Friday, October 16, 2009

Introducing a Lucky One

By David Biddle for Adopt-a-tude

I'd like to introduce myself. My name is David Biddle and I will be posting occasionally to Adopt-a-tude. At one time in my life I had a different name. My original name was Anthony Tobias Black. I had that name for about two weeks. It's a great name, but I also like the name David Biddle.

My perspective on adoption will hopefully be somewhat unique here at Adopt-a-tude. I was adopted back in 1958 in Richmond, Indiana. I've got a lot of experience thinking about this adoption thing. For the first 20 years or so of my life I tried to ignore what it meant to me. But beginning in college, gradually, piece by piece, issues and questions that I'd refused to think about began to surface that I couldn't ignore.

My adoption situation was made all the more interesting and poignant because I have tan skin. When I was born, so-called white families weren't interested in me because I was too dark, and so-called black families felt I was too light. The story was that I was mixed race, but no one could tell me the mix or my heritage. Folks don't talk about this kind of thing very much even today, but there are many of us out there who grew up without a clue what our DNA is composed of. In the end I wasn't adopted by white or black people. I was adopted by nice people. I love my parents Bruce and Ellen Biddle. And they loved me.

Finally, I am one of those lucky ones you read about every so often. At the age of 45 and with the help of my wife and kids, we went looking for my birth mother. I needed to know what my heritage is. Most importantly, I needed my sons to know what their heritage is. By luck, I was born in Ohio, a state that allows adoptees to petition for their original birth certificate. Once I received that I at least had my birth mother's maiden name -- and my first name, Anthony Tobias Black.

We left our home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in August of 2002, found our way to Richmond, Indiana where I'd been adopted, and did the classic town hall research thing looking at marriage records, birth records, divorce records.

I am one of the lucky ones because I found my birth mother. She is successful in life, happy, and above all was overjoyed to finally meet me. At the age of 18 she'd been forced to give me up for adoption. We have had a growing relationship now for more than seven years. I've visited for extended periods with my family twice now and I know my story. It's good enough to be a book, that story, which I've written and am now trying to get published. I have three half-brothers as well. The oldest of them and I get along like, well, brothers. It's very weird.

I hope, then, to bring to this web log a lifelong practitioner's perspective on what it's like to be adopted. You're adopted all your life, not just when you're living with your parents. And the idea of adoption and being adopted changes and morphs over time. I don't think I had an intellectual thought about my adoption until I had my own kids (see the photo). One has red hair and green eyes; another brown hair and brown eyes; and the youngest is blond with blue eyes. I think I felt like an orphan in the world until these three guys came along. I think a lot of adoptees feel like orphans in one way or another, but we work hard to ignore this. It's cool to be an orphan though these days. Harry Potter is an orphan. So was Batman, Superman, Cinderella, and Tom Sawyer. (If you have any other examples of orphans, let us know in the comments section).

The story of moving from being an orphan to being loved and part of a family can make every adoptee strong, well-adjusted, and a force to be reckoned with in the world. Each of us is different of course. I can only give you my experience and my perspective. Hopefully it will be useful or at least entertaining. If you're curious about anything, don't be afraid to ask. I love answering people's questions. I don't think I belong there, but I really believe there should be an Adoption Hall of Fame. I'd put my birth mother in there for sure. I'd put my mom in too. She was absolutely the greatest mom anyone could ever have. If any of you are interested in this concept, get back to me. I've got no money, but a lot of ideas.

Thanks for reading.


Martha Nichols said...

David, I've been nudging you to write for us, and this is just one terrific post encapsulating so many things. You do have a story that should be published (hear that, any publishers out there?), and I'd also like to direct readers to David's blog, *The Formality of Occurrence*, on which some of that story is told. Here's the link:

As for orphans in literature, there are so many, especially in the child-lit realm. It's one way those child characters are allowed to go off and have adventures (Like Harry P.). Here are a few I can think of offhand: the kids in the *Lemony Snickett* series, Lyla in Phillip Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy, the Boxcar Children, Frodo in *The Lord of the Rings*, Esther and the other wards in *Bleak House*, at least two of the kids in *The Secret Garden*, so many comic-book and Manga heroes... I'll post more when I think of them.

Of course, many of these characters end up living with uncles or aunts or some form of distant bio-relation--often not leading to a loving family, as in Harry P's Muggle family. Can we think of any strong adoptee characters?

Here's another coincidental—or lucky?—thing. This Monday, a piece of mine will start running on WOMEN = BOOKS, the blog for the *Women's Review of Books*, called "Is My Son Lucky?". Here's the link:

I will likely re-post this on Adopt-a-tude in a few weeks. But it's so nice to hear from one of the lucky ones now...

Pamela Turner Sitton said...

David, I too was adopted. I know that I was not completely black because of the way blacks treated me in school. Then someone from church (mostly white at that time) told me he could tell that I am of mix race. I was told later on the one of my parents was Puerto Rican I thought it was my birth mom but she is black. I was never told about anything else except my mom (adopted mom) told me that I had red hair when I was a baby. Which is funny because when my youngest son was born he had red hair with almost white hair on the sides. My children's dad is white (German, French, and Irish). I would love to meet my birth mom. I could write a book I remember you from High School and the moment I saw you and we actually talked for a moment, I knew you were of mixed race but was not sure what (smiles). My adopted parents were black.
Even now I have hispanic people asking me if I am spanish...which is funny. There have been black men that have asked me what race I am because I am not all black, they say. LOL. I congratulate you on finding your birth mom. At least one of us knows the truth.

David Biddle said...

Very cool Pam. It is interesting you would know me as mixed race in school. I was so clueless back then about my heritage. Never really saw race in anyone. I do remember that you were very exotic looking and seemed different than many others...same as me! Sounds like you tried to track your mom down. It's hard. You have to be really, really diligent and creative. It took me about 10 years to get up to speed. I also had the help of my wife and kids. Without Marion I don't think I'd have had the courage or the energy.