h1

October 3rd, 2012

July 7, 2014

This was the day that changed my life forever. It was like scoring the overtime goal that results in winning the Stanley Cup. It was the day that after 5 1/2 years of agony that I received my non-id information. It did not come without the toughest fight of my life. I was entitled to, but never received my non-id under the reign of DSS director Ms. Hill. For nearly 6-years I called, wrote, faxed… did all I could to enable their office to send me whatever scraps of information their files might have on me. Assuring me that I would receive it “soon” it was not until late September 2012 that I discovered the retirement of the DSS chief. I got angry. Using my rage positively I got busy. In a few days this resulted in my non-id.

When it arrived it did not seem real, but weird like a dream with no purpose. I couldn’t make myself open it at first. All I could do was stare at the package. It had been withheld from me for so long that I actually was unable to recognize that it was finally mine. In an instant I ripped it completely open. The contents were more than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams.

Advertisements
h1

My Long Overdue Tuneup: Winter 2012-Summer 2014

July 7, 2014

My last major update was 3 months after major surgery on my spinal cord/column. It has been 3-years since then, and there has not been much more to report on. One month ago I passed the three-year-mark for physical therapy treatments. I still have issues balancing without falling over and I have developed weakness in my leg muscles. I am taking this summer off from P.T. in the interest of saving money and spending more time outside on the yard and garden.

Winter 2012 sucked. I was jobless without benefits. If it hadn’t been for tutoring we would have frozen and starved. I was then, and still am today, embittered over how the brain trust of St. Agnes School kicked me to the curb during our greatest time of need. 26-years of dedicated service as a teacher flushed down the shitter with the wink of an eye. I never did receive the back-pay I was entitled to. The loss of my income from that school dug a hole for me financially that I am still climbing out of. I was a complete sucker for the 26 years I taught in Catholic Schools.

SUMMER 2012 had its ups and downs. The ups in sequential order are:

1) June 22, 2012 – Joining my friends John, Kara, and the members of RIARG for the cookout to celebrate the passage of their bill into law restoring adoptee access to their OBC’s. It was a wicked good weekend!

2) July 20th, 2012 – Photographing my friend Lori’s wedding.

3) August 6th, 2012 – The ARC Protest in Chicago. Seeing familiar friends while also meeting new ones was the best thing to have happened to me in two years. It was a great trip and a great rally.

The downs:

1) July 16th, 2012 – The loss of our pet bunny, Jewel.

2) July 20th, 2012 – Following one-week later – the loss of my adoptive mom.

My older sister couldn’t be more guilty of killing her if she had she our mom herself.mMy sister had minor neck surgery. To make life easier on herself she sent our mom to our brothers in southern Ohio. I was against it from the start. We offered to take care of her, and make the 2-hour drive to bring her meals and do her laundry every other day. Mom refused. “Cindy says I have to do this, and it will make her happy” was the explanation she gave me each day on the phone. She left for the 10-hour drive on Friday morning. Saturday evening we were coming home from Lori’s wedding when we got the call that mom had been hospitalized. She was severely dehydrated and had stones blocking her pancreas. They were hydrating her and trying to get her blood pressure up so they could do surgery. It didn’t work and she died at 1:00 PM that Monday afternoon.

My sister, who was executor of our parents estate, seized the opportunity to block me out of the estate settlement. She went the whole distance, and was refusing to have a memorial service for mom. I went behind her back, and planned one with our mom’s church anyhow. There was backlash: I wasn’t allowed in our parents house to gather photographs for a slide show without having my sister and her husband standing directly over me. The entire time they bitched about how they had to watch me. *SIGH*

August 25th, 2012 – Mom’s memorial service. It was a hard fought battle that I won. It was short, not many people in attendance, but still it happened! After a brief graveside service, those in attendance reconvened at mom’s church for lunch. Prior to the luncheon was a 10-minute slide show. I had to use my “teacher voice” to get a small crowd of my sister’s rowdy ex-drinking buddies to shut their big mouths for the prayer and slideshow.

There was immediate pay back. Following the luncheon was the clearing out of mom’s house. My sister and her friends got first pick of everything mom had that was of any value. I had to fight to receive back only what I had given her over the years. In a way I’m glad it went that way. After the betrayal of my late discovery adoption I felt completely detached from my family. I left the only family I had ever known with as much as I came into this world with: nothing.

I ignored the phone every time caller ID showed it was my sister. She typically called only to tell me she was having trouble selling the house. No shit, it was a dump – even by Gowanda standards. Ironically the final sale price of the house was the exact same cost my parents paid for it in 1975.

I was excited to get my 1/3 of the estate. It was only a couple of thousand bucks. However, it was much needed considering my joblessness. I was able to fix up a few things around the house. The remainder went into numerous car repairs in 2013.

I would like to invite anyone who is interested to view the slide show I created in memory of mom’s life:

h1

10 years ago, where were you?

September 7, 2011

Earlier today my good friend Lorraine Dusky asked through a post, “Where were you when you first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center?” I was still teaching art at All Saints Jr. High in Rochester, and 2 days a week I was their computer teacher. I got an email from my wife just before 9:00AM that simply said, “Did you hear about the World Trade Center?”

Of course I hadn’t, and I couldn’t find out anything more as the internet had become overrun and was shut down by traffic. Eventually I got CNN to load, and saw the first tower smoking badly in a photo.

I was the first in our school to hear about the attacks. I printed off the main page of CNN’s site and sent one of my students to the office with it. He had no idea what it was until his return; then I shared it with the kids. On the top of the print out in pen I had written, “Bill, we’re going to need to talk to the kids about this ASAP!” Bill was our principal, and a really good friend of mine.

As I addressed the kids, I told them that I could only share what I knew, and that they would know as much as me or anyone else for that matter. The first thing I heard one of them say was “cool.” Apparently the look on my face was enough to show I wasn’t in the mood, and the kid immediately showed remorse. First the other kids glared at the wise-ass, and then looked at me for more information.

They each knew it was bad. Ironically, one of the kids from that class currently works with my wife. Not too long ago we bumped into each other at Panera Bread, and started talking about 9/11/2001. She reveled to me that back in 8th grade she and the others knew by the look on my face that something monumental had occurred, and that life was no longer ever going to be the same.

Our staff pulled together an impromptu assembly, and our religion teacher Sr. Karlien pulled off an amazing, and heart felt explanation of the days events. The following Friday we were to have the annual tug-of-war competition between homerooms. The thought of it made me sick to my stomach. I remember throwing up a little at the sink in my classroom. As one of two organizers for the Tug-Of-War, I repeatedly thought, “How in the Hell can I condone an act of war by leading school children against each other only three days following the worst nightmare of the new millennium?” I’ll never forget trembling at work, the onset of a panic attack, trying to teach an art class on 9/12/2001 while trying to sort this out.

