Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

I’m pretty sure it was Newsday, a daily newspaper in New York that now primarily serves Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York City borough of Queens. In the mid-90s, it was also published and distributed throughout Manhattan. She must have gotten my name from the adoption agency, the reporter who called and asked if she could interview me about my adoption. I think Eric might have been two by then.

I don’t have a copy of the story and remember only the faintest details – particularly that this reporter got two things wrong. One might have been a spelling mistake, but the other was an error in a factual detail. Although I’d come out of a journalism minor and nearly eight years at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, this was early training that reporters twist words, whether out of deliberation, laziness, or carelessness.

The thing that stands out most to me, though, was my desire to protect Tony’s identity. He didn’t want his family to know about the adoption for any reason. And though it was unlikely that anyone he knew would read the 20 lines of my story in a full-page article about adoption in a New York City newspaper, I spoke only on condition of anonymity and revealed only our first initials.

I shared his trepidation about telling my parents for a while, but I got over it before he did. And it wasn’t too long after this that I decided that I didn’t owe him any protection or anonymity from the facts. At the time, Oprah was the biggest thing going, and I had dreams of her interviewing me (about what, I have no idea now). Damned if I was going to stay silent if Oprah asked for details about my son’s father!

I suppose this nonchalance about sharing personal details is still at play in my decision to reveal as much about Tony as I have in the posts on this blog. I know there are libel laws and that memoirists must take care about whom and how they characterize people in their true stories. While my aim is not to tempt fate here, I also know that Tony couldn’t – and probably wouldn’t – take issue with any details I’ve revealed about our past thus far. And what I’ve shared to this point is really as bad as it ever got. No further skeletons (from his side of the family) are likely to be uncovered.

Again, it’s not my goal to instigate or rabble-rouse. Just to share my side of the story. He certainly has his side, and if he wants to, he can start his own blog.

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Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

The Folly of Proving “God” Wrong

The Folly of Proving “God” Wrong

There were a lot of signs that dating Tony was a bad idea. Things that, had I followed my intuition – or common sense – would likely have taken me on an entirely different path. Of course, I often come back to the premise of the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow doing her best British accent, where two very different paths lead to the same outcome.

The first sign was that I called him to check on the status of our first date. I’m not really one to dwell on what if’s, but I occasionally indulge and wonder how things might have been different if I’d just left the fucking phone alone. We worked together at the newspaper in Tucson. I was nearing graduation from the University of Arizona, and he was loafing in the sports department. Our flirtation began over his ridiculous taste in basketball teams (the Boston Celtics) and music, or so the pretentious 20-year-old me thought at the time. He had a stack of CDs on his desk which he listened to on a Walkman while coding agate for the sports section (e.g., game scores, stats, etc.). One was an AC/DC disk and another was Guns ‘N Roses. Now I’m still not really a fan of either, but having since married a musician whose current taste in music has some overlap with what Tony’s was then, I’ve learned to at least develop an appreciation for those classic rock bands.

So we flirted for a few weeks, and then he asked me out for New Year’s Eve, 1989. I said yes. And waited to hear more. Because of his job, he had a late schedule and typically slept till 11 a.m. or noon. But when I hadn’t heard from him by 4 p.m. on the day of our scheduled date, instead of making other plans, I called him. Plans were finally made, and we went on our first date to the movies – War of the Roses – another red flag, for those who are counting.

Things were fun for a time, but before long we settled into that horrible push/pull, chase/flee, clingy/leave-me-the-hell-alone pattern that so many immature people see as normal. Many years later, I read a book called The Surrendered Single by Laura Doyle, in which she spelled out very clearly that the right guy never makes you feel clingy or needy. He makes you feel loved and treats you like a queen. It was strangely reassuring to hear that no matter what I had done, all those years I spent trying to get Tony to notice me and to love me even half as much as I loved him were never going to create that result. It just took me the better part of a decade – a baby placed for adoption right in the middle, there – to figure that out.

The signs were so in my face that I remember going to sleep every night for six months or more hearing a little voice whispering, “He’s not the right guy for you.” Instead of listening to that angel, God, the Universe, or whoever you think might have been talking to me, I dug in, determined. “I’ll prove you wrong!”

someon lets you know how much you matter

Then one night, on my 28th birthday, the voice went from a whisper to a loud, clouds-parting, Charlton Heston bravado. We were living in New Jersey at the time, again working for the same company. Our son was a year old by then, though we rarely spoke of the adoption. At this point, Tony was still determined he’d never tell his parents. Things were definitely in the valley part of our typical peak-and-valley cycle. So naturally, he blew me off for my birthday. I went out to dinner with some friends (where were they on New Year’s Eve 1989?!) and had a few drinks. I’ve never gotten drunk in my life – personal preference – but this was the closest I ever came. A bit buzzed, I made the stellar decision to stop by Tony’s apartment on my way home and give him a piece of my mind. That went swimmingly.

I was around the corner, less than a block from his front door, tears streaming down my face, when I asked out loud, of no one in particular, “When are we going to fix this?” That’s when I heard it – the voice from ABOVE. Literally, as clear as day, I heard a booming male voice say, “It’s done.”

Of course, my interpretation of “It’s done,” and the Universe’s interpretation were completely different. Because it took me another two-and-a-half years to finally get my shit together enough to decide to leave. There was no other way to do the split than for one of us to geographically relocate. Otherwise, I could see, we’d just keep doing the same dance for another decade, or more. So in December 1999, I packed up my dog, my cat, my computer, and a few clothes and headed back to the desert. I cried most of the way – but they weren’t all sad tears. Every several hundred miles or so, I’d actually manage to be grateful, knowing this move was the best decision I could make.

He has since apologized for being such a shithead, but one of the most galling things Tony ever did was say to me, as I was getting into the car to drive away, “I don’t understand why you’re leaving. Things between us have always been pretty good.” The other was telling me, the day after I signed the adoption papers, that he would have stayed if I’d kept the baby.

It seems a bit unfair to pile on him now, after all these years have passed. But we lost touch and I don’t know that our connection will ever resume. I know he got married, and she seems like a nice enough person from the little Facebook stalking I was able to do. His sister also seems pretty cool now (we never really got along when Tony and I were dating). And if my husband is any proof that an angry, alcohol-fueled twenty-something can morph into a pretty great guy, I like to imagine that Tony might have made a similar transition.