For someone who has spent her whole life wondering where on earth she belongs, the past week has spun me ‘round wildly. I learned that I have not one half-brother, but two.
Rewind a moment: I imagine that my quest for connection has something to do with the fact that I was adopted as a newborn and never knew my birth family or much about them. Qualification: there was no them, not that I ever heard. There was a mother, a mother who wanted and tried to keep me, but it didn’t work. Not everything does, regardless of how much or little we want it or try. And I was raised by caring people who loved me — including a brother I’ve always adored — so my curiosity was just there, coasting alongside a fine upbringing.
I spent my childhood –– which has seeped into my adulthood with determined sustenance –– wondering why I didn’t fit into her plan, this romanticized, imagined woman with the auburn hair spilling down her back. Let’s call her Peggy. She didn’t want me, couldn’t keep me, however it went…no drama, just the way life goes, sometimes. It was the 1960s when I was born, and life for a girl brought to this country when she was a year old in the 1930s by parents trying to make their way in a new country couldn’t have been easy.
I did learn at some point in my thirties that Peggy had died when I was fourteen. I resigned myself to never knowing facts, but I have always thought my private lore and fantasy of her would provide me with an endless bank of writerly possibilities. I have taken solace in my self-spun justification that her mystery has been and will always be my writer’s rudder through depthless waters.
Still, a girl will wonder about her mother. Walking sleepily into the bathroom each morning, searching for what the previous night’s sleep brought, I wonder if my face is somehow morphing into hers –– or if it has always been hers –– and if I am like her in any way.
Fast-forward again: A party at the house of friends last Fall kindled conversation about ancestry.com. I did it, thinking, I just want to know about Peggy. That’s it; I just want a little history of her and what it was like then…for her. I’ve wanted to know her story for as long as I can remember. I took the test and learned some stats. A bit of this bloodline and this much of that, relatives here and there. It was cool and I thought it was all I’d ever learn, and that was okay. I’d never really know what it was like for her anyway.
With a stem of curiosity abated, I put the whole notion of ethnicity and blood and relations out of my mind. I moved back into the land of the present. Until a few nights ago when I received a call from a woman, a private investigator, claiming to represent my half-brother.
Mind you, I’ve never wanted to meet any of my blood relations, if there were any even out there. Enter video-streaming here of 1970s or 1980s programming of 20/20 with Barbara Walters, profiling newly connected biological families who rushed into each other’s arms. It made me uncomfortable, sitting on the couch, my mother across the room. I thought it must make her feel sad. The mother who raised me. It certainly made me feel awkward. Misdirected, desperate love, that’s what I thought. Skeptical, then and now. With this new Ancestry knowledge, I just wanted some facts to enrich my story of her. Of Peggy.
We’ve had some email exchanges, and it seems he is who he claims to be, this half-brother of mine. He has a younger brother — both older than me. From a couple of written exchanges, he seems kind and smart. I like him, from what I can tell. And he seems curious in the way I have always been about from where we came; and that makes me want to override my propensity for extreme caution, to give him a chance, at least. I’ll go slowly, and it will either bloom, stagnate or generate a new life’s fiction. I’ve told him some details from the spider-webbed memory banks of utterances from my parents, and he’s shared with me what he has. Your volley, is how I signed off on my last missive to Pete. Pete. So we’ll see. This could be just another page in my diary of Peggy, which will continue to fuel me as a writer for the rest of my days, I hope. Or it could be something else. I’ll navigate slowly, watchfully, as I always have. Whether this goes anywhere beyond my private library, it is another page in my book.