Speaking that night was the man who had given a speech the very first year I attended, six years ago. He stuck out in my mind because he is unmarried, travels extensively, is from South Africa and has adopted two boys, one of which was with him this year and who we had the pleasure of getting to know.
He of course didn't remember me, which makes sense because I probably spent that evening so long ago in tears and hiding behind my hair and mom, but I remembered him.
I remembered him because he was the first adoptive parent I ever heard talk about birthmothers in such a beautiful way. His speech was a letter he had written to, I believe, his sons' birthmothers and spoke of how he always remembered her and how present she was in their lives, how grateful he was to her.
When we got to talking recently, I told him how I remembered him and then I mentioned that days after that dinner he and his sons had come to Steak 'N' Shake for Mother's Day, where I was working at the time.
"You're the Steak 'N' Shake girl! I've told that story hundreds of times! All over the world."
I had recognized him immediately and spent time talking with him/bawling as my coworkers and customers stared at me and he offered beautiful words of encouragement. I can't remember everything said but I know I ran to the bathroom afterwards and cried for awhile.
I don't know what all he has said about that story, what angle he's told it from.
But I wanted to share what he said at the dinner this year.
He shared something he had written about mothers - about his mother, who has passed, about his boys' birthmothers. He spoke eloquently about the 'imprint', the 'influence', the 'reach' each of them has in their lives. He spoke about how he sees and talks to them every day; his mother through her approval and delight in his efforts as a father, or her disapproval of their odd habits and daily fumbles; his son's mother through his relentless persistence, his strength, his smile. He talked extensively about the characteristics his son had inherited from his mother, and then at one point said that he didn't deny the separate, distinct and unique personality his son has, "but," he said, "you didn't get that from me."
And in closing, he said that when he sees birthmothers, he sees his sons' mothers. Whenever he meets a birthmother or an adoptee, there's an immediate bond, he says. We're all connected. There is understanding, empathy, respect, gratitude(maybe tears flooding in the middle of Steak 'N' Shake).
I appreciated his message so much and I wanted to share his verbal embrace and affirmation and encouragement with any birthmother out there who may need it today.
You are ever-present, you are appreciated, you are strong.