Filling the void
Though I was born in 1965, I feel my story starts on 25 November 1954. That day both my natural parents and my adoptive parents got married and the often hard to explain who is who of my life story was formed. The short version would be, my natural father's sister and her husband adopted me, turning my aunt and uncle into my mother and father, my father into my uncle and my mother into the ex-wife of my uncle. On top of that it turned my brother and sister into cousins.
Those are just the technicalities involved and once I tell something about myself I usually get the deer in headlights look around here. Never mind, I have two half-sisters from my father and one half-sister from my mother, who respectively are first cousins and someone who is not legally related. I am not going to complicate it any further.
One set of grand parents were a beacon of stability in all this, having always been my grand parents. Ironically they were pivotal in all developments leading to the complicated family arrangements made around me. With her 5 foot, my grand mother was very much the mater familias, The one whose mood had to be pleased. To achieve that she used a strict divide and conquer strategy, that not only with her own children, but with her grand-children too.
For some reason, I was one of her favorites and as such was always welcome, but cousins of mine she wouldn't let in. Of course that would make me less liked by some of my cousins. Especially my female cousins would resent my grand mother's preferences, since my grand mother didn't like girls at all. Something she had proven raising her own children. Having three sons and one daughter, she had managed to make certain her preference for one above the other. Her eldest son was the smartest of the lot and did well in school. Later on he had a more or less successful career all that making him one of her two favorites. The fact he is a very rigid, dominant man with a moody temper didn't change that at all. Her other favorite was son #2, who became a painter and had his fair share of success.
The other two children my grand mother had, the two most important in my life, were not among her favorites and she would always make clear that was the case. Each had a very different strategy dealing with that. My natural father probably gave up altogether at an early age, while my adoptive mother kept trying to no avail to please my grand mother.
Where my natural father and my adoptive mother grew up in a traditionally dysfunctional family, full of power struggles and manipulation, my adoptive father grew up without much of a family life to speak of. His parents had a bar in downtown The Hague. I never got to know his parents personally, his mother died before I was born and his father when I was three. My adoptive father would tell bits and pieces over the years and most of it was sad. His mother was very much the business woman, always working in the bar, not spending much if time at all with her two sons. Legend has it, his father was physically a very strong man with a weakness for alcohol.
My adoptive father's childhood revolved very much around work. Being considered a good boy when working for his parents and being used by them doing so, he grew up a man with a mind preoccupied with work and making money. His entire life he worried not making enough, spending too much, worrying about losing his job, not being able to pay the bills.
Very befitting, my adoptive parents met at work, where my adoptive father was working as a foreman of a repair shop and my adoptive mother was a secretary. On the rebound of a broken-off relationship my adoptive mother fell for my adoptive father, who already had had a crush on her for some time.
In the mean time, my natural father had, according to my grand mother's pacifistic demands, refused draft and was doing alternative civil service in a mental hospital in another part of the country. No longer under his mother's wings he had the chance to develop a relationship with my natural mother.
Much more than this I don't know about the onset of the dual marriage that took place in 1954. I do know my natural parents eventually were living in the house next to my grand parents, while my adoptive parents lived in with my grand parents for years. The two favorite sons my grand mother lived much further away, though one of them had his wives mother live in for as long as the old lady lived (which was long).
While my natural parents had a son in their first year of marriage, followed by a daughter five years later, my adoptive parents stayed without children. I know from both my adoptive parents, my father had asked my adoptive mother not to have children and she had agreed. The reasoning was rather vague and only got some clarity years after my adoptive father had died, but by then he was no longer around for verification.
Around the mid 1960's both marriages were not faring well. My natural parents got caught in the experiment of open marriage, which eventually lead to their break up and my natural father's second marriage. Just before their breakup, they had one final act of patching things up, resulting in my conception. Soon after my natural father left, to start a "new life", leaving my natural mother behind to take care of me. My brother and sister moved in with my natural father, though not for all that long, since my natural father's new wife soon developed evil stepmother traits.
My adoptive parents marriage wasn't going all that well either. Both brought their own set of issues into the marriage and together they weren't able to resolve them. My father very much wanted to bury the past, keeping a lid on it at all expense. That way he kept much of himself dead. When in role, being at work, or at family obligations, he was able to release some of his vitality. At home he was more "himself", a silent, withdrawn man, desperately trying to keep his past from ruining his present and future. My adoptive mother came with her own set of phobes and fears. Being much overlooked as the girl among boys, not being liked by her mother, she needed much attention and affirmation. That my adoptive father would do, but it made him automatically switch into his role as consoler, leaving his personal self behind. Of course his consolations wouldn't work, they only maintained the situation, because they didn't address the deeper issue: my adoptive mother's insatiable need for love and my adoptive father's inability to show much at all. So they assumed the position, maintaining the notion of my adoptive father as the stable, strong but silent man and my adoptive mother as the hysterical housewife.
