As I am tidying the gravesite of my son’s adoptive mother almost 35 years later, I reflect on the secrecy that has caused so much pain and kept us apart.

We had all the answers in 1965. Adoption would easily solve the problem of an unplanned pregnancy: The birth parents would forget, the adoptive parents would take the child as if their own, and life would begin anew. Adoption is far more complex and has far more facets than anyone realized in those days. Today we are reaping the results of our arrogance and our ignorance.

It was forgotten that we would all grow old together. I would love and remember my son for a lifetime, so would his adoptive parents, and so my son would remember me. We are all connected forever. The woman I am remembering is a woman that I deeply regret never meeting and never knowing. I bring flowers to decorate her grave as my private declaration of the love I feel for her.

The inscription on her tombstone reads “Beloved wife, loving mother, and caring friend.” I am pleased, because I think it includes me as well. She would have been my caring friend. Her happiness would have brought me smiles.

I realize that whether we like it or not, my son and I are connected, but so am I connected to his parents– and they to me. I am part of their lives and they are part of mine. To think otherwise is shallowness. To never speak, to never know each other is a painful, needless loss of never knowing these kinfolk to whom you are related. There is a place for all of us. There has to be.

We can pretend we are not connected, for in fact, when parents adopt a child, they forge a connection with the birth parents. When birth parents place a child for adoption, they form a connection to the adoptive parents as well. This is what is real.

I was told I “would forget,” they were told to continue “as if born unto.” I don’t want to disappear. I want to claim my place and be recognized for it. It is an important place in our son’s life. I considered giving it up and decided I will not– cannot– do it. I don’t want more than my place. I am not his parent. I am his birth parent. We are all connected and will be forever.

Are we needy as some would claim? I think not. We are related to one another. The arrogance of those who knew all the answers, the naiveté of my young self who believed. I vow to teach my children.