The inconvenient Child
Growing up as a child is never easy, growing up as a child without any sense of connection to the world around you even more so. This was my reality, my take on the world around me growing up. I always knew I was adopted and roughly knowing what that meant and for the most part I was ok with it. I was raised by good people, my adopted father was a carpenter and adopted mother a school teacher. I almost never went without and there was never any drink or other substance abuse or any kind of violence of any kind. Sometimes I wished something would be wrong if only to add (what I saw at the time) some colour to my life. Affection was never a commodity that we ever had in stock. There was never any physical signs or even verbal approval or confirmation of affection given or received. I soon learned to keep such feelings to myself and never let them show.
Children can be cruel, everyone knows this and I have no doubt you yourself reading this will have experienced or participated in some less than charming endeavours when you too were growing up. At the age of 7 I knew I was different than the others. I looked around and saw how easily they could make friends or join in with others. This was something that would always elude me even to this day. It was something I just couldn't understand the mechanics of. Such a strange and wonderful thing forever destined to be out of reach. School work was also something I struggled with. Maths and spelling just didn't happen for me and the other children being children, never let an opportunity pass to remind me how different and own I was.
This would from this point on become a constant ritual and I soon resigned myself to its rollercoaster ride. I often found myself eating alone and being my myself as often as possible if only to stave the attacks for a short while. But the children being the darlings they were would perform new and interesting rituals each day. One such common favourite was to wait till I approached and then mutter a pleasantry on mass and then walk away. Or chants and volleys of abuse were also fun. Even at school events, scout events my own father would refuse to go where all my other friends fathers would attend. This in my own opinion even back then, a not so subtle hint or glimpse into my adopted father's true feelings towards me.
I believed at this point that I was broken. That something was truly wrong with me. At 14 they told me I was dyslexic. Bit late for that as even my teachers had no time for the odd and slow child. I was also called lazy by some teachers. I truly believed that I was given up for adoption because of this. That my parents didn't want a “broken” child and sought to replace me with a better one.
My the ages of 13 - 15 I really just wanted to die. I saw nothing in my life to even allude that there was anything to live for.
Life at home was repetitive. Life in general tends to be patterns of routines of one form or another. My routine was to be ignored by my father and torn down at every opportunity. My adopted brother was the favourite one. Made friends easily and did sports and would even go on to be a carpenter like our adopted father. My mother was a teacher and would live in a bubble where people did what they were told and I was just lazy.
To this day I have only ever had a hug from my father once but never acknowledgement of being proud or that he even feels anything for me.
From here I left school and went into the building industry, partially to please my father. This desire to please people would be something of a repeating pattern that would feature heavily in my life. Something deep inside me would yearn to please people around me in some kind of attempt to gain recognition or approval. Ultimately it would lead to my constant undoing on numerous occasions in my life to come. Besides this issue comes the low self-esteem and zero sense of self worth. I constantly feel that I'm just not good enough for anything and that when something goes wrong it was probably my fault anyway. This has killed so many relationships and opportunities that I have lost count decades ago. As I have stated, I have always known I was adopted and the thought of brothers and sisters has crossed my mind many times, but whether for self esteem issues or an overriding fear of being rejected I never pushed the matter each time it cropped up.
Fast forward to December the 1st 2016. It’s a quiet day in the office and I get a message on facebook from my friend over in the USA saying that a woman claiming to be my sister has contacted her asking about me. Now my instant thought on all this was that this was a scammer and so I decided to play along as I was determined to catch this person out. So I got her details and sent the message. It took no time for her to get back to me and sure enough she started with the questions. But what she asked made little sense as it was things that anyone who knew me could answer. Things like:
when was I born?
where did I grow up?
am I adopted?
I answered them all politely but something in my mind was ringing an alarm bell. Something about this seemed like it wasn’t a scam but something else. Then the woman let out with “Oh my god I think I’m your sister!” - You can imagine the shock and surprise at this i’m sure. But also somehow it really didn’t seem that odd. She gave me her number and I called.
The voice on the phone was completely alien to me. Being Scottish myself you can imagine my surprise when I was greeted with an English accent! She confirmed my name, that is to say my real name when I was born. “James Barry Clark” As she uttered the words I had a flashback like you see on television shows of my adopted mother telling me this name. She sent copies of my birth certificate to me and the rest actually is a blur. As the days rolled on we talked and talked but somehow she was so familiar to me. This stranger, this person from nowhere. I knew her but I could not say how or why. From the 1st of december we have made a point to talk every day if only in passing. We shed tears and laughter as we got to know this other half of ourselves and the more I looked the more I saw myself looking back at me. In April of 2017 I flew to Bristol to go meet her for the first time. It felt like I was going home.
The final reveal
When I landed at the airport and Tracy came to meet me there was no huge outpouring of emotions, truth be known we’d already done that over the phone. This was really just confirmation that what we felt, the bond we had fed and grew between us was real and that nothing would break it ever again. Tracy and I spent the weekend I was down looking over court papers and going over the events that had shaped our lives. I was taken into care at 10 months old, Tracy being two years older could remember me and events that had happened to us. This was a gift I was spared as I was too young to remember anything. I felt like i was cheating her. I felt like I had let her down by not remembering her or anything about that time. She showed me pictures of our biological father and mother and I don’t know if there was a resemblance or if i just imagined it. I learned I was being violently shaken and my father “Billy” had openly screamed at my birth mother “Ella” that I was not his. Looking at our childhood pictures there was no argument about it. We were full blood siblings.
While we were only chatting on facebook I also learned that Ella met someone else and had two more children, naimly my half brother Garry and half sister Heather.
Why keep them and not me?
Why was I not good enough but they were?
The anger and hurt swelled within me and I could tell my sister felt the same but it had be different for her as she had lived with this for so long where I was just finding out about it. I found Ella was also on facebook and we got talking. It was strange, although there was no sign of a loving reunion like a Hollywood movie I also realised that she didn't need to be here for us. Indeed I have heard from so many other tracking their loved ones down only to be greeted with rejection. It’s hard to say what I even felt as emotions were all over the place.
As of writing this it has been six months and counting since I was found my sister Tracy. I have met my brother Gary and we talk on FB though he’s mainly busy with family and work and has little time to dedicate to meeting up but at least he’s still up for it. The first time we met up we could tell the other was looking for some sign of himself in the other. When we realised this we both laughed and it help to break the ice. I learned that both he and Heather had always known of me and Tracy and thought of us as the lucky ones as we got away.
This was something that would jar me. I never thought of this from another view point as I had until now only ever thought of this from my own selfish viewpoint. I now felt silly and embarrassed though I kept such feelings to myself.
Garry had a turbulent childhood when he was younger none of which i will go into here, before the meeting I had seen the award winning documentary he had filmed. This man before me was lucid, witty and had such a sparkle about him it’s like the documentary was an impersonator. He fought his way back and carved his own way on the world. I told him both Tracy and I were proud of him not for the films he makes or anything superficial like that but for the man he had become. I could see in his eyes and the look on his face that he was embarrassed about this and unsure on how to best react. But I felt it had to be said. Sitting before him I felt so inadequate almost like a fraud. I wanted to let him know had I known of him, of the struggles he had gone though I would have been by his side. I would have helped him and done something. But I could not find the words perhaps one day. My sister Heather was next to meet up with me. Such a delightful person I was so lifted by her. She shared some of her troubles and stories that I will not tell here. Again I found myself filled with feelings of inadequacy and regret that I was not around to help, protect her from this. I had a sorrow and regret that I was not around to protect or look after any of my siblings, Tracy included. Heather has since decided not to speak to me. I don’t know why or what I could do to change this but I must respect her wishes and just be here for when or if she comes around.
I also met up with my birth mother earlier in 2017 also. On the lead up to this I has so many questions and so many conflicting feelings. The anger I had held and that had fueled me for so long was still there in part but meeting my younger brother and hearing his story and his views on life had quenched most of it. My sister Tracy had also answered most of the questions that I had that needed answering. When I visited just reading the black and white court papers and the testimonies from medical people hit hard.
But like my brother said, I can’t go back and change things nor will it make it better so holding onto the past (especially one like mine) will only hurt and destroy any chance I have of a future. Both my sister and I are still in pain in many ways and now we have each other we can turn to the other when we need to. We understand what was have had done to us, and we alone understand the pain and damage that was inflicted. We won’t ever judge each other only love and support.
When I met Ella, my birth mother in Edinburgh I was nervous in a way I had not experienced before. When I first seen her I instantly seen something of myself in her especially the hair and eyes. She told me her part of my past, the hows and why were all difference but the outcome would be the same. She looked at me in disbelief and told me of how nervous she was and didn’t know what she was going to say to me. I told her we could only live in the present and nothing will change the past. She talked briefly about my half brothers and sisters, I got the impression she held back, not sure why I put it down to nerves and not wanting to give too much into all at once. All the while she talked I just kept thinking about her. This woman before me gave birth to me, she was also the one who was to look after me, to love me, to keep me safe. Yet she did not. I wanted to feel anger to not like her. All I saw was a woman who was filled with regret and wasn’t happy and was trying to live with what had been. No I could not bring myself to hate her. Or to like her. I tried to tell myself it was because she meant nothing to me, or that I was the better person. I think deep down inside I just didn’t have it in me to like or hate her. Truth is I was numb. I thought I had prepared for this moment but frankly i don’t think anything could. She had come into my life and as quickly as she had entered she left. I’ll keep in contact with her but I’m still fighting my feelings and still don’t know what if anything I still feel. I can’t deny I do have some kind of connection to her. And more to the point she’s willing to connect with me. In a message just last night/early morning (19/6/17) she signed off with “Love you” THIS really surprised me and made me realise that I have been given a chance to get to know the woman who gave birth to me. And I would be stupid to throw it away like a childish tantrum.
While I was with Tracy we went over the effects of adoption and what tracy and I went through. Seems we both have varying degrees of separation anxiety, this makes sense. I was pretty much left to my own devices growing up and passed from relative to family friend. It is unknown if I was abused by them but one can imagine. When I was put into care I was 10 months old but I was not actually adopted until I was 2 years old. When the I was in foster care with a family called the bathgates I was found to be “Mentally undeveloped” so by this I guess I was shoved in a corner of the room and forgotten about most of the time.
Everyone leaves and people move on. It’s the way of things and a simple fact of life. But if you add separation anxiety, into the mix then you have a whole different affair altogether. People moving on becomes an act of betrayal, another knife in the back that you have experienced your whole life one after the other. You become so bitter and suspicious of everyone you end up being utterly distrustful and lashing out at the wrong times. Such an example of this could be, I sent a txt to Tracy and got no answer. I sent another still no answer. After the third I decided she must have had enough of me and that she too like so many before her like my mother and father, had decided to ignore me because i just wasn’t worth it. The whole agony of rejection and loss fills my brain and my natural defence mechanism is to lash out. - But no she had simply fell asleep on the sofa, but in my state of mind I had jumped to an already painfully familiar conclusion. From time to time we both exhibit similar behavioural traits, fears and behaviors. But the one thing I know for sure is no matter what happens, whatever unfolds I know she will be there for me, and even now as I write this we have comforted each other and helped the other through some dark moments.
During this time to now some Clark family member did indeed come forward but for such a large family I feel little or no effort was ever made to welcome either Tracy or myself back to the family fold. Now perhaps I have unrealistic ideas of family? But if this was my family I would be making a point if showing them I cared and that they were welcome.
My father's brother Andrew and his wife Ruth friended me on Facebook but refused to talk or acknowledge anything I sent. So saddened by this I removed them both and just continued as normal. Then some time after I got another request and in a state of annoyance I sent the following message to him.
Another friend request?
You never interacted with me after the last one and I honestly don't know why.
I'm not my "father" neither me nor my sister are responsible for anything he did or said yet I feel like we're the ones being punished?
I never asked to be neglected, I never asked to be taken into care. And I most certainly never asked to be separated from my sister.
Think it over and once you have THEN get back to me if you're still interested.
I don’t know if I was out of line here, or if I struck a nerve. But they did indeed start talking to me since this and even gave me a copy of the family tree and introduced me to my cousin Ruth too. We’ve spoken a few times and she sounds so lovely and such a happy upbeat person. I did also get to meet her and she was so nice, warm and welcoming. And to think i’m genetically related to her? It makes me feel so happy.
So here we are in June at the time of writing this.It marks the turn of seven months since Tracy entered my life. I now thanks to Tracy, no longer feel rudderless and disconnected. I feel a sense of who I am and where I came from. I can’t repay her for the 16 years she spent looking for me. Nor will I ever be able to put into words how much she means to me and how much I love, or how proud I am of my big sister. Perhaps one day? Until then I will keep reminding her that her days of being alone are over. She has me by her side whatever life throws at her she will always have her baby brother by her side to love and protect her. I will always catch her when she falls, and I will re build her confidence and help her fly once more. This I promise no matter what the personal cost to myself.
On sunday the 25th of June 2017 I met my birth mother for the second time. As i previously stated I have tried to release any resentment and turmoil connected to my life and be open to her as a person, and as my mother. No she did not raise me but i also have to face up to the fact that however it happened what ever actually happened she lost her two babies and had to live her life not knowing if we were alive or if we were alright. I took a trip to her house that is not too far from my own. Arriving at 14:00 I stayed till 16:35 and the whole time it felt like a normal trip to my mum. (Which mum?) I had decided to allow myself to get to know her and if she was willing call her mother. She will never replace my “Real” mum, that is the woman who adopted, raised, and provided for me all my life. But she is and always has been my mother.
Upon leaving her house i hugged and said “See you later mum” she staggered back momentarily and looked shocked at me. For a brief second I thought I had over stepped the mark and for a brief moment believed I recognized a look of disapproval. But I was mistaken. “Mum?” she enquired. To which I replied “Well….you gave birth to me, that makes you my mum yes?” She said “I am you mum, yes! Just sounds strange coming from you.” I smiled and have called her mum in messages. It feels good so far to connect like this. And I have even said i do want to get to know each other further.
Time will tell.