For the next few weeks, as we approach the April 8th release of A Family by Any Other Name, I’d like to introduce you to some of the book’s contributors.
Jason Dale is a high school teacher in Port Dover, Ont. His essay is called “Piecing My Family Together.”
How did you find out about this project?
As a friend of Bruce, I was familiar with his other books. Years ago he had asked me to contribute something, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or life was simply too busy; this time I felt ready, I suppose, to revisit the darker days of our adoption journey.
Why did you decide to contribute?
I decided to do it this time for two reasons: (1) to leave an “origin story” behind for my sons and (2) because Bruce bribed me with the promise of one of his legendary pecan pies (still waiting, by the way). Regarding the topic of choice, being familiar with most of the details of our adoption experiences, Bruce specifically requested I focus on them because he felt they would add something unique and meaningful to this compilation.
Tell us a bit about yourself, both your life and your writing experience.
My life is pretty full: fantastic husband, three wonderful sons, a dog I adore, close-knit and supportive extended families, a dozen or more lifelong friends to hang out with and a job I honestly love going to every day. I’d hate to jinx it, but I feel I’ve won the lottery of life.
Professionally speaking, I’m a high school teacher who works one-on-one or with small groups of teens with a wide range of potential barriers to success: learning disabilities, social or behavioural issues, poor mental health, family or home life difficulties, subject-specific challenges, you name it.
I’ve never been published before, apart from dozens of letters to the editor of local newspapers challenging homophobia and teacher-bashing, advocating for same-sex marriage, opposing various forms of discrimination and addressing the myriad politically-based issues that have enraged my liberal heart over the years.
Did writing about your own experiences prove challenging in any way?
Not really. I write to my boys in a journal anyway — recording fun family adventures, offering advice for when they’re older, telling them about extended family members who have died, that kind of thing — so this was a great opportunity to work with a professional editor and create a more polished legacy piece for them.
What did you get out of writing an essay for this collection?
I found it therapeutic, actually, to revisit our hellish “Middle Period,” as I refer to it, now that five years have passed. All things considered, Regan and I are incredibly lucky guys. One thing is certain: the teenaged me would be shocked to discover that I am now a married man with three children, still living in my hometown of Port Dover, literally four houses down the street from Mom. In the ’80s, I would have said, “Gag me!” but nowadays it’s just fine with me.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like readers to know about?
Someday I hope to write that book my friends are always suggesting, chock full of outrageous stories from my personal, family-based and work-related lives. My life has been quite a trip thus far and I’m hoping it’s only half over.