I went to Sr. Karlien after lunch that day. I told her what I was feeling, and how I simply was going to refuse to be a part of that stupid tug-of-war event. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and trying far too hard not to burst into tears as I shared each of my thoughts with my long time friend and coworker. My thoughts in turn hit her like a ton of rocks as well. It made sense; “Why in the world would we ever want to have a game between our kids that glorified war?” Together after school we spoke to our principal, who was also deeply moved by my thoughts and on board with my feelings and dilemma.

Somehow, someone came up with the idea to plant a memorial garden rather than have a war between homerooms. We each took a few students that following Friday, and planted hundreds (if not thousands) of tulip bulbs on the grounds surrounding the school. Parents, students, families, and retailers each chipped in with bulb donations. The center piece of the planting was a 16 foot wide peace symbol around the flag pole by the front doors of our school.

It always gets me very emotional, mostly choked up when I recall it. Our little school turned a negative into a positive that afternoon. For the longest time after that day, I felt guilty. I couldn’t talk about it. At first I felt bad for causing that damned tug-of-war tradition to be abandoned. The kids always seemed to like it. Then I felt guilty for my part in forcing everyone else in the school to have to run around on this bulb project. Finally, I felt horrible in the end when Channel 10 News of Rochester caught wind of our memorial, and included us during the 6PM report.

I felt lower than whale shit that the local news covered our bulb planting. I was so ashamed that our little event was to become cannon fodder for the media. I hated that a media circus could sprout from this. I couldn’t live with myself out of guilt and shame. We didn’t organize this for attention, glory, reward, or for any other reason than to memorialize the victims of those horrible attacks, and to instill a strong sense of empathy into each student.

Many years later, after the discovery of my adoption in 2007, I began meeting with a therapist. My plate had certainly been full of issues over the past decade, and then some. I had choked down this story of 9/11, and my role in it. My shrink pointed out something to me. She told me that the media wasn’t there to showcase our kids nearly as much as they were serving the purpose to give viewers a tiny glimmer of hope in the face of the worst tragedy of our time.

That’s how I try to remember it, now. In 2006 or 2007 the school was shut-down and now no longer exists. The hallways and classrooms sit empty, the peace symbol bulldozed to make room for a building expansion. However, a couple of years ago I happened past the old school in Springtime and was delighted that a number of our tulips continue to sprout and bloom. Isn’t it cool that 10 years later we still have at least that much?

h1

“Rejection vs. Acceptance” or otherwise known as “Life Sucks if You’re a Late-Discovery-Adoptee”

September 1, 2011

In the four+ years since the revelation of my adoption, I’ve been much more in touch with feelings of abandonment, rejection, and yet acceptance. For those of you who have followed, or are aware of my story, you know the many emotions I’ve had to deal with since the day of my adoption discovery. Many of you who are my fellow-adoptees instantly nod in complete understanding whenever words like “Denied, Rejected, Abandoned, or Accepted are mentioned. I have been no exception to this trend.

Recently I have experienced yet another life-changing event. In March of 2011 I received the worse physical pain that I have ever known as a result of spinal cord trauma. In specific, I experienced “Cauda Equina Syndrome” as a result of designing, constructing, and painting stage scenery for a local high school drama club. My spinal cord had become compressed, and was over 70% cut off from the nerves leading to my lower body. I faced the very real potential of never walking again.

“How in the world did this happen, Jeff?” has been the most commonly asked question. The answer is complicated, but I will do my best to explain.

Working for theater and drama club types of people is an entirely different environment than, let’s say, lumber-jacking. In a lumber camp, when one man goes down with an injury the others tend to jump in and be supportive. In contrast, when you are severely injured working for a small-town drama club, you’re fucked. In exchange for the show “having to go on” this late-discovery-adoptee came within a micron or two of spending the remainder of his life wheelchair bound.

As much as I pleaded for volunteers, only 3 people rose to the call. Two of these three wonderful people were unable to assist until the final dis-assembly of the scenery. Working against me were the club directors and producers. To fulfill their own hidden agenda and selfishness, scheduling preempted me from having my usual crew of workers. While my crew was always there for me, the directors forbid me from accessing them. In addition, they specifically demanded that I no longer use them at all, but rather cast them aside. They had selfishly hidden motives that I only learned of from past volunteers during the weeks following my operation. Several families who used to volunteer for me apologized to me for not being there for me this time. It’s due to them not being able to tolerate the “Directors Team” or “Power of Three.” At least it had nothing to do with me personally.

Four times I reconstructed the stage setting to the harsh review of the “Directors Team” (a title the theater threesome gave themselves). I did this entirely alone working 14-15 hours daily through the months of February/March 2011. The physical pain was insufferable; my requests for assistance ignored. I was told, “It’s your problem, handle it.”

Anger, frustration, and overwhelming emotions of many types now prevent me from elaborating on any further detail of the events leading up to my pain. Sorry, there’s no story more disappointing than one that skips from chapter 4 to chapter 9.  I’m not ready to share that yet; it’s too soon. The wound is too fresh.

The pain I had was the most severe I have ever experienced. I couldn’t go into work anymore, and eventually lost my other jobs. For three weeks I tried everything from pain killers, TENS units, massage, chiropractic care, patches, and sedatives. Nothing relieved the pain. Nothing relieved the convulsions, either. The only way I can explain these convulsions is to encourage you to imagine someone taking long, flaming hot shards of broken glass and ramming them downward from the top of your hips all the way down to your toes. Imagine this happening randomly throughout the day, yet quadruple occurrences and pain throughout the night.

It’s 6 months post-injury as I write this. I’m extremely bitter, angry, enraged, and rejected in my feelings. Mysteriously, these feelings do not extend to my fellow adoptees and the moms who created us. I’m pissed at the ungrateful “Directors Team” in ways that I know are not healthy for me. Still, I cannot help myself. I want little more than to show each of them personally what having a spinal cord injury is like!

Then there’s the experience with my other paid jobs. Being an hourly tutor at Monroe Community College, I had to forfeit my pay when pain prevented me from going in to work. However, my permanent employment as an art teacher for St. Agnes School and the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NY likewise took a hit. Upon my very first sick day due to this severe pain, I was demoted from a salaried, part-time position of which I held for 23 years, to hourly. All of my personal days and sick time were rescinded on-the-spot. They took for themselves not only my accrued sick pay (over 60 days worth) but selfishly grabbed every dime of  pay I had deducted for our summer living expenses.

Then matters got worse. I learned that my teaching position was to be completely eliminated at St. Agnes School. A 24-year-long career ended “just like that.” No thanks, no severance package, no back-pay, no “anything.”

I’ve come to regret ever believing that teaching and working with children is rewarding. Sure, you get the “warm-fuzzies” and admiration of kids. Overshadowing this, however, is the back-stabbing, low-ball, deceitful, dishonest, fraudulent, conniving, cheating, devious, lying, and just plain fucked-up adults with egos and selfish ambitions who stop at absolutely nothing to have their way in life.

