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My adoptive minister father revealed much when in an unpublished memoir near the end of his life he wrote the following heart-rending words: 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.   

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Lewis! It's Jo-Anne, who sat next to you this a.m. at Memoirs presentation. My grand-daughter, Brittany, is a spokesperson for CASA, in tv ad with Pierre and two others. Let's talk!