skeleton (of the big, fat secret sort)

I had intended to leave you with Monday Words today as I have been neglecting them of late.  Instead, recent developments have led me in another direction. Given the fact that I am fairly dead certain that none of my siblings read this blog, I feel pretty safe in what I’m about to write. And if they do, well, then I guess it was time.

When I was seven years old, I choked on a cough drop.  My mom shook me by the ankles and dislodged it, but it must have freaked her out, because she said something along of the lines of  “I have something to tell you.  Your dad is not your dad”.  I remember the last part vividly.  I also remember beginning to cry without knowing why, that knowing this was a pretty big deal.  She asked why I was crying and I can remember not being able to explain it, and also knowing that this was probably not a good thing.  I probably mumbled something and she let it go. She would have been 27 or 28.

I don’t remember it coming up again until middle school and the obligatory family tree assignment. Not knowing what else to do, I used my dad’s side of the family. My dad being the man my mom married when I was 8 months old and whom I thought was my father.  She said to me that I probably shouldn’t use his side since that freaked him out, but no mention was made of what side to use.  Strangely, I don’t recall how that assignment ended. Years went by, and I didn’t broach the subject again until college.  Probably time passing had something to do with it, but I felt like I should probably find out something about the other half of me.  One night I called my mom and just asked outright.  I always felt like she didn’t want to talk about it, and even that perhaps something bad had happened.  She told me he was a 40 year old mechanic she met in Portland.  I think that was all she said that night, though she did say I could ask other questions, I felt like that was enough for now.

Fast forward to when I had the Girl Child.  Now family medical history comes into it, so I brought it up again, and she gave me a few more details – a name.  This was 12 years ago, and I didn’t find much on the internet.  I’d check again from time to time.  Then for some reason it came up when talking to my mom a couple of years ago, and she told me all kinds of stuff.  He was a good cook, and liked to dance. He’d been in the war. He was married.  When my mom found out she was pregnant, they decided he should go back to his wife, though I think he did see me once.    Armed with all this new info, I went back to the interweb.  Turns out his name was not as unusual as I thought, at least not in the midwest.  Now that I knew of a few places where he’d lived, I could weed out the ones who didn’t fit til I eventually found the right one.  And I hit the mother lode when I found a military achivist in Iowa.  She sent me a couple news articles about when he got married and when he was injured in the war.  They had a photo. And you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I had just been looking at the photo of the day we got Jack. And we looked spookily alike.  After more sleuthing, I found out he had 4 kids with his first wife, 1 daughter with his second.  There could be more like me.  I found a man’s genealogy work online who is related to me 5 generations ago (and lives in Puyallup!) – he contacted me and said he had once met some cousins at a family reunion.  There were 7 brothers and 3 sisters – all dead now – but his second wife is still alive.  My mom said she knew about me – I wonder if his children did.

I also found out he died in 2004, too soon for me to find him.  I never had any visions of a heartfelt meeting;  I just wanted him to know I’d turned out all right. I would have asked if he thought about me or my mom.  I have his obituary – I know what he looked like as an old man.  I know that he liked to fish and mow the lawn and had a couple grandkids.  He had his own life, but I wonder if he ever thought about our life.

About those recent developments.  I am the oldest of 4 kids.  My brother is 8 years younger and has suddenly become interested in genealogy.  He’s been asking my Mom questions – which makes sense since she has done genealogy research forever.  Now, however, she’s wondering if it is time to let the cat out of the bag.  You see, none of my siblings know about this. I have never discussed it with anyone but my mom, though I do wish I had the balls to bring it up with my grandmothers when they were alive.  It might seem strange, but I have never talked about it with my dad, either. His was never a touchy-feely family, and honestly at this point, it would be kinda freaky. My dad’s sister is still alive, but she has never mentioned how his family felt when he turned with this hoochie and her kid.   Maybe the opportunity will come up at some point before it’s too late.

My mom always thought it was just “our business.”   My sister said something once when she was pregnant out of wedlock 18 years ago, about how Mom “should know how this feels”.  She’d seen the wedding certificate, a ceremony that took place in 1968, not 1967 when I was born, and assumed we  had the same fathers. I didn’t set her straight then, just told her she had no idea what she was talking about. I recently started a genealogy chart on Ancestry.  My brother will see our maternal grandparents and great-grandparents if he follows the hints the site provides.  I imagine the shoe will drop soon.

It shouldn’t change anything for them – their dad is still their father.  Yes, technically we are half-siblings, but this isn’t about them.  My mom did the best she could and what she thought was right. I hope they see it that way.

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