Due to these recently “former” employers, our family has suffered in ways that no family should ever need to suffer. It’s been months since my last paycheck. My personal savings was extinguished within the first month of post-surgical rehabilitation. Physical Therapy alone cost me over $200.00 monthly.

We’ve had to do without such luxuries as natural gas, electric, phone, cable, internet, healthy groceries, prescription medications, needed car repairs, physical, occupational, and psychological therapy, car registrations, car insurance, school supplies, footwear, home repairs, family day trips, along with many, many others.

Our family car was repossessed with only three remaining payments and our home foreclosed upon. As much as it has sucked doing without, it’s nothing new. It’s been the story of my life. Those who know me well likewise know it’s true. However, the most devastating of all our recent sacrifices was not being able to attend the Adoptee Rights Protest in San Antonio, Texas. If I need to walk to Chicago in 2012, and sleep in a cardboard box behind the convention center, I’ll do it if it means being with my adoption peeps.

My adoptee friends and the moms who created us are more than just friends. They are an extension of me.  They understand me. They empathize with me. They know rejection. They know pain. En massed together we are like one being. As corny as it is; they “complete me.”

During the weeks prior to my emergency surgery, I felt a kind of pain I’d never experienced before. Optimistically I believed it would go away as had previous experiences with back and leg pain. I was clearly wrong. Though I had received minor surgery for wisdom teeth, a severed finger, and carpel tunnel release, I’d never been hospitalized before this. I sheepishly admit it was a scare.

As I lay on the operating table waiting for my back to be cracked open, my neurosurgeon asked me, “Does Back Pain, Spina-Bifida, Scoliosis, Sciatica, or any other spinal conditions run in your family?” I laid there for a minute trying to think of what to say. The best I could do was say, “I’m Adopted.” His face lost all expression as he explained my condition. “There are two forms of Stenosis; the kind that happens from old age, and the genetic kind.” I have the genetic kind.

There was plenty of time for me to contemplate my life as I lay in that recovery ward for 7 days. Perhaps I thought too much? I got into a terrible funk, and was hit by trauma both emotionally and physically. Not having medical history left me feeling totally hollow inside. For the second time in my life, I felt as though I didn’t have a soul. The first time was Easter 2007 in the days following my late-discovery-adoptee experience.

During my third week in the physical rehabilitation wing I received countless phone calls, text messages, and visits from some wonderful friends in the adoption community. Two calls in particular completely overwhelmed me with emotion. Edgar Carlstrom and Christine Paugh simultaneously called me at the hospital and Mary Anne at home to tell us they created a Facebook page for the purpose of soliciting donations for my medical costs.

Just as there were no words to describe the horrible pain I had before surgery; there are no words that I can speak of to describe the wave of emotions this act of  love brought into me. It was emotionally very overwhelming for me.

Over the past several years I’ve had one trauma after another. Likewise, what happens to me also flows downhill into my wife and kids. It’s been rough around here for a long time. The emotional trauma of Late-Discovery and the feelings of betrayal towards my adoptive family for a lifetime of lies are etched deeply in my mind. The cause of my spinal pain was likewise created by the betrayal I experienced from the directors I was building sets for. Then the final betrayal of my primary employer rescinding my paid sick-time and demoting me to hourly status was the worse kick to the crotch. I had become accustomed to only the worse things happening to our little family.

I rarely ever display emotions; it’s one of my greatest weaknesses. Neither of our kids has ever seen me cry. However, after I got off the phone with Edge, and then Chris immediately after, I got choked up. You see, it’s the very first time I have ever felt valued and loved. This hit me like a tidal wave, and I cried harder than I have ever cried before. It was a weird kind of tear; it was spurred by love and joy rather than sorrow. The only other times I’d ever had a tear or two of joy were when the Bills got into the 1991 Superbowl, the birth of our two sons, and when the Sabres entered the 1999 finals and later again when they were purchased and saved by Tom Golisano.

Consciously, I’ve been avoiding writing this blog. I cannot begin to write or say the proper words that define the acceptance I feel from my adoption community. I think about each of you everyday and how much your thoughtfulness has meant as well as helped out. Truthfully, over the past several weeks I’ve been trying to avoid triggering such an intense wave of emotion again; it’s really hard for me to admit and to deal with, especially in the shadow of so many bad experiences.

With this being the last day of summer vacation 2011, I am filled with remorse. I regret all that I’ve been physically unable to perform over these past many weeks. I regret that our family is without a dime, and that I have been unable to take our 6-year-old out for ice cream or a matinee. I’m sad that I can’t buy nice back-to-school clothes for him, either. I’m frustrated that in our yard sit two vehicles that are undriveable. The cost of repairs is far out of our reach, as are the costs to register and insure them.

I’m depressed that for the first time since 1969 the first-day-of-school doesn’t  in any way involve my participation. I regret ever trusting people in the non-adoption world. Specifically, I hate myself for trusting the directors of the Avon Central School Drama Club, the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, and the many others who have taken advantage of my trust and good nature. Most of all I regret the hurt that my physical and emotional pain has placed on my wife and kids. Just as I’m denied by life, thus so are they.

Life has blindsided me since the day I was born. I’ve grown to hate life. Yet somehow I’ve managed to have a great wife, two good kids, and acceptance from those around me who have had to walk in the same toxic shoes I walk in. For those people I trust. They trust me, so it’s only fair.

One day I’d like to feel “normal” again – whatever “normal” is. I’d like to not have anesthesia related paralysis in my feet or amnesia to my short-term memory. I want our family to be able to rely on our vehicles for transportation, or know that if one of us becomes injured or sick we can access the therapy or medications we need. I’d like to eat healthy foods, and not the crappy, cheap generic starch-bombs we’ve had to gulp down for weeks now. I want our kids to know that we will always have our home, and with it working utilities.

I’d like to be the same as everyone else.

 

h1

Adopted Me: My Life as a Late-Discovery-Adoptee

September 1, 2011

Adopted Me: My Life as a Late-Discovery-Adoptee

By Jeff Hancock

I learned the truth just before I turned 42 years old: I was adopted. Over the years prior to my discovery, I had suspicions about being adopted. From my earliest memories as a young child, I had an instinctual feeling that I didn’t belong where I had somehow found myself to be. As a child, several times over the years I would purposefully open the door for my parents to break the news to me. However suspicious I felt, they were always very quick to deflect my inquiries toward another topic.

By the time I was to begin my senior year in college, I still felt the presence of that large white elephant always trailing behind me whenever I was in the company of my family. Sometimes it was a feeling of rejection or non-acceptance. There were times I felt ashamed to be around my extended family, as I never once felt as though I fit in with any of them. This feeling I have had throughout my entire life is defined as “the primal wound” [Verrier, 1993].

