My maternal grandma, Delphine, came from a large family. She was the youngest of thirteen children. I can't even type that without laughing. As my mother's dementia has progressed over the last few years, I have heard her repeat that statement over and over, and over. I feel silly even saying it, "She was the youngest of thirteen children". There, I said it again, my family will appreciate this and understand the humor in it!
This is me at 24, sorry about all the hairspray, it was the 80's, and my grandma at 21. I think we look quite a bit alike. I can't resist adding my hubby be lookin' all tall, dark and Italian, well okay, maybe not tall but, how'd I get so lucky?
While I can relate to being the youngest, I have no idea what it would have been like to grow up in a family of 13. Yikes! I know with my own 4 children it was mostly chaos, can you imagine... I always have visions of her life having been like The Waltons, "Good night John Boy", "Good Night Mary Ellen" "Good night Jim Bob".
I spent the first 10 years of my childhood being the youngest of two girls, the daughters of Bob and Barb. This is my sister, Liz and I. weren't we cute? And me always with the great big grin.
When Liz and I were about 10 and 11 we found out that our dad had 2 children from a previous marriage. A boy and a girl, Jimmy and Jackie, who were ten and eleven years older than me.
I would stare at their pictures that now suddenly hung on the wall in our home and wonder what it would have been like to have grown up in the same house as them. I would marvel at how my brother looked exactly like my dad and how beautiful my sister was. I was enthralled with both of them, partly because they were so much older than me and partly because it was all a marvelous mystery to my 10 year old mind... so thrilling to discover you have other siblings. We began the process of connecting and getting to know each other and then suddenly, our dad died. How hard that must have been for them to lose their dad twice. Maybe it really felt like it was three times, or even four. The first when he contracted polio, the second time in the divorce, the third time when he agreed to let their step-father adopt them and the final time when he died.
We moved north after that while they remained down in the southern part of Michigan. Our relationships exist now only through facebook which saddens my heart. I long for more as I have always longed for more... still the 10 year old girl gazing at what might have been. But I also respect the fact that some things are just too hard and too painful, so I gain what snippets I can of their lives and the lives of their children through the wonderful invention called social media and hope that they do the same.
This is the part where I get to pretend my life is a made for TV movie and during the commercial break you hear the advertiser shout, "But wait, there's more!" Because folks, there is definitely more...
Turns out that my mother also has two other children from a previous marriage as well. Two sons, Michael and John. There are the epitome of adorableness. At the age of 15, I am blown away...
I would have thought that five years earlier, when we learned of Jimmy and Jackie, would have been a good time to mention this little fact but apparently it was not. Had my mother gotten her way, we would have never known. Leave it to my sister Liz to come across an envelope tucked away in the corner of a closet she should not have been in. Consider this a fair warning to parents who want to keep secrets from their kids, don't hide the secrets in the same place you might hide the Christmas presents. Consider this the genuine warning, don't keep secrets. They are always found out eventually and they always cause pain.
The contents of the now found, secret envelope were several photographs, two birth certificates and a few court documents. My mother briefly and very angrily explains that the boys were given up by closed adoption after she and her first husband, an abusive man, were divorced and she could no longer care for them on her own. I beg her to find them but she is adamant that she will not and tells me that I must never look for them. She gives me that angry look where her eyebrows are so arched that they form a V in the middle of her forehead and she quite resembles Mr. Spock from Star Trek, but much angrier and minus the pointy ears of course... but I know she means it.
The envelope gets put back away and we resume our regularly scheduled programming of lives spiraling out of control from death, deceit and teenage adjustment.
Over the remainder of my pre-adult life, I muster the courage to try talking with my mom about the boys a couple of times. Each time she shares with me a little bit more but the conversation always ends the same...
"Promise me you will never look for them."
But somewhere in my mind I always know I will eventually break that promise...
Stay tuned while we interrupt this programming for a commercial break...
This story is written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories click on my link here. Thanks!