My Appearances This Week

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On Tuesday of this week I’ll be a featured guest on KWMR-FM/90.5, Point Reyes, CA., 89.9, Bolinas, 92.3, The Valley, on the local news show “Epicenter” at 5:00PM with Jim Fazackerley talking about The Girl Behind The Door.

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On Thursday of this week at 6:30PM I’ll be speaking about The Girl Behind The Door at the San Francisco Public Library, Civic Center main branch at 100 Larkin St. in the Latino Room.

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On Saturday at 11AM Mountain Time (10AM Pacific) I’ll be interviewed on “Adoption Perspectives” on KLTT-AM/670, Denver, CO.

PLEASE JOIN US IN PERSON, OVER THE AIR OR ONLINE!

Casey’s Comfort Pillow

Casey Photos 1991-96_0042I submitted this short personal essay to KQED-FM’s Perspective series which invites listeners to submit their 2 minute stories. They broadcast a couple I did a few years ago but lately I’ve been on a losing streak. After they turned this one down I listened to the essay they accepted about someone’s old cat. I didn’t get it. But sorry I don’t do “lite and breezy.” I write from the gut and go for something hopefully thought provoking and uplifting in the face of tragedy.

Unfortunately what I’m finding I suspect is that the general public doesn’t like the whole “suicide thing.” But when they let me tell the story or read the book they are totally enrolled.

So…

When you were a kid, what did you have to drag around with you all day and snuggle with at night? For me it was my Teddy bear.

For my daughter Casey, it was different. She had plenty of stuffed animals. There was Toucan, Plush Pink Piggy, Pooh Bear, Squeaky Doll, Bunny and an assortment of Beanie Babies. Like all kids, she’d play with them when she was little – having snacks, pretend tea, watching videos together – but at bedtime they were relegated to the foot of her bed.

Casey’s true constant companion was her goose down comfort pillow. My wife bought it for her just before we received her from a Polish orphanage where she’d spent the first year of her life. She was well cared for but missed the things that provide comfort to children who weren’t raised in an institution. She was never breast fed, probably wasn’t held nearly enough, and wasn’t allowed a pacifier for fear of spreading germs.

Casey had trouble self-soothing from sometimes crippling tantrums and meltdowns. So her comfort pillow was her prosthetic. On any given night we’d find her asleep in bed with that pillow over her face. She’d suck on it and rub it on the tip of her nose to calm herself down. During one of her meltdowns, she’d cry and scream into that pillow. My wife re-stuffed and re-covered it many times from all of the use it had gotten to sooth her well into her teen years.

But the pillow wasn’t enough. Eight years ago when Casey was 17, she took our car, drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, jumped and disappeared. She left her room behind neat as a pin with Toucan, Plush Pink Piggy, Pooh Bear, Squeaky Doll, Bunny, her Beanies and her comfort pillow, threadbare from use, carefully arranged on her bed.

Now her comfort pillow is my comfort pillow. I hug it and smell it but her scent is long gone. It’s all I have left of her. Meanwhile my own Teddy sits old and musty, worse for wear, hermetically sealed in a Rubbermaid container in my basement.

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NY Times The Ethicist Piece, March 6, 2016

Yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Ethicist column featured a piece titled “Should I Tell My Sister She’s Adopted?” The title alone was jarring to me. How can this even be a question in 2016? In short, the letter writer’s biological parents adopted a child, so the parents had a biological and adopted child. But the parents kept the adoption a secret and insisted that their biological daughter keep the secret as well, a terrible burden to impose on a child!

I wondered if this adoption had happened decades ago when these kinds of secrets were more commonplace. But it seemed as though the adoption happened more or less in current times.

The Times’ Ethicist responded in an overly long winded response that had little to do with the question until finally answering the writer’s question with a convoluted affirmative.

They could’ve just answered with one word: Yes!

UPCOMING RADIO EVENTS: MONDAY MAR 7 2-3PM KPFA-FM/94.1 AND MONDAY MAR 14 10-11AM KQED-FM/88.5.

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Please tune in for these upcoming radio events.

 

logoMonday Mar. 7 2-3PM on KPFA-FM/94.1 I will be interviewed about adoption and attachment along with internationally renowned adoption expert, therapist and author of the adoption bible, The Primal Wound, Nancy Newton Verrier, on the show “About Health” hosted by Rona Renner, RN. You can also LISTEN LIVE on KPFA.org or listen to the archived show.