On 9 September 1965 I was born, though I was very much present at the event, I don't know much about it. The same is true for the first year of my life. I was told my natural mother was not taking care of me well, while going through post partum and post divorce at the same time. After almost a year my natural mother asked my adoptive parents to temporarily take care of me, for her to get her life back up order.
It's easy to do predictions in retrospect, but it looks so predictable how it all unraveled. My adoptive parents took care of me for nearly a year, when somehow the decision was made I should be adopted. My natural mother, I never saw again and she never really got her life back up order either. Last year she died, living in a nursing home, where she was admitted the year before. Over the years I would hear about her, either through my adoptive parents or from other family members who had stayed in touch with her. Most of what I heard reflected a state of chaos, being homeless, being broke. She did get one more child, ten years after I was born, a half sister of mine, I have never met. I know she has two children, who live with my sister, being their guardian.
My adoptive father I would see every now and then until the age of six, so I have vague memories of him. He broke off the contact with my adoptive parents for some twelve years. In a letter he had written, which I found years later, he didn't want to be confronted anymore by my adoptive parents showing off how well they were doing with me. At the time I read it, I could understand his point of view, now I have a much harder time accepting that as the right thing to do.
About my actual adoption, which took place when I was four, I don't recall much. More than going to a photographer to have my pictures taken and cards being sent out, I don't remember of the event. At the time it probably didn't mean anything to me, but that was soon to change.
By the time I was seven I had already moved five times, first to my adoptive parents and then with them four times in five years. At the time that had more of an impact on me than the entire issue of being adopted. Little did I realize how related those were. It prepared me to be always ready to move on. So, when at the age seven we moved for the fourth time, something in me snapped. Before that, I guess for the first time in my life, I was starting to ground, only to be taken away and planted yet somewhere else. I believe it was then I gave up making friends, starting to see it would only be temporary. At the same time, I was starting to feel things were not alright. There was something not okay in the house I lived, even though we were supposed to be the perfect happy family.
It became apparent to me my adoptive mother was a nervous wreck, taking Librium to calm her down. I also started to feel she wanted more of me than I was willing to give. Her need for love and attention had found its perfect substitute in me. I started to dislike to touch her and became more and more distant, making her only needier. I guess my adoptive father was happy he was off the hook and distracted even more, becoming the man who would always be reading the new paper, when in the house. He would spend a lot of time in the garage, though, busy doing what ever men seem to be doing in a garage. I would join him every now and then and though I would help him out building things, we somehow didn't get along all that well. My adoptive father never had a childhood himself, so he had very little idea of what goes on in a child's mind. He would very much treat me as a grown up, a business partner, rather than a child. While helping out, we would always end up in a fight, always following the same pattern. I would try to figure out how to get something done, my father would grab the tools from my hand, I would get upset not being allowed to do things my own way and he would send me off to do it himself.
At the age of fourteen, and two addresses later, things really went down the spiral. Up till then I would be able to keep the role of the ideal child, but that year I could no longer. Insecure and having to adjust to yet another school, I ended up becoming the least liked kid in school, to the point even some teachers joined in on the bullying. At the same time, my adoptive mother was going through a serious phase of hypochondria, needing constant affirmation she wasn't having cancer, needing to have her throat (where her fear of cancer was focusing upon at the time) checked several times a day. I would refuse to look, telling her I wasn't a doctor and if she needed affirmation, she should see one. She would nag, beg and scream till I would bend. Most often I was able to withstand her pleas till the time my adoptive father would come home. He would look and say it was nothing and I knew that was maintaining the situation, next day everything would be forgotten and start all over again.
My adoptive father at the time was having pressure at work, a hysterical wife to return to and I was being constantly bullied while reaching puberty at the same time. That was too much for him, so he started to show a temper. Whenever it became too much for him, he would unleash and hit me. It never hurt physically, but it taught me to keep my mouth shut and swallow my misery.
From then on I would spend most of my time in my room. At school things eventually worked out. I never became popular, never really made any friends, but after a year of serious bullying, I somehow learned how to divert the negative attention. With my parents things stayed the same for years. My adoptive mother stayed in her state of hypochondria, my adoptive father would try to keep his sanity by maintaining a constant state of detachment. At the age of seventeen he hit me for the last time. By then I was much bigger and stronger and for a moment I realized I could punch him. I didn't. Instead I felt so sorry for him, not being able to hold his temper. Somehow it showed, he stopped, shriveled and never touched me again.
A year later I met my natural father and my brother. My natural father acted as if nothing had ever happened and his posture was such that I never addressed our relationship. My brother, though never having been around when I grew up, still had fond memories of my adoptive parents, who had been a nice aunt and uncle to him when he was younger. I could understand that from his part, but he wasn't willing to imagine it would be completely different growing up with them. I guess he envied me having been so lucky being adopted, instead of being ping-ponged between our parents. He had had a hard time growing up and wasn't willing to see, things hadn't been all that peachy for me either.
Eventually I managed to escape the madness at the age of twenty-three. Finally I was able to find room for my own madness instead of someone else's.