Root Family

Root Family

Jan 17, 2015

Alaska 2013 Pre-trip report

This might be too personal.  This is definitely too long.  If you read it, please be gentle with me.  

I started writing this blog a little less than 1 year ago, weeks before my birthson died, 6 months after our trip to visit him.  Of course you can imagine that it's taken me that long to even think about writing these again, and that I've had to rewrite and consider everything I had before.  I don't have a personal blog anymore so this will have to do.  I'm including a ton of detail that might seem irrelevant, or too intense, or overwhelming, but I just can't tell the story without it.  

In July of 2013 my family took a trip to Alaska.  It wasn't just for outdoor hobbies or sightseeing, it was to visit a very special boy and his family.  So much has changed since that time that this blog post can't be called a "Trip Report" like others that appear on this blog for those purposes.  There is just too much to this story.  I have to give some background and I'm loading the story with emotional details.  

In the fall of 2009 I was able to face-to-face meet with the boy I had placed for adoption when I was 18.  A few months before that his mother Lori had found me on Facebook and we started getting re-acquainted.  My adoption was closed at the time of placement and this of course was a dream come true for me.  Although I'd always been open and willing to discuss my choice with friends or close ones, having an open adoption was a complete new step for me, one I knew nothing about.  I didn't know anyone with an open adoption.  I didn't know anyone who talked openly about their adoption.  I was so proud of my birthson Cade but sort of embarrassed to be proud, I didn't know if I had the right, I didn't feel as if I was free to discuss him except on rare occasions.    

Since 2009 my family has had one other visit from him and his Mom when they have come to Utah to visit her family.  She extended an invitation to us to visit them in Alaska, I remember her exact words being: "all you have to do is get there."  Well, the thought never left my mind and I decided the next summer (2013) I was going to make it happen.    

When our trip became a reality, I think part of me was scared.  I was having a hard time going to Alaska because I was in a way embarrassed of what my life is now--which is wonderful, but I thought it should be more extraordinary.  After I placed Cade I went to college and got my bachelor degree.  I studied abroad one semester in Israel and did an archaeology field school one summer.  After graduation I went to Japan and taught English for 8 months and then a year later I enrolled in an MBA program I would complete 2 years later.  I wanted to make a difference in the world, to change the world, to write or teach or study archaeology and religion and be outside all day.  

I always imagined myself living abroad with my family, not because I don't love America, but because I wanted to make a difference in parts of the world less lucky than us and to teach my children that clothes and popstars are the least of their worries.  

I wanted to do so much but I also desperately wanted a family.  Having a baby had opened my eyes to what life was truly about--love, relationships, family, caring and giving.  I never in my life have wanted a big house or fancy car or anything like that.  But I've always been searching for the unknown, the mysterious, for what people find meaning in, and I've always wanted to help people.  But I'm more interested in my family than anything else and somehow that dream isn't compatible unless it's a family dream.  

So somehow I am always still struggling for meaning when it seems everyone else has found it and I'm just wasting my time, just being a loser, not helping anyone at all, not doing anything impressive, and it can feel like I'm a complete let-down.  I feel happiest when I'm outside with my children or when I'm teaching them something, and I also feel the happiest when I've pushed myself really hard physically.  

I guess I thought that Cade's family might have a high opinion of me and that I would be a huge let-down.  

Another major reason I was nervous was because of my role as stepmother.  Of course no one wants to grow up and be a stepmother.  But we all take on the role quite willingly and pretty naively when we fall in love.  In fact, we think we'll be awesome.  

Now I have quite a strained relationship with my stepson who lives with our family.  It pains me that people might see that tension or lack of warmth.  I could write blog after blog after blog about this struggle and my wish for this relationship to be better and the efforts I've made, the counseling I've received to back off, and all of my worries about how that looks to other people--but I was especially self-conscious about this being apparent during our stay in Alaska.  Like, did I marry someone with a son close in age to the one I gave up to replace that child?  Can they see how much he dislikes and avoids interaction with me?  Why does he dislike me / have no interest in me? Was I a cruel stepmother? or Do I not love my stepchild as my own? and/or Did I really deserve such an awesome husband while being a not-awesome wife/stepmom (since Tyler was so great with Cade and his family)?  Will they see or feel the tension when I try to even speak to my stepson or how when there's no one else around how we don't know what to do around each other?  

And most of all, I didn't want my stepson to feel as if this boy, Cade, was so much more loved, I wanted to make sure that my stepson felt my love too! 

Those are all of the things I was thinking about when taking this trip.  Which is kind of ridiculous I know but I also couldn't help any of it.  

And all I wanted was to get to know my son better, and having learned that we had mutual interests and having felt so loved by his family I should have just not worried at all, and I did feel comfortable and I was so excited, just with all that stuff on my mind.  


Mindy said...

Alene, I didn't know any of this about your life. I feel so many emotions, and even though I don't live with any of these difficult situations you describe, I feel all of the emotions you express as I read. Oh my friend, my heart is full for you. It was so good to see you recently. And my heart prays for you.

Jan Tillotson said...

I remember you and April as five-yr-olds, with peanut butter faces and your own twin language. I remember you, years later, knocking on our door in the middle of the night, wanting to come in and see Shannon. I remember your brother Bryan developing diabetes, and your brother Sam coming for day care at my house. I think of your whole family often and wonder what has become of each of you. Isn't life full of unexpected twists and turns? We want so badly for every thing to go right, and try so hard to make it so, but our efforts often fall short or backfire, and the emotions get so complicated and deep. Pretty soon we are wondering how we got to where we are and how to get to where we meant to be. One writer described it as 'waking the middle of his life to find himself wandering in a deep wood'. Just remember who is the Way and the Light. Each grief, every disappointment, teaches us something that will be useful in our later lives. And the way we react to these events is instructive to those around us, as well. Count your blessings daily, and credit yourself for your triumphs. Don't dwell on defeats, but view them as valuable experiences. I pray constantly for all the young people who have passed through my families lives and moved on, and I bet a lot of other people are praying for you too. In God we trust.