This past September marks ten years spent in Lebanon.
This is both hardly enough time and far too long.
Hardly enough time to truly feel a sense of belonging.
And far too long to spend in the place of one’s birth without finding familial roots.
The more one attempts connection to place the harder becomes disconnection from family.
They go hand in hand.
I’m at my limit for being able to stand this, frankly.
Especially when I know that at any given time I am talking to someone just a few steps removed from me on the Lebanese genealogical tree.
In class the other day, the students yet again puzzled at my family name.
They again asked me where I was from.
I explained that I was born here, and came back ten years ago.
In a country where everyone desires to leave, this is rather suspect.
“Why would you come back?” comes the question for the millionth time.
I explain I am looking for family; I am an adoptee returned.
“Why don’t you do a DNA test?” asks one of them, unfazed.
I think we’ve reached a turning point in terms of such testing in the popular imagination.
I told her my kit was on the way to the lab.
I didn’t tell her that I cried the night I found out it had arrived safely in New York and would be sent on its way from there.
The whole night.
I want to think it was out of relief, out of knowing that I might be on a path to find something approaching the truth.
I know it was more out of fear, of being rejected again.
Or of having reached the end of my “plateau”.
This plateau of a contrived narrative has served me well.
And my gut instincts may well still bear out.
Or they may be completely denied.
Or the test might result in nothing.
So I may find myself climbing another mountain.
Or jumping off another cliff.
Or I may find myself where I started.
At which point I will have to make some further decisions, I imagine.
This causes no small amount of anxiety.
I was stopped in the street the other day by a Lebanese film director.
He explained this is how he casts his films.
That I caught his eye.
That I “floated” as I walked; disconnected from the ground.
I explained my story.
“This explains your gait”, he said.
He later added I looked “mixed”.
Something local and something foreign.
This is certainly how I feel most of the time.
Ungrounded; simultaneously local and foreign.
The other day my brother asked me how I wanted my name to appear in the family tree he was constructing.
I thought this rather gracious of him, actually.
It had never been presented to me as a choice before.
How might we define our connections?
Based on whose tools, what nomenclature?
Is that a dotted black line now?
Or a red dashed link?
And what if we discover where, in fact, our “branches” connect to?
Fifteen years ago, I remember an adoptee I knew tracked down his mother with a private investigator.
He showed up at her house, rang the bell, introduced himself.
Their interaction did not go smoothly.
He was left, nonetheless, with no further desire to pursue it.
For him, the riddle was solved.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine such a response.
Now it seems rather logical.
I look forward to and yet dread this moment, I have to say.
That is, should it even be forthcoming.
The other night at the corner, it was difficult for me to hide my upset.
A friend took great pains to refer to me as his “original brother”.
Coming from those with less than nothing, this overwhelms me.
“If you don’t find out anything, you can take our family name”, he further offered.
I am left quite speechless by his beneficence.
My families are numerous at this point.
We will see if another is to be added to this list.
Contemplating the previously unfathomable is almost too much to bear.
There is one thing that is certain.
It is our undeniable right to know this information.
Nothing and no one can validly deny us this.
Such a denial is the action of the perverted, the demented, the malcontent.
And there need be a price to pay for their criminal insanity.
I am angry that this test for a connection is to be accomplished via a private corporation.
I have grappled with this devil’s bargain for many years.
I do not want to be in a position of thanking pyromaniac firefighters.
I should not have to demand, much less pay for, what is rightfully mine.
At the same time, I will see this test as an act of resistance.
In their denial of our information, the dispossessers, the displacers, the disinheritors did not suspect such an end run.
If enough adoptees were to go this route, we might force some hands.
Force an acknowledgment of the truth.
Of the inherent invalidity of adoption.
Of the right to construct our own links and connections.
As we well see fit.
Quoting James Baldwin, from Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son:
Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges.
Here’s to surrender.
Here’s to feeling grounded.
Here’s to setting ourselves free.