“Through me you pass into the city of woe.” —Dante
As adoptees who live on the razor’s edge between places, we are often asked to broker for or engage on behalf of those who are looking for roots as well, either as adoptees, or more often for me I must say, adoptive parents wanting to help the children in their care.
For example, today I received an email in response to a posting I put up on an adoption registry site [ link ], from someone who adopted a child from Lebanon. I recognize the hope and dread often found in these emails I get, and I try to temper my replies so as not to dash (too quickly) hope, or to crush (too quickly or too completely) the mythologies of adoption built up in people’s minds.
But I’m also hugely conscious now of my own reaction to these emails. I admit now that this takes an emotional toll. I’m not comfortable with the burden of dropping on someone what it has taken me eight years (or a lifetime) to be able to handle: the Truth of adoption. When I look at the listings at this site, for example, I know based on names, places, hospitals, orphanages, etc. a lot more about the adoptee listed than s/he is probably wanting to know right off the bat.
A tangent: At the Adoption Initiatives Conference in October, I attended a presentation given by a “search angel” who helps those who were moved out of New York via the Orphan Trains. She stated that legally she was not allowed by New York State law to give out particular information she was privy too. She explained that she would often resort to a kind of “puzzle game” to allow the searcher to find things out for himself or herself.
This boggled my mind, first because I don’t think I could keep such info from someone. Second, because Lebanon has no such legal aspect to such information; the social construct also has less of this idea of personal privacy. Third, because I don’t like such games. And so when faced with “bridging” realms, as it were, I am at a loss as to how to ease someone into what is not going to be a pleasant journey.
My question here is one of advice. How do you handle the position of transitional ferryman? How can you ascertain if someone is capable of handling the truth? What responsibility is on us to “successfully” help others deal with what we know?