Hello friends! Welcome back to Blogville. Today I’m having a quiet herbal tea as I relax and chat with you. As I write this opening greeting I’m reminded that I finished my Wordle puzzle in three steps today. Makes me smile.
Just thinking about puzzles makes me smile. I LOVE doing puzzles! There is something magical about opening that sealed jigsaw puzzle box and pouring those pieces onto the table. There they lie, a mystery to be solved. I’m amazed at the fact that, though the goal is already known as the picture is right there on the box, we delve wholeheartedly into its re-creation. Everyone has their preferred technique, some complete the edges first, while others sort the pieces into piles of a specific pattern, like all the red pieces, all the pieces of one shape, and so forth. We have a family friend, Julie, whom my grandchildren and I agree, is a jigsaw puzzle magician. We watch in awe how she solves a puzzle section in five minutes that we have been struggling with all afternoon.
I have to share this puzzle story with you. One Christmas Julie drew my name in our group gift exchange. She gave me a 500 piece puzzle, no real surprise there. The puzzle was of medium difficulty (after all I’m no puzzle magician). ‘Open it, open it’ she said. Curious, I thought I was mistaken and maybe she just reused an old puzzle box for my actual gift. Nope, turns out she had individually wrapped each puzzle piece in the box! Now that is dedication to gift giving! Julie also noted that as she was finishing wrapping the last few pieces of the puzzle, the dog grabbed a piece and took off with it. Among the 500 wrapped puzzle pieces in the box was one misshapen, formerly soggy, carefully wrapped puzzle piece. Seriously?
While writing about this little story I was reminded of that gifted puzzle and found it in my closet. I grabbed a small knife, ironically also a previous gift from Julie, and began unwrapping the puzzle pieces. Initially I was sorting as I was unwrapping. I started by forming piles of amplifier pieces, guitar pieces, the edge pieces, but then, except for the edges, unwrapping and sorting quickly became an overwhelming task. So I focused instead on the task of just unwrapping these tiny pieces. Wow! I don’t know how long it took Julie to wrap these but unwrapping them was proving to be a lengthy project, but hey, I’m retired.
At one point I sent Julie a photo of the project. The photo included some unwrapped pieces, a pile of wrapping paper, and still so many more pieces to unwrap. I added the following text message, “omg JULIE!” to which she responded, “Hahahahaha omg. Didn’t think you’d actually make the puzzle!” Well, that sounded like a challenge to me. 3 HOURS LATER . . . all unwrapped. I thought to myself, ‘maybe tomorrow I’ll start completing the actual puzzle’ and went for a walk.
I also enjoy a good word search or crossword puzzle. For years all I could find were small clues to my birth history, like a challenging life puzzle. My mom would have a little clue, adoption disclosure workers gave little clues, but despite these clues I could never solve the whole puzzle. As you know, my greatest word search was my quest to finally access all those words in my historical files, and from there, to understand the true story of my pre-adoption journey. Adoption disclosure workers could sometimes provide me with a word list, but never the page that contained the puzzle, and for certain, never the answer page. I was left with the clues but no words to circle, therefore I was unable to solve the puzzle.
I think all members of the adoption constellation strive to solve their own unique 3D puzzles. I feel that adopted persons are trying to solve a life puzzle called, “What Happened Before I Was Born?” Often these include a bonus puzzle called, “What Happened Between Being Born and Being Adopted?” Birth parents and other birth relatives, meanwhile, may be trying to solve a life puzzle called, “What Happened Next?” With a bonus puzzle, themed, “Are They Being Loved And Cared For?” Finally, I feel that adoptive parents spend every day trying to solve adoption-themed life puzzles called, “What I Do Not Know.” Their bonus puzzle is likely called, “Things No One Told Me”.
I think adoptive parents have the puzzles with the most pieces (often wrapped in their own layers), with the least number of clues, and yet, the most pressure to solve the puzzle. Information sharing is much better today than when I was adopted, but it still lacks many details and facts, like a puzzle that is missing some pieces. An adoptive parent needs to be a puzzle solver, also known as a dissectologist. Adoptive parents sometimes start a puzzle and do not immediately know that some pieces are missing, or that they were not given the full picture as shown on the box. But somehow, they work around it. First they search the box, the table and the floor for the missing pieces. Then they might stand up and brush themselves off to make sure the pieces are not hidden on their person. When they realize that they were never given all the pieces in the first place, they turn their attention to working with the pieces they have and begin solving the puzzle to its fullest potential. Adoptive parents seem to have a special talent for that, even though there is a great deal of work involved.
When you pick up a variety puzzle magazine there are so many types of puzzles in them. Each puzzle needs a different approach, a different solution, and has different clues. There are Pictograms, Crypto-grams, and many other puzzles to solve. I found that the social and medical histories I received over the years reminded me of Rebus puzzles; where the information is clear to the writer but often a riddle to the reader.
Negotiating the Adoption Disclosure site in Ontario is often like a Brain-Teaser or a Maze for many people. To complicate things further, the people trying to negotiate the details of adoption disclosure rights to information already feel like they should not be there in the first place. Many people feel that they are being disloyal to their adoptive parents for even looking at the site. Many birth parents feel like they are breaking a promise to someone that they made when they swore that they would forget about that baby and move on. People trying to solve the government access to information puzzles are often looking over their shoulders already, so to call someone and ask for help is almost impossible for them. Therefore, if you know someone wanting to start an adoption disclosure journey, offer to travel it with them, journeys are always more exciting and less frightening when you are not alone.
My adoption disclosure journey was much like the task I recently did with the 500 piece puzzle, unwrapping each tiny piece to be able to see the whole picture. It was not three hours work though, I have been at this in some way for over 60 years, as soon as I could start asking questions. The encyclopedia (or perhaps more like National Geographic) of my life and adoption journey was often missing pages or even full volumes/issues despite the fact I was paying my subscription fees almost every day.
My subscription fees were paid when I was pregnant, and did not know of any genetic conditions I might be passing on to the baby developing inside me. My fees were paid when I looked in a mirror and knew no one I could say I looked like (except for people always telling me I look like Jamie-Lee Curtis lol). I paid my fees every time a medical professional asked if there was any family history of this, or that condition, and I could not answer.
The single most difficult moment in my adoption disclosure journey was learning of my birth mother’s passing. This would now be the biggest puzzle piece that I would never find, and never be able to unwrap. Irreplaceable, just like the puzzle piece in my musical instruments puzzle that the dog ate. It was the end of my hope of ever completing my adoption puzzle fully. I cannot completely describe that loss, it was too big for any words. But I can tell you that it was the end of my hope that she would one day welcome me into her heart.
However, the loss of my birth mother brought me new puzzle pieces to unwrap. Through her passing and subsequent published obituary, my sister and I found four half-sisters, the daughters our birth mother raised. Through them, and their acceptance of us, we began putting together a picture of who our birth mother was, the daughter, the wife, the mother and the grandmother. Though it isn’t a perfect picture of my life puzzle, each of the pieces that my new sisters bring to the table fill in some of the gaps where my birth mother’s pieces should be. For this, I am truly and eternally grateful.
As ever, I would love for you to share your comments with me. If you prefer a less public forum please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time, thanks for reading.
Maybe my book can help your family talk about adoption, kinship, customary care, or other alternative care scenarios! The book is called, What Is Your Story? Let’s talk about adoption and kinship. Look for it on Amazon, Friesen Press, Coles Timmins Square, Altered Reality on Third Avenue in Timmins, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo on-line stores!