A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOG
Of all the things I could have talked about on this little bloglet of mine, maybe this was the most obvious and yet it took a quick peruse of Brockette's daily offerings to spur, goad and otherwise cajole me into reaching the rather inescapable conclusion that sooner, rather than later, would be the best time to deal with it.
It's not something that occupies a majority of my waking hours and neither is it anything which disturbs my dreaming ones, come to that...but it is something that flits across my synapses from time to time...some small itch at the back of my consciousness that tells me that maybe it ought to be a large contributory factor in defining who it is exactly that I am.
And yet, at the same time, it can also appear so irrelevant as to hardly bear mention and it is this dichotomy that informs my feelings about the whole subject. How can I miss something that I never had? And how can I say I never had something that I so palpably did? To every possible reaction I might have there is an equal and opposite one which might well prevent Newton from spinning in his grave but does nothing to help me in reaching a definite, delineated or otherwise unarguable conclusion.
I have, on occasion in this blog, posed the question, "Nature, nurture or Nietzsche?" Are we the product of our genes or our upbringing or are we what we have made of ourselves given the raw materials available? Although I have a suspicion that it is definitely a mixture of all three, I can't reach any conclusion based on personal experience because for me, one of the three essentials is missing. So from whence shall I begin my tale? I rather think that tradition might offer a good pointer and in accordance with it and rejecting the opportunity to go all post-modern on you, I shall begin at my beginning.
I was conceived some nine months prior to the 5th of January 1958 to Anne Vivienne Eddings of the town of Burton - on - Trent (there went my chance of ever representing Yorkshire at cricket) of the parish of St Godknowswhere in a hospital bed of said town and sired by Godknowswho but Everybuggerknowshow. Anne was of the tender age of 16 when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy whom she named Ray. Adjacent to my keyboard as I type is a hand written note of Anne's explaining at what times I was accustomed to feeding and what I liked to partake in by way of repast. Anyway, an occasion for rejoicing, you might think. Well, it is pure conjecture on my part but, reading between the lines and going on what little my mother let slip, I rather think that Anne's parents were of the type to be too concerned about the twitching of the neighbours' net curtains and, as Anne had rather impetuously neglected to get married prior to conception, cajoled, threatened and otherwise persuaded her that the only sensible option was adoption.
So it came to pass that after six weeks of my being bottle fed by Anne that Ivy and Ray Jones were delivered of said healthy baby boy, henceforth to be known as Simon Ray, the middle name not for my father but for Anne's original choice. And I will always be grateful to my parents for that decision, giving me some insight into their thought processes at the time.
So, yes, I'm adopted. So fucking what? Wanna make something of it? Step outside, sonny...your time is nigh.
There exists in my family, residing with my mum's sister as it happens, an old 35mm film of my father in the garden of our old house hanging nappies out to dry on a clothes line in our garden. Such a look of pride on his face...and my father was always a bad actor...that it brings tears to my eyes even to think of it now. I miss him so much. His "Now then..." when he greeted me on the phone...just his...well...being...his very presence...he was always there and now he isn't and I just can't come to terms with that. Just one little message, you old bugger...that's all I ask...or were you right after all? There is really only this, nothing before, nothing after...just one opportunity to leave our imprint on this world and the afterlife is simply how we live on in the memories of those we touched?
Anyway, it would appear that there was some disagreement within the family as to whether or not I should be informed of the circumstances of my birth. I had no suspicions whatsoever...three years after my adoption my mother's latent hormones kicked in and she was delivered of another (unhealthy, as it happened...but thanks to Dr Burton Zacchary, ultimately reasonably healthy) baby boy and I had a brother. I am reminded here of the story that soon after his birth, my mother thought it was unnaturally quiet upstairs and investigated to find me leaning over the railings of his cot pummelling seven bells out of the little shit for diverting attention that had until then been entirely my own. I found out by serendipity.
I was 14 when my English teacher set us the task of writing our autobiographies and, wishing to be as precise as possible, I asked my mother for my birth certificate. Now, being well aware of my family's working class Sheffield origins, despite their having worked themselves up into the nouveau lace curtains bracket, I was understandably curious as to why it should read Burton - on - Trent as my place of birth. I asked my mum and to her credit she told me. Straight up. Matter of fact. Your Grandma didn't want you to ever know but...
