• Erica Rosi Tham

8. Telling Family and Writing an Autobiography

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

A loving family is such a gift, and we need the support of our loved ones as we get started on our adoption journey.

After we had completed the state forms related to child abuse checks, I hoped we had passed through the thickest portion of paperwork. All were sent off, and I sent a short email: what’s left to do on our list?

Soon, Lacey had sent me a list of outstanding documents including personal autobiographies, reference letters, and several other identification forms.

I thought the autobiography would be a one to two-page essay on life.

In fact, it was a twenty-five-page list of open-ended questions about every aspect of our lives, from early childhood to the present. Twenty-five pages of questions for each of us.

I am a writer by nature, and my business was moderate, so I decided to dive in. Two days later, I resurfaced in the middle of childhood.

“This autobiography is no joke,” I told Philip. “You’ll have to start on it soon.”

“After the medical check-up,” he suggested.

“And there is still the deck question.”

“What question?”

“Well, it’s unsafe to walk on it. When the social worker comes for the home visit, it’ll be put on the list of must-be-fixed. Why not do it now?”

“I can ask my friend.”

“Please do.”

“I’ll ask him.”


“I’ll ask him.”

That meant at some undefined point in the future, and I left it at that. “How about this autobiography?”

“How long is it?”

“About twenty-five pages.”

“What?! Um, three weeks.” As an IT guy, my husband was well-used to scrums and judging the time-length of projects.

“That’s a long time … when can you start?”

“Well,” he considered. “Maybe the weekend after next.”

How did your parents show support for you as a child? While I pondered this question from my autobiography, one truth became evident: my parents had attended events. School variety shows, band concerts, the play that my friend and I had created and staged in our back yard—they had shown up and smiled at me with love and amusement. Admittedly, there was value in thinking through these aspects of life before diving into parenting at the age of forty-eight.

And since I needed to start on reference letters, it was time to introduce my family to my next life event.

The previous summer, Philip and I had visited Leavenworth, Washington, a tourist town that thrives on its German charm, and I purchased an overpriced clock for our mantle. Hey, it was German, even if of uncertain origin and purchased in Washington. I paced between my kitchen nook and the living room mantle where the lively, stylish numbers of time stood prominently, and the clock reliably ticked.

I would tell my mother first. She lived with my eldest sister, and the news would spread fast. What to say? Would they think I was crazy, a forty-eight-year-old woman adopting children from uncertain backgrounds and acquiring financial debt in order to do so?

“I have news to share …” I began.

“Oh!” My mother held her breath, and I knew she feared a serious illness or a death in the family. It would be cruel to hesitate.

“We have decided to adopt kids from India.”

“Wonderful!” She declared immediately. “Oh, what an idea! I am so happy for you. I am so happy you have chosen to do this. I thought you were about to tell me someone died.”

“No, no one died …”

“Oh, honey. I am so happy for you! I think this is perfect.”

For the next half hour, I was in heaven, describing our hopes and the process, while downplaying yet admitting that we had started months ago.

My mother and I have a very strong bond. As the last child, I was one of two kids still at home when my father died suddenly of a stroke at the age of fifty-nine. I was there while she suffered the financial crisis of dealing with the heavy debt he left behind, and to this day, money worries are difficult for me. I was there when she began dating again, and since my nearest sister in age is five years my senior, I was the only one still at home when she remarried. The guilt she felt at exposing me to a new family when I was a fragile teen created a soft spot in her heart, and for my part, even though I was not the nicest of teenagers, I did strongly empathize with her during that tumultuous time. And the empathy never left me. Over the years, through thick and thin, we have become closer and closer.

Her immediate, heartfelt response was a marvelous breath of fresh air after weeks in stuffy rooms of paperwork.

Soon my sisters were calling, and they too were genuinely, wholly supportive.

A loving family is such a gift. Its value cannot be quantified with numbers, but every cell in the body sings when we need support and find that it is, undeniably, there for us.

This is the gift us PAPs are striving to give.

I had taken yet another plunge into new waters.

Opening my autobiography document, I finished childhood with a flourish of good feeling and moved on to married life.

What attracted you to your husband? I bit my lip and rolled my eyes thoughtfully. “It was his smile,” I began, “his photograph …”

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