In her book by the same title, Nancy Verrier defines the primal wound asthe trauma each adoptee is burdened with that begins as a newborn infant, and continues throughout our lives. Every child who is separated from his or her biological mother will experience abandonment and loss.”  By the summer before my senior year in college, I was ready to shed away my white elephant, and directly find out once and for all if I were indeed adopted.

There was a lifetime of evidence to support my adoption conspiracy theory:  the kids at school, on the bus, and at church who teased, bullied, and called me “foster child”; the lack of a quilt from my paternal grandmother (she hand made one for each of her grandchildren except me); my exclusion from the Hancock family bible (a book over 200 years old with detailed names and relations); and finally, a faded Polaroid snapshot that said, Jeff, our foster child on the back.

Though it occurred during the summer of 1986, I remember it as though it were last week. I called home and I asked my mother directly, “Am I adopted?” Optimistically, I was expecting to hear a simple “yes” or “no” response. I was quite stunned at her reply, “Why, of course you’re our son!” Then Dad took the phone. He told me that I should speak to a pastor or a shrink because I had “gone off the deep end.” Both parents made it clear to me that I was their son and that I never should bring this up again as I had hurt them very much by questioning our relationship.

I immediately felt guilty for bringing up the matter. I hated myself for having upset them, especially Dad. He had a long history of heart disease, and I grew up with the daily reminder from my parents and sister that he “could die at any moment.” At the same time I was hurting from their criticisms. No part of this conversation made sense to me. I still felt adopted and even more rejected, unwanted, and unworthy than before.

Dad passed away from leukemia in 1990. He wanted for me to never know I was adopted. He told my family that he never wanted me to feel rejected for having been adopted.  (Knowing Dad, I now believe that he feared I would reject him as my father.) I remember being annoyed with my mom when she refused an autopsy following his death. My wife was six months pregnant with our first child, and I was scared that there might be something genetic in association with my father’s leukemia. I kept explaining to her why I needed to know the exact cause. Mom kept brushing it off. Now I understand why it didn’t matter.

My parents were blind to how other family members never accepted me. My mother and other family members continued to allow me to live the lie until late March, 2007.

In late 2006 there was much talk in Western New York State regarding an upcoming requirement that all US citizens travelling to Ontario, Canada would need to provide a US Passport. Entering Canada was a common practice for us. We have several college friends along the Niagara Peninsula, and we visited many times a year. I wanted to be the first to obtain my passport.

Quickly, I began asking my mother to supply me with my birth certificate, a document I’d never had in my possession. Each time I asked her to dig it out and send it to me, I was met with various excuses as to why she couldn’t find it. After several weeks I grew weary of asking her until I delivered my only other recourse: to pay New York State for a new copy. Once Mom realized that one way or another I was going to own my birth certificate, she was very quick to spill the beans and provide me with all the adoption related paperwork she had in her possession.

What Mom gave me wasn’t a birth certificate at all; it was a Certificate of Live Birth, otherwise known as an Amended Birth Certificate. Amended birth certificates vary in information they contain. The information on mine was sparse. An Original Birth Certificate (sometimes referred to as an “OBC”) contains a wealth of knowledge in comparison. This information may include the person’s weight and length at birth, parents’ names, hospital, physician, time of birth, a hand or finger print of the infant, religious faith, ethnicity, and in some cases the birth place of the parents.

In stark contrast, the amended birth certificate typically states the person’s adopted name, date of birth, the names of the adoptive parents, city and state of birth, and a raised state seal. The purpose of an original birth certificate is to certify that you were born into a specific family, faith, heritage, and ethnicity. The amended birth certificate is the only version that adoptees in New York State have a legal right to.  It states only that a person was born, and it lists the adopted parents as though they are in fact the person’s biological parents.

Ironically, had I simply gone beyond requesting my mother’s paperwork, and applied directly to the New York State Department of Vital Records, I’d have received an amended birth certificate with my adopted family listed as my birth family. Never would I have discovered my adoption.

After my discovery, and obtaining my state-censored birth certificate, I began my US passport application process. I was shocked at what I went on to learn. Passport requirements include submitting a certified birth certificate as proof of American citizenship. This birth certificate has to have been filed within a year of the person’s birth.   But my birth certificate – the amended version that the state will give me – was not filed until I was four years old.  Why?  Read on.

Before my parents adopted me, I was in their care as a foster child. Though I was born on April 18th, 1965, the only birth certificate I have access to (the amended version) was not filed until after my adoption on February 27th, 1969. Because the only acceptable birth certificate for passport application had to have been filed within a year of my birth, my application was rejected; my birth certificate was filed four years after my birth, when my adoption was finalized.

It is worth noting that In New York State, a foster child could forever remain in foster care until he or she becomes an adult at the age of 18. During those 18 years the original birth certificate is never sealed. However, once a child is adopted from foster care, whether that age is six weeks, six months, or sixteen years, the original birth certificate becomes sealed forever, with legal access only to the amended version.

Please try to imagine my frustration.  First my family denied me of the truth for nearly 42 years. Following this, I learned that my country is denying me issuance of a US passport. Finally, my lifelong state of residence, New York, continues to deny me access to the one and only item that stewards my very identity.

Beyond the aforementioned denials, I am also denied my non-identifying information as well.  “Non-ID,” as it is commonly called, is information that a social worker culls from adoption records to provide the adult adoptee information on his or her background, circumstances of birth, and so on, but stripped of any details that could allow that person to identify his parentage.

Through the New York State Department of Vital Records I was informed that the agency responsible for my foster care placement would furnish me with a report of my non-identifying personal information within four to six weeks. After many years of hoping for my information, I have recently given up of ever receiving it. Several times I have spoken with the current director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services, and each time I receive a sympathetic explanation from her.

The absence of information about my life is due to a decades-old lack of structure to their archive storage practice. None of their foster care or adoption files are in any specific order. To complicate matters even further, the caseworker responsible for our records in the 1960s never noted dates, locations, employment information of the families, or any sibling information.

To carry things to the next step, that caseworker also assigned aliases to each child, and possibly to some foster/adoptive families. Though there are thousands of files in the archives, it is virtually impossible for today’s caseworkers to find a paper trail to follow to the information they are seeking for me now.

The only other source of potential non-identifying information lies within the vaults of the Cattaraugus County Family Court system. While New York State has kindly provided forms that enable adult adoptees to petition their prior Family Court for a copy of their “Original Order of Adoption” to my awareness not a single Family Court Judge has honored a single request. In my own experience, I continually petition regardless of each previous denial. There are only two family Court judges in Cattaraugus County; neither is willing to grant my request.

