While laying on my parents’ couch earlier today, I was listening to Hope tell me some random story about something or other. I was only half listening, scrolling through my Instagram feed.
I suddenly stopped and interrupted her.
“Do you want to call your grandmother today?”
Hope was mid-sentence and her voice just trailed off. She just looked at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her staring at me. I finally looked over at her.
“There isn’t a right answer, you know that right? Whatever you feel or decide is cool. I just…felt like I should ask. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”
About two minutes of silence passed; one of my sisters was sitting in a chair in the room with us. As those seconds continued to pass, it kind of felt like we were all holding her breath.
“Ok,” I said, and resumed scrolling through Instagram.
Hope never responded; instead she picked up where she left off with the story she was previously telling me.
I mailed Hope’s grandmother a framed copy of her senior ROTC portrait and a letter. I wrote that I know she would rather hear directly from Hope, but that for whatever reason it was left to me to provide updates.
As the months stretch into what will soon be two years since Hope had direct contact, I find myself wondering how things will play out for Hope and her biological family. In moments like today, I feel like I can genuinely feel Hope’s and her family’s pain in this rift. I think about how I talk to a member of my immediate family nearly daily, and how gleeful my parents seem on those occasions when I am able to drive down to visit them. I think about how it must feel to not have those feelings, or those expectations or any of that. It is honestly hard for me to conceptualize, and I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am since the absence of all of that is experienced by many people throughout their lives and especially during the holiday season.
While I do not badger Hope about connection, I do try to bring it up during times that seem appropriate or advantageous. I make myself available to all parties to facilitate contact. I work out the logistics for possible phone calls, letters, social media interactions, whatever. One of the college’s Hope has applied to is about 50 miles away from her biological family; I’m planning a campus visit for us next month. My offer to set up a visit while we’re close by was again me with chilly silence. I’ve learned to just leave those responses there. Ultimately, I do not believe I can or should force Hope to have contact that she doesn’t want. I do not want her to engage in things she feels are unhealthy for her. Her feelings and well-being are paramount.
And yet, my heart strings wish desperately there was something I could do to help them bridge this gap.
I’m glad that I have provided Hope a beautiful extended family. I chuckled to see her and her cousins holed up in a funky teenager room (why do they smell so bad???), shooting the breeze, playing video games, talking trash and making plans to hang out together tomorrow. I smiled inwardly as I grimaced outwardly when I had to tell her “let’s go” for the 6th time because she really didn’t want to come with me to check into the beach hotel. I’m glad she has this family.
But she does have more family; she just doesn’t know if she wants them, if they fit, if she can have a good, healthy relationship with them. And there’s lots of legit reasons to ask so many questions why. I respect my daughter’s inclination for sell-preservation. But it still hurts to watch from the sidelines. But as Hope slides into her 18 year, that’s my position on all of this—the sidelines.
So I will continue to point out or provide opportunities and follow her lead. Somehow, it will work out, right?
December 26th, 2018 at 2:06 am
Don’t push too hard. If her bio family was abusive, or failed to protect her from it, that’s definitely not safe. I know I would choose to have zero contact with anyone in my family who failed to protect me as a kid if weird circumstances didn’t force it. But, I still feel the sting when “society” sends the message that blood is thicker than water. It really isn’t – but I make myself far less mentally healthy talking even to “enablers.” I don’t know the details of her story, but if she felt like those “family” left her to that abuse even through inaction, well, I get not wanting anything to do with them.
December 26th, 2018 at 7:14 am
Totally agree with you. Long story, but this is extended family who lived cross country from her and parents. Our adoption brought her 4 hours away from them. She desperately wanted to reunite with her grandmother, whom she hasn’t seen in years and is now in her 80s. We had a growing relationship, definitely not perfect, but good and then we didn’t. It is perplexing, but I get it, its complicated. So I ask and let it go. I have always limited contact for reasons I won’t share, but last year Hope just stopped, and rarely has much to say about it either. I provide opportunities without expectation at this point. Over the years she’s gotten better at being transparent about what she’s feeling, and on this, it’s a growing no. I totally respect that. You raise important issues here tho. It’s never been clear if Hope felt her family enabled being so far away. Time will tell or not, I suppose. Thanks for sharing.
December 28th, 2018 at 11:49 pm
Is it possible Grandma said something, maybe in all innocence, or at any rate meaning well, that made her angry? Young people can be SO hard in their unforgiveness toward anyone who doesn’t view things exactly as they do. If so, I hope they make their peace while there is still time … but in any case I think you’re right. Your place is on the sidelines until she asks for your help. And that sucks; I’m so sorry!