The most interesting thing in the world is people. And, talking about interesting, which we were, and people, which we are, there is a peculiar juxtaposition in two TV series currently on air.
For me, and anyone with personal experience of adoption, a must-watch TV programme is Long Lost Family where people separated by adoption at birth are reunited with the parents they have never met – usually their mother.
It is shocking to learn about the attitudes to pregnancy that prevailed in the lifetimes of two generations of people still living today. For, until the 1960s/70s, pregnancy represented a harsh and unforgiving world where babies of only a few weeks old were torn, literally ripped away, from the arms of their screaming, desperate mothers who, typically, were still teenagers.
Learning these stories, and ‘meeting’ the people involved, one sees the lifetime of pain these women have had to endure. After all, as one particularly lucid adopted man explained, the pain of a having child taken forever from your arms is really no different from your baby dying. And he should know. His adoptive parents had lost both of their young children and adopting him had been a way of easing their grief.
One has to thank goodness that, for all the ills of society today, we now have a more understanding, caring approach to this issue. Generally speaking, that is.
Mind you, not all the Long Lost Family case histories feature ‘birth parents’ and their children. Sometimes it is siblings who have been torn apart. In one case, a teenager had been thrown out of the family home for being gay. Bizarrely, we were told, the Long Lost Family team looked for him in Brighton because, they said, Brighton is well known for its gay community. And there he was, working as a hotel chef! Huh?
In another case, both birth parents were reunited with their daughter. The father was a great-nephew of Owen, not that this was developed in the programme. But it did remind me that, while we ‘celebrate’ World War One, we should not feel that great-nephews and nieces of our fallen heroes are some sort of watered down relations with a loss less tragic than a direct line of grandchildren. Many of those killed were too young to have left children behind. This is why fewer of us than one might expect have grandfathers, particularly officers, who were killed in the Great War.
Masters of Sex is not a documentary but a ‘biopic’. It is a very difficult programme to watch for, as a parent, one does want to be caught by one’s children watching a programme with this title, does one? ‘My Dad’s a perv!‘ And, no, it is not about me. It is based on the biography ‘Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love.‘
Like Long Lost Family, Masters of Sex transmits important social lessons. In one episode, a teenage girl had become pregnant for the second time. Her parents were in hospital demanding that William Masters perform a hysterectomy.
‘Sterilisation is the only option…. my daughter can’t control her sick impulses‘ said the mother.
‘That decision is hers‘, replied the angry Dr Masters, before being overruled by his hospital boss.
To many of my generation, listening to James Alexander Gordon, who died this week, was an appointment-to-listen ritual every Saturday evening. With brilliant skill, and superb control of inflection and tone, he announced the football results.
‘James Alexander Gordon was brought up by adoptive parents after his mother died in childbirth. Aged just six months he contracted polio and was paralysed. Unable for many years to walk or talk, he was educated at a variety of special schools and spent much of his first 15 years in hospital.‘
The next line of this obituary must be recognised too:
‘But his parents, his father in particular, encouraged him to try everything he could and refused to mollycoddle him, using love and humour to defuse situations.‘
In Long Lost Family, one of the most vital, if rather understated, revelations is the love that the adopted children had received from their adoptive parents. Perhaps they are subjects another programme, but the sheer humanity and heroism of these people must be recognised.
One of the adopted children said this:
‘We were not a financially wealthy family. But we were very wealthy when it came to love and affection.‘
Oh, that more could be done, even today, to encourage all parents to adopt this approach.
Those that don’t, don’t know how lucky they are.