Adoption Arena speaks to established international stand up comedian Gerry Kyei, about his fostering experience, he is ‘Foster Boy’.
I became a professional stand up comedian in 2005 and it was through comedy that I met Joy Carter, founder of Comics for Adoption. As a foster child it immediately resonated with me and I am happy to now be associated with a cause that works to bring this subject to the forefront of people’s consciousness with a smile and in a positive light. Some suggest that my relative success is in part due to my unconventional childhood. Personally I’m not sure I’ll ever know but it certainly played its part.
As a father of four wonderful children, the thought of leaving them for any longer than I absolutely have to is beyond my comprehension. Yet before I’d reached the ripe old age of two it had happened to me. My parents left me, not for a few minutes, an hour or even a day but it was six months before I laid eyes on them again.
I found myself as a little black boy suddenly living with an elderly white couple who I would come to know as Aunt Em and Uncle Stan, not because we were in any way blood relatives but because unlike adopted children I knew full well who my parents were. Only for some reason, still unknown to me I no longer lived with them.
When I tell people my story I’m often told how interesting it is which has moved me to start writing a book (yes ‘start’, I’ve been at it for about eight years and haven’t got beyond fifty pages yet). The one thing people always ask is ‘Why’? Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to that question, I have brought it up with my parents on a couple of occasions but my discomfort in asking and theirs in replying has always meant it’s a subject we’ve been happy just to leave fermenting in the background until it’s revisited.
Aunt Em and Uncle Stan died when I was sixteen and nineteen respectively so I was with them throughout my formative years. In fact the year I spent living with my parents following the break up of my first marriage is the longest time I’ve spent with them and strangely enough it was, as far as I can tell pretty normal. I think from my point of view that this is down to the fact that I was so young when they left me that it was very much the norm for me to live with this couple in a rural Essex village away from my parents and sisters. Yes my twice yearly trips to London to stay with them always ended with my tears, but not because I was returning to somewhere I didn’t want to be but rather because I was leaving somewhere I wanted to be a little more. And as I grew older and appreciated the great friends I’d made these feelings dissipated.
I have heard a number of harrowing tales from fostered and adopted children, some heart breaking and some that have led to very sad conclusions but it’s always worth remembering that we human beings are incredibly resilient and in the face of adversity often find inner strength we never knew we had. My book, should it ever actually become one is entitled ‘The frank account of an ordinary bloke’ because that is what I consider myself to be. And being ordinary and blending in is all I ever wanted. Being different when you choose to be is great if that’s your thing but when you haven’t made the choice ‘Ordinary’ can be the best adjective in the world.
I am now a proud father and husband and I make people laugh for a living after many years in advertising. My childhood was ultimately idyllic and my adulthood hasn’t been bad either, so my story is very much a happy one and without the start I had who knows…