Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Arduous Task of Attempted Facial Recognition

Freed to Shop

His wife called me about a month after I'd helped him identify and locate his original family. She could hardly wait to tell me about an unexpected bonus from her husband's recent reunion.

"He went to the mall shopping with me," she crowed. "First time in many years!"

That seemed like a strange residual from an adoptee's reunion. I thought I'd heard about every possible benefit of reconnecting with one's blood kin. So what was this all about?

"He couldn't go to the mall before because of all the shop windows. He couldn't pass a single shop without stopping to look through the window, as far into the store as he could see, searching for a face similar to his own. It was exhausting for him, so he quit going long ago."

Of course! Adoptees yearn to look into the face of someone who resembles them - for the first time ever in their lives.

Since that phone call, I've read or listened to adoptees describing similar fatigue after visiting crowded venues like theme parks. The task of studying faces, occasionally spotting one that 'just might be...but wasn't,' is both physically and emotionally draining.

Second Generation Bewilderment

Faye's* son Greg* was troubled by his inability to see his features in anyone else. Greg was six feet seven inches tall with red hair and freckles. His mom, Faye, was an adoptee with no knowledge of her original family. At one point, Greg was convinced he was adopted, since he didn't resemble his mother or his father or either of his siblings.

We found Faye's family, no thanks to Michigan's sealed adoption records laws, and she was welcomed by a host of  siblings, nieces and nephews. One sister's son, ten years Greg's senior - you guessed it - stood six feet seven inches, was red-haired, and had a face full of freckles. Greg and his cousin were like twins separated at conception and gestated a decade apart. They compared photos of themselves at various ages and marveled at how nearly interchangeable their pictures were. It turns out they were throwbacks from a great-uncle, their grandfather's brother. And before that? At least now Greg could explore that, too.

*Faye and Greg, like all other names in this series, are pseudonyms.

1 comment:

  1. This about Jim Rockwell (his real name):

    "I’ll never forget the impact of hearing Jim Rockwell admit to getting up in the middle of the night to look in the mirror, seeing his reflection at age 61 finally connected to other faces that looked like his."