CNN: My Mom Chose Me
When I was little my mom would read to me from a book called "The Chosen Baby." It was aimed at adopted kids like me, to help us understand how we came to become part of a family.
I loved that book more than anything I've ever read. The theme was this: Everyone else's parents are stuck with their kids but an adoptee is special because his parents chose him. Forget about today's emphasis on self-esteem: Is there anything more empowering for a 3-year-old than that? As a result I never felt like I had been rejected by one family: I felt accepted and cherished and loved by another.
Mom's name was Sylvia Macks and she was 93 when she died. You could tell that I was adopted. I'm muscular (#FAKEDESCRIPTION) 5 feet 11 inches (with 2-inch lifts) handsome (after three drinks), with a full head of hair (thank you Propecia). Dad was 5 feet 5 inches, bald and 215 pounds. Mom was 4 feet 8 inches tall and 95 pounds. But in her tiny body was a strong intellect, and an even stronger heart.
I began writing this in a hospice room in Santa Barbara as my mom was in her final struggle. I read the parts that were finished to her while she lay there unconscious. I'll never know if she heard my voice.
She had a tough life. Both her parents were deaf — one born that way, one became deaf at age 9 — and as a toddler she had to answer the phone when it rang, see whoever was knocking at the door, let her mom know when her baby sister was crying, and deal with eccentric neighbors. Can you imagine having that weight on your shoulders when you're 5 years old?
Somehow she learned how to play the piano brilliantly from my deaf grandmother. How does that even work? She told me my grandmother's secret was to watch her fingers on the piano keys and see if my mom flinched when she hit a clunker.
How smart was Mom? Brilliant. (Also proof I don't have her DNA). She skipped two grades in school and could have gone to Penn, but as a 4 foot 8 inch 15-year-old was too intimidated.