Friday, February 21, 2014

Philomena: Will Hollywood ever tell the other story?


          I cannot go to see the film “Philomena.”  I would find it too upsetting.  You see, it’s not my story.  My story is not about a mother forced to give up her baby and then spend a lifetime looking for him.  My story is about a mother who willingly gave up her children, all four of us, and begged social services in the 1940s to put us in an orphanage while she went on her merry way in her self-centered life. 
          My story is about a mother who showed up a year later with a new husband and a new baby on the one occasion she visited us in the orphanage.  I knew then that her marriage to my father, the father I deeply loved, was over, and that she was perfectly happy to leave the four of us in the orphanage.  Actually the man who was with her during that visit was not her husband.  He was yet another lover who did not marry her.  But she found a new man (there were many) and he married her and they had another child, another girl. 
          This is not the kind of story Hollywood wants to do.  It doesn’t grab the heart strings somehow.  If ever they decide to film my story, or one like it, it is told in the first third of Children of the Manse, a book I published four years ago.
          But what Hollywood would like is the way our story ended.  We were rescued and mostly healed by Fred and Evelyn Luchs and went on to enjoy healthy and productive lives. That story is told in the last two-thirds of the book.  We all like happy endings, don’t we?     

Saturday, January 12, 2013


        As the surprising result of a back operation at the age of 50, road bicycling became the recreational passion of my later adult life.  For 30 years I ran for exercise.   For 45 minutes, three or four times a week, usually at dawn.  Running kept me in decent shape.  I ran frequently along the C and O Canal a block from my home near Wash D. C, and once ran past then vice president Bush on the canal, preceded and followed by secret service agents on mountain bikes.  I encountered the vice president again, this time at Ft. McNair in l983 as Bush ran around the campus with Alberto Salazar. I was then a student at the National Defense University.
          I could run anywhere, an important feature of my Foreign Service life. All I needed in my suitcase was a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and good running shoes.  In the l960s I ran as I watched the sun rise in Madagascar and Mali. I ran in sun and rain in Paris and Strasbourg and Bordeaux in the l970s and in snow in Stuttgart, and more rain and sun in Munich, and Vienna in l983.  I could run anywhere.  I couldn’t cycle anywhere.  Certainly not in congested Singapore.  So I continued to run, usually at first light, on the asphalt lanes near the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia until a disc in my back ruptured and had to be removed.  Following the operation a State Department doctor told me my running days were over. I immediately thought about cycling.  I had lived on a bicycle as a boy in Athens, Ohio, so many years ago.   

“How about cycling?” I asked. 

“And no cycling.  You can swim.”

“But I don’t like to swim.”


I worked at swimming in the embassy pool in Malaysia but swimming did not seem to be helping and I was miserable without a physical activity I truly enjoyed.

                                        Down Under
          My next tour took me and my family from Malaysia to Canberra, Australia.  More than a year after the disc removal my back was not healing and continued to hurt.  I went to a primary care physician in Canberra.  I told him about the continuing pain in my back and he asked,

“Have you tried cycling?” 

“I was told I couldn’t cycle.”

“That’s odd,” he said. “You see,” and he cupped his hand, palm down, to simulate the rounded back of a rider on a road bike with dropped handlebars, “That opens up the discs and should be good for your back.” 
          The following morning I climbed on the green Gitane I had bought at La Samaritaine, the famous department store in Paris, but had not much used. I coasted from my house in Garran down the street to an entry to Canberra’s network of 450 miles of independent paved bike paths, rode 15 miles, and for the first time in ten months, my back felt good.  When I did not ride for two days, the pain returned.  So I set a goal of riding every other day and began to lengthen the distance from 15 to 20 to 25 miles.  For about two months.  Then came an extremely busy time at the embassy and I missed four days of riding and the pain did not return.  After two months of regular riding I had no more pain and have never looked back.  By then I so enjoyed the wonderful sense of health and well being that long rides produced in my body that I was addicted to riding my Green Gypsy (Gitane is French for gypsy), and did so two and three times each week.  Unlike running, which I made myself do because it was good for me, I enjoyed every minute on my bike.

                               A Cyclist’s Paradise

          Canberra, Australia,  is a capital created out of sleep pastures near the Brindabella Mountains in New South Wales, three hours from Sydney by car and not much further from the Snowy Mountains.  Neither Sydney nor Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, was willing to cede the honor of being the national capital to the other.  The compromise worked out at the beginning of the 20th Century was to build an entirely new capital at a location between the two cities and, for reasons of national security, far enough inland to be beyond the range of the largest guns of the world’s most modern battleships at that time. 
          The award for the best design for the new city went to Burley Griffin, a landscape architect from Chicago, who was ably assisted by his talented wife.  The centerpiece of the Griffins’ plan was a large lake -- created by damming the Murrumbidgee River -- around which the city’s commercial and government centers were developed.  The Griffin plan left large tracts of pasture land and native eucalyptus groves to separate a network of satellite suburbs.  So extensive was the natural area left free of any development that it was often said that living in Canberra was like living in a national park.  There are abundant kangaroos near central Canberra to prove that.
          In time a 400 mile paved cycle network totally free of motor vehicles was built centered on the lake, now named for Burley Griffin.  The network passed through the city center, wove around the handsome new one billion dollar Parliament House and other government buildings and then spread out through pastures and woods to the edge of the city in all directions.  As the city grew, so did the bicycle network.  Imagine over 400 miles of independent pave cycle trail, often eight feet wide!  I know of no such bicyclist’s paradise anywhere else in the world.

                                        Physical Changes

          Beyond the healing of my back, I could see other changes in my body as I rode week by week in Canberra.  I had more energy.  I was more relaxed.  I found that cycling quickly dissipated the stresses accumulated at work.  My immune system was stronger.  I no longer succumbed to winter colds. The sustained effort at a moderate to high aerobic level gave me what felt like a total body tune-up.  I even found regular cycling a means of weight control.  Running didn’t do that for me.  In those days I was somewhat heavier than I wanted to be but I soon found that when I cycled 75-100 miles each week, I could eat as much of anything as I wanted and not gain an ounce.   

          Now in my late -70s, I continue to ride regularly, at least twice each week when the weather permits, and at least one 40 mile ride each week. I also do a three times each week senior’s fitness program at the Y that promises to exercise every muscle in my aging body.  It’s a great program  but only long cycle rides give my body what feels like a total tune-up and make me feel twenty years younger for two or three days.  I have just read in a health newsletter that regular vigorous physical exercise adds years to our lives. Healthy years.  That wasn’t an established fact when I began cycling but as I age, I will be glad to add it to all the other reasons I cycle.  

                              How to Solve Problems

          I found yet another benefit in cycling.  Problem solving.  I would often leave the office on Friday evenings with a problem I had wrestled with all week that seemed to have no solution.  Then, during long weekend rides, letting my mind wander to the sights and smells of the landscape (eucalyptus groves have a marvelous aroma), solutions that I immediately recognized as right popped into my mind. As if from nowhere.  As research uncovers more secrets of the brain we are learning that such insights come from intense attention to a problem or a creative work, and then parking the issue in the unconscious and letting the mind wander.  I suspect this is a process that creative artists have always understood intuitively.  Walking or simply sleeping on a problem may work for some, but for me, the rhythmic cadence of pedal strokes on a 40 mile bike ride is the best way to encourage new insights as well as relieve stress.   

                                        Other Joys in Cycling

          There’s yet another reason I ride.  I feel like a boy again when I’m on a bicycle.  Perhaps that’s because my brothers and I lived on our bikes in the small college town in which we were raised.  We could ride anywhere in daylight and for hours at a time and our parents need not worry.  Bikes were our means of freedom to temporarily escape adult supervision and go more or less as we wished. 
          When I began riding with groups in the Potomac Peddlers in Washington, D.C. (1992-95) I was amused to hear them brag that cyclists have the best sex.  Well, science is confirming that as well, but not just for cyclists.  “High levels of any sustained, vigorous nonsexual physical activity go hand-in-hand with sexual well-being, especially for men.”  (UC Berkley “Wellness Newsletter.”)
          I now live in Eugene, Oregon, near the center of the city because I want to be within walking distance of the University of Oregon and Eugene’s downtown.  But I love the country and cycling takes me out into the county where I can feel the wind on my body, breath pure air, smell the fields and woods, and enjoy the changing seasons.  The arrival of first swallows in late February, new born snow white lambs in the fields of March, horses frolicking on a warm spring day in April, freshly mowed hayfields in June, ripened grains in July, blackberries in August. There is something special about moving through rural scenery at 15 miles per hour that is very different from rushing through in an automobile.  I don’t have to own the farms and horse properties to enjoy them.  Someone else takes on that responsibility while I ride pleasant county roads along their borders.   

          Not all road riding is bucolically peaceful.  I remember well a near encounter with a black bear on an isolated road in Idaho and having to outrun a rogue boar in Southeastern Ohio.  Dogs are a menace in some states but loose dogs in Oregon are rare. Occasionally young men driving pickup trucks on lightly policed county roads or inexperienced RVers make cycling in Oregon more dangerous than it need be. And occasionally there is a sad sight, the road kill of our automobiles seen up close.  I have picked up a yellow warbler just struck by a car, its warm body in the palm of my hand and watched as its eyes close in death before I buried it.  Any road cyclist has seen countless birds, dead squirrels, raccoons, possum, and deer along the way.   

                              Meditation on a Bike

          I like the silence of country roads and solitude without the background noises of the city.   For me, cycling three or four hours in a prefect blend of human body and machine brings a depth of relaxation rarely experienced otherwise.  Cycling through natural beauty punctuated by the steady rhythm of pedal strokes (rather than counting breaths) can be a form of meditation that brings a deep sense of peace and joy.

          I don’t always ride alone.  I enjoy company and have ridden with half a dozen groups, large and small, since arriving in Eugene over 17 years ago.  There is a special camaraderie among cyclists, a sense of adventure shared and challenges (steep hills, strong headwinds, and blowing rains) successfully overcome. One group of three I rode with included a doctor in his mid 70s, born and raised in Eugene, and a road cyclist his entire adult life.  He added a special flavor to our touring by sharing his in-depth knowledge of the history and historic sites and geology of the south Willamette Valley.                        

                                        Still More Benefits

          I have not mentioned saving gasoline or kindness to mother earth as reasons to cycle because mostly I cycle because it’s fun.  My spirits rise after a long ride.  Cycling is a powerful mood lifter.  And cycle tours, whether a professionally organized like those of Cycle Oregon, or a low budget week of cycling and tenting with friends in the San Juan Islands make a wonderful, healthy, and relatively inexpensive vacation.     

          The sport is within the economic reach of all.  I figure my Green Gypsy and the  red Cannondale I bought to replace her when Gypsy’s down tube cracked have cost me about three cents per ride. I expect a similar return from the Specialized Roubaix carbon fiber bike I purchased five years ago, a sweet bike with frame geometry especially kind to aging bodies.  Is there a better bargain in sports equipment than a fine bicycle?  I don’t think so.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Introduction to the Second Volume of Children of the Manse  

 I stopped blogging five months ago on the subject of adoption because I had said all I wanted to say in support of my first book, Children of the Manse. That book ended after the four of us, adopted from a county orphanage in southern Ohio, had lived with our new parents, Fred and Evelyn Luchs, for one year.  Readers have often asked me, “And then what happened?  How did you all turn out?” That’s the subject of the second volume, which follows the four of us through the critical adolescent years into adulthood. That book is three-quarters done. 

I have decided to begin posting some chapters of this second volume on my website as I finish it.  The first such chapter is “Knox Summers; Joining the Clan.”  The success of our adoption as four older children with a background of neglect and abandonment was in part due to the manner in which we were welcomed by all members of the Coulter (our adoptive mother’s maiden name) and Luchs extended families.   Because of its length, this chapter will be posted in two parts.

Friday, July 20, 2012


                                         ONE MOTHER OR TWO?

”I have come to is unnatural for members of the human species to grow up separated from and without knowledge of their natural clan, that such a lack has a negative influence on a child's psychic reality and relationship with the adoptive parents...” . Journey of the Adopted Self, Betty Jean Lifton

It is common in discussions of adopted children today to say they have two mothers, a biological mother and an adoptive mother. Adoptee author Betty Jean Lifton, for example, a prime mover in what we are now calling open adoption, wrote that she felt pulled this way and that by her two competing mothers, biological and adoptive, as follows:
“For deep inside every adoptee (Lifton often presented her own views as the views of all adoptees) there is a chalk circle where he or she is pulled this way and that by two competing mothers.”  Lifton concluded that she was disappointed in both of her mothers and had ended up with no mother at all.
 I am the oldest of four children adopted into a single family at the same time after spending 26 months in a county orphanage, an earlier form of foster care.  I was five when we were abandoned to the orphanage and had memories of my biological relatives. My younger siblings, Mark, Michael, and Janey did not. 
When we were in our late 20s our biological mother sent a letter to our adoptive parents asking if they were the couple that had adopted her children and requested that we be given her address in case we should wish to meet with her.   Dad opened the letter first and came to Mom in tears, saying, “The letter I have anticipated for 21 years came today.”  Mom sent the letter on to the four of us who were scattered around the US.  Without consulting each other all of us declined the invitation to meet with our biological mother.  We simply were not interested. 
Our adoptive mother responded to our biological mother as follows:
“Over the years our hearts have ached for you.  You gave birth to four beautiful, talented, wonderful children.  We know.  They have lived with us….”  Then she described our lives and achievements to that point.
Twenty-six years later Janey and Michael met our biological mother at a luncheon in the home of Michael’s mother-in-law, who vigorously promoted the reunion.  As she put it, “How do you know who you are until you have met your birth mother?”  I was overseas at that time and Janey later described the event for me.  “She was all Me, Me, Me and very defensive.  She psychologically drove us out of the room.”  Michael left the luncheon abruptly.  “I wanted to get out of that room,” he said.  “I was so depressed!  I wanted her to be interesting and there was no way I could make her interesting.”   
As for me, I was not pulled between two competing mothers, as Lifton would have it.  That was not my experience at all.  Once I felt secure and happy in my new family, I would not have welcomed the resumption of ties with biological relatives who had seriously wounded us when we were very young.  I would have found that confusing, even threatening. The issue for me, since I felt betrayed by my “natural clan,” was not two competing mothers but whether to have a mother at all, one I could trust and come to love and be a son to.
When the Luchs adopted me at the age of eight I was an angry child.  I was angry because we had been abandoned to a crowded, understaffed and poorly resourced county orphanage where our beds were stained with urine, where we never had enough to eat, and where we were constantly bullied by older boys.  I had come to believe we were abandoned to the orphanage because we were throw away children not worth loving.  To protect myself I denied to myself that I needed love.  I pushed adults away.  My adoptive mother told me later that she worked with me for one year before I would accept her hugs without resistance.  Among her friends she called me “my little ramrod.”  Two years passed before I would spontaneously express my love by hugging her.    
Eventually she won me over.  I had the good fortune through adoption to spend most of my youth with a woman who was among the best and most loving of mothers.  Here is how I describe that experience near the end of my memoir, Children of the Manse.
“I have but one mother, Evelyn Luchs, my real mother in the only sense I can make of the word mother. Evelyn Luchs became my mother because she raised me and truly loved me. It is as simple as that. She nursed me when I was  sick, counseled me when  I  was  confused  or upset, and was always there for me when I most needed her. She loved me when I was being unlovable. She made it possible for me to begin to trust and love and laugh again.  She helped dampen down the fiery core of rage within me created by serious neglect and abandonment. She never gave up on me. My true and forever mother encouraged my love of the beauty in life and filled me with a hopeful sense of my own life’s possibilities. She helped me to believe I could make good use of the life I had been given to contribute to my own happiness and to that of others. Mom modified but could not erase entirely the cold-eyed realism I had learned from my early bitter experiences.  At times I thought she was being na├»ve, but I came to agree with her that it is better to live trusting and occasionally be disappointed, than to go through life suspicious of the motives of others. She let me know by her actions as well as her words that I was worthy, loved, and valued.”
It may be true, as Betty Jean Lifton believed, that it is unnatural for some adoptees to grow up entirely separated from their clan.  But I believe many of us adopted from foster care have to be freed from our biological relatives to develop into flourishing and psychologically healthy human beings.  Separation from my natural clan had an entirely positive influence in my life and in my relationship with my adoptive parents.   
If only all the children in foster care today who have been wounded through neglect and abuse by their biological parents could have such a mother as I did!  Or father.  Some of them do.  But if only all of them could have such a mother!  Or father.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


When I retired and left a life spent mostly abroad as an American diplomat, I had the time to research my early history as a child abandoned to a county orphanage.  I set out to obtain my official social workers case file which I hoped would confirm and enrich the memories I had of that period in my life.  At the same time my younger sister was beginning to open up contacts with our biological family, in which I had less interest.  But she persuaded me to go with her to meet an uncle and aunt, an older brother and younger sister of our biological mother.  I agreed, mostly because I was grateful to Mary, the aunt, because she had helped me to begin to read at age four, a gift I have appreciated all my life. 
Published personal accounts of adoption seemed to me to be mostly about the unhappily adopted who had only been able to find a sense of belonging through reunions with their biological relatives.  That did not seem to fit my case at all.  But how could I be sure?  Perhaps I would also experience a dramatic and fulfilling sense of belonging through a reunion with Nate and Mary.  And if that happened, would the identity I had in part accepted and in part forged over the years of living as a Luchs crumble before the flesh and blood reality of a family whose genes I shared?  Who would I be then? 
So I was anxious about meeting these biological relatives.  If I belonged to these people biologically, did I have to think of myself as one of them after half a century living in a different family and culture?   I was almost sixty years old.  My sense of identity, which is linked to my sense of security, was hard won, primarily during my adolescent years.  I had absorbed the culture of my adoptive parents and had come to believe that our identities and fates need not be determined by our biological families.
My biological father spent most of his youth in prison and at one time, he, a brother and sister were all locked up by the state of Ohio.  Did that mean I or my brothers and sister had to repeat that sad history?   If so many of our personal characteristics are determined by our genes, why didn’t we have criminal records?  Why had none of us ever been arrested?  
We are freer than we often think.  Sure, the borders are set by biology.  We probably can't much change our IQs.  We are born with musical talent or we are not.    But I believe from my experience as an older adopted child that within those given limits, there exists a great zone of freedom and our identities and what we make of our lives is in considerable degree up to us.    
I had come to see the hard way how biological families can hurt us and keep us from developing our full potential.   I had to be freed from them to undo the damage they had done. When biological families abuse us instead of nurture us, when they seriously neglect our health and education and well being, we must be freed from them to make a new beginning.  Truly, I had to be separated from my biological families to become me. 
Well, you may be asking.  How did the breakfast meeting with your biological uncle go?  It was friendly and pleasant.  But as I said to my sister afterwards, I did not see…..a single similarity, odd as that may sound, nothing that resembled me.  He and I looked so unlike each other that I thought; if someone had randomly selected an older man off the streets and set him down to breakfast with me, the odds are he would look as much like me as this biological uncle.  It turned out that I and my siblings physically bore more resemblance to our biological father’s family. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Michel de Montaigne, the 16th Century French author who invented the essay literary form, probed the human experience so deeply that most of his readers believe, when they read his essays, they are reading about themselves.  Examples:
Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book in some former life.”
Andre Gide:  “So much have I made him my own that it seems he is my very self.”
Bernard Levin:  “How did he know all that about me?” 
A favorite essay of most readers is “Friendship.”    As a young man Montaigne formed an intense relationship with Etienne de la Boetie, which, forever after he considered the most important relationship of his life.  La Boetie died suddenly of the plague when Montaigne was 30 years old. 
Writing years later, Montaigne compares his friendship with La Boetie to biological relationships.  “Truly the name of brother is a beautiful name…but why should the harmony and kinship found in these true and perfect friendships be found between brothers?”  He pointed out that biological brothers necessarily compete (we call it sibling rivalry) and “often clash with each other.”  “Likewise,” he wrote, “Father and son may be of entirely different dispositions, and brothers also.   He is my son, he is my kinsman, but he is an unsociable man, a knave, or a fool.”   Montaigne believed that the freedom essential to true friendship is unlikely to exist among biological relatives because “ they are friendships which law and natural obligation impose on us…and our free will has no product more properly its own than affection and friendship.”
La Boetie’s death began a tragic period in Montaigne’s life.  Three years later the father to whom he was devoted died.  Then his brother died improbably in a tennis accident and Montaigne himself nearly died while riding his horse.   His wife would eventually give birth to five daughters but only one survived infancy and lived to adulthood.
Sarah Bakewell, in her excellent recently biography of Montaigne, How to Live or a Biography of Montaigne, describes how in the last decade of his life a young woman, Marie le Jars de Gournay, came into his life.  She had read an early edition of his essays and felt, “she had found her other self in Montaigne, the one person with whom she had a true affinity, and the only one to understand her.”   They eventually met and though they were often linked only by correspondence, he eventually invited her to become his adopted daughter, an offer she quickly accepted, as well as his first great editor and publicist.  Bakewell thinks their relationship was not sexual, partly because Gournay remained on good relations with his mother, his wife and his biological daughter. One reason Gournay wanted Montaigne to adopt her was to replace her deceased father. 

Bakewell observes:  “What Montaigne’s real daughter Leonor thought of this claim to surpass biological family bonds is anyone’s guess.  One could not blame her if she felt put out, but it seems she did not.  She and Marie de Gournay became good friends in later years, with Gournay calling her “sister,” as was logical if they had the same father.”   

This is how Gournay and Montaigne described their relationship:
Gournay: In truth, if someone is surprised that, although we are not father and daughter except in title, the good will that allies us nevertheless surpassed that of real fathers and children, the first and closest of all the natural ties.  Let that person try one day to lodge virtue within himself and to meet with it in another; then he will scarcely marvel that it has more strength and power to harmonize souls than nature has.” 