Did the news drop like a shell on a fireworks factory? Did it blow all my pre-conceptions to what I believe at the time were called smithereens? Did it buggery. All I remember now is that I seem to recall feeling as if it offered a perfectly adequate explanation for the fact that as I lay abed prior to sleep, I would sometimes have the strangest, most inexplicable feeling that if I hadn't been born here to these parents at this time, I would have been born somewhere else. After all, a world deprived of Kan would not be worth living in, surely. And would it even exist?
I do remember examining my feelings at that time and wondering whether or not my parents' natural son had received any preferential treatment and I was forced to the conclusion that, if my parents had a favourite at all, then it was me. That much is still abundantly clear. My brother, bless his heart, still retorts..."If it were Simon...." God knows how he must have felt. I don't think he was made aware of my adoption at the same time as I was but after being told, he must have wondered why it was that I was the golden boy and that everything he achieved must be measured against my, at the time anyway, greater achievements. I breezed through the first years of comprehensive education, gaining 12 'O' levels, rather more than my sibling whose qualifications were if I remember right mostly made up of C.S.E.s. But he was always the runt...right from his operation to save his life at 5 weeks old, his asthma and his general ill health resulted in his missing an inordinate amount of school time, but even when he went on to achieve degrees in bio-chemistry at Aberdeen University and I had long since dropped out in a fug of marijuana induced counter cultural apathy, he must have felt that no matter what he achieved, it would be as nothing to what I was capable of. I was a Blade, as was my father and Richard supported Wednesday. Despite not having the slightest interest whatsoever in football (I was the jock, Richard the geek), he chose the fowls to spite us both. Proof of this lies in the fact that, despite his protestations of support, the number of times he has been seen at Swillsborough can be counted on the fingers of no hands.
But how must he have felt when his natural father took his cuckoo sibling to matches at BDTBL? Or drove said sibling to countless school football, cricket, badminton and tennis matches? What had he to share with our father? Who at this moment maybe in heaven or just worm food...let me know, dad. A small sign would suffice. A marked reduction in the level of any of my bottles of Islay malts would be enough for me to recognise your presence. Go for it, you old bugger. Slainthe!
We have little in common, my brother and I. He winds me up no end with his seeming inability to view anything from any other perspective but his own. At least as far as members of his close family are concerned anyway. He seemed incapable of realising that despite my father's advanced age and the series of strokes he had suffered, he was not able to follow as closely as he would have liked, my brother's thought processes. Ditto our seventy-nine year old mother...why she should fail to understand that if she switched her car insurance to a new company she should save a few pounds a week...when the peace of mind it gives her by sticking with the same company is probably worth far more is a mystery to him.
Please don't get me wrong. Please remove yourself as far as possible from the position of failing to understand me. I may be moved to apoplexy by whatever it is he does or fails to do but he IS my brother and should you wish to attack him, you will have to go through me first. I reserve the right to criticise the guy but fail to recognise anyone else's right to so do. Get off his back, okay? I do love you, Richard. Dearly and unconditionally...but I reserve the right to give you the severest gyp should the opportunity arise and I hope you feel the same way, too.
So, how did my parents view my adoption? Well, when my daughter was born with absolutely no hair whatsoever and later developed as ginger a hue as you will ever hope to se, my mother commented that my father's aunt had had ginger hair. It took me to remind her of the lack of genetic connection. It never occured to her. Self delusion? I don't think so...my mother is as practical a woman as you can ever hope to meet...it was simply that I was hers and hers alone. Why should I not resemble members of what had become my family?
And my reaction? Well, bugadifino...I received everything anyone could hope to receive from their parents...and then some...my mum and dad are my mum and dad and my brother is our kid but I can still only postulate theories from a nuture v Nietzsche perspective and cannot have any understanding of the nature part of the debate.
There is a hole in my life where that particular piece should fit and yet, I am not convinced that any good would be served by my trying to trace my 'birth' mother or father come to that. But that is not to say that I am never curious as to my genetic inheritance...I may have received from my father an education in how best to conduct oneself in any given situation and from my mother an example of absolute unconditional love but there will always be for me, something missing. A nagging feeling of where did I come from? Can you imagine what it must feel to be the last piece in a jigsaw and yet still not fit? If you can, then you were adopted, my friend...that much is for sure.
Dad, I miss you. Mum and Richard, I love you. You're all the family I have and all that I will ever need.