An Open Letter To My Deceased Adoptive Mother (Fay) for Mother’s Day
This piece was originally published by Huffington Post in 2017.
I miss you. You battled so bravely to stay with Steven, dad and me but in the end you finally had enough of the grueling pain from scleroderma. I barely left your side those three days in hospital, I wanted to breathe in every last moment that I had with you. We didn’t know back then what we know now about adoption - especially the impact it can have on adoptees. All I knew was that you were leaving me and I didn’t want you to go. You were only 57 and I was only 22. As I was immersed in the depths of inconsolable grief I also felt a selfish anger! “Why did you adopt me then leave me mum?”
Oh mum, we had tumultuous times but I knew you loved me. I tried your patience in every way I knew how and you retaliated in every way you knew how to get me to comply. Neither us had any help in terms of navigating this adoption business. We struggled together every day didn’t we Mum. Some days were excruciatingly difficult. But other days, when we cooked and laughed together were so precious. My birthdays and Christmas, wow Mum! They were magical times. Thank you for always going to such great lengths to make my birthday so special. I will never know if you did this to help me deal with what can sometimes be a challenging day for adoptees, I will never know because I can’t ask you.
Normally, you were so strict with our diet, in terms of eating healthy. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but it is something that I am so thankful for now! There were no white carbs in our lunch-box, no we had brown bread and wheat germ. Steven and I didn’t appreciate being called germy by the other kids who were devouring their white bread – oh how envious I felt - I really wanted their lunches. I remember I used to think to myself, when I am older I will buy whatever I like! you’ll be pleased to know Mum that I eat wholegrain, I rarely drink soft drinks and I eat all my vegetables. Guess what else, I still also make the Christmas cake in your bowl, the way you showed me Mum, three months ahead with a tipple of brandy every Sunday, that’s for the cake not me – I prefer wine.
Mum, remember when we battled over maths homework because I couldn’t get maths and I just wanted to play. Remember I said, “well I won’t need maths because I am going to be an actress.” So you tried to help me realise this dream, you ensured that I had speech and drama lessons and when you put on school plays you often cast me as the lead – thanks Mum.
Getting expelled from school in year 11 didn’t go down too well did it mum? You will be surprised to know that whilst I didn’t end up as a famous actress, I did go to university as a mature age student and I obtained my Psychology degree in 2001. At graduation I remember looking out at a sea of unrecognizable faces and seeing other graduands getting photo’s with their mothers - oh how I ached. I wish you could have been there and I know you would have been so proud. Similarly, in 2018, I graduated with distinction and was awarded my Masters.
My drive to obtain both degree also came from you. I watched you write assignments from your bed when you were so unwell. You were completing your Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and we were all so proud of you. You studied under such adverse conditions. You instilled in me the fortitude to battle on despite the challenges. Thank you Mum.
Mum, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to know that I have had a lot to do in the adoption sector in the last 9 years. I promised myself as that fiesty young girl battling disenfranchised grief, as some adoptees do, that I didn’t want other adoptees and families to have to struggle the way we did.
In that vein, I’m also a member of Adoptee Rights Australia and it’s my hope that adoptee rights will enter mainstream discourse and be operationalised.
There are some out there in the broader community who say I only speak about adoption because I must have had a bad experience or I wasn’t loved by my adoptive family or I didn’t love them. We know that’s not true don’t we Mum? They try to silence adoptees like myself who speak about issues but you taught me to stand up for myself mum and to be authentic. Thank you. What those people don’t understand is that you always had my back and you would have stood by me, unwavering in your support because you had to battle too as an adoptive mother.
Your biological son and my darling brother Steven supports me through my activism. To him I am his little sister, not his adopted sister, I am his sister period. Like you, he always has my back. I know now during those precious remaining hours before you passed away that you asked him to always look after me. He always has Mum.
So on this Mother’s Day, when many are celebrating, I will chat to Steven about you and I hope that maybe you will hear us. I promise to keep fighting for the rights of adoptees and to bring more awareness to the impact and struggles that we and others experience too. I will also discuss our natural families and I will continue to highlight issues and adoption measures that separate children from their natural families due to poverty or structural inequalities. I will do this knowing that if you were here, and knew what we do now, you would have walked alongside me staunchly sticking up for me as always.
I love you Mum.
Your daughter, Angela.
P.S. I found out I am half Sicilian. Guess what Steven said when I told him Mum, “that explains a lot.” Yes, it does.