The early 40s were not glorious days in America. America’s military was involved in World War II on two fronts – Europe and the Pacific. My family – or should I say both of my families – paid a very dear price. As it turns out, four men in my “family” were directly involved in that war.
You see, I didn’t know it at the time, nor would I understand it until I spit-shined my very first pair of Army boots, but the toll on my biological family was such that my birth mother was forced to arrange for me to be adopted. And the family that adopted me already had three sons in uniform, directly involved in the war!
How these two wonderful families pulled this off is the stuff that tear-jerker movies are made of. And they did it for me.
With my biological mom having no job or savings account to pay the bills while my biological father was in the service, caring for a newborn presented a mountain that was just too high to climb. She made the decision to have close friends adopt me, thus guaranteeing I would be fed, clothed and taken good care of, and all the while living in the same small city where she could continue to watch me grow, graduate from high school and venture into adulthood.
The “deal” allowed for my biological parents to very secretly provide for me without raising embarrassing situations and there was even a proviso which assured I would be told the truth, if and when I ever asked or the situation warranted. How cool is that?
My adoptive parents were considerably older than the parents of my classmates, and I wondered about that fact from time to time, but never got terribly concerned….until one of my friends asked “How come your parents are as old as my grandparents?” That was my cue to ask my mother. And that was a moment I’m sure she dreaded. I was about 10 years old and she felt I was old enough to understand.
She sat me down, and as promised in their agreement a decade earlier, she told me the whole story. How my biological mother had been frail, sickly and unable to care for me at birth, and how she contacted my adopted parents and arranged for them to take me in. I sat there and listened, dumbfounded and in a state of shock. The people that I had thought of as “sort of an aunt and uncle” were actually my mother and father! For one of the few times in my entire life, I was speechless.
I don’t remember much that took place for the next 24 hours or so. I do remember climbing on my bicycle and riding and riding and riding. Where I rode, I don’t recall. I just kept pedaling my bike until it was almost dark and then went home to my bedroom to try and understand what I had just been told.
The only woman I had known as “Mom” came to my room and asked me if I was OK, and I honestly didn’t know what to say. She hugged me tight and asked me to try and get a good night’s sleep and “then we can talk some more”. She left my room sobbing.
Looking back, I think she was very concerned that I was going to get on my bike and ride to my biological parent’s home and stay there. When I returned to the only “home” I had ever known, she seemed relieved. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had already called my biological mother and told her “..he asked, so I told him”.
I think back on all of things I could have said at that very moment, and I said none of them. I was honestly afraid I’d say the wrong thing and I was confused enough so that I stayed very quiet…very remote.
Over the next few days we chatted a few times about more of the details surrounding my adoption and I absorbed it like a sponge. Come to find out, I had two sibling sisters in my biological family, to go along with three brothers and four sisters in my adopted family!
At some point I started to realize just how fortunate I was. I could have been an orphan – and kids living in an orphanage didn’t stand much of chance at success in life, at least not during that time. I also had a birthday coming right up and that was the first time I got birthday presents from all four of my parents! Suddenly, life was very, very good. I couldn’t wait for Christmas!
I can honestly say that at no time did I ever contemplate leaving my adopted family and running off to live with my biological family, but we grew very close over the next several years and the truth surrounding my birth and upbringing was turned into a major plus for all concerned. There was no jealousy among the adults, and the siblings in both families treated me exactly the same after the fact as before. I was the “little brother” In my adoptive family and the “big brother” in my biological family.
Sadly, my biological mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died a horrible death before I graduated from high school. Just a few years later, my biological father died from complications surrounding diabetes. During the same time frame, my adopted mom and dad died of old age and many years of hard work. I had gone from the luxury of TWO moms and TWO dads to none, and that fact was life-changing.
Prior to my biological mother’s passing, she and my adopted parents pooled their finances and bought me a Bulova Senator wristwatch as a high school graduation gift. Inscribed on the inside of the bezel was “Dell – From M & D H” and it was given with one card, signed by all four of them. Most people would see that inscription and immediately think “Mom and Dad Hill”. What they don’t know is that my biological parents last name also began with an “H”. Just how classy was that?
I decided that there would never, ever be the word “step” in front of my siblings names and I made it clear to all of them that I was their brother – not their step-brother and that’s how it was going to be. Every one of them agreed and, to this day, we still enjoy that kind of close relationship. I flexed some muscle that I really didn’t have, but I thought it was what all four of my parents would have wished.
Of all of those siblings, just two sisters are still alive. To them, I’m still the “big brother” and to me they’re both my “little sisters”. That’s the way it should be.
I’ve accomplished some things in life that I hope has made all of them proud, but my arranged adoption still ranks as the #1 most important event in my life and for that I am eternally grateful to both my “Moms and Dads”.
The Good Lord Has Blessed Me.
Happy Mother’s Day Moms!