Friday, August 15, 2014

A Personal Story...More Personal Than Others

I'm adopted, well my brother and I are actually both adopted, by our Dad. So we have our Mom, Dad and biological father. (We don't speak to our biological father or have any involvement with him but he is how we were made.)

Anyway my point of sharing all this today is a combination of events that have occurred over the last two or so years. I'll start from the beginning. My mom and biological father were married very young. They had me very young and had my brother eleven and a half months later. They divorced when I was about 2 years old. My brother and I spent a majority of our childhood spending every other weekend with our biological father. We were in a rotation of holidays and living the life many kids with divorced parents live/lived. It was our normal, but that doesn't mean I liked it. I remember crying every time he and his wife came to get us. I hated going to their house. I'm sure there were times that I didn't fight to go but I mostly remember not wanting to go. I don't know when the every other weekend and holiday rotation started but I remember when it came to an end. 

My mom remarried in June of 1991 to our Dad, David. For sake of easier writing when I say Dad I am referring to David not our biological father. He was, is, and always will be the only Dad I think of when I think Dad. He stepped in and filled shoes that he didn't have to fill but chose to. When I say that having him in our lives made them better I'm not exaggerating. He has done so much for us and right along with mom helped shape us into the people we are today.

So back to the day the life of divorced parent living stopped for my brother and I. My mom and dad took us out to dinner at Western Sizzlin'. We were having a nice family dinner when they told us we needed to talk about something serious. This was in 1994 or so. I don't remember exactly what they said but something along the lines of Kevin (biological father) wants to give up his parental rights. I'm pretty sure I cut them off and said, "Does that mean I don't have to see him anymore? Or go to his house?" Of course the answer was yes if that's what we wanted. I said yes with no hesitation. We talked more about what this meant for our family and the process we would have to take for him to legally give up his parental rights. I feel like another question that was asked was something like "Does that mean you will be our only Dad?" Duh the answer was yes but we were young and had no idea what giving up your parental rights really meant. We also discussed that Dad would adopt us if we were okay with that. Simple answer to me since he was more of a Dad than our biological father ever was in my eyes. I don't even remember when we started calling him Dad instead of David but it was who he was to us. So with that discussion the legal work was started to remove/allow Kevin to give up, whatever, all parental rights and Dad would adopt us. Done deal easy, at least in the eyes of an 8 and 9 year old. (I think that's how old we were.)

The legal process is of course more than just signing a few papers but I honestly don't remember much of it. I remember going to court twice, once was supposed to be the final date but due to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building happening just blocks away the court house was evacuated. Then I remember going again to actually finialize everything and being in the judges chambers. We were talking with him about our name changes and going over the adoption details. I'm pretty sure it was my brother, mom, dad and I and our attorney. I really just remember my brother asking if he could also change his middle name. Before the adoption my brother was a junior. The judge told him he could change anything about his name he wanted except for his first name.(My brother and I had our own attorney to make sure our best interests were being represented) That day in July of 1995 is when I went from being Vanessa Jo Simmons to Vanessa Jo Nicholson and my brother from Kevin Lee Simmons Jr. to Kevin Gene Nicholson. We both became Nicholson's and he changed his middle name to Gene just like Dads.

We had a party in the backyard celebrating our adoption and becoming Nicholson's. It's funny to think about it now because I never felt like I wasn't a Nicholson. Our aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were always our family and we were close to them. None the less it was a huge milestone in all of our lives and so we celebrated! I even had a plaque that had a cute poem and something on it but I have no idea where that is.

So why now, why has this suddenly come to surface? Its not something I'm ashamed of but its also not something I talk about all the time. I actually will sometimes say something to friends and they will say, "what your adopted? I didn't know that!" It seriously slips my mind sometimes because it was so long ago and I haven't had any interaction with my biological fathers family in 7 or so years. The last time I even saw him or any of them was at my biologial grandfathers funeral and a biological cousins funeral. Funny story from one of the funerals is our biological father introduced us to someone as "my kids and their Dad!" Haha so fitting especially since for a really long time my brother referred to him as our sperm donor. (Go ahead laugh, its funny!) 
In probably February of 2013 I received a letter in the mail from DHS. I was so confused and actually thought that somehow it related to a former student. I opened it to find that it was a family resource letter for adult children. Basically it was a questionnaire about what kind of a father Kevin Simmons (biological father) was. It included a letter and requested that I fill out a questionnaire and return it in the envelope provided. I immediately called my brother and told him to be on the lookout for one soon if he didn't already have one. I sat on it for a while. I read and reread the questions on there. I talked to my family about the questionnaire. I thought about how to answer the questions and I finally decided to respond to DHS with a letter instead. I just felt like the questions they were asking didn't pertain to the relationship I had with the man at all. I shared my response letter with my family and encouraged my brother to respond in whatever way he felt necessary. We aren't the same person so we don't have the same feelings. Initially I was going to share the letter but you should be able to get the gist of my response just from reading this.

Today I found out that my biological father and his wife have adopted two little girls. My response, oh okay good for them, I knew that he was trying to. It doesn't change anything about my life. I honestly hope that it is for the best for all of them. He did us a favor when he gave up his rights to us. He is no longer a part of our lives and we are happy. Doesn't he deserve the same, I don't see why not. 

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