 

KQED_logoMonday Mar. 14 10-11AM on KQED-FM/88.5 I will be on a panel discussion about survivors of suicide on the nationally syndicated “Forum,” hosted by Michael Krasny. You can also LISTEN LIVE on KQED.org or listen to the archived show.

 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE MEDIA AND SPEAKING EVENTS!

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REMINDER: Girl Behind The Door Author Event at Book Passage San Francisco Wed. Mar. 2nd at 6PM!

9781501128349Please join us for an author event for The Girl Behind The Door, published by Scribner, at Book Passage San Francisco in the Ferry Building on WEDNESDAY MAR. 2nd at 6PM

About The Girl Behind The Door:
Early on Jan. 29, 2008, Casey Brooks drove from her Tiburon home to the Golden Gate Bridge and jumped. Why?
* Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award.
* Winner of the Kindle Award for Non-Fiction.
* Recommended as an Elaine’s Pick.
* Recommended as a Marin Magazine Local Page Turner.
* Featured in Books Inc’s non-fiction titles.

About Scribner:
A premier imprint of Simon & Schuster founded in 1846.

About Book Passage:
One of the Bay Area’s premier booksellers.
Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Sausalito, San Francisco Ferry Bldg. #42

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STAY TUNED FOR MORE EVENTS. ON MONDAY MAR. 7TH AT 2PM JOHN BROOKS AND ADOPTION SPECIALIST, NANCY NEWTON VERRIER, TO BE INTERVIEWED ON “ABOUT HEALTH” WITH RONA RENNER ON KPFA-FM.94.1.

Who’s The Hero?

top_ten_superheroes_image1How many adoptive parents, like me, have been told what heroes we are and how selfless we were to have adopted an orphaned child? How many of these same (well meaning) people have told us how lucky our children are for having been adopted by us?

I have.

Indeed there are many couples out there who truly are saints. They become foster parents and bring children into their families who otherwise might never have a home at all. They take on the challenge of raising children with severe difficulties and addictions, emotional and physical, that can bring chaos into their homes. And somehow they deal with it without any self-pity. For some, it’s a religious calling, and that’s fine. To me, these people are truly selfless; they are the real heroes.

If I were to look in the mirror and be brutally honest (and I have), my wife Erika and I would have never journeyed to Poland or submitted ourselves to the emotional roller coaster that led us to our daughter, Casey, the centerpiece of our lives, had we gotten pregnant. But we didn’t.

That’s a hard truth to swallow because I simply could never have imagined my life without my Casey, even as it ended tragically with her suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge at only 17. But had we gotten pregnant there would have been no Casey. I hate to admit this, but it’s true – she was plan B. And I can moralize and rationalize all I want but that’s the harsh truth.

I don’t consider myself a hero or selfless at all. Heck, Erika and I wanted to be parents! And if we couldn’t make a child we’d go find one. That’s the unvarnished truth, the truth we try to sugarcoat.

Was Casey lucky to have been adopted by us? Perhaps. After all, she lived a privileged life in Marin County, California, and was accepted at elite Bennington College in Vermont. But what I’ve learned about orphaned children is that that is often not nearly enough. They bare the scars of abandonment, and I don’t think any amount of love and material comforts can make up for that. Though Casey never took our repeated invitations to delve into her past, I often wonder if she’d ever thought “why did my mother give me up instead of my siblings” who, for all I know, lived with their grandparents in a cramped farmhouse in rural Poland.

We adoptive parents are well aware of the supply/demand dynamics in adoption. Adoptive parents far outnumber available healthy (and white) infants who are the most desirable. Though Casey was deemed “special needs” in 1991 and, thus, not of interest to many Polish couples, it turned out that she wasn’t a special needs child at all. If it wasn’t us, I’m quite certain that she would have ended up with another couple from the US, UK, Europe or Australia. As her father, that’s painful for me to imagine.

Now since Casey’s suicide, I’ve become a suicide advocate, speaking to groups (particular adolescents) about mental health issues with a group of teens, and we get a lot of kudos from people. But like adoption, I wouldn’t be giving these presentations either or fighting for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge if I hadn’t lost my Casey. I’d be blissfully ignorant, living my old life. No the real heroes here are the teenage girls I work with who haven’t been scarred by loss; they simply participate in these presentations out of the goodness of their hearts. They are the real heroes.

So, no, I don’t feel like a hero, but I do feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have been Casey’s dad for 16 of her 17 years. I just do what I need to do to keep my precious daughter’s memory alive.