We’re Sure as Hell not the Cleavers… and we’re Damn Well Better Off For It!

by Steve Miller

Okay, I know… I haven’t blogged in a while.  I have been busy with other things and I just haven’t felt the need to take up the bandwidth.  That’s all changed.  Recent events inspire me.  Now, while what’s written on this blog may bore most people to tears, it may be of interest to my children who used to ask, “Where did I come from?”

Many parents dread that question but for reasons other than mine.  In the past, I couldn’t answer the question because I truly didn’t know.  That’s changed.

Most people can’t imagine not knowing where they spent parts of their childhood or with whom.  Who’s mom?  Who’s dad?  I did more than imagine, I lived it.  I was adopted and really didn’t know my biological parents.

Now that I do know from whence I came, I want my children to know.  I want their kids to know.  More than simply know, I want them to understand that while there might be a definition of a normal family, very few families fit that criteria.  In our family, the one that I have just recently discovered, we were so far outside the criteria that we have established a new definition of normal.  That’s not such a bad thing.

Deviating from the social norms is what makes a family unconventional.  Not operating to the benefit of the family as a whole makes it dysfunctional.  While our family may have been dysfunctional in some areas, and certainly unconventional in most, there was also an abundance of love and caring.  The loving and caring part wasn’t always apparent.  Sometimes you had to look for it.  For those who judge, well, first of all, you shouldn’t.  If you choose to, you will find plenty of reason to place fault.   People do what they’ve got to do to survive.  They adapt using the resources available to them at the time.  That doesn’t make them bad people.

In our family, most of us have fought our battles, some of us have slain our demons, or at least we have them on a short leash, and we have emerged with a better understanding of where we came from and who we are.  We have lost those we love and loved those we found.  Our present generation has shed the “dysfunctional family” label.  After more than a half-century apart, we’ve finally found each other.

Now, here we are.  This is us.  But before we talk about us, I’m going to talk about me. 

The Cleaver Family

While Leave it to Beaver was playing on 1950s television, the epitome of a healthy wholesome American family, many families were living a much different life.  Invaded by alcoholism, marital infidelity, and financial deficiency, my biological family was one of those labeled as dysfunctional.

My parents adopted me at ten years old.  Before that, my life as a little kid was spent growing up in the Westlake/Echo Park area of Los Angeles.  Today, it’s an area where a bulletproof vest is a necessary fashion accessory.  It’s a place where you’ll find more residents affiliated with gangs than credit unions.  It’s home to the LAPD Rampart Division where police officers are likely to have more use of force encounters in a week than suburban officers would have in their entire career.  It’s an area full of 1920s apartment buildings, home to Korea Town, MacArthur Park, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Continue reading