Montaigne: “She is the only person I still think about in the world.  If youthful promise means anything, her soul will some day be capable of the finest things, among others of perfection in that most sacred kind of friendship which, so we read, her sex has not yet been able to obtain. (Note: That women were not capable of “sacred friendship” was a common view in the 16th Century!)  The sincerity and firmness of her character are already sufficient, her affection for me more than superabundant, and such, in short, that it leaves nothing to be desired, unless that her apprehension about my end, in view of my 55 years when I met her, would not torment her so cruelly.” 

Montaigne died at age 60, five years after he met Gournay.  This was, ironically, the same length of time he had enjoyed in his earlier intense friendship with La Boetie, which ended only when La Boetie died.   

Monday, May 7, 2012


I am one of four siblings adopted into the same family at the same time and have long believed the most important quality in any parent, biological or adoptive, is an open heart with the capacity to offer love.  That is not all a good parent needs but it is the most important of the essentials.  It seems ironic to me that of my biological parents, one had an open heart and one did not.  Of my adoptive parents, one had an open heart and one did not.  The same was true of my biological grandfather and my adoptive grandfather.  One, the adoptive grandfather, had an open heart; the biological grandfather did not. 
My biological father was a troubled man who spent too many years in prison.  I think most of his problem was a father who paid no attention to him.  A rural school teacher, Lonnie’s father let his son drop out of school in the 4th grade.  Despite his faults, Lonnie had an open heart.   When he was with you, you believed you were the center of his universe.  I became deeply attached to him.  
My adoptive minister father revealed much when in an unpublished memoir near the end of his life he wrote the following heart-rending words: 
“God, may I learn to let go the inhibitions which keep me from strong friendships… if I can let the coldness within me melt, then I shall be warm to others so that they have an opportunity to know me…I fear that people don’t want me in their company because I seem cold or I withdraw from them.

On the one hand, it was as if he was locked in his own prison.  And yet he was an extrovert who constantly praised “outgoing” people.

“Look at yourself, Luchs,” he wrote in his memoir.  What do you see when you are alone that when you are with people you can forget?”

My four parents, biological and adoptive, open and closed, change places when we come to mothers.  When I interviewed her younger sister and older brother decades after we had been adopted, they told me my biological mother was the spoiled favorite of her father and was all her life unusually self-centered.  That never changed.  At her one and only meeting with our biological mother nearly 50 years after she had abandoned us to a county orphanage, my younger sister, Janey, said of the meeting:
“I could not believe a woman could act that way.  It was all about me, me, me, me….and very defensive.”  
Through the years I often wondered why I had warm feelings for Lonnie, my biological father, and none at all for Eunice, my biological mother.  The more I learned about them and my early life, the clearer the picture became.
On the other hand, my experience of my adopted mother, Evelyn Luchs, was that she was an extraordinarily warm, open hearted and compassionate woman.  I was as lucky in my second mother as I was unlucky in my first!   I became as emotionally bound to Evelyn Luchs as I was to my two blood brothers and sister, even though she had had no role at all in the first eight years of my life. 
The same pattern existed with biological and adoptive grandfathers.  One had an open heart.  One did not.  My paternal biological grandfather lived next door when I was very young and I have no memories of him at all.  He took no interest in me or my three siblings at all.  Of my maternal McNelly grandparents, who lived two miles away, I have vivid memories to this day and especially of Grandma McNelly, to whom I became attached.  Even stranger, when I and three younger siblings were placed in the county children’s home, Grandpa Boggs did not visit us at all.  Not even once.  He lived five miles away and was in good health.
I first met my adoptive grandfather, Cliff Coulter, when the four of us were taken to his farm during our school’s spring break.  The morning after we arrived he invited me, because I was the first child up, to walk with him to a remote pasture to milk his cow.  This is how I describe Grandpa Coulter in my memoir, Children of the Manse. 
 “His voice, like his face, was warm and friendly.  He asked me about my school work and what I liked to do.  He didn't talk a lot.  He asked me question after question.  He seemed to be interested in what I was telling him. Being with Grandfather Coulter was like being with my biological father, Lonnie, because he listened to me and seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was saying and that made me happy.  I decided I wanted this new grandfather to like me.”
Grandpa Coulter listened.  He seemed genuinely interested in me.  And as I was soon to find out, he had an open heart and a great capacity to love.   That is what counts, especially in adoption.