My dad didn’t follow made-for-TV protocol
by Jaime Becker
When it comes to adoption, every made-for-TV movie follows the same storyline: an adopted teenager feels lost, fights with her adopted parents, which gives her the impudence to go on a journey to find her biological parents. The teenager finds her blood relatives, gets reassurance from them and returns home with renewed love and understanding for her adopted parents and themselves. The end.
But there is another story: the one where the adopted child never goes looking for his biological parents and grows up and has kids of his own. Yup, that is where I come in. My dad was given up for adoption when he was born to wonderful parents whom he loved dearly. My father never wanted to search for his biological family, as he viewed it as disrespectful to his adopted mom and dad. He refused to look even after his parents had passed away.
My dad was perfectly fine never knowing his roots, and it never bothered my sisters either. But for me, I felt unsettled. Even though I knew my parents loved me, I sometimes felt like a stranger in my own home. My immediate family is analytical, good at math, and can navigate a map. They think straight and narrow, while my brain goes ‘cockeyed,’ as my mother says. I am the dreamer, the writer, the artist. Yup, I was the “where did she come from?” kid.
I kept hoping I would find someone who “got” me: someone who made salami, tuna fish, potato chip, mustard sandwiches for breakfast, who always had insomnia and would draw angry, messy artwork, someone who would wake up at the crack of dawn and sit 4 inches away from the TV to watch Bugs Bunny, someone who fantasized about writing the Top 10 List for Letterman. I used to dream about finding this unknown part of me — someone out there who was creative, someone who made me feel like I made sense.
I all but gave up on finding my MOW Hallmark ending, but then my father got sick. Out of love, my dad wouldn’t let his personal medical mystery affect his daughters, so unbeknownst to me he started doing some digging.
It was the opening scene, with ‘inspired by true events’ flashing across the title page, when I was jolted by the ringing phone. “Hello.” It was my father on the other end. He took a breath and uttered, “I found them.”
“What?” I replied.
At the age of 59, my father found his biological family and I found a piece of me that I always thought was missing: my biological identity.
My dad’s birth parents were both previously married and both had two daughters. As the story goes the bio-mom, Betty, heard that her former abusive husband’s boss, Abraham (the bio-dad), was a widow. Betty rushed to where he was living and they were married within 48 hours. The marriage was over before it ever really got started, but it got started enough that she became pregnant with my dad. The two divorced. Betty realized she couldn’t take care of another baby so she gave it to a married couple through a private adoption. Okay, so there is more to it than that – like how the adoption was decided over a poker game, birth certificates were doctored, and lies were told. But I digress.
As my father received information about his biological family, the calls kept rolling in. Ring: You have a grandmother. Ring: She is alive. Ring: She was an interior designer. Ring: You have a cousin. Ring: She is a screenwriter and novelist. Ring: You have an aunt. Ring: She is a professional artist. Ring. Ring. Ring. It kept going. I fell to the floor and wept. I suddenly felt like I made sense.
Through tears, I asked, what am I? Irish? British? Greek? Roman Catholic? The answer: both the biological parents were Polish, Czech, Russian Jews all down the line. All this time, this wondering, searching, just to discover, I was just another cynical Jewish comedic writer, my tears stopped, and I laughed.
I thought meeting the new family would make everything complete, that I would somehow be whole — we shared the same creative drive in our DNA, but they were strangers. Then I looked at my father, and realized … my dad was the one who was always there for me. He was the one who knew I was struggling as a youngster for identity and purpose. He drove me every weekend to the Chicago Art Institute for art classes. He would stand proudly by as I drew, sketched, and painted, and always listened to my short stories I wrote on the car ride home.
Any creative person will tell you they need emotional support. That one person to say, “You are good.” “Keep going.” “I believe in you.” My father was then, and is now, my biggest fan and supporter. My father’s encouragement gave me the confidence to come to L.A. and pursue my writing dream. He is who I dedicate every piece of writing to. Yes, it’s not a traditional Hallmark movie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you Dad for believing in me. I love you.Tags: Adoption, Artist, Entertainment industry, Family, Finding your biological parents, Hollywood, Jaime Becker