I was told that Geneva was a forgotten, troubled little girl who's mom and dad despised her and cared nothing for her well-being. But a more solemn, beautiful truth has come out of it's secrecy- and I'm happy to tell you the story.
Adoption is a triangle of brokenness. As beautiful as it is to take an orphaned child into your home, the warm-fuzzies are not absent of tragedy. Most people think of the suffering of the child in the case of adoption, but I think, in my case, the hearts most broken belong to both the parents who lost me and the parents who gained me.
Geneva was not the child of evil parents. Evil things happened in the home, but they came by the way of strangers... boyfriends that my mom thought she could trust.
The things that happened next must have felt like a horror story come-to-life. My mother: unaware, my father: bound to work long hours to provide. Abuse was happening but went unnoticed. A neighbor's boy poured sand into my dad's gas tank; when confronted, the mother of the child made a vengeful call to social services and made up a story about how her neighbor was abusing his children.
Social services dutifully came to inspect the situation and of course, found evidence to support the claim. That same neighbor later wrote a note saying that she had lied- but it was too late. The late 80's were not a time when the court sympathized with accused fathers- and they had evidence.
I was put on the stand, and it was there I said "A stranger who looked like Daddy did these things." The lawyer corrected me and said, "Do you mean, Daddy did these things?"
Since then it has been made illegal to "lead" a witness on the stand, especially children who are eager to please adults.
But the law came years too late. I can remember being on the stand and feeling absolutely terrified.
I also remember being in a car with a strange lady who tried to hold me down as I twisted around and screamed, watching my dad getting farther and farther away as we were driven away from him.
A new chapter came: foster care. The next seven years we lived with five different families, and while I was trying to piece together what was happening, why I moved so often, why I kept getting new families... these foster families answered my questions to the best of their knowledge of what the social worker told them. With this information a hideous story grew in my mind.
One foster home in particular helped to feed the idea that my biological father was a monster. They forced me to burn pictures of him- my ONLY pictures of him- as a way to "cope".
I was now 9 years old, and here comes my favorite chapter: adoption. Year after year, we celebrated the birth of our family: December 8th. This was it- the final chapter in the saga of Geneva. With the finalization of the adoption came the option to change my name, and I chose Christine. Geneva was forever gone.
A phone call from my mom one day while I was at work. "Have you talked to your brother lately?"
Through a people search on the internet, my biological mother had found my brother and now my biological mother was on her way up from Florida.
Coming with her were my two half- sisters. She was divorced from my biological father, so I had no idea where he would come into the mix. They were in Georgia by the time I finally got wind of the whole thing. My boss told me I should leave work early and go deal with my fury/excitement/nausea before they all arrived.
It all happened so fast, I can't even remember the details of seeing her for the first time and what all else was going on. Although this happened 6 years ago, I have a giant blank spot in my memory- all I can remember is cooking dinner in my kitchen, my biological mother is there, too, stirring the stew and my nephew is trying to sweep the floor. Why my brain has shut this out, I have no idea.
During dinner the second night or third night (or who knows?) of their visit, my biological mother gets a phone call. THIS I remember clearly: she got deadly quiet, her eyes shot up to me and she covered the mouth piece and whispered IT'S YOUR FATHER!
I grew dizzy. All I could say was "Tell him to come on up, too." He was in Georgia. I talked to him on the phone for a while and the whole time was thinking "I can't believe I'm finally going to meet this man. I'm finally going to get to say I forgive you."
When things calmed down and we had cordially looked at photo albums and talked about our lives, he pulled out two thick black binders. He told me in a slightly trembling voice, "I didn't come to convince you of anything. I don't know what you were told. But these are all the court documents, the prosecution and defense."
That night, after they had gone back to their hotel room, Scott and I poured over the documents. A strange combination of relief and misery filled my soul.
He was innocent.
An innocent man was had been dragged into a courtroom, convicted of monstrous, evil abuse. What this man had gone through to prove his innocence, what he had gone through to get me back... the tragedy sunk in while hot, wet tears streamed down my face.
The next day his wife handed me another binder. It was a scrap-book filled with a shirt I had worn as a baby, some pictures-- and birthday cards. They bought me birthday cards every year and put them in the book. Never knowing if I would ever receive them.
I called my Mom and Dad to tell them who I'd just met. My Mom who adopted me when I was 9, who loved me through my awkward years of becoming part of the family, who forgave my insane behavior and coached me. Who took me horse back riding, who cheered me on to become a writer, who loved the Lord out loud. My Dad, who would sit and listen to me practice piano for hours, who played badminton in the backyard with me and who took me on camping trips with friends... who would listen to my business ideas and make me believe no one else could be as successful as me. I could go on for pages about how we made up for the 9 years that they didn't have me.
It was their turn for heartache. Would I forget the times they stayed up all night and read me stories when I was sick? Would I throw it all away, now that my "real" dad was in the picture? To whom to I give my loyalty to? Did they wonder if they were ever even needed?
No matter what I say, I'll be breaking some one's heart. So I'll just say God's truth: I wouldn't change a thing. God. makes. no. mistakes. The triangle of brokenness has led us all to be the people we are today. All three families- believe it or not- following the Lord and serving Him where we live and serving him BETTER because of the fire we were put through.
So, who am I? Geneva or Christine? My biological mom and sisters always calls me Geneva. I love that. That's how they "keep" me. Every one else calls me Christine. I love that, too. Emily calls me "Genny" sometimes, which is who I was when she first met me in the fifth grade.
I can't believe that, when I thought I was forgotten and unloved by every person I ever lived with, I had TWO families fighting for me.
I can't wait to meet my beautiful, adopted boys and girls look them in the eyes and tell them:
"Something in your eyes, I see, reminds me of what used to be
When I was still uncertain of the truth.
Sleepless nights that turned to days
alone inside an endless space, counted on someone to see me through.
If there's one thing I know, it's you were never left alone
Cause you can always call on Jesus name.
If there's one thing I pray, it's Jesus helps you find a way
to make a change and listen to your heart.
God will take away your pain if you chose to let it go...if there's one thing I know.
How can I convince your heart His light can find you in the dark?
And only He can make your blind eyes see.
For if we speak of lost things found, or lives that have been turned around,
then tell me who knows better, child, than me?"
- "If There's One Thing I Know", Selah