I ALWAYS knew I was adopted. I just seemed to grow up with the knowledge and it became part of who I was in relation to the rest of my family. But I always felt that if there was a change of heart from the government and people like me could access their history, then I’d like to find my real mother and perhaps a father.
That chance came in the late 1980s when the laws changed and adopted people were allowed to see their birth records. I was living in England at the time, but the urge drew me back to Australia to find out who I really was.
When I was handed my envelope it felt like a huge leap of faith. Would all my questions be answered? Would I find that one missing piece of my jigsaw life that made me whole? I hoped so. I jumped at my one chance and began hunting in the electoral rolls at the library, matching names and addresses.
My search led me across South Australia and ended in the Victorian phone book. That first phone call was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I had expectations, hopes, fears and a whole range of other emotions. I’d seen reunions on TV and studied the reactions of the participants, wondering what I would do, how I would act. I ran scenarios through my mind on what my mother might be like and how she would react. They were inevitably tinged with happiness. The why she gave me up was usually fanciful and in mad moments I thought, or hoped, she might be looking for me too.
I made the call and instead of getting a mother I found my grandparents. They were the nicest loving people I could have imagined and were thrilled and quite surprised, but never judgmental. They gave me my mother’s number in the US. I took a deep breath and dialled.
She said she knew it would happen one day, she thought of me on my birthday and she needed time. I hung up wondering time for what. Didn’t every mother love her child? Hadn’t she had more than 25 years to get used to the idea of me? My new grandparents were consoling and decided to drive from Victoria to Adelaide to see me and brought a family history I had missed out on. They showered me with photographs and for once I belonged. My nose felt right at home with theirs.
Fast forward to last year and my maternal grandmother rang and said my mother would be coming from the US to see her, and could I come too. She is getting old and her one wish was to see mother and daughter united.
Through the years the gap that existed between my mother and me had grown very large. I could count on one hand the number of times we talked and for about the same amount of minutes. It always left me drained and fragile. Being a mother myself, I felt a powerful bond with my children and her distance felt alien to me. Now the stage had been set for our first meeting. I made plans, bought airline tickets and was egged on by my husband. I had great expectations that through the many silent years my mother would have mellowed and the old adage that time heals all wounds would have worked in my favour.
Then, I got a call from my grandmother. She was upset and said that my mother didn’t want to see me. Ever. It is hard to be pragmatic when your expectations are shattered and your heart feels as if it has been dug out with a spoon. I had fashioned a caveat for my emotions and told myself it wasn’t that big a deal.
But it was. And always will be.