By: Denise Arpke
When someone tells me about their family’s journey in adopting a child I’m excited for them and it warms my heart. I instantly want to hear their story of how they became a family and how happy, scary and full of love their story is. Why do I take such an interest in this subject because, I have my own story, I am adopted.
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona to a mother who didn’t or couldn’t take care of a little baby. From the stories I was told, I was given up immediately after birth and went to a foster family. Thank you to that foster family who cared for me and, took a few pictures for the future. I’m glad they did, those pictures help me to see back, a moment in time, what I looked like as a baby. I find those pictures very precious.
My story begins when a man and his wife, Lee and Karen, from Wisconsin were looking to adopt a baby boy from Arizona. My father is Native American; he too was born in Phoenix and is from the Pima Indian tribe. My father thought, “Everyone should have an older brother” well, that didn’t pan out. When he was in Arizona to check on the adoption process, he was told they have a little girl. He thought he would meet me and to his surprise, he wanted to bring me home. Eventually, I was on an airplane to Wisconsin to meet my new potential family. From what I was told, I took to my mom right away. I would snuggle up with her and that made her very happy. On the downside, Karen was sick, so her mother was a big help, taking care of her and me. One day, Karen passed away and my mom was gone. I was young, about a year and half, so I don’t remember anything, just the stories from my Grandma B, Karen’s mom. My father, after losing his wife, still decided to go through with the adoption. He was a single father in the late sixties who, like any other dad, worked every day but had the help from a fantastic influence, grandma. Lucky for me, grandma B was in my life every day and for a long time.
One cool cloudy day, based on the picture, was adoption day! The day, me, a little two year old became the legal daughter of my dad! It was just the two of us for a couple of years along with grandma and grandpa of course. I have some pictures from that time that tells the story of family, love, birthday cakes, swinging in the summer sun, pictures with grandma and grandpa and the look of love in their eyes. All those feelings and experiences were real, it didn’t matter that I was adopted, I was theirs! Without a doubt, grandma and grandpa were my family. When I take out the pictures, I smile and at the same time, feel a little sad because they are missed!! Besides me having this wonderful lady as a grandma, my children were able to reap the benefits of great- grandma B, because she loved and cared for them too.
A few years later, my dad and I married Carol, the mom I have today and I was the flower girl in their wedding. Eventually, there was a little sister and a little brother added to the family. Fast forward to a few years later, to a day I somewhat remember. One sunny day my dad took me for a drive, we ended up at the cemetery. I thought what a weird place to stop but, little did I know, I was about to be told about a time in my life that I didn’t remember, but was very important to understand. My dad told me that I was adopted, he told me that I was born in Arizona and that my birth mom wanted me to have a family that would love and take care of me and that she was afraid she couldn’t provide that for me. He also told me that he was married before to Karen and she liked being my mom. But, she was very sick and passed away before the adoption was final. My dad explained that he loved me so much, that he worked hard to be able to adopt me on his own. I do remember bits of that conversation, his words made an impact on me, that I was loved that much and didn’t even know it. As I got older, I liked hearing stories about “back then” hearing the words and seeing the emotion on their faces made it real. I also realized my dad had some hardships in his life but, he pressed on and continued with the adoption to keep us a family.
Now that I’m an adult and have two grown children of my own, I appreciate my birth mom so much because, she gave me up for adoption! Whatever reason she had for giving me up, it doesn’t matter, I just want to thank her for her selfless action. I have a great outlook on being adopted. Don’t get me wrong, when I was younger I had thoughts of “do they really love me, I’m not part of them” or they probably like their “real” kids more. But looking back, the positive feelings outweigh the negative feelings. Plus, I felt pretty special because I had my very own grandma B. I have to credit my parents and grandma because they would answer any questions I had about Karen, the adoption and life back then. Plus, I have a few pictures, the precious pictures. As I’m writing this, I looked through the pictures and for a moment, I was back jumping in the leaf pile grandma had just raked up for me.
Because the adoption was closed, information is not readily available. But, I had the chance to get some basic information about me and my birth mom and dad‘s background. It’s a tiny piece of history and I wish I could find out more. When I found out, I told my parents about the information and they were supportive and interested. If I was happy with what I found out, they were happy. I think the biggest take away from that discussion was their positive reaction; they didn’t take offense to my curiosity and wanting to obtain what information I could.
I feel very lucky to be adopted. I feel like the heavenly father was watching over me since before birth because he gave me some wonderful people in my life. If I wasn’t born, I wouldn’t have my parents, grandparents, sister, brother, husband and children in my life. My daughter and I were talking one day and she said mom, you’ve had four moms in your life. I looked at her, smiled and said, yes, I’m pretty darn lucky because those moms have taken care of me throughout my life and one mom still does.