What We Mean When We Say Adoption Reunion

A little while ago I noticed an article about New Jersey holding a family reunification day to celebrate parents who’ve been able to make changes in their lives and get their kids back after having them taken away due to neglect or abuse. I was struck by the use of the word “reunification” as opposed to “reunion,” which is the standard term used for cases in which adopted people and their biological relatives come back together after being separated for many years.

“Reunification” strikes me as being more serious and more lasting than “reunion.” We talk about reunification of countries, such as Ireland and Korea, that were long ago split in two due to political disagreements and war. We speak with optimism about one day in the future when the people of these nations will again be brethren under the same flag, participants in a newly mutual society reminiscent of one that actually existed once upon a time.

It makes sense, then, to talk about reunification in relation to children who had become wards of the state returning to their biological parents. These are family units that had been torn apart by disease and dysfunction, that are being restored as a result of hard work and healing on the part of the parents along with compassion on the part of the government officials involved.

Contrast this sense of potential for ongoing unity with scenarios in which we typically use the word “reunion:” high school reunions; workplace reunions; neighborhood reunions; cast reunions from our favorite old TV shows. Sure, sometimes old friends or colleagues keep in touch long after the reunion event has ended, but no one really expects relationships to return to what they once were in any of these situations.

To reunite is to bring together again people who have been apart for a long time. Of course, this is what happens in adoption reunions, too, but how many enter into a reunion with their long lost biological kin expecting a brief moment of togetherness and reminiscence with no promise of a future ongoing relationship? I suspect that many adoptees and birth parents actually hope for something closer to reunification—a remaking into a coherent whole people who were once joined but then were separated. I suspect that, deep down, many entering into an adoption reunion wish to re-form the family that was broken, the way those celebrated families in New Jersey were able to overcome their reasons for separation and resume functioning again as a family unit.

We go into it hoping for reunification, then we’re disappointed when all we get is reunion. And sometimes we don’t get that, because we don’t know each other even as well as former neighbors or high school classmates do. We have nothing to reminisce about. We have no shared memories, except for those ancestral memories imprinted in our bones or maybe preverbal recollections of smell or touch that we can’t consciously conjure, only experience as a kind of trigger. Or, for a parent, memories of the anxiety, pain, and grief of making the decision to separate from a child along with the aftermath of that separation. Is it any wonder reunification can be so difficult to achieve?

Perhaps a better word to use than “reunion” is “reconnection.” We search and we find and we attempt to establish communication and rapport, often times successfully to some degree. Maybe a loose attachment—the occasional visit or phone call or email—is a more realistic expectation for one to have entering into an adoption reunion. In order for a deeper relationship to develop, all parties involved need to be fully committed, when often one side tries to bear most of the relationship-building weight, with frustrating results.

We cannot expect to recreate what never existed in the first place. The best we can hope for in many adoption reunions is to create something brand new. Forward is the only direction available to us.

The Right Thing

I’ve been in a period of regrouping as of late. I’ve felt off track, or off the right track.

This isn’t the first time. I have a long history of becoming deeply involved in the wrong thing. I’m actually doing much better these days than back when I was a younger adult who stuck it out too long in the wrong relationships and the wrong career and ended up so sick I couldn’t leave my house.

I’ve learned how to let go of the wrong things sooner and how to avoid getting involved in absolutely wrong things in the first place.

I’m doing better. These days when I realize I’ve wandered onto the wrong path, it’s at least a path somewhere in the neighborhood of the right path. I know this, even if I haven’t yet figured out where the exact right path is. I’m close. I can feel it.

Still, there’s room for improvement. I would like not to be so susceptible to being led astray. It’s not even the lure of bright shiny things that woos me. It’s that I want so badly to be part of something meaningful, I’ll follow the wrong path too far, for too long. Continue reading “The Right Thing”

Talk politics? Yes, we must.

This election cycle has me obsessed with political news. More than at any previous time in my life, I’m realizing how deeply government and politics affect how we live and work and raise our families. I feel a need to know and understand more about who runs this world we live in and how they do it, and what I can do to influence the process.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I’m drawn to diving deep into politics at this moment when our entire political system seems to be in upheaval. I want to learn more and I want to discuss what’s happening, to hear others’ opinions and see things from their viewpoint.

I realize, though, that everyone doesn’t have this same desire, or the time for it. The minutiae of every day must be attended to, and besides, who wants to be so serious all the time? But there’s also that old unwritten rule, that you shouldn’t talk politics if you want to keep the peace. To most people I know, talking politics is like cursing in a preschool classroom. You just don’t do it. Continue reading “Talk politics? Yes, we must.”

Evolution Revolution

I feel an evolution happening within me—a revolution really. I’m beginning to feel free in a way I haven’t before. I’m beginning to feel settled, on the inside.

For decades, I’ve been trying to figure out how to live authentically. I recognized when I was in my mid-twenties that I was struggling to allow myself to be seen. I had developed a habit of hiding behind what I’ve come to think of as my costume, the outer me that I projected to all others.

On the inside, I was someone different from the person everyone thought they knew. I had learned how to observe what people expected from me, what made people respond to me, and how to contort myself into these shapes. When I was very young, I wasn’t conscious of doing this. But as I matured into adulthood, I became aware of the disconnect between my inner and outer selves. It manifested as a tension that threatened to rip me apart. I managed to cross the breaking point without being swallowed, and I’ve been slowly making my way across the other side ever since.

But I’m still not living authentically. Yes, it’s gotten a lot easier to reveal myself in some situations, but there are still too many instances when I bend and twist myself. Why do I do this?

Continue reading “Evolution Revolution”


The world is crazy right now, I think. Then I remember that the world is always crazy. There is always danger. There is always injustice. I long to live in a world where these things don’t exist, where there is no trauma to recover from, no pain.

Pain begets pain. Once upon a time one person hurt another person, and that person–knowing no better or wanting to avenge his pain–in turn hurt someone else. And so on. And so on. The only way out is to simply stop. Lay down weapons. Lay down pride and pain. Choose to carry only love. Choose to hurt no one.

But. In this world we’ve made, which we inherited from those who made it before us, we understand that human beings, at root, are mere animals, slaves to the instinct of self-preservation, slaves to fear. How wonderful it would be to never fear again.

How unrealistic. Fear will come, and the best we can do is to gulp it down and continue loving.

Some days I have to look away from the craziness of the world. I focus on trees with their leaves sprouting or swaying or sashaying softly to the ground. I focus on the eyes of my dog trusting me. I focus on the arms that wrap around me in the morning and at night.

Today the sun rose, and I felt its heat on my skin. Today I am able to choose to look away from the crazy.

This too, I know, is animal instinct. This is saving my self.