In a letter included with a recently denied petition, Hon. Michael Nenno suggested that if I really must know my personal information, I should consider hiring a private investigator. Beyond my familiar feelings of rejection, this incident angered me. Why should I have to spend a minimum of $2,500.00 to hire someone to gather information for me that my state and county governments can easily give to me, should they choose to do so? In my most recent petition to Justice Nenno’s court, I suggested that he and his staff do what other family court justices do, and that is to simply photocopy the files, and white-out any identifying information. Many months have now passed with no reply.  Next time I petition I will offer to pay the standard 15-cent-per-page photocopy fee. Perhaps that will finally sway him.

Not knowing the information on my birth certificate is like reading a book that has chapter one ripped out of it.  For much of my life I thought I had chapter one, but now I have to read my life all over again, but starting with the second chapter.  I want my first chapter,  just like everyone else.

It is for these very principles that in 2008 I became involved in the Adoptee Rights Movement. As a Late-Discovery Adoptee, I believe that my story is unique. Sadly, it is also representative of a bureaucratic sector of our society that fails to serve the very people it was meant to support.

Since discovery I have had a million thoughts battle in my head. Sometimes I feel grief, as if someone has died, yet I don’t know who. It’s like attending a funeral for my own sense of self, an identity that never was. I get angry sometimes; other times I’m depressed. Part of me wishes I’d been adopted by someone else. Some days I wish I’d been aborted. I don’t feel I know who I am anymore. I am so different from everyone else in my family. I’m always wondering if there is anyone on earth who may be like me.

Everyone in my small hometown, my parents’ church, my family, and my school knew of my adoption except me. I feel betrayed and taken for granted. I’m a very different person post-discovery. I was happy with the person I was before my mom’s revelation. I have no explainable way to describe who I am sitting here now.

So many things make sense to me now; countless odd little experiences over the years that suddenly now appear crystal clear. One such memory from when I was ten years old. My sister had married an emotionally and physically abusive man. On more than one occasion while they were living with us in our parents’ home, he referred to me as “the living abortion.” Even this sorry excuse of a human being was privy to my personal adoption story – 30 years before that story was shared with me.

As time continues to pass, I occasionally remember more details from my childhood. I now understand comments made to me by bullies at school and on the bus so many years ago. The many remarks, innuendos, and peculiar things spoken to me, or overheard at church, family picnics, and around town seemed odd then. Today I see why I was never accepted or included in family plans, invited to join clubs or groups at school, and avoided at church.

Because of my late discovery, I now fully understand the phrase “life-changing event.” I haven’t been able to describe just *who* I am anymore. I have only two known blood relatives: our sons. I fear for their futures not having the privilege of knowing half of their heritage or family medical history.

The most positive experience that I’ve had since my discovery has been knowing the countless other adoptees and first-families I have met through the Adoptee Rights Protest, the NYS lobby team, adoptee Facebook users, first-family members and adoptees who attend my monthly support group meetings, and several members of various state legislatures who agree with our cause and who labor to restore our right to access our original birth certificates.

I currently volunteer as an activist for restoring adoptees’ access to our original birth certificates statewide with New York’s Unsealed Initiative Project and nationally with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Also, I am a volunteer facilitator of monthly support group meetings with the Hillside Agency’s Adoption Resource Network in Rochester, New York.

Like most Americans, I had no idea that we adoptees are denied our equal rights until after my story unfolded. We each deserve to know who we are, just as each non-adopted adult is allowed to know.

Work Cited

Verrier, Nancy (April 1993). The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. 1st Ed. Nancy Verrier Publisher.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State [online].

http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html  Retreived:August 21, 2011.

h1

Unknown – My 3 year update on being adopted

March 27, 2010

“UNKNOWN”

March 28, 2010 marks a rather unorthodox event for me. It’s the three-year anniversary of the day in 2007 when I learned I was adopted. I was 41 years old at the time. On that day I became unknown to myself. I became an adoptee who could no longer claim to know his heredity, family health history, ancestry, or much of anything else.

Those who know me best are aware that I’m not a traditional-style blogger. My last blog was nearly three years ago when I chose to share my adoption story. Now as I approach the three-year anniversary of my discovery, I feel the need to again put pen to paper.

Since my initial essay, not much has changed in my search for family; they and I are unknown. After three years of waiting I still have no non-ID information from the social service agency that placed me. My files cannot be located. I know of many adoptees who are told the same thing, though in my case I do happen to trust the person who is facilitating my records inquiry. While other adoptees have been told their records were destroyed in a fire, flood, famine, or clerical error, my facilitator admits to being totally overwhelmed by the high demands placed on her. She works alone, managing the entire DSS for all current placements. She handles every home visit, foster parent interview, PINS case, and court appearance alone. Occasionally if she can schedule 30 to 60 minutes of open time, she searches for my records. The records are not archived, but rather stored in piles on the floor. Some of these files have not been seen or touched by human contact in over 50 years. Essentially I am still at the mercy of the original case worker from the 1960s: her lack of ethics and her incompetence.

My records, along with many others, were corrupted back in the 1960s. Case workers at that time swept over every footprint that our past intended to leave behind. Aliases were assigned to each party involved in the foster care and adoption procedure. Aliases were also given to bastards and first families alike. Birthdays were not recorded. Rather than reporting that “Father worked as a machinist at the Schmidt Ball Bearing Factory” it may state “Father: Industrial.” Older adoptive siblings may be reported with no ages or genders assigned. They may also be reported “unknown.”

For lack of the ability to search, I’ve been more of a casual observer of the adoption process. Besides observing, I’ve become dedicated to our fight for legal change to the broken legislation process that 46 American states work under. I think this blog will be more about my observations than my work with the lobby. I’ve observed quite a bit, and I want to share these observations.

One observation from today: It’s very frustrating for me to now be approaching 45 years of age, and have no idea of who I am, why I’m here, where I come from, when the decision was made to give me away, and what of it all. Lately I have been more retrospective than looking to the future. I’ve been examining the gory little details surrounding my adoption and my eventual discovery of it.

Some thoughts I have on my adoptive family include the way I was referred to as a kid, though I did not pick up on the significance of it at the time. One example that never occurred to me in childhood was how my dad’s side of the family referred to me. Typically I was known only as “Herm’s boy.” I have no memory of anyone in dad’s family referring to me by name. I thought nothing of it 30 to 40 years ago. Now I’m thinking it meant that I was an acquired possession. I was owned by my parents; not nurtured, but the personal property of Herman Hancock. My paternal side of the family regarded me as property; a commodity that in theory could be returned or exchanged for another model. In reflection, I see them as tolerating me, but never accepting me.

In my first blog I cited how I was overlooked by my paternal grandmother in being granted the same perks my “cousins” received just for being related to her. How my name was conspicuously missing from the list of names in the “Hancock Family Bible,” how never had a quilt made for me by “Gram” as she did for all of my cousins, and how I sensed from a very early age that I fit in with none of them. Today those feelings of being ostracized, unaccepted, and ignored are stronger than ever. Many little incidents from many years ago now haunt me. How could I have been so naïve, unsuspicious, gullible, and easy to fleece? Why was I not smart enough to see it coming back then? I should have fought harder the times that I sought the truth from my parents.

Overwhelming evidence supported my theory, the hunch I always had that I was from another clan. Children on the school bus calling me “foster kid” were a fair indication that I *might* have been adopted. These were the same children whose mothers frequented the Hancock household as guests of my mom’s weekly tête-à-tête. In a simple get-together the darkest and deepest neighborhood secrets were divulged. How could any of them *not* know I was a foster placement considering how I *could* have been plucked away at any moment to become part of another clan? Accordingly, I now know that the entire gossip tribunal of Gowanda’s Broadway Road was well aware of “That Foster Kid” throughout my budding years. Again, why was I denied the truth by my own “flesh and blood” while creepy little shits on the bus got away with name calling, physical harassment, and old-school bullying? What sucks, too, is that I fought them and stood up for myself as being my parents’ son. After all, my parents would know the truth of whether I were their son or not, so why question what they told me?

Bullying and torment didn’t end at the bus stop. It continued in church and Sunday school. My parents intended to raise me to become a “God-fearing Free Methodist.” This faith was practiced on both sides of my family going way back to the Free Methodist indoctrination of 1866.

I practiced their faith like Hell for over 20 years before I resigned, hanging my head in shame. It was only recently that my mom divulged the teeny bit of truth that my first mom was Catholic. According to the case worker, my first mom wanted more than anything for me to be raised by a traditional Catholic family. How then did I land in the one Protestant denomination most geared towards Catholic intolerance? Free Methodism believes, among other things, that Catholics are idol worshipers. Instilled into each youngster forced into attending Sunday school at the Gowanda Free Methodist Church were fanciful facts nearly akin to “Catholics devour their young.” Like the cultish “children of the corn,” we must have surmised that was the reason why Catholics have such large families.

“Vindicated” is the best word to describe how I feel now knowing that I am indeed adopted, and not part of either the Hancock or the Gowanda Free Methodist tribes! Upon graduation from a Free Methodist college, I eventually went to work as a teacher for the Catholic Diocese. 23 years later, I still work for them. It feels right, at least the friendship parts. I’m not too keen on their doctrine with regard to the inequality offered to women leaders of that faith. I’m also not crazy about some corrupted priests are nothing more than pedophiles waiting to be caught, only to later receive the pope’s blessing and forgiveness. However, through well over two decades of employment in Catholic schools I have met countless friends, families, children, and coworkers who accept me for who I am. That is far, far more than I can ever say with regard to Free Methodism.

I had an insight a few months ago regarding an incident that occurred in 1990 while Dad fought for his life in the hospital. I traveled a few hours to my parents’ home on my day off to mow their yard. It had sat unattended for several weeks, and resembled more an untamed plain than the lawn I once played on. Somehow Dad’s sister, my aunt, knew I was there and drove over. While waving her cane at me, she screamed for me to shut off the mower. When I walked over to her, she continued screaming. Her comments were harsh. She berated my conduct as an adult. She called me names like “sinner” and “heretic.” Insinuations were directed at me for being “evil” because I had quit Free Methodism “and went to work for the Catholics.” She ended by telling me I was one of Gods’ worse sinners, and that it was even more sinful because I didn’t even know it. Now I know she meant that adoptees are indeed of the devil. (After all of these years I now understand why and where that “666” carved in my forehead came from!)

Here’s another observation, this one less spiritual in nature. My dad passed away from cancer in 1990. Prior to his death, dad had been ill for many years from a bad heart. From the time I was a child until his death in 1990, I was vigilant; I knew that dad could die at any minute. My sister (“the imp”) made it a priority to remind me of that every day for over 20 years. The day following his death I traveled first to the hospice in Buffalo to gather up mom and her luggage. From there we traveled to our home. We were to begin making arrangements at the funeral home and wait for more family traveling in from out of town.

It was at the funeral home that something struck me as unusual. As mom and I were drafting the obituary and signing off on Dad, my brother pulled into town from his long journey from out of state and rushed into the undertaker’s office. As I was placing the finishing touches on the obituary, my brother ripped away the pen from my hand and took over. I felt snubbed. He had always having been an alpha-male type of guy, so I dismissed it as typical behavior for him. Now I look back and see it differently. I currently see it as dad’s “real” son guaranteeing his own birthright by saving the Hancock legacy from the “Foster Kid.” This obituary, the final legacy for dad, incorrectly listed him as a US Navy veteran of WW2. Wouldn’t you think that a “real son” would have known what branch of service his father served in? The old man talked about his U.S. Army and his war every day of his life. I might have been a “Foster Kid,” but at least I knew what branch of the service he’d served in!

Being slighted by family is nothing new to anyone, whether you’re adopted or not. However, a new level of indignation emerged when my brother, 20 years my senior, thumped me away from creating an obituary, and then followed up by stealing what our dad had decided I should receive from his estate. Seventeen years later, when I discovered my adoption, that same brother, to his credit, advocated for our sister to cut her shit and start speaking to me again. (We’ll get back to her story in a little bit.) I actually appreciated my brother’s efforts a little bit that day – until he referred to himself as an “adoptive parent.” Decades earlier, my brother had remarried quickly after his first wife passed away. His second wife had a 12-year-old son from her first marriage. At age 21, her son chose to change his last name to our name because he had known his own dad for only two years before his death and felt my brother was now 100% his dad. My brother calling himself an “adoptive parent” is no more accurate than saying “Free Methodism is God’s only true faith.”

One more observation I’ve made pertains to friendship. The friends I had before discovery act differently now. Most have appeared to back away from me. Old college friends and work buddies act disappointed in me for fighting hard to attain equality as a human being. Most non-adopted do not understand how it feels to have no idea who you are. They do not understand how it feels to be treated by society as a castaway, a second-class citizen. They accuse us of being ungrateful for the upbringing we received, yet by the same token they take for granted the unquestionable rights they have at receiving their original birth certificates.

Old friends as well as total strangers have told me to be grateful I wasn’t aborted. Some old friends have told me that I do not deserve my birth certificate; after all, I should consider myself “lucky for being taken in by someone.” One old friend told me I was abandoned for a reason, and that reason was my birth mother’s business, not mine. Some old friends promised to support my lobby for change and to assist in my search, only to later retract. They withdrew over the usual myths, lies, and falsehoods surrounding non-existing promises of confidentiality. Other old friends lie, unable to admit they are against our cause because I “might not have all of the facts.”

I had a great, if not hilarious observation quite a few months ago. It was a memory from my wife’s and my wedding day in 1989. I had a co-worker and dear friend named Willola. She’s African-American, and slightly older than my mom. We were close and hung out together constantly. We actually had the kind of friendship you’d dream of having with your own mother. I loved her just as much as, maybe even more than, any “blood” relative. In the receiving line Willola met my parents for the very first time. She introduced herself by saying heartily, “I’m Jeff’s other mother!”

