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Adoption is an odd thing. I tell children who are adopted that natural-born parents don't get to choose you, but adopted parents do. "Your parents looked at you, got to know you, and they chose to keep you as their own. That means you are pretty darn amazing!" It is true...mostly.

The whole truth surrounding adoption is too ugly to mention. Some people should never adopt. Not everyone who should adopt can do so. Some children are not adoptable for legal and situational issues. No matter which truth we acknowledge, being adopted is an enormous honor and a serious slap-in-the-face.

I came down sick on a very important day for my mother. She had a first date (in a group setting) with a man and because I was sick, she planned to cancel it. When her date stopped by, he sat down beside me on the couch. He told me that I could just go with them.

I remember sitting in that bowling booth the entire night. He remained by my side the entire time even to the point of letting me lay my head in his lap and go to sleep. My mother and some others were bowling, but all I remember is that I didn't feel well and this stranger sat with me and took care of me. As I relive this story, there is a broken part of me that blasts a warning signal--why is a grown man sitting with a 3-year-old he does not know?

I was adopted by this man when I was 4 1/2. I know the dates because I received my new name and social security number when my baby brother got his shortly after he was born. My number is 1 number before his. But I was already scared of this man by that time.

We went to church every Sunday. Afterwards, we would go out to eat at a restaurant which was very uncommon in the early 80's. Before we would drive the 20 miles back to our house, we always went to the grocery store. I remember that my mother was pregnant because I couldn't wait to have a baby in our house so I had to be circling my 4th birthday. I needed to go potty, so I told my mother. She asked me to wait. So, I did...until I didn't. I don't remember actually wetting my pants, but I do remember being led out by the arm by my new father into the parking lot where he spanked me. I remember being embarrassed that I had wet myself and I was ashamed that he was so mad at me. I had to sit in the hot car until my mother was done shopping. I was bad.

My next memory is standing, naked (in my panties and shoes) in front of a lady and my mother. I remember thinking that I had done something very bad because we just kept talking about that spanking I got for wetting my pants. I wanted to put on some clothes. I was so ashamed and it didn't help that they kept taking pictures of me.

Then, the lady showed me a photo. I could see the back of a brown, curly-headed girl. She didn't have on any clothes except for her white, ruffly-bottomed panties and her shoes. The lady began pointing at spots on that little girl. There were some bruises by her shoulder, red marks all over her back and legs. I was pretty perplexed until the lady said, "Shelly, that's your back side. This was not a spanking. You have bruises. That's not how to treat a little girl."

"You forgot my mom," I cried out from the front seat of a blue sedan between a driver and that lady. They just kept driving. I kept telling them. Even my tears did not work. They just kept driving. I honestly did not know what I was going to do because these people had forgotten to let my mother in the car.

The beauty of my adoption was this man's mother, my Nanny. She and I had a heart-to-heart chat at some span during my adoption that she was going to be my grandmother and that she was very excited. "You will be my first grandchild and my first granddaughter. So, we need to pick out a name for me." I didn't know any grandmother names. How weird! "I called my grandmother, Nanny. Would you be okay with that name?" I didn't really care. If she wanted to be called a mother-goat name, I was good.
She was a tiny thing. Even though she was barely over 5 feet tall, she hung the moon. My dad did what told him to do, as did everyone else. She was born into an immigrant Italian family, the oldest of 6. She had miscarried many babies only to give birth to two living sons. She treasured her children and she treasured her grandchildren. There was nothing she wouldn't do for any of them, if she had ever known the truth.
Nanny was the opposite side of the grandma coin to my Granny. Nanny never spoke a harsh word to me or required me to behave. She showered me with acceptance and modeled how a woman should live her life. She was kind, funny, ornery, strong, weak and mine.
She was never shy about telling me that she got to choose to be my grandmother. That always made me feel extra special because I knew she was right. My dad choose to adopt me, but that did not mean she had to go along with it. She had a perfectly good grandchild in my brother that was actually hers.
In the twenty years that she was my living grandmother, she never uttered the word "step" or "adopted" to anyone. I was hers. And that made me pretty darn special because I was pretty sure she was some sort of angel.
Nanny was a devout Catholic. She was one of the founders of the local church in our community. She attended weekly mass sometimes traveling as far as an hour to attend when there was no priest for their local church. She lit candles in her home as she housed the sacrament for mass. She prayed where I could see her. She carried around a prayer book and I could often see her jot down little reminders of people and issues that she needed to pray about.
She definitely was a strong and loving woman. She made every recognition that Jesus Christ was her stronghold.
She gave me the first tube of glue to piece back together some brokenness of being abandoned. She chose me. I was hers. And she would never be convinced of anything else, even when I decided to bring it up to hurt her.

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