“You’re Not Going to Become a Stalker, Are You?”
Learning the identify of my son’s family was a big deal for me, and it took a while for the significance to sink in. Bruce may not have been happy about it, but the adoption was now on the verge of being fully open. I sat with that for quite some time before I did anything about it, other than tell the Stanfields about my discovery.
In a short time, the adoption was already becoming more open, and while it seemed Eric and I would eventually have a direct relationship, I knew that would probably take some time. In the meantime, I was quite curious about where he lived with his family. So, after about three months, I made the decision to put my investigative skills to use. It took me about a half-hour and cost me $2 to find Kathy and Bruce’s address through a property ownership website. Things are even easier now, as I was able to use social media and pay nothing to locate Eric’s birthfather’s address when I recently went looking for it.
Now that I had the Stanfields’ address, what to do with it, what to do with it…? Go take a peek, of course!
Again, it took a few months to work up my nerve. Then, one Friday night, I got in my Volkswagen Passat with Moondanz, my Jack Russell terrier, and we set off. I went late – about midnight – figuring I’d be less likely to run into the family at that time as I prowled through their neighborhood. This was way before GPS, so I had to rely on printed directions from Mapquest.
As I write this, I can’t imagine how I screwed up the nerve to make that drive – it felt like crossing a line and something very taboo, but it was also something I needed to do. “What are we going to do if they come outside just at the moment we pull up to their house?” I asked Moondanz. “We’ll say hello!” I answered my own question.
So we went, Moondanz and I. It was a short trip, relative to all the pre-planning. Before long, we turned the corner onto their street, and there it sat. A big, squarish house on a long, beautiful block of homes that dwarfed the house where I’d grown up – not to mention how lovely the area was compared to the Jersey City neighborhood where I was living at the time. The lots seemed vast, with long driveways and mailboxes at the street. Even that was something new to me – the mailbox at my childhood home was at the front door, and the ones in my New Jersey apartments were in the vestibules.
So we parked and sat just looking at the house for a while. Then we took a little drive around the neighborhood, before circling back to see #80 one more time. All was still – most houses were dark and there wasn’t another car on the street anywhere. I needn’t have worried about being spotted. Satisfied at having seen Eric’s home, I took a deep breath, and we drove off. And I did not return until October 2012 – at which time I was invited by Eric’s family.
I was in a Spence-Chapin support group at for birthmoms at the time of my field trip, and I remember telling the other members about my grand adventure. As I told the story, Judy Link, the group moderator and a birthmother caseworker, was dismayed by my confession. “You’re not going to turn into a stalker, are you?” she demanded to know, with utter seriousness. All the other birthmothers and I laughed at her. They understood something she did not – my goal was never to stalk Eric or harm him in any way. I just wanted to see where – and to whatever degree possible, how – he was growing up.
Now, Hollywood and the mainstream media have made a cottage industry of telling adoption horror stories about birthmothers coming out of the woodwork to steal their children back from loving, doting adoptive parents. You may remember the famous Baby Jessica and Baby Richard stories from the early and mid-90s. I think it was those cases that prompted my friend Lynn Franklin to write her book, May the Circle Be Unbroken. I have my own opinions about those cases, which I may share in a future post.
I had no thought of doing anything disruptive – not even checking out his church or his school. I just wanted to know where he lived. And once I did, that curiosity was sated and I could move on with my life. At some point over the next year or two, Kathy very casually asked me if I had been by to see the house yet. “Yes – probably about six months after the incident with Barry,” I told her.
“I figured as much,” she said. No worry. No death grip on the kid. No terrified packing up to move out of the country. Just confirming what she already knew. I’m pretty sure that’s how a healthy adoption relationship is supposed to work.