Today is one of my son’s ‘gotcha day’ — the day we remember and celebrate our coming together as a forever family. It’s a tradition that we have maintained over the years, but as my kids have gotten older and their understanding of their own stories have become more complete the what and how we remember has changed.
Last night as things were winding down before bedtime I initiated a conversation with my son on the eve of this special day. As the conversation progressed I finally just asked him, “Is your ‘gotcha day’ a happy day or a sad one?”
His reply said it all: “It’s both — it’s happy because I have a family that I love and we get to remember how you adopted me…but also sad too, because I remember that I lost my birth family.”
This son has come to understand something that is very important — there is no such thing as adoption without loss. This reality is important to remember, even on days of celebration like today. I’ve come to realize (as I hope he will in time) that this reality does not in any way take away from the beauty and the blessing of his adoption or our shared story. It completes it. To deny it, ignore it or wish it away is to somehow belittle or, even worse, betray all that God has done and is doing in his life and ours.
Our conversation continued for nearly an hour as we remembered much of what we know about how he came to be and then entered into our lives. I recounted “the call,” the “trip,” and the “homecoming,” as we went back and forth adding pieces to this often told story.
But, as is sometimes the case, our conversation eventually gave way to tears — this time mine — as we tried to remember well all of his story, even the sad parts. Eventually, I asked him, “Do you know why Daddy is crying?”
“I think so,” he replied. “Cause you are happy?”
“Yes, I am so very happy…but I am a little sad too. When it comes to adoption you can’t have one without the other. They don’t come together all the time, at least not for me. But in order for us to remember well all that your ‘gotcha day’ means we have to be willing understand and accept that there is both joy and pain in adoption. Do you agree?”
“Yeh,” he answered. “And maybe one day I will have more answers or even get to meet some of my birth family, do you think?”
“I sure hope so,” I said. “And I will support and help you in any way that I can.”
But for today I will simply do my best as a father to remember well — and to help my son do the same. As we celebrate the day that we “got” our son and he “got” us, we will remember that our joy was born of loss. This beautiful, yet painful reality is one that I pray we will never forget.