Lost & Found: The person I was.
The heartbreaking death of a child, an adopted “replacement child”, and a family sworn to secrecy. This was the hidden background of one man’s life, until, at the age of 63, he was presented with the facts of his adoption.
“So you were adopted. Never mind. Get over it and move on. It’s just one of life's little hiccups.” No one seemed to realize how Mike* felt, how very much more than a hiccup it was for him not to know who his parents were. His whole world was knocked off balance. He felt duped, betrayed, his very identity called into question.
Mike is a new-found cousin, and I’ve had the privilege of telling his story.
From the moment he laid eyes on his adoption papers, Mike became single-minded in his goal – he was determined to discover who his biological parents were.
He considered himself a New Zealander, but Mike was born in the UK, in war-scarred Birmingham, during the last years of WW II. The city had suffered frequent bombings, a great deal of damage, and a disruption of the usual norms of life – married women did the unthinkable and went out to work; youngsters stayed up all night on fire-watch or manning telephones; men in uniform were far from home facing an uncertain future, and young women were left on their own, their husbands shipped out to fight and perhaps never return. Amidst this social chaos and upheaval, Mike sought his origins.
The two pieces of information he had as a starting point were his pre-adoption birth name, and the name of his birth mother, both appearing on the adoption papers. One little step at a time, Mike remarkably managed to discover the identity of both his biological parents and to piece together the circumstances of their acquaintance. And finally, after grappling with NGOs, government bodies and even the High Court, he succeeded in receiving legal certification of his true parentage.
The actual discovery of and encounters with his maternal and paternal families brought Mike face to face with family scandal, painful confrontations, and something he least expected – Judaism. And that’s when his life really began to change.
Mike mentioned that he’d been told repeatedly how amazing and moving his story was and that it should be a book. Like most professional copywriters, I had in mind that I’d write a book one day, and here was a perfect opportunity. I volunteered to take on the challenge.
Getting all the information proved to be a challenge indeed, considering I live in Israel and he in New Zealand. My husband and I spent time together with Mike and his wife at our home in Israel, at their home in New Zealand, and at their holiday home in Tuscany. And this was augmented with copious emails and phone calls. Pulling out all the details and getting the chronology of events just right was often a fraught and painful process for Mike, forcing him to relive difficult revelations. There were times when he didn’t want to discuss it further and retreated from his commitment to see it through. We’d let it go for a while, and come back to it.
Now, some six years later, the book has been completed, much to the delight and relief of both author and protagonist. What motivated Mike most strongly to carry on and see it through was the thought that anyone else facing a similar life discovery, may perhaps find his story helpful. He has said to me more than once, “If I can help just one person to understand how to go about it, to persevere, discover and come to terms with their truth, then writing the book will have been worthwhile."
*This is a true story, but all names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.