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Searching for Abba on Father's Day

Jun 17 2011
What Daddy said to me, a 'love child,' that changed my life.

The year Diana Ross's hit song "Love Child" hit the top of the pop charts, I was born to a single mother who was unable to care for me. At three weeks, I was adopted into a family who raised me in an affluent suburb outside of Chicago. The view from the curb was that we were the perfect family, in the perfect home, in the perfect town.

On the inside of those stately brick walls, though, my home life was shaped by alcoholism and domestic violence. My parents divorced when I was 6. My mother remarried another alcoholic, and my father, who'd moved away, also remarried. By the time I was 15, both of those marriages had ended. What I learned about trust people was that they went away. What I learned about myself was that I wasn't worth loving.

None of the adults in my life had a clue I was suffering. My broad smile fooled them and even me. It disguised the protective shell around my vulnerable heart meant to keep me from being be hurt again. As I moved into adulthood, though, that girl-size armor, pinching, chafing, began to fail.

In college, my roommate—single—became pregnant. That she decided to raise her child instead of placing him up for adoption created the first crack in my cardiac shell. Nine months later, holding her precious son in my arms, five hundred more fissures rippled around my guarded heart. Baby Isaiah's blessed arrival, as well as his familiar origins, unleashed a deep wondering about my own.

Soon after Isaiah's birth, curious, I submitted an application to an international reunion registry that linked separated kin. Within a few weeks I was reunited with my birthmother. She was delighted to find me, and our relationship has continued to this day.

When I tracked down my birthfather, he was not interested in knowing me. With my unwillingness to face the sting of his second rejection and the chronic layers of grief it triggered, my pain eventually became unmanageable. Suffering from depression, I flitted between whatever psychological and spiritual resources promised healing. For over a decade, every book, praying church, healing conference, therapist's office, and prayer circle left me more disappointed and devastated than the last. The spiritual reality that I was a beloved daughter of God—the one to which I agreed in my head, and sincerely preached with my lips—had yet to sift its way into my deepest places.

At my lowest point, I told a friend that my quest for relief was just about done. Though far from healed, I could simply no longer justify the time, energy, and financial resources being poured into fixing my broken heart.

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