I was fifteen when Andrew Gold's hit song, "Oh, what a lonely boy" burst onto America's top 10. As an only child, I felt an immediate affinity for this song.
My parents were older, loving, and some would describe them as doting. Showering me (not with money, of which they had little), but with all the love they had to give (and then some). They had always wanted a child but had been unable to have one of their own. When I came into their lives, unfortunately for their relationship, their identity as a couple seemed to die. Out of the ashes their new role as parents was born.
As I reached school age, they sat me down to give me a talk, not "The Talk," but rather the story of how I had come to be in their lives. I had always felt different - being a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Italian boy always made me stand out a bit, but it was my adult-sized ears which were the real bane of my existence and drew the unwanted attention of my classmates.
I didn't take the news of my adoption particularly well...feeling duped by these people posing as my "real" parents. I immediately hatched my plan to run away. I would hitchhike to upstate New York, where I would live off the land in a hollowed-out tree, just as I had read in Jean Craighead George's novel, "My Side of the Mountain." I immediately set about collecting items integral to my survival, and cunningly stashed my bags in our backyard between the chain link fence and my father's Buick. At dinner, I tried not to act any differently than any other evening...wolfing-down what I believed to be my Last Supper with my newly identified imposter parents, who I felt had betrayed me in some way.
My plan was simple – too simple in retrospect. I planned to head-out to school in the morning, as usual, but to double-back after my mother was sufficiently distracted with the daily drudgeries and make my way straight for the bus stop. From there, I would catch a train to as near to the Catskills as a boy could go – with all of the pre-pubescent grit and determination that a boy could muster. I would find my way to my tree...I was sure of it.
I had barely slept a wink the preceding night, full of nerves and excitement over my impending adventure. As I bounded down the stairs to breakfast, I was greeted by my father and much to my surprise...my Pan Am travel bag. What I failed to realize, was that as my father backed-up his car for work in the early morning hours, that his Buick's headlights would illuminate my plan – stashed by the fence.
The bitter reality of my failure to break-free of these two people who had suddenly felt foreign to me was further tempered by the look of pain and tears on their faces. Suddenly the feelings of deception melted away, and I too, was crying. I never forgot the pain (or those tears) that I had caused that fateful morning and I had resolved never to discuss the topic again. That was the last time that I confronted my adoption full-on until...
Both of my parents passed, and I obtained my original birth certificate. I learned of my birth parents' names, and more importantly - that I had two siblings. I was excited to learn more of these connections. Through internet searches and Facebook, I located my birthfather and carefully crafted a "Dear Dad" letter. As I saw his number come-up on my phone, a sudden sense of dread was mixed with my being both frightened and excited. I had lost my loving, adoptive father, could this man fill the void?
"I'm not your father," were his first words. Followed by, "I'm not sure who is, but it's not me. I don't know why ‘she' put me down on the Birth Certificate. She died years ago, I'm sorry that I don't have more information for you." I slumped into my chair.
I thanked him for his time and asked him to pass along my information to the two siblings indicated on the Birth Certificate. I was so stunned by this revelation that I failed to even ask their names. Now, it was my turn to feel the cold slap of rejection. My turn to feel the pain that my adoptive parents must have felt that fateful morning as I had tried to run away!
I pushed-back from the table and pushed this episode deep down inside and went on with my life. I resolved not to explore this any further, but eventually life events began to make me very mortal. Leaving this life without connecting to my siblings made me feel somehow incomplete. So, once again I found myself scouring the internet – this time, seemingly locating one of my two half-siblings. Afraid to call, I sent a letter to introduce myself and inquire if my assumptions were correct. I was excited to receive a phone call from my half-brother, almost as excited as was he to learn of my existence. He had been looking for me for about six months, only learning of me after his father's death. He went on to share the details of his early childhood years, the existence of a half-sister and the unhappiness that divorce had brought upon the family.
Only after speaking with him and hearing his story did I finally learn the hard life lesson that sometimes what you are searching for is what's in front of you the entire time.