“You can’t please everyone. But that’s okay because you’re not for everyone. It’s okay to just be for these people over here. These ones who ‘get’ you.” – Allyson Dinnen, Notes from Your Therapist
. . .
Have you ever seen those clusters of two-toned orchard trees? Looks like they’ve been sprayed for some kind of pest around the bottom. But then you look again – it’s not just the color that’s different from the top versus the bottom – it’s the texture and diameter that are mismatched, too.
Maybe this is not news to you. But it was for me two years ago, shortly after moving to Davis, California where orchards and vineyards abound. But if you are confused like I was, here’s the secret:
They used to be two different trees.
It’s a hybrid. Not pollinated to be a hybrid, but physically cut and Frankensteined to be a hybrid.
I didn’t believe it at first. But it’s real. I looked it up on UC Davis’ Fruit and Nut Propagation website. (UC Davis, n.d.) It’s aptly called grafting. Simplistically, it’s a way to harness a desired root system’s hardiness plus a desired fruit or nut’s tastiness.
Here’s how it works. An orchard of trees is planted and grown to a certain size, then the trees are chopped down approximately a foot above the ground. The remaining root system is called the ‘rootstock.’ Then, a smaller fruit tree top (the ‘scion’), chopped down from another orchard, is grafted to this root system. Special grafting wax and/or tape is applied to hold them tightly together as the two amputees get acquainted and grow into a single tree. You can even graft two totally different fruit trees together. The last plum you ate may have come from a scion of a plum tree grafted onto rootstock of a peach tree.
Another fun random factoid – did you know adults can be adopted? It’s simpler than you might imagine. Consent from the adoptee’s spouse, the adopting parent’s spouse, and of course the adopting parent and adult adoptee must be obtained in writing. A brief meeting with a judge. And then…voila. A new family connection is official.
. . .
My arms are twisted around my shins and thighs. Lump feeling in my throat, tingling in the right side of my face. Jude is hovering nearby, exhausted. She is a kind wife. She sips up the last drops of patience and energy she has for the day, sitting and waiting for me to feel my feelings.
“I feel like a California orchard tree,” I say.
I’m being adopted.
It’s controversial, even in my own mind and heart.
I’m not an orphan. My father, mother and brother live in Colorado. I occasionally communicate with one of the three: my mother.
It’s not just them. It’s me, too. We don’t mix. We don’t lift each other up.
The estrangement has evolved over the years. Though obviously the details are layered and complex and involve a multitude of opposing values and viewpoints in the making, I can pinpoint moments that have hacked away at our relationship. The numbers are my approximate age at the time.
2 My father holds me and forces me to touch the eyes of a deer ‘trophy’ in our home.
7 My brother, disgusted, tells me about gay people. Gay and racial slurs abound.
15 My father blames me for being a victim of sexual assault.
16 I live in New Zealand for a year as an exchange student.
19 My father says I can come home to visit, as long as I don’t bring my girlfriend.
20 My brother tells me he thinks Democrats are “everything that is wrong with this country.”
21 My father tells me he doesn’t approve of my “choices.”
22 I move thousands of miles away for medical school.
25 My brother will not attend my wedding because gay people will be there.
26 I begin medical residency thousands of miles away.
30 My brother tells me that me being gay is the “hardest thing he has ever had to deal with.”
31 My brother and father do not respond to my emails and letters about my history of sexual abuse, depression and hospitalization. My mother responds to the communication by saying, “congratulations on the article” I had published the month before.
32 I decide not to invite any of them to my book release.
33 My mother testifies in court against me in my own rape trial.
33 My brother refuses to give me his new address to mail presents to his kids.
34 I informally am adopted by my friend Becky as her sister. She moves herself, her husband, her two kids and Saint Bernard from Colorado to California to be near Jude and me.
36 Becky’s father Todd, with a kind and sincere heart, agrees to legally adopt me.
Plenty of folks go through painful times with their immediate family members. I know this is not unique to me. Some end happily, some end awkwardly, some end in estrangement. The difference between those families who can stay in contact through it and those who become estranged:
Discord is inevitable in every meaningful relationship. It’s about the recovery and the growth of the individuals and the connection, the deepening of the love and respect. It’s about the rebound. It’s about attunement. I have come to the conclusion after 36 years that due to incontrovertible differences in identity and values, true attunement just is not in the cards for my bio family and me.
I am a peach root stock, and my biological family was a pistachio tree. I have chopped them down, found my plum scion, and am applying the wax.