My adoptive parents told me I was chosen, but the kids at school told me I was a bastard.
The recent headlines about Arnold Schwarzeneggers infidelities and the son he fathered out of wedlock have stirred many old memories and emotions.
I was four years old when I learned I was adopted. It was just before my sister Maureens eighth birthday. I told her, I know what youre getting for your birthday.
Dont spoil the secret, she said. If you tell me, Im going to tell you a secret!
Well, that was the wrong thing to say! I had to know what she was keeping from me! I said, Youre getting a blue dress for your birthday.
Maureen said, And you were adopted.
I ran off to find our mother, Jane Wyman, in the den. I asked her, What does adopted mean?
Moms eyes flashed dangerously. Where did you hear that word? she asked.
After Mom finished dealing with Maureen, she sat me down and explained adoption to me. You are a chosen child, she said, and that makes you special. We love you very much.
I could tell that being chosen was a good thing. But I also realized for the first time that Mom wasnt my real mother that I had another mother who had mysteriously given me away.
One day, when I was in the second grade, I got into a playground argument with another boy. We took turns one-upping each other. Im better than you, I said. Im special cause I was chosen! I was adopted!
The other boy didnt know how to answer that, but the next day he came back to school and laughed at me. My parents told me what adopted means, he said. Youre not special youre a bastard! Your real mother wasnt married, so she gave you away bastard!
Thats when I realized there was something horribly wrong with me. I never again bragged about being chosen, and I never again felt special. But I did feel marked.
I wondered, Why did my birth mother give me away? Was it because Im a bastard? I figured Mom couldnt have known I was illegitimate or she wouldnt have adopted me. And I didnt want her to find out!
When I returned home, I went to the library where Mom kept a huge leather-bound Bible. Shed once told me that the Bible had all the answers. I was seven years old and had never read the Bible on my own, so I turned to the back of the Bible to see if there was an index. Sure enough, I found the concordance.
I looked for the word bastard -- and there it was. The concordance directed me to Deuteronomy 23:2, where I read: A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
My heart froze. I thought those words meant, A bastard can never go to heaven. A bastard is damned to Hell, and so are his kids and grandkids, down to the tenth generation.
I snapped the book shut and I didnt open a Bible again for more than 25 years. Of course, that verse had nothing to do with heaven or hell but how could a seven-year-old understand such things?
I thought, Thats why my birth mother got rid of me! Nobody wants a child whos going to Hell! And Moms so religious! If she finds out Im going to Hell, she wont want me anymore! So, at age seven, I began to hate myself and God.
The story of my spiritual and emotional redemption is in my book Twice Adopted. But the story Im thinking about now is the painful story of Arnold Schwarzeneggers son. I keep hearing chattering heads on TV referring to the boy as Schwarzeneggers illegitimate son. It makes my blood boil.
Listen, theres no such thing as an illegitimate child. There are only illegitimate parents.
And Arnold, I hope you read this: Your son is not the bastard. Youre the bastard. Youre the illegitimate parent.
I dont say that to insult you. I say it for your own good. I say it because you need to face these facts. Youve been a bastard up till now, but you can change that. You can man up. You can sit down with your son, acknowledge him, apologize to him, admit that you failed him, promise to love him, and begin to protect him from ridicule.
That boy is going to need a lot of love and affirmation from his father. Why? Because the bastards in the media have gone after him, publishing horrible, humiliating stories, putting his picture on the Internet and subjecting him to ridicule at school.
Arnold, youve always played a hero in the movies. But now the whole world knows it was just an act. How would you like to be a real hero for a change?
It is time to stop being a bastard and start being a father.
©2011 Mike Reagan; distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.