It has been a heavy couple weeks for Beckett.
Ever since he was born 15 years ago in West Chester, Pa., Beckett has known he was adopted. Pam and I agreed early on there would be no secrets. He would know everything, as he should, and we would answer any questions honestly along the way.
Our adoption with Beckett’s birth mother was semi-open. For the sake of this space, we will call her Tonya. In the months leading up to Beckett’s birth, we bonded with Tonya, who was living in a halfway house in Coatesville, Pa. when we met her. She said the birth father was unknown.
Tonya had been battling addiction for much of her life and was the mom at the time to a 4-year-old daughter (who we will call Brittany). Tonya was exploring adoption for her baby because she wanted to focus on making things right with Brittany. Pam and I had several meals with Tonya and went to multiple doctor’s appointments with her. We helped her with incidental expenses through the adoption agency.
Coming off the heels of a painful failed adoption in Florida, Pam and I wanted to befriend Tonya. We wanted to get to know her so we could remember details to share with our son, but also to hopefully build trust with her so she was confident in her decision, one of sacrifice.
Adoption is a selfless thing and in Tonya’s case she sincerely wanted to make things right with her daughter. She had made mistakes in the past and her battles with addiction prevented her from being the mom she wanted to be.
For a few years, as part of our picture contract through the semi-open adoption, we were sending photos to Tonya every six months with updates. There was solid communication at first but as the years went on the packages were returned undeliverable. It was on Tonya to share her new address. It’s been 12 years since we heard from her.
Last week Beckett posted a few photos from the Oceans Calling Festival on a new Instagram account he created. Within hours of the post, Beckett received a message from Brittany, his half-sister, saying she had been trying to “find him for years.” We learned through subsequent messages that Tonya had suddenly died from a brain aneurysm in 2016. Brittany had not seen her mom in years and was removed from her mom’s care the summer after Beckett was born. Addiction woes continued.
I learned about the communication from Brittany last Thursday night while at an event. Pam sent me a text message letting me know what was going on as a warning, and I could not focus on anything else. First, it was surprising Beckett’s half sister had reached out after all these years, but we view that as a good thing. It was Tonya’s passing at such a young age that hit us hard. No matter the lack of communication, we still cared for her and are grateful for her decision.
The news brought back so many memories, but our immediate attention turned to Beckett and how he was processing all this. As I was driving home, I was so grateful Beckett knows his life story. We don’t talk about adoption a lot. We are busy living our lives and raising him. The topic comes up organically from time to time, and he will ask questions every now and again. We promised him we would tell him whatever he wanted and have shown him pictures of his birth mom and half-sister. We always told Beckett we would connect him with his birth mother when the time was right. Pam and I always thought after he graduated from college would be a good time.
It’s been interesting to observe Beckett work through these emotions. I think he’s shocked over his birth mom’s passing and excited about meeting his half-sister at some point. He and Brittany look a lot alike. They both have light green eyes, blond hair and light complexion. We will all drive soon to meet Brittany, who is in college in Pennsylvania.
Brittany shared with us and Beckett a lot about her mom’s life before she passed in 2016. It was sad to learn Tonya never was able to kick her addiction struggles until four months before her passing. Brittany said she and Tonya were starting to talk again and build a relationship, but that she barely knew her mom growing up and was raised by her grandparents. It was difficult to hear about Tonya’s journey as we always prayed she was right. The lack of communication was more revealing than we wanted to acknowledge.
Over the last couple weeks, it’s difficult not to reflect on what Beckett’s life may have been like if he stayed with Tonya. The optimist in me likes to think having a baby boy would have further encouraged Tonya to stay clean. The realist in me realizes addiction is overpowering and Beckett’s life would have probably been difficult and full of unimaginable challenges. He may have ended up in foster care. Maybe not.
Being a teen boy, Beckett has not talked a lot about his birth mom’s passing. I don’t think he has processed it yet. I know I am struggling with the sudden news. Reading her short obituary was painful. For Beckett, he is more focused on meeting his half-sister, and we will make that happen. However, I know he must be feeling grief. I suspect he may feel guilty about his emotions, though he should not. I imagine there’s grief over the person he did not know but also a sense of loss over the hope of the person he wanted to get to know at some point.