t have to regret anything (which I likely won’t anyway) for very long.


Thoughts on Adoption

The Whole Fam Damily

I haven’t written much about my experiences with adoption, specifically International adoption, because I decided long ago that my daughters’ stories are theirs and to reveal specifics about them is not my place. However, there are some aspects of our journey I feel comfortable about sharing.

When my wife and I decided to adopt, after some research and communication with a couple of friends we knew who had gone through a similar experience, we decided to adopt from the People’s Republic of China. We were quite fortunate to be introduced to an organization that arranged Chinese adoptions, and that organized the entire trip, including working closely with us throughout the process, including translating documents and accompanying us through every necessary step.

When we began the process we also discovered there was a Yahoo group dedicated to those of us who were using this organization, which was called U.S. Asian Affairs. We used it to introduce ourselves to the group and, over time, to learn about the process and the lives, as well as the hopes and dreams, of the other families who had traveled or who we would be traveling with, as well as those who would be adopting subsequent to us.

When we were in China, at the China Hotel in Guangzhou, I spent nearly every free evening down in the sports bar, where they had a couple of computers set up and I could send emails to the group, apprising them of our progress and how were were feeling. I also continued to communicate with others for several years afterward, am still friends with many of those with whom we traveled, and also belong to a Facebook group that kind of took over for the Yahoo group.

Even though I’m no longer using the Yahoo group to communicate, at the beginning of each month approximately ten emails are sent to everyone who’s a member. Of those ten, three are from me. I’d like to share them (I may have shared one or more of them sometime in the past 14 years, but I can’t remember and don’t want to search) here. This first one is from October 12, 2005. Our oldest was a little over four years old and it would be another year before we adopted our second child.

The post was in response to a question another parent had posed, which was “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here is my response:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33 in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes.” By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.


R.I.P. Zacky

Our Beloved Zacky

Linda and I just said our final goodbye to Zacky, our beloved boy of about 14 years. His body was shutting down and we didn’t want him to suffer any longer. We brought him home on Friday in the hope he might improve, but he didn’t, so we took him to the Vet this morning and they recommended saying goodbye.

I know it was the right thing to do, but I’m beside myself with grief. I’ve never known a cat quite as attached to humans as Zacky was, and I have had the good fortune of knowing quite a few of them in my life. He was especially bonded with Linda and frequently slept in her arms or under the blankets, in a little cave she would make for him.

I would have gladly put up with a few more bloody rats on the bedroom floor to have had a couple more years with him. We’ll be grieving for a while, but we’ll move on. Lots of good memories of this guy.

2020 most definitely sucks.


The Dogs Are Sure Happy!

One of the interesting side effects of self-isolation was “celebrated” in an interesting article I came across on Facebook. Its title is “Nation’s dogs fucking loving whatever’s going on right now,” and you can find it here. I know our dog, Angel, is used to spending significant times either alone, or without the person who gives her the most treats . . . and that time is generally spent sleeping or moping around the house.

Upon our arrival back at home, whether we were gone 10 minutes of 10 hours, her excitement is temporarily boundless. That is no longer happening, as we’re seldom out of the house. In fact, the only one who’s left the house for the past week (at least) has been me. I take that back. I believe my wife went out one evening to pick up a papaya salad at her favorite Thai restaurant. That’s it.

My Pooper Girl, Angel (three years ago)

As an aside . . . a secondary effect of thinking about how our animals are dealing with this, though I’ve been noticing it recently; i.e. before the corona virus changed everything, I’ve come to realize the role our pets play for many of us. Certainly, with respect to dogs, this is my experience. I’ll try to explain.

My last dog had to be put to sleep before he was very old. He was a Rottweiler and had been gifted to me by a girlfriend who couldn’t handle him. His name was Heinse . . . Kavon Heinse of Stoneflower, to be exact. The appellation “Stoneflower” came from Stoneflower Productions, Sly Stone’s company. My girlfriend’s father was the business manager for Sly and the Family Stone, and Sly had given Heinse to him, but he was getting divorced and didn’t want the responsibility.

Heinse was an interesting dog. Powerful and resolute, he also chased shadows and stomped ants. He would sit under a tree and wait for birds to fly out of it so he could chase their shadows on the ground. Once, on the beach at Malibu, he confounded a couple of guys tossing a football. They took a while to figure out he wasn’t chasing the ball. He could smell ants and would rear up and stomp on them when encountered. He was a wonderful companion and putting him down was not easy for me. In fact, I had numerous cats, but never another dog until about three years ago. I lived dogless for well over thirty years.