My parents’ immediate responses were expressions of horror on their faces. Both were momentarily pale and Dad fell out of his usual character; he had absolutely nothing to say in reply! It makes perfectly clear sense to me now. For a second or two they both thought Willola was my BIRTH MOM and had tracked me down on my wedding day! I don’t know which shocked them more: my birth mom finding me on my wedding day, or that my birth mom is African-American? While remembering this event recently, in light of the new knowledge of my adoption, I couldn’t stop laughing. As much as I love Willola, there is no way she could be my birth mom. Willola was the only African-American at our wedding, and though she was wearing the exact same dress as my mother-in-law, that’s where any other potential blood relationship ended.

Now three years post-discovery, I have many more questions than answers. There are far too many “unknowns” in my life, while not nearly enough things I know to create any sort of balance between the two. I have taken into consideration that maybe I’m to never receive my own information. Maybe I’m involved in all of this only for the purpose of supporting others? It could be my first-family is already dead. It has happened to friends of mine in search for reunion. I admit to this being my largest fear. Perhaps my first family simply gave up on me? Maybe they commenced on a search the day I turned 18 and gave up? Maybe someone called my parents house while I was in college during the 1980’s, and dad hung up on them? He did that to one of my best female friends from college on the premise that men and women can’t be “just friends” after one of them becomes engaged. Am I to lobby for equal access only to receive it, and late be denied when my records can’t be found? What if NYS retaliates for my activism by losing or destroying my files “by accident”? Sure, some of these thoughts seem excessive or unrealistic. Then again, do they really?

For my post-discovery friends to consider: How could my parents and family be so arrogant as to convince themselves that I would never learn of my adoption? Certainly Dad chose to keep it hidden from me at every cost. For 17 years following his death my mom retained his wish for my denial. What would spur a parent to do such a thing? When challenged with my persistent request for my birth certificate, mom only relented when I told her I would need to request a new copy from NYS. Had none of this ever been brought up, still to this day I am convinced I would still be kept in secrecy.

Not learning I’m adopted when I was younger was shameful. However, imagine if I had not learned three years ago. I would never have met all of the amazing and wonderful friends I know today. Friends from the New York State Unsealed Initiative Project, the Adoptee Rights Coalition, from Yahoo groups, and from my local search and support group would be “unknown” to me today. “Unknown,” as I remain to myself three years after learning this capricious knowledge, I cannot state enough how fortunate and blessed I truly am to know each of you.

h1

My Life, So far, as a Late-Discovery Adoptee.

April 25, 2009

In late 2006 it all started simply enough, as I requested my birth certificate from my mother. I bugged her for weeks to send it to me. She kept saying she’d look for it, and that she was not sure she had it anymore. In reality, she knew where it was; locked securely in my sister’s safe! I was 41 years old then, and needed my birth certificate for a US Passport application. I have a close friend, my college buddy Kevin, who lives in Canada. I visit him as often as I can. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security planned new passport requirements at that time that were to take effect by 2008. Either I get the required paperwork; or Ontario, Canada would no longer be my personal retreat.

Eventually, after weeks of requesting my paperwork, Mom called Mary Anne (my wife) at work. It was in spring 2007, a few days before my 42nd birthday. Mom is in tears, and spills her guts about my adoption story to my wife over the phone. Mary Anne comes home from work early to tell me. As it turns out, Mom did a lot of calling before she told Mary Anne. Mom called my Aunt Ethel, my in-laws, my sister Cindy, and my brother Denny for advice. Aunt Ethel, who was the best aunt in the world, told her that, “Jeff’s a lot smarter then you’ve ever given him credit for, and surely Jeff probably figured it out long before now.”

I had, sort of, but was denied the truth when I asked. Time to time from my teen years through college I’d occasionally suggest it to them, or joke about how “I must be adopted because….” Finally, when I confronted them seriously, my dad blew up at me, and my mom was speechless. This occurred during the summer of 1986. I was away at college at the time. Both parents denied it, dad told me I should speak to a pastor or a counselor because obviously I “had gone off the deep end”. They made it very clear to me that I was their son and that I never should bring this up again. Mom also made it clear that I had hurt them very much by questioning our relationship. I felt very guilty for bringing up the matter on that serious of a level. I hated myself at that time for having upset them; especially my dad. He had a long history of heart disease, and I grew up knowing he could die at any moment.

However, there was a lifetime of evidence to support my belief: Kids at school, on the bus, and at church who teased and bullied me and called me “Foster child”, lack of a quilt from my paternal grandmother (she handmade one for each of her grandchildren *except* me), the exclusion of my name from the Hancock family bible (a bible over 200 years old with detailed names and relation), and finally a faded Polaroid snapshot that said “Jeff, our foster child” on the back. When I mentioned the photograph, mom was quick to defend it by saying, “it says ‘faster’ because you grew so much faster than Cindy or Denny.” Dad separately offered the explanation, “That’s Karen’s handwriting, and she probably meant it because you liked hanging around her when you were a toddler.” Karen was my brother’s first wife who died in 1981. In all honesty, I didn’t know her that well. I doubt I hung around her at all, as my brother and his family were overseas at the time that picture of me, a Polaroid, was taken.

I had no choice but take my folks at their word. Dad died in 1990 of cancer. He took the secret to his grave. He wanted for me to never know. It was his way of protecting me. He never wanted for me to feel not-a-part of his life or family, even though other family members never fully have accepted me. Ironically, I remember being rather annoyed with my mom when she flat out refused to allow an autopsy following dad’s death. At the time my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child. I was very scared that there may be something genetic in association with dad’s leukemia. I kept trying to explain to her why I felt I needed to know the exact cause. Now I understand why it didn’t matter.

Following the settling of Dad’s funeral, items dad wished to be split between my “siblings” and my self were to be distributed. It was fairly slim pickings compared to most as my family was always very poor in wealth. Still, dad’s final wishes were for all three of his children to receive personal items that he cherished. Long story short, my brother blessed himself with what few items he was entitled to as well as the one or two things dad wanted me to have. I was really hurt and very disappointed in my family when I took a daytrip down to mom’s to retrieve my possessions and found empty spaces where those possession were supposed to be. Mom assured me that because my brother is a pastor he would never knowingly steal from me. Yeah, right! My sister got dad’s car; she has never even had a driver’s license. My brother received dad’s guns, fishing equipment, table saw, roto-tiller, and hand-tools. I felt very ill that day. Mary Anne was with me, and reveled to me later that afternoon, “Jeff, I never believed everything you always said about your family not including you or respecting you. Now I have really seen it. You’ve been right all along!”

