Are you familiar with Chris Jacobs? To motorheads like me, Chris is a big deal. He was the co-host of the Velocity Channel's "Overhaulin'" show, where deserving people had a beloved old car rebuilt by famous designer Chip Foose. The shows long run recently came to an end, but will live on in reruns for years. So what happened to Chris Jacobs? He can be seen as one of the feature reporters during the famous Barrett-Jackson car auctions, and on a TLC show called "Long Lost Family." Jacobs, who holds a law degree, was adopted, and the show is about helping reunite families that were separated by an adoption.
A car guy who was adopted? Totally in my wheelhouse, and I had to watch. Interestingly, watching the program has been somewhat therapeutic for me. Given up for adoption at birth in Burlington, I had all the same questions that wanted answers, like the people you see on this reality TV show. I just finished watching the program a few minutes ago, and one of the adopted people who was reunited described her feelings about being adopted. It resonated with me more than just about any other story concerning adoption that I've seen. The words that the young woman used to describe her feelings pushed all the right buttons. She said that she always imagined her biological family at a table, only there was no place for her there. She felt unseen.
The invisible feeling has been with me my entire life. At big family gatherings with my adoptive family, I always felt that I was not seen. I acted out, proving that fact many times. As I was becoming a teenager I felt that my cloak of invisibility was so real that I could get away with shoplifting candy bars, which I did. A neighbor who worked at one of the local grocery stores was able to get word to me that no, I wasn't invisible, and the old guy who owned the store was on to me. That put an end to my crime spree. It did not end those feelings of invisibility.
More than feeling that I wasn't showing up on anyone's radar was that innate feeling of rejection. It shaped so much of my early life. No one cares. No one sees. No one knows. I suppose it set me up to have a need to prove myself, to become visible, and to show the world that I didn't need anyone or anything. That kind of thinking will make for a hard life, yet I chose that, like knowing that your life was a crime and you got to choose your punishment.
In the TV program, Chris Jacobs was comparing notes with the young woman who felt that there was no place for her at the table. He had found his biological parents, and told the young lady that the hole in his heart was filled, that it helped immensely with his feelings of rejection. In my experience, the results have been mixed. The relationship with my biological parents, one on one, was and is fulfilling. Everyone on the periphery had other ideas, and the rejection continued overtly and in subtle ways, too. You could almost call it "re-rejection." Like a flickering light bulb on the edge of a power outage, my invisibility has waxed and waned. Certain realistic and some unrealistic expectations have been shattered. You learn over time that you simply cannot go back and fix the broken links with family.
Evidently today was sibling day on Facebook. Folks were posting photographs of their siblings. Knowing all of my adopted and biological siblings I could only think of one that was truly my sibling, my also adopted sister. The older sister that I grew up with, the one who shared the same challenging childhood, and one of the few people on earth that have always seen me, even when she probably didn't want to. I posted a picture of the two of us taken in 1959. It felt really good. Yes, I got rejected by several siblings, and I can really only count one biological sibling who cares, but he lives far away and we are of different generations. It's a distance and age thing through no fault of his or mine. Unlike a TV show, there are no completely happy endings for some of us. It becomes flickering invisibility, and you take those moments of acuity and treasure them beyond all others.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.