Adoption in exchange for a kidney would have been a viable option, at least for a while

In the United States, if your dog needs a kidney transplant, you can take one from a stray animal if you agree to adopt the stray.

I like this. It makes sense. I take great pleasure in logical solutions.

It also got me thinking that I might also be willing to donate a kidney if the right person would adopt me. I haven’t had the benefit of parental support for more than twenty years and am willing to take anything I can get.

In fact, it occurred to me while writing that last paragraph that I have been living without the support or safety net of parents for longer than I lived with it.

When I was twenty years old, my stepfather left my mother after failing to pay the mortgage for six months and only then informing her of their financial troubles. She found a note on the kitchen counter stating that he was leaving her and warning that the house would be foreclosed on within the month.

Having cashed in my mother’s monthly disability settlement for a back injury that occurred at work in order to fund my stepfather’s failed multi-level marketing business, my mother suddenly found herself penniless. She and my still teenage sister moved into an apartment in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and struggled to make ends meet until my mother’s muscular dystrophy made it impossible for her to work. At that point she went on Medicaid and moved into a housing complex for the elderly and disabled for the rest of her life.

Ten years later, she died while recovering from a bout of pneumonia at the age of 57.

Since the day that my mother found that note on the kitchen counter and lost our childhood home, I have lived without parental support of any kind.  With a mother trapped in abject poverty, a father who I had not seen for more than a decade and a stepfather who had proven himself to be an evil and despicable man, there was no longer anyone to lean on or anywhere to go if I was in trouble. This helps to explain my brief period of homelessness, my time spent sharing a room with a goat, my difficulties with the law and my long and rocky and utterly exhausting path to college.

When it comes to parental support, I have been on my own in every sense of the word for the past 21 years.

For many people, this scenario is unfathomable. While most of us will at some point suffer the loss of our parents, rarely do people find themselves without any parental support at the age of eighteen. Most of my friends, some almost twenty years older than me, still have at least one, and in most cases both parents still alive and actively involved in their lives.

I have friends who see their parents almost every day, eat dinner with their parents almost every evening, speak to their parents every day on the phone and have difficulty imagining how they would have survived in the world had they found themselves on their own at the age of eighteen, with no money, no home and no safety net of any kind.

They would have survived, of course, and probably thrived as I have. This is what people do. But it is much harder and much more frightening and considerably less joyous when you are doing it alone. My friends are blessed with support system that I never knew and can scarcely imagine.

They were sent to college by their parents, bailed out of financial trouble, provided with a home when it was needed, supported as they started families of their own, and blessed with the wisdom and counsel of a parent with far more experience than themselves.

In fact, data shows that nearly 60 percent of 23- to 25-year-olds report receiving some kind of financial assistance from their parents.

For me, I cannot imagine how it must feel to have parental support as an adult. Until meeting my wife, I have spent most of my adult life believing that I am standing on the edge of a cliff, capable of falling over into ruin at any moment. There was no one holding me back, no one ready to catch me if I fell, and no one willing to pull me back up if I had survived the fall.

While the strength and independence that I have developed as a result of being on my own has been a blessing, I think I would trade it all in for a set of capable, supportive parents.

Even one would’ve been nice.

So while I am joking when I say I would donate a kidney in exchange for being adopted, I am only half-joking. I see the relationships that my friends have with their parents today and I ache for what I have never known. I often find myself consumed by longing, sadness and envy when I see and hear the myriad of ways that my friends’ lives are changed for the better thanks to the guiding and stabilizing hand of a parent.

Still, I know that I am lucky. Though I continue to feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, I have my wife, my friends and my family supporting me. While it is certainly not the same as having your parents involved and invested in your life, it is a blessing nonetheless. 

But had someone offered the twenty or even thirty year old version of me the opportunity to be adopted in exchange for a kidney, I might have jumped at the chance.

I’m almost certain that I would have.