I got married to a mechanic at the tender age of 26. Not that I have anything against the institution, but in hind sight, for me, it was a bad move. I had come from a pretty rough place emotionally in my early 20s. I probably should have seen a therapist to untangle myself from the aftermath of what felt like emotional abuse, but I didn't. I soldiered on. I met my now-ex husband in 2002, and we were married two years later in 2004. On Memorial day, of all days.
At the wedding reception, a long time family friend corners me and says "You should stand up and say something nice to your parents. They really love you, and want to see you happy."
Say something nice. Ok, I can do this. I work off the cuff all the time anyway.
After his mother, and only member of his family to offer a toast returned to her seat, I approached the stage area and took the microphone. It was my turn to say thank you to the people who got me to that day, and remind them that yes, I do know exactly how lucky I am. So begins a paraphrase of what I had to say.
I was adopted from the Nebraska Children's Home Society as an infant of roughly two months of age. I was, apparently, a beautiful baby. Ask my mom, she'll tell you. Boy, will she tell you. I had rosebud lips, searching eyes, and slept through the night from day one. I was docile, and more importantly, I was a very peaceful, silent baby.
After a short time, my quietude and other-worldliness started to get a little creepy. I mean, someone walks into a room with you and you should notice, right? Not me. My folks, being overly-concerned first time parents, took me to the doctor. Ok, no. In reality they took me to every doctor with a phone number in the yellow pages.
I had been fortunate enough to be adopted by a successful small business owner and his wife. Medical care was, thankfully, easy to come by. Later, after I grew up, I came to be told that they would flown me to Switzerland had they needed to. Money was no object. They just wanted me to be healthy.
Financing aside, I was poked and prodded by more doctors in my first year than some people are in their entire life. In the end, it was determined that the pediatrician on contract with the adoption agency had gotten either lazy or forgetful when he was examining me. As such, the standard (and mandatory) hearing test was never done. I was deaf!
Well, not entirely so. After a battery of tests, it was determined I had a slight ability to hear. I was severely impaired, none the less. I don't know how it came to pass that the NCHS discovered my handicap. I'm not sure if my parents were working with them for referrals or if they'd found pediatricians on their own. What I do know is that they weren't aware of my disability at the time of the adoption. They made a hasty attempt to contact my parents when they were made aware. Once they got my parents on the phone, I believe the conversation went something like this:
Them: "Oh, Mr and Mrs Ephemily. We are SO very sorry to hear about your baby girl. We had no idea she was deaf! *dramatic pause* Do you want a new one?"
Parents: "Whaaaaat?! No. Of course not. How could you even ask such a thing?! She's our baby girl. We'll take her to all the very best doctors if it would help her. We'd learn sign language. But she's ours!"
Apparently, their reasoning was that adoptive parents aren't ready either financially or emotionally for a handicapped child. That's why they offered a refund on their purchase, so to speak. I want to ask, who the hell is ready for that, regardless of how you become a parent?! Adoption shouldn't be about picking and choosing the best of the litter. I know of people who have declined adoptions because of "what ifs" and that turns my stomach. You can't just throw a child into a defective/restock bin and choose a better one. To think that's ok disgusts me. Thankfully, my near miss with being a ward of the state didn't end with my being permanently deaf as well.
Turns out, I had some sort of problem that was fixable. I was too young to ask questions, and time has erased my parent's memories of the diagnosis. However, removing my adenoids and giving me some time to let those structures mature eventually allowed my hearing to develop.
For those of you who are curious, adenoids are in your nose. Ears. Nose, yeah. I didn't understand it either, but I also don't have an MD after my name. All I know is that after having an operation to remove them, the world got an awful lot noisier. We also had a new joke around the house; "Kid, you'd better behave. We took out the extended service plan on you. It has a lemon clause. Act up one more time and you're outta here!".
As such, I would like to thank my folks for sticking it out, through the tough times, the temper tantrums, 6th grade, learning to drive, college, and all those other times when walking away must have been tempting. Adopted or not, you'll always be mom and dad. Thank you for making every day up until this one what it was. I love you guys.
Yup, leave 'em laughing and crying at the same time. My work there was done. I gestured an affectionate motion to my family to my right, and made my way back to my seat.
As I sat down, the friend who had asked me to stand up hissed at me through her own sniffles and said "I said say something nice, not move the whole room to tears!"