Forward back to spring 2007; mom was very upset upon having to reveal this deeply buried family secret. We drove for 2 hours for a visit so that she could give me my birth certificate and adoption paperwork. Also, she had several plumbing issues, so I spent Good Friday 2007 crawling around under her sink replacing several yucky pipes. As we walked in the house I could tell how upset mom was. I was still in a state of shock myself. I couldn’t talk about it all with her then. I still cannot speak to her about my adoption even now. I did make an honest attempt to communicate with my mom through a letter following that Good Friday. I sought only to sooth her for being upset over finally revealing my adoption. Before I knew it the entire family was at my throat. At a time when I had a grave need for the understanding and support of my adoptive family, and at a time when I felt my mother needed to hear that things were okay, they put me in my place for being a bad son.

In my letter I simply explained that I felt as though I never fit in, and that I was nothing like either sibling. I mentioned Cindy’s alcohol abuse and Denny’s extreme Christian fundamentalism (he’s an Evangelical pastor). I mentioned how I’ve never felt a desire or need for alcohol, nor have I ever felt comfortable in such an extremely evangelical environment as my brother is a pastor within. I mentioned how our family has two sides; those who immerse themselves in substance and alcohol abuse and those who immerse themselves in religion. Both life choices run rampant on either side of my family; there is no halfway measure between these two extremes. Bear in mind I in no way criticized either of my siblings, I only mentioned I have always felt different from everyone in our family; a feeling that I never really belonged.

My sister opened up the letter before Mom could, and read its contents. Both she and mom immediately became infuriated with me. The letter was taken completely out of context, and thrown back into my face. My sister was convinced I wrote it to get back at them for the decades of lies or for the hardships her drinking brought upon our family. She in turn convinced mom that was my intent. They stopped speaking to me for weeks. I went from having one family, to learning I have two, but ending up with none. 2007 sucked.

Everyone else I shared the letter with thought it was beautiful and should have made mom realize how much she is loved by me. Surprisingly, my brother stepped up to the plate, and told them they were wrong. Although he didn’t read the letter, he felt it was wrong for our sister to have and that clearly I was only attempting to nurture. He also admitted to never taking any steps to have a relationship with me due to the 20-year age difference between us, and that now he feels a bit guilty. Not guilty enough to ever call or send a birthday card, but at least he knows through Mom that I’m still alive.

It wasn’t until Christmas 2007 that my sister spoke to me again. Before Mom’s revelation Cindy used to call us two or three times a week just to talk. Since discovery I have had a million thoughts race through my head. Sometimes I feel grief, as if someone died, yet I don’t know who. I get angry sometimes, other times I’m depressed. Part of me wishes I’d been adopted by someone else, even though I miss my dad, and appreciate at least having a home as a child.

I don’t feel as though I know who I am anymore. I am so different from everyone else in my family. I’m always wondering if there is anyone out there anywhere who may be anything at all like me. I fear my birth family won’t want to know me, or they may be dead, or I may be a product of incest or rape. Sometimes I feel like a total idiot. Everyone in my home town knew of my adoption except me. I feel betrayed, lied to, and taken for granted. I’m a very different person post-discovery. I was happy with the person I was before mom’s revelation. I have no legitimate way to describe who I am sitting here all this time later.

At the same time, so many more things make sense to me now. Odd little experiences over the years that now appear crystal clear. From 1975-1982 my sister was married to a horrible and abusive man. He was not only an alcoholic, but he was a mean drunk. On more than one occasion, while living together in our parent’s home, he referred to me as “The Living Abortion.” Even this sorry excuse of a human being was privy to my adoption story.

As time continues to pass, I occasionally remember more details from my years being raised. I can understand comments made to me by the mean children at school and on the bus so many years ago. Comments, questions, and peculiar things they said to me at church, family picnics, and around town. Also, why I was never accepted or included in family plans, or invited to join clubs or groups in school or especially at church; I was raised in a very strict and evangelical faith. I know now why during my childhood and teen years I felt people were always watching me, waiting for me to make some terrible life decision. It was because they really were expecting me to!

Before 2007 I never fully understood the stigma of adopted children in an evangelical culture. My dear friend Lori, an adoptee, explained this to me a few years ago. I felt I knew how she felt growing up, yet I didn’t feel connected to her suffering. Now I see how society enjoys looking upon us as bastards produced through sin. How we’re destined to go the same path as those alleged “sinners” who produced us. I had no reason at the time to suspect anything, as I knew I *wasn’t* adopted because my “parents” said so! At the same time my inner soul did not agree with society, or the Christian preaching on adoptee pre-destiny. Now as an adult, people I long ago left behind in my mom’s church are stunned that I am not a druggie, alcoholic, father to countless unplanned pregnancies, or convicted criminal in spite of a) being adopted, and/or b) abandoning the evangelical/fundamentalist way of worship some 20+years ago.

Beyond my late-discovery, I now fully understand the saying “life changing event”. I haven’t been able to describe just *who* I am anymore. I have only two known blood relative; our two sons. I fear for their futures not having the privilege of knowing their heritage or medical history. Family tree assignments in their classrooms will have many more branchless limbs on my half than their mother’s side.

Before discovery, I was prescribed only seasonal allergy medications. Presently I am now on 11 different medications in addition to allergy prescriptions. I cannot sleep at night; I cannot stay awake during the day. I have anxiety attacks and I have depression. I can’t concentrate on common tasks now. Events I used to love I no longer choose to participate in. My diet and eating patterns are erratic. I take pills for anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and aches and pains that I never felt before. I haven’t had a complete night’s sleep in months. I feel detached from everyone, including my wife and kids.

On that miserable day the family secret was told I began my search within an hour of discovery. Countless months have now passed, and I have no more idea today than I did then as to who I am. My non-id is non-existent; so I’ve been told by those in authority. Many aliases were used to disguise adoptive families, birth/first mothers, and most of all; Bastards. Those aliases coupled with court sealed records make the likelihood of a biological reunion very slim. While my search is stalled, I have put my energies into assisting others search and into advocacy for unsealed records.

Providing adult adoptees access to his or her original birth certificate is the right thing to do. Like most Americans, I had no idea that adoptees are denied this civil liberty until my own story unfolded. This is a violation of our rights. We deserve to know just “who” we are.

Several months have elapsed since my discovery. I am grateful for the friends I can share stories and experiences with on MySpace and Facebook. I am grateful to my wife, her family, and our kids for their understanding. I’m grateful to my support group in Rochester, NY. I’m grateful for my wife and kids. I am also grateful for the many search angels who help us bastards in so many ways. I’m also grateful to that nameless, faceless person who gave me away in 1965, for whatever her reason in signing me away. I think of her everyday. I hope to find her, meet her, and thank her someday face-to-face despite the odds of reunion.

By Jeffrey A. Hancock; Late-Discovery-Adoptee
Born 4-18-1965 somewhere in Buffalo, New York