In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
I Think About How Close I Probably Am To Her At This Moment
By Dominic Wood
My family has given me so many opportunities in life, and I've always been so grateful to them. I was born in 1981 and adopted within a couple weeks by my parents who flew to California to meet me and pick me up.
My mother, Moira, spoke fluent Spanish from living in Columbia for a short period of time in college and she and my Dad, Phil, were chosen to be my parents. My birth mother's name is Ophelia and she was already a mother to two boys. They all lived with her brother and were clearly limited financially.
Ophelia was an immigrant from Mexico, and the birth father wasn't in the picture. From the stories, it sounded as if her brother had made it clear that if she had any more children from this man, she was to move out.
My parents were very excited about adopting me, and after having fallen in love with Italy, they gave me the name Dominic. From the photos I have seen, we clearly had a good time my first couple years. My Dad opened a restaurant and named it after me, quickly becoming my pride and joy as a young boy.
I was raised in Seattle. My parents divorced when I was around four. I can't remember us ever living together, but they did seem to always be cordial. I lived with Mom during the week and with Dad on weekends. They both remarried when I was eight, and soon after adopted more children: two Chinese girls for my Dad, and a beautiful foster daughter for my mom (a girl we had care for and renamed Anna).
Oddly enough, my Dad named one of his daughters Anna as well. My stepfather had two boys, who became typical older brothers for me, one (Sean) being six months older and the other (Jeff) being five years older. My sister Anna is twelve years younger; the other Anna is 16 years younger, and Lucy is twenty years younger. I loved having the chance to watch them grow up at different stages of my life.
Our adoptions each had special meanings to us. Our Chinese girls were saved from orphanages and raised to become incredibly smart, beautiful and funny. The other Anna was the most fun little sister who followed me constantly. Looking back at my teenage years, I probably didn't realize how much she loved hanging out with me.
I raised them all the same, spinning them around, chasing and teasing them to hear their laughter. The oldest now has her own daughter that I get to spoil. I never did live with the other two, as I had moved out and on to college in Chicago when they were little, but I moved back to Seattle knowing that I wanted to be a part of their lives and watch them grow up.
With four parents, eight grandparents and many cousins on all sides, I was blessed with a huge family that kept me very busy during holidays and being spoiled by all was quite a perk. I always knew that I was adopted, having tan skin and black hair next to my mom’s fair skin and blond hair or my dad’s white hair and thin stature.
I was adopted into local shipping royalty, the Foss Tugboat family, and I learned the importance of this at an early age and got to participate in many fun boating activities growing up, even witnessing a new Foss tug being christened after my sister Lucy. I'm sure 100 years ago as the company was being formed, this Norwegian family hadn't anticipated a Chinese girl's photo in the cabin.
It was just a couple years ago when I was in my late twenties that my Mom brought out all my adoption paperwork to see. We looked through the typewritten and thin paper docs depicting the time and date of my birth in a small suburb of Sacramento. My birth mother’s name was right there. I had never seen it before.
My Mom had decided early on that I wasn't allowed to know my birthmother’s last name until I was eighteen. As the age came and went, it didn’t feel very important to me to know. I loved my family so much; I didn't have a longing for more or feel that I was missing anything.
But seeing her full name and age right then and there on the stack of adoption forms, it sure made me curious how easy it could be to find her on a quick computer search. I found a match, same name and age in Texas, but it didn't seem quite right. She had a couple of daughters and no sons that I could find. It didn't appear to be her, and the trail didn't go anywhere else. I didn't pursue it any further.
This past year my Dad and stepmom, her brother and mother and my two sisters and I all took a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mex. It was the first time we had gone on such an exotic trip together and also an eye opener to a life that could have been mine.
The local people definitely lived a different lifestyle than we were accustomed to. We witnessed all walks of life but the Mexican culture is something I clearly am lacking, unable to speak the language fluently, yet easily mistaken for someone who is.
I thought, this is what I'm missing. This culture that I can never really immerse myself in -- I'm not one of them. It hurts to be so close to a people, yet so far, and to see the expectation that I should know more.
It was our final day of the trip, after a week of incredible sightseeing, swimming with dolphins, art galleries and the best damn food in the world -- I can never get sick of Mexican food; that’s definitely in my blood. My Dad and I, who have rarely spoken about my adoption, swam in the ocean together and chatted for an hour or so as the rest of the crew hung out in the resort.
Where was my mom from again? I ask. Mexico City, he thinks. No clue about the birth father. She was young when he met her, she must have been late teens or early 20's, my birth brothers were 2 and 4, the older one was a sweet boy who had come over and put his head in my dad's lap. He couldn't remember her name, although Ophelia it is.
Would I ever want to find her? he asks. I look out into the beautiful sun set and the huge mountains and curve of the bay. Perhaps so I can tell her how lucky I am. How well things turned out. A huge frog wells up in my throat as I think about her and how close I probably am to her at this moment. Living in a paradise with this family and yet seeing some harsh poverty in this city, I realize again how lucky I am.
How her decision affected my entire future, how she must think of me all the time and wonder what happened. If only I could let her know. It breaks my heart to think she could ever worry. I love her very much. She was a very nice and pretty young lady, my dad says. I'm sure she was.
I don't know if or when I will pursue meeting her, there's still a lot of apprehension. What would her other sons think of me? Would it be a disappointment that I can't speak Spanish fluently? Would they be jealous of the life I have, or disappointed that I don’t know more about the Mexican culture? I'm sure it would be fine, but I know I was given so much more than she ever could have imagined, and I would just feel terrible if she were disappointed.
At our last meal on the Mexico trip, we went around the circle and said what our favorite part of the trip was. I said the food; Lucy said zip lining and swimming with dolphins; and when it was my Dad's turn, he said it was spending time with me in the ocean and he meant it. He's a very special person, a very kind man who has loved me unconditionally all my life.
Thank you, Ophelia, for the gift of life, and for choosing such amazing adoptive parents. You did great!
Dominic Wood was adopted at two weeks old from a Mexican birth mother to an incredibly loving family. His father's family founded one of the world's largest shipping companies, Foss Maritime and his mother's Uncle was Mayor Martin Kennelly of Chicago in 1947. He has 3 adopted sisters, 2 from China and one from Seattle, plus two stepbrothers. Dominic works in real estate and is a partner in a popular Seattle restaurant, the Ship Canal Grill.
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