Angel entered our lives about three years ago. The picture above was taken shortly after we rescued her. Her arrival was somewhat serendipitous, and I had precious little to do with it, other than responding to my wife’s text where she sent me a picture of her with a couple of question marks. I wasn’t ready to take on the extra expense, but I’m a sucker for a face like that and I said “OK.”

So . . . she came into our lives when our oldest, Aimee, was going on 16 years old. What’s significant about it, and what has caused me to think about how we relate to our pets (especially dogs) is that was right about the time I could no longer hug Aimee or smother her with kisses. Up until then, I was able to shower her with affection, which I loved doing. She was no longer interested, understandable—I was once a teenager and, even though it was several lifetimes ago, I remember most of what it was like.

Now I use Angel to shower my affection on, though she was a bit wary of me at the beginning. I think she interpreted my kissing her snout as a dominance display; at least at first. I was pretty sure I could interpret the look on her face when I would hug and kiss her as one of moderate concern, perhaps a little distrust. This, of course, is no longer the case. She now serves as my substitute affection sponge and, as long as I give her the occasional treat, we’re good . . . and I’m content.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


Facing The Abandonment Issue

In September of 2002, nearly four months after my 55th birthday, I became a father for the first time in my life. I was in China with Linda, who would later take me as her husband, to adopt our Aimee. Actually, since we weren’t married she had to adopt as a single mother and I was sort of along for the ride, though I was all in.

As part of the process, I had joined a Yahoo chat group especially for parents and prospective parents adopting in China. I also joined a group led by internationally adopted adults who were willing to share their experiences, as well as their admonishments.

I was very active for a while and what follows is one of my posts (from October of 2005) that is still being shared every month with prospective parents of Chinese children being adopted by people in the U.S.:

************

Gosh, Gordon. You ask such simple questions. My heart truly aches (along with my head) contemplating what our children will eventually deal with as they grow older and their ability to understand matures and develops.

I agree with you, in that we can’t possibly settle the abandonment issue for them. As you say, they own it and we, at best, are innocent bystanders. (I won’t even discuss on this list what “at worst” might be for fear of provoking a firestorm of protest.) What I think we can do is respect them enough to let them take the lead, by becoming loving, attentive listeners. As they gather experiences and come to realizations about the meaning of their lives, we need to be there for them; nonjudgmental, understanding, and supportive. It doesn’t hurt to read about the experiences of adult adoptees (from their own mouths – or fingers) and their parents.

Even then, we have no guarantee they will be able to answer their own questions, or resolve the issues (real or perceived) they will deal with. As you know, I have been following the discussions on IAT for some time now. It has changed how I view my role as an adoptive parent and, at times, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with it. I consider the discomfort part of my growing process for, as you also know, it isn’t stopping Linda and I from returning to adopt another child.

I know you and Patti well enough to believe you will give it everything you’ve got (and maybe a little more) to do right by your children. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Cheri Register’s book “Beyond Good Intentions: a Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children.” I hope others will contribute to this thread. I think it’s important to understand these issues as early as possible, preferable before one travels to China.


They Grow So Fast!

Last weekend was my oldest daughter Aimee’s final dance recital in High School. Our local paper did a nice little feature, and that’s her in the very front of the line of ballerinas. She’s been doing pointe for at least her Senior year. I can’t believe she’s graduating in about three weeks. Frankly, I’m not handling this transition all that well right now.

Our Aimee’s Final Ballet Performance

I lost—and grieved over—the relationship we had when we adopted Alyssa, who required so much attention, and it was exacerbated by Aimee’s quiet nature. Part of me fears we’ll never be close (typing these words nearly brings me to tears). I’ll get over it, but there’s a part of me that worries I haven’t really been a good parent and it’s too late to do anything about it. Another part of me thinks I’m being silly, but it’s not helping right now. Hopefully, it’s just the gloomy weather that’s affecting me.

I posted this on Facebook and got quite a lot of wonderful replies, most of them assuring me that most, if not all, parents feel inadequate and many recounted stories of their own experiences with their children. I’m grateful for the friends I have on Facebook, many of whom are also friends IRL. Quite a few of them were with us when we adopted both our girls, so they have a special connection to us. In responding to some of them, I offered another picture of Aimee, which I think is gorgeous (as is she). I’m including it here as well. Both photos were taken with my iPhone XR, without flash, which was prohibited during the performance. They’re not close to being HiRes, but they’re serviceable.

Modern Jazz (or Something Like That)

I Hate Time Cliches, But They Fit!

I have written previously about my feelings regarding the passage of time. In case you don’t feel like going back and reading, here’s the relevant portion:

Lest you think I’m being melancholy, I’m not . . . though I will admit to occasionally feeling as though time has slipped by far too fast. However, I have a trick I use to deal with that and I’ve been doing it so long I really don’t think about it much any more.

I’m of the opinion the feeling that time has slipped by far too fast is a low-level form of self-pity. That trick I mentioned is something I used to do many years ago when I sensed I was feeling sorry for myself. I would pick a day, perhaps six months or a year ago, and try to recreate all the things I had done or experienced in the intervening time. I never made it to “today” because I always got bored from “reliving” all those things I had already done. Nowadays, I don’t even have to go through the exercise. I only need to remind myself of its efficacy.

I bring this up to explain my feelings (somewhat) when I worked on — and now look at — this collage I made of pictures of me and Aimee, my oldest. I’ve been teaching myself Photoshop and one of the most valuable skills one can master, IMO, is that of layering; and not just using layers, but being able to manipulate pixels through selecting and masking very selectively. While there are plenty of technical issues one must master in order to be able to successfully create multi-layer pictures (in a timely manner), there is most definitely an art to doing it well.

So . . . I’ve been practicing with creating memes and sarcastic photos of the Groper-in-Chief, as well as touching up some personal photos and creating new ones from old ones. Here’s the picture I put together that’s now causing me some consternation:

Aimee and Daddy

Aimee and Daddy

I was most interested in the speed with which I could select and create layer masks for each one of these photos (there are 10 separate pics, plus one barely visible as background). Resizing, aligning them properly, and putting them in the right order is not terribly taxing or time consuming, but selecting and masking requires some patience. This is especially true when you have essential tremors and your hands shake, at times almost uncontrollably. I also experience occasional “jerks”, where my hand just jumps for no specific reason, at least none I can discern.

Now that I finished and posted it — actually, yesterday on Facebook — I’m taking some time to enjoy the photos. They are, after all, some of my favorite pictures of the two of us. It’s important to keep in mind, I was childless until my 56th year; long enough to be pretty convinced I would never be a parent. I was resigned to this fact and content with my situation. Little did I realize I would have a 14-month-old, 25 lb. bundle thrust into my arms halfway around the world in the People’s Republic of China, shortly after my 55th birthday. The story behind how my wife and I decided this would be a good thing to do is a long one, and I have no intention of going into it here.

I have now been a father for 15 years. In addition to adopting Aimee, we returned to the PRC to adopt our younger daughter, Alyssa, when I was 59. I’ll do a collage of me and Alyssa at some other time. I don’t know if I have enough pictures of the two of us; second child syndrome and all like that, but I’ll put together what I’ve got.

What’s bothering me now about this picture is, every time I look at it I’m reminded that she is now a full-blown teenager and, as such, I represent everything wrong, lame, and stupid about the world to her. I know our relationship will never be the same. Actually, I knew it the day we adopted Alyssa, who was a real handful — still is, and that’s not hyperbole in any way. This, however, is somewhat different. I’ve watched enough of my friends’ and family’s children grow up and go through this. It’s not like I’m surprised or taken aback by it. It’s just that experience tells me she may not appreciate me again for another five years or more.

I’m 70 years old and already over a decade older than my father was when he died. I’m healthy, take pretty good care of myself, and expect I’ve got a while to go. However, even if I live into my eighties, we won’t have a great deal of time together. I only got a couple of years to enjoy the relationship my father and I started building in my mid-thirties. I still miss him and occasionally lament not having had much time with him after we worked out our differences. I want more time with Aimee when we can once again relate to each other without her being embarrassed or confused.

I do want that relationship with her, though only the passage of the thing I’m not sure I have a lot of is going to allow it to happen. I guess I have no choice but to wait. Do I have to be patient too?