I was restless in the crowded home store, zipping back and forth between towering stacks of fluffy blankets. I’m sure I looked funny and unnecessarily picky, repeatedly caressing one blanket and then another.
Should I get a Christmas-themed blanket? What about one with llamas and Christmas trees? Were cute, hat-wearing penguins a deal-breaker? Would something modern with just a touch of hot pink work if it was whimsical?
I wasn’t sure which style to choose. But I knew the blanket had to be the absolute softest one I could get my hands on, and it also needed to be manly enough for a quirky, outspoken tough guy in his mid-60s.
An Ugg-wearing lady in a Christmas-themed t-shirt reached for a blanket at the same time I did and then laughed. “Look at us!” my fellow shopper said, smiling. “We are sitting here going back and forth between these blankets like it’s such an important decision! We obviously are taking ourselves and this shopping way too seriously. I mean, it’s not the end of the world!”
I smiled faintly, not knowing quite what to say.
“Yes, sometimes shopping can make us all a little crazy,” I said, breaking eye contact and hoping she would be on her way quickly before things got awkward.
It would have felt unneccesarily cruel to tell her the truth: that for me, my shopping did feel like a stunningly important, once-in-a-lifetime decision. After all, it’s not every day that a girl picks out a blanket to comfort and connect with the dying biological father she was about to meet for the first time.
Not long after the well meaning shopper departed without incident, I was able to make my decision: I settled on a gray and white blanket decorated with Christmas trees and Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy. I didn’t know an awful lot about my father before I met him, but I did know that we shared a love of the Peanuts gang. It really was perfect. And I was in no way crazy or over-the-top for obsessing until I found just the right one.
I’ve thought a lot about this encounter as I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I learned meeting my hospital-bound father for the first time, after going a lifetime wondering about him.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was a result of my home store encounter: You never know what the people around you might be going through. It’s not the end of the world – until it is. We need to remember that – and to treat others around us with the love, compassion and carefulness this truth requires.
Note from Monique: I’ve been continuing to process the time I spent last month, meeting my biological father for the first time and then losing him 12 days later. If you are an adoptee who has a reunion story you’d be interested in talking about, shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.