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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.

ReneeSitka

My first (much loved) dog, Sitka, and me, circa 1973.

 

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.

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Blowing off the Dust

It is thick, this layer of dust on my mostly abandoned blog, with seasons and changes, days and years…gone without written proof that the moments that peppered them existed at all.  Or that I did.  Why I let that happen has surprised me in some widening splinter of recognition every day.  Summer splendor and winter weariness, year to year, mostly gone –– little pen to paper in that private world of a journal or public view of a blog, started and then left to dangle.  Shouldn’t that be a writer’s milk?  When I think of all the experiences not documented, feelings not recorded, I feel a kind of recurring death; a killing of moments let to pass, of thoughts and feelings, actions and words let to slip through my fingers like grains of Cape Cod sand, forever washed away with the changing tides.

Can we ever recapture them?  I don’t think so, but we can learn anew. FullSizeRender

When I was younger and thought life as I’d always known it would continue to be there for me until the day I was finally ready to attend, I let plenty slide.  My family, the house I grew up in, the books I first came to love, that pink and white quilