Don’t Make Us Choose. A Missive To Adoptive Parents.

The unfair cruelty of secrecy

Mindy Stern
Human Parts


Tiles spelling “truth” partially buried in sand
Photo: S Buwert/Shutterstock

Exhausted, sweaty, jet-lagged, and anxious, I got off the elevator with no idea where to go so I turned left and wow, there was my mother at the end of the long, antiseptic hallway. Her tiny body — four feet, eight inches — and gleaming white hair, gripping a walker, a tall nurse walking beside her.

A day earlier my mother had emergency heart surgery. I was shocked they had her up and around. I smiled and waved even though I knew she couldn’t see me. Eighty-eight years on this earth has stolen most of her vision.

“Look at you!” I said.

It took her a moment to realize who it was.

“Oh! That’s my daughter!”

“Wow, where did you get your height from?” the nurse asked me.

The question stunned me, not because I’m unaware of our size difference, but because it’s been years since someone pointed it out. I’m five foot six and look nothing like my mother. I’m adopted.

As a child, people often asked who I looked like. Where did you get those blue eyes? I grew accustomed to the uncomfortable grip in my stomach when I lied and said, “My grandfather.”