A Unique Chronology
I: QuestionsI can’t stand thinking about it. Not knowing isn’t necessarily what bothers me but rather the harsh reality that I can’t ever know. It plagues me day in and day out, keeps me up long after the sun sets, and after it rises again. I can’t even read a novel or lose myself in a different reality just for a while without it popping back into my head again. I’m a caged animal, starved, with a steak right outside the bars, and I’m no vegetarian.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and you don’t have any context for my ramblings. See, I’ve reached a point of maturation in my life (my college education) and I’m forced to confront the overwhelming obstacle that is my future. I resolve issues best by a coupling of research and analysis and I’ve come across an interesting thought.
As Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck has written, “One faces the future with one's past.”
This is a perfectly valid thought that I feel is the most pragmatic way in confronting my monstrous future. And this thought would be my first choice in confronting the monster, yet I take issue with its implicit premise; that I in fact, have a past to which I can fall back upon when I “face my future”. If I should ever have the opportunity to speak to Mr. Buck, I would have several questions to follow up on his idea: What if one has no past? Can one face the future, or am I simply ill-equipped if I don’t?
I’m at it again, providing no context. If you haven’t noticed, I get ahead of myself (which could possibly be compensation for a lack of anything behind). Now what is it that one could possibly mean by not having a past?
I should let you know that I am adopted and that this one fact is the only thing my adoptive family and I know for sure, except that all other information is unknowable and mere speculation. I was born in Vietnam in 1993 in a small, beaten down hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. The identities of my birthparents will forever remain a mystery to me as there is no paper trail of evidence of my existence prior to my hospitalization. I was very sick as a baby of only two or three months old. I didn’t stay in the country long and my journey then brought me to the adoptive family that I’m a member of now. They’re not a very exciting bunch, and I don’t feel they’re worth mentioning. Well, I take that back. There is one member that is worth mentioning.
This person I am referring to is the same person to whom I go to allay my myriad of issues: my grandmother. She’s always been there for me and goes about our home doing her part in our chore list. You’d find her on a Friday night, after a week working full time teaching the next generation, at our home cleaning dishes, doing laundry, taking care of our dog, etc. Alas, she works very hard and I find her very admirable for it. It is part of the reason I turn to her over others with my personal issues.
So I brought an issue to her attention one evening over coffee.
“Grandma, why is it that I can’t ever know who my birth parents are?”
She looked at me, and was startled by the bluntness of my question, but notes the sincerity in my face.
“Well Robert” she paused to choose her words carefully, a habit of hers (she is a very articulate woman) “Well I’m not entirely sure. Adoption is complex and I wasn’t ever directly involved with your parents while they went through the actual process of adopting you. I’m not sure.” I remember her concluding, unsatisfactorily.
I looked down, disappointed; she was supposed to present a wealth of answers which would help explain why I couldn’t ever learn the identities of my birth parents. She seemed to know what I was thinking (she always did) because what she said next was present a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since. She said “I know you. You’re going to over-analyze my, well, lack of response. It’s not your fault it’s just who you are. And it’s not a bad thing either. Robert act on that obsession of yours, garner as many answers as you can to the questions you have, and during your research let your mind sift the findings, keep what is worth keeping. Afterwards blow the rest away with a sigh of satisfaction.”
That’s better- what I have come to expect of her: articulate, profound, and most importantly, satisfactory. Then she didn’t say any more. She didn’t need to. We’ve always been communicative and the unspoken conversation that followed her last words actually elucidated much more for me than anything she could possibly say aloud. When the obsessive mind begins to obsess, solitude is satisfaction. I find that time alone is the most conducive in reaching what needs to be reached. Consequently, I’ve taken up the habit of not speaking much and keeping my thoughts to myself. Other people simply prove to be distractions, even the woman who gave me what I needed to initially reach this truth. I needed time to think, accrue data, and analyze that data.
When I contemplate my past, I contemplate nothing, so I hope I can make something of that nothing. This is one story, one elusive past, and one attempt at finding something from nothing.