Thursday, October 07, 2010


Before A left for Aghanistan, he asked me to look after his wife and son. I was the only family he had in California, he said, and he wanted me to be there to help them. I told him that I take my responsibilities seriously, and I did.

I called T at least once a week, and we arranged for me and my younger son, Tobey, to visit her and W in April. T and I had great conversations on the phone about all kinds of things. She told me that she enjoyed having a sister-in-law to talk to; she confided in me what things were difficult with A gone; she made me laugh. We made tentative plans to go to Yosemite together in July. I was excited to think ahead about hosting T and W in my home and showing them around. 

The weekend of our trip to San Diego arrived, and Tobey and I made our way south. T took us to a rodeo, and I reveled in the familiar smell of horses. T told me that A had competed in rodeos back in his teens; I had been an avid horsewoman myself. I was thrilled to discover another point of intersection! T and I found a place in the bleachers with a great view for the kids, and we sat back to enjoy the music, John Wayne voiceovers, and the wonderful riding and roping skills. The two boys were entranced, and it was glorious to watch their eyes light up and grins spread across their little faces.

Several hours later, we took two tired young men home, and I helped T cook a simple dinner. We were having a lovely time chatting, although I am far more effusive than she is, and from time to time I wondered if I were too exuberant and too much of a Yankee. After dinner, we took the boys to run at the park near their home, and soon it was time to put them to bed. I was excited to have time alone with T and hoped that we would have a deeper conversation about what was going on in the family.

We sat back, drank some beer, and T opened up. I learned that C had married A's father less than nine months after I was born. I found that T was very sympathetic to me; she said that as a mother, she could in no way understand how C was able to turn her back on me the way she was doing. She said that she felt the driving forces in keeping C from wanting to know me were A's father and C's mother, my grandmother. T described a pervasive atmosphere of bitterness and dysfunction that saddened me. I wasn't sure what I was to do with the new information I'd gathered; did T want my help? If so, what could I do? If I said nothing, would she think I was abandoning her? If I tried to advocate for her, would I be overstepping my boundaries as an outsider? I was deeply confused and unsettled. Every now and then, T would ask if I wanted to stay up and talk, or if I wanted to go to bed. I wanted to talk more than anything, but I didn't want to abuse her hospitality and keep her up later than she wanted to be. She reiterated what A had said about their being in a difficult position between C and me, and about how they worried about handling W mentioning his cousins. I reassured her that I didn't want to put her into any difficulty, and she shook it off. Before we finally headed to bed, she said a remarkable thing: "This family has to deal with your existence. It can't be a secret any longer." 

The next morning we took the kids to the park, spent a mellow morning playing, ate lunch, and soon it was time for Tobey and me to leave. I felt a shadow of unease; was T less open, eager for us to go? Was I imagining a slight greyness, increased reserve? I took myself to task for doubting my welcome; I am hypersensitive to rejection, but it didn't seem possible that things could turn awry overnight. I knew that T was planning a three-week trip to visit C, but that couldn't be influencing anything. Could it?

The next day, I sent a thank you note to T, along with pictures from the trip. I sent an e-mail to A, with pictures. I heard nothing in response. Odd. The next day was my birthday. It came and went without a word from them. 

I sent T an e-mail to ask about their condo in Mississippi because there had been flooding. I received a one-line e-mail back, saying that she thought it would be best if we didn't take that trip to Yosemite, after all. She didn't return my telephone call wishing her well on the eve of her flight to C's house. 

I continued to received letters from A that were warm and kind. Then one morning, less than two weeks after my visit from T, I received an e-mail from A, from Afghanistan, ending our relationship. I was cut through, breathless, speechless, emotionally dissolved. 


First of all let me thank you for all the packages and support you and your family have given me in this difficult time (deployment). Thank you, also, for spending time with T and W while I have been gone.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have had ample time over here to ponder things about this situation. I have enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you; however, I must admit that over time T and I have become wedged into a difficult situation. C has conveyed her feelings and her decision and originally I should have just probably dropped this matter altogether. However, I pursued the truth, and got it, but now I am stuck dealing with that decision and it is slowly eating away at me. My Mother and Father mean the world to me and they always have. To hurt them, hurts me. I feel like I must honor C’s decision and walk away from this before it becomes even more complicated. I will never feel that I can explain this to W and I would not even know how, at this point in time. No one else in our family has been forthcoming either but I am not sure that will ever happen. I take full responsibility for making this mistake and betraying what C asked me to do, simply drop this matter. I understand your desire to know C but I do not know if time will change her mind or not.

I am deeply sorry for all of this and I will carry this burden for all of my life, I am sure. I must take into account others around me though and honor their wishes and look out for them. I cannot go on in deception and I cannot hurt others including you. I wish I could take it all back and we could have grown up together and old together but that was not the plan. Neither of us had any say in this plan either. You have a wonderful family and grew up with wonderful parents and so did I but they are two separate entities.

Again, I am sorry and I hope you will forgive me. I just think that for now (maybe C will come around) it is better that we distance ourselves. This hurts me too, I hope you believe me when I say this.


Adoptees often say that they feel disposable. This is why. We never quite matter enough; there is too much baggage; we live in limbo, never quite belonging. 

It took me a week, but I finally gathered myself enough to respond: 


I am heartbroken and angry. I feel that you toyed with me and my family, and that is unfair. What hurts most is that you invited my children into your home, told them you loved them, and now pretend that they're not your family. They are struggling to comprehend how people can claim to love them 
one minute and toss them aside the next. It's a hard, bitter lesson. I will not lie to them about who you are. They know you're out there. When they're adults, they might approach you. I hope you will be kind.

I don't regret meeting you, and I am glad that I was able to learn more about my family of origin. Mostly good things. I remain proud of everything you have achieved.

As for forgiving you, I don't know that it's possible.

I will always love you. No matter how you try to change the facts or ignore me, I am your sister.


Although the pain is less acute five months on, it's still strong and overwhelming. It's something that I think others who haven't been through it can't really understand. It was like losing half of myself due to a horrible, horrible misunderstanding, and never being able to defend myself. 

Shortly after this debacle I saw a truly unhelpful therapist who told me that A's rejection was just like a one-night stand, that I was putting more stock in it than need be, and I should look ahead and move on. Can you imagine? Equating my brother with a one-nighter? She really didn't get it, unprofessionally so. I hate having my thoughts and feelings invalidated, but her lack of empathy went beyond the pale. Then again, why should she understand? Society's implicit messages are that adoptees aren't supposed to dig this deep, ask the difficult questions, or love anyone other than their afamilies. Oh, yeah. I forgot. Be grateful for what you have. Two parents. A roof over your head. You're lucky you weren't aborted, so shut your yap and quit complaining!

Healing and coping is a process, I tell myself. A very long process. There's supposedly a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am too wary to hope for one. Yet.


Valency said...

I am sitting here crying my eyes out. How could he be so cruel???? I don't, deep down in my soul I am completely crushed for you. I have a son desperate to know his older sister - why couldn't you have found someone like him at the other end of the search????

(((Hugs)))) to you (as I go find another box of kleenex).


ms. marginalia said...

Thank you, Melynda. I ask myself that every day. To have something so wonderful turn into brutal rejection was more than I had bargained for. Then again, I shouldn't ever underestimate C and the dynamics of that family. The story isn't finished yet; there is some reason for hope. I need to bring the narrative up to date, and you'll see what I mean.

I still love him with all my heart, as do my boys. All the time lost and tears spilled seem so pointless if only they could open their hearts.

I wish your son all the best in finding his older sister, and thank you again for your support. I appreciate it so very much.