Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Bittersweet Story

It wasn't my secret to tell - until now. I don't really like secrets. I know sometimes they are necessary but I think most times they do more harm than good. My family has its share. Most have come out over the years. I'm guessing some still remain.

This particular secret is about two sisters who finally found each other. It all started back in 1969. My sister, who was 18 at the time, met a handsome sailor. I'm not sure how long they dated or even knew each other, but by the time my sister realized she was pregnant, "Smitty" had shipped out to sea, never to be heard from again. So, in March of 1970, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Back in those days, being a teen mom was not nearly as glamorized as it is on TV these days, and a decision was made to put the baby up for adoption. My parents said it was my sister's decision. My sister says my parents made her give the baby up. I think the truth falls somewhere in between. In any case, it was done and never spoken of again in my family. I was 13 at the time, a bit naive and full of unanswered questions.

Fast forward to the year 2004. By this point in time, my sister was married and had another beautiful little girl who was now a teenager. They were all happily living in Alabama. Meanwhile her first daughter, now living in California, was considering parenthood and decided to intensify the search for her birth mother, if for no other reason than to get some medical background. She had grown up happy and healthy with amazing adoptive parents.

To make a long story short, she ended up finding me, her aunt. Although I tried to facilitate a mother and child reunion or at least communication, my sister was just not emotionally equipped to handle it. Besides, she had never told her husband or her daughter about her firstborn child. Sadly, she was never strong enough to complete that connection. It's a shame too. I have been in touch with my niece for almost ten years now, and while she was not looking for a mother (she already had a wonderful one), she would have loved just one conversation with the woman who gave birth to her. I was able to give her the medical information she needed as well as stories and pictures of where she came from, but now, sadly, that conversation would never take place. My sister passed away this past summer, never meeting her first daughter or her only grandson.

I have had the pleasure of being auntie to both these wonderful women, and for that I will always be grateful. The older sister has known about her younger sister (something she always wanted growing up) since she and I connected. She has watched her from afar via Facebook and my blog....always being careful not to reveal her secret. I so desperately wanted to tell my younger niece about her big sister. They have so much in common, including children that are less then a year apart, but while my sister was alive, it was not my secret to tell. Having conversations with both the girls was always fun and uncannily similar, especially since they were both convinced that I was the one who had given birth to them, not my sister, because we can be so very much alike and really are that close. It was always a challenge for me, though, talking to the younger one. I was always afraid I would slip.

When my sister passed away unexpectedly this summer, calling my niece in California was so very hard. When I first told her, she was upset, of course. It was later the next morning, I think, when it really hit her hard. I don't think she expected the death of someone she never knew to affect her quite so much. I think she mourned for what could now never be.

My younger niece, of course, was devastated at the loss of her mother. I'm so glad I could be there for her. Helping her through those days bonded us even closer, I think, if that's at all possible. But now I was faced with the task of revealing a very large secret to her. Obviously, it was too soon while I was in Alabama helping with my sister's arrangements, but she was coming to see me in January and I knew that would be the time to tell her.

Of course, when I first started to tell her I had a family secret I needed to tell her, she really thought for a second that I was gonna tell her I actually was her birth mother. We had a bit of a chuckle over that, but when I told her she had a sister and the story behind it, I think I could have knocked her over with a feather. Shock is putting it mildly, but she recouped fast and then she cried, just for a few minutes: sad that her sister had grown up without ever knowing her birth mother, sad that my sister had lived with the pain of never knowing her own child, sad they had all missed out on something so wonderful.

This story does have a happy ending though. The sisters have now connected thanks to the Internet and social media. They are having a wonderful time getting to know each other, sharing pictures and stories of their lives and their families. I know one day we will all get to meet each other, and I am looking forward to that day more than I can say.

One more little side story here. Remember the post about the two whales I posted here? Well, they do have a happy ending because one went to the older sister's son and the other to the younger sister's daughter... So someday when these cousins meet, the whales will meet again as well.


Regina said...


MaryAnn said...

I'm glad they know about each other. What a great party that will be when you all finally meet.

Arlinda said...

Hi Barb, it's me, Paige's friend. I am teary-eyed reading this. Knowing Paige for about 10-yrs and following her search (we met because of my search for my birth-daughter)I was sad when she called me to tell me of her mother's passing. But I am very glad she has finally met her sister. It was a beautiful story you wrote.

Judy said...

Well, I'm in tears although I'm so glad the two sisters have finally met, I'm still sad for your sister.

You don't know how glad I am that I "circumvented" the law a bit and Nate never had to search for his birthmother. She would have been gone too by the time he found her. Having to lose her so young was hard enough, but I'm so happy he never had to suffer not knowing her.

Tears and joy,
Grandma Judy

Sandra :) said...

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww I cried when I was reading this, but the (bittersweet) happy ending made me smile too! I love the fact that your adorable whales have gone to cousins and will hopefully "meet" one day :) Very sad that your sister didn't get to meet her daughter and grandson - perhaps in time she would have been able to do so.

Nice to see you posting, anyways, Barb - I have to tell you that I get compliments every time I take my pink flamingo bag shopping with me, including today, where my sweet Walmart cashier fell in love with it!

Terry said...

Well my dear you out did yourself on telling one of the most beautiful and beautifly handled situation in a difficult predicament that you thought out carefully as not to hurt anyone and we even discussed it our sisters passing in Alabama. I never knew what your nitch in life would be when we were young but you dont have to tell anyone or explain it because it is obvious once people that are close to you know what a beautiful Wife, Mother, sister, daughter, Aunt & niece and the best friend anyone could ever ask for and then some. I admire you for all the things I am not. People cant pay for the things you do and give of yourself and I love you more than you will ever know. All these years and I feel closer to you than I ever have which is now. Thank you for being you. Love always the other sister!

CritterLady said...

Barbara, I needed two tissues after reading that. You told it so beautifully. I agree that family secrets are almost never good. I'm sorry that JoAnn and Paige both missed out on so much. Danielle too. But I am glad for all of them (and Terry) to have you in their life. You're such a blessing to all who know you. Oh, and I have to say that if you believe in forever (then life is just a one night stand - ha!)then you can have hope that one day on the other side there will be hugs and the chance to finally repair that broken connection. Thanks for sharing! (ps- I reread the whale story. It's still adorable and even more poignant now.)

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Wow that's quite the family secret! I'm glad the girls are enjoying eachother.

jillytacy said...

How nice that you could be involved in both girl's lives and help them come together at the right time.