Yes, it is!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Family Secrets

Just about every family has a secret or secrets. My family has its share of them. It is really a shame that certain subjects are so taboo and so many people go to their graves with such secrets.
Well, one family secret in my family is that I am the product of an illegitimate birth. Mother was unwed when she became pregnant and subsequently gave birth to me. I remember learning as a very young child that my dad was not my biological father. I was so young that I did not understand the divisive nature of the situation whenever I shared news to others that my daddy was not my real daddy. As time went by and I became more aware of what that meant, I began to long for information related to my biological father. Especially, as I began to experience my adoptive father's wrath.
Mother would always say that she didn't know my biological father because she was "wild" when she became pregnant with me. She was "looking for love in the wrong places". I asked my grandmother and she did not know. I asked a family friend and she did not know, either. Mother was apparently quite close to this friend, Anna. I later learned Anna encouraged Mother to have an abortion. Mother did consider it a couple of times throughout the pregnancy and had inquired about it. You see, unwed pregnancies during those years was extremely taboo and many girls were sent away until they gave birth and adopted out their babies. Times have changed for sure now. Mother did not have a baby shower because it was such a shame for her to be an unwed mother. Nowadays, pregnant high school girls are showered with congratulations and well-wishes as well as new gifts for the baby. Oops, I almost got on my soapbox there.
I do remember a time during my middle school years, I was sitting at the table doing a school assignment and Mother randomly came over and gently caressed the side of my face and remarked "It's too bad that your real dad doesn't know you" or something to that effect. I asked her what his name was and she replied "Roy". Or maybe it was Ray. Mother did not elaborate any further.
I really feel that some of the tension and strife in my parents marriage was a result of my being. At least, that was the message that I always got during the many, many arguments between my parents. As a child, I could not understand why my "dad" married Mother if he didn't want me. After all, I was there first. This probably increased my feeling of loss from not knowing my paternal heritage.
Over the years, I have asked Mother for any information about my biological father. The only other piece of information that she has shared, other than "I don't know because I was too wild" is that he is a friend of her good friend from school. The name of her supposed friend is Jackie. Hmm, interesting that my daughter's name is Jackie. But rest assured, there is no link there.
Now that I am older and Mother has been steadfast in withholding this information from me, I am resigning myself to the fact that I may never know anything about my paternal heritage. That is not to say that I no longer experience a feeling of loss. I do actually and those feelings are still as strong as they were years ago. I mean, I wonder if I have a sister that I've always wanted out there somewhere. What about my other grandmother? What about aunts? And uncles? And cousins? I have always imagined sharing secrets with my sister and going on trips and going shopping with her. But this is all in my dreams and unfortunately, it looks like it will continue to be a dream. I've watched these shows where a parent and child are reunited after a lifetime of separation and I've always imagined that would be me one day. But it's just a far off dream that I will have to just live with.
Perhaps this feeling of loss is a reason that I have difficulty cultivating close relationships with others. I have a handful of really good friends but I also keep a sort of distance lest they get to know the real me.
Now with all of that being said, my adoptive father is now more of a father to me than he ever was. I feel sad sometimes that I did not have a loving father-daughter relationship. But I am grateful that I do have a good relationship with him now. He respects me and I know he's proud of the fact that I am an independent, self-sufficient individual. The moment that I knew he was remorseful for the way he was toward me during my childhood was years ago when he handed me his Purple Heart with the letter/certificate. Instead of giving it to his biological son, he gave it to me. I know he gave it to me because he knew I would appreciate it but even more, I know he gave it me as his way of saying "Here, I'm sorry and I love you." I remember being speechless and just staring at it. I really did deserve that Purple Heart. I lived through a war of fear, abuse (mostly emotional/verbal and a little bit of physical), alcoholism, domestic abuse. I am proud of that medal and it is very much treasured by me.

No comments: