Feeling like an outsider is par for the course if you’re adopted. At least that’s what I heard from many other adoptees who like me never felt like they belonged in their families.
I grew up with parents who never understood me and vice versa. We had nothing in common or at least that’s how it seemed. That’s not to say I didn’t love Bob and Claire – my dad’s upbeat personality and my mother’s potato salad made a lasting impression. I knew they loved me even when I smashed up the car, dated guys they didn’t like or stayed out too late. Still, I never had a heart-to-heart conversation with my mother or father. They never tried to get too deeply inside my head and I kept my feelings to myself.
While I didn’t feel I fit in as their daughter, I never doubted my relationship with my sister, Melissa.
Even though we were both adopted (and didn’t know it), we were like flesh and blood sisters. We had our special code – knock three times to summon your sister to your room for a gripe session. We rode bikes together, played ring-and-run on Chicago’s southwest side and made prank phone calls. We got into fights that sometimes involved scratching and played a memorable game of tag that resulted in Melissa needing to have her eyelid stitched up. We watched our parents bicker.
Over more than 20 years of living under the same roof, we shared the good, the bad and everything in between.
We went our separate ways as adults but we’re still close. Melissa and I live in different states, live very different lives but talk on the phone or text several times a week. I know what Melissa and I have is as good as it gets with brothers and sisters.
When I visit Melissa and her family, I don’t feel like an outsider. I feel at home.
My first mother, Lillian, was also close to her non-biological sister. When Lillian was a girl living in rural Indiana, the social service authorities split up her large (that’s 12 kids) and impoverished family. Lillian was sent to live with a new family and Donna became her little sister. Actually, Donna was several years younger than Lillian so Lillian took care of her much like a mother would take care of her child.
When I talked to Donna last year, she spoke gently and lovingly about Lillian, her sister in every way but for blood.
They say blood is thicker than water but I don’t know if that’s true. Sisterly love doesn’t require a blood connection. At least not for me.