On being a bastard

In the abstract, the adoptee is positioned across two tensions of the state – the assumption and legitimation of identity, and the power of the State to maintain an arbitrary secret indefinitely. When an identity is held tenuously, when identity is the first injury, individuals will find challenges to identity and authority re-traumatization, and suffer accordingly.

Self-disclosure is complicated within that environment, writing about my adoption, and the impact and effect that it had on myself, my family, and my sister, this is both something I feel I need to do and something that is both deeply troubling – doing this is a kind of lancing, a disgorgement of memory, cascading – but it is also deeply dangerous.

Adoptee trauma is that first whirling scar, it is navel, it is root trauma. Exploring that trauma opens up the psychic self to ticks and leeches, parasites both online and in personal life. Adoptees are magnets for weirdness and strange luck.

Or at least, that has been my experience and the anecdotal evidence I’ve collected from the other adoptees with which I’ve had long and enduring conversations. We are, as a diaspora, karmic accelerators; adoptee stories have historically brought down empires.

This is my story, then. What I dare tell – given the constraints of the lives throughout which I am enmeshed. Our social apparatus enables precise targeting of individuals in ways that are deeply disturbing – we are all easy targets for dedicated and relentless. Years of dissociative experiences, perhaps not dissociative states mentally, as much as dissolution of ethno- and spiritual identities, as well as a growing disconnection with the social structures that my adoptive family valued over all other familial bonds.

I am a bastard.

I was born to a young woman out of wedlock.

This is very important in rural Idaho in the early 1970s, enough so that a doctor, two pastors, a lawyer or two and at least one secretary got deeply involved in making sure that I was not left alone with that young woman.

It took me quite some time to confirm what I think I somehow almost always knew – that she had long brown hair, and did not look anything like my adoptive mother. Her voice was different. She knew how to laugh.

I don’t know why I know these things, but I knew them in my bones, like a song you faintly recall and are suddenly shouting, caterwauling, dancing along, but the noise is only in your own head. That is where these memories reside – pre-language, preverbal. I stand in a insular moment – the world of information is at hand, I am able to write to anyone, ask anything, and I still find myself unable to start a conversation of substance with this mother of mine I feel taken from and abandoned by so many…

As for my biological father,

We’ve never spoken. I am unable to contact you, except by expressing what I want you to read and then broadcasting it to the widest number of people, in the hopes that you might stumble across the message, and somehow divine that it is meant for you.

You may not know I exist. There was no connection – no moment of interaction, only a vague resemblance to the unknown-I have seen at least photos of my mother. I infer you by the lack of overlap in my resemblance to her.

There’s the very real likelihood that you may be dead, or mad, or blind, or apathetic, or poor, or destructive, or imprisoned, or stalling out in the short hairs of silence, broken by the Reagan years, trapped in a coal mine, brutalized by harsh winters and sad farmers, guarding rustic bias from encroaching city folk.

There’s the doubt knowing gnaw down at raw bones, grumble pain shouldering blue stem horrors fresh from the gravy.

Which is to say, I want to say things to you I cannot articulate. I want to express the bile and shat runes to clandestine oracles of our would-have-been pathways, lurch laggard in pursuit of forgone again conclusions. I am here as a problematic event to disrupt your reflection, a thought you left unrelated. I would love to know your story, if only to have another half-truth to add to my void.

You can’t owe me one. This isn’t a warp, there will be no weft, gains, subsidies.

I struggle to even know what to mourn. There is a gap, though… and that gap into attachment, perhaps I mourn, when dreamless I sleep.

I am not your snugglepuppy, these quite lonesome years.

We are no we, you and I.

You are the removed – the un-entangled. I assume your appearance in the gap between my resemblances with my mother and her brother, in the places where I am different, where I diverge. You are a dark shadow, cast across time.

Published by

Jeffrey Wes Unruh

Adoptee, born at the Magic Valley Regional Medical Center, April 15, 1974. I spent 23 years trying to figure out all the details, concluding my search in 2019 after meeting my biological father. I'm working on a book that encapsulates my thoughts on adoption in general, and the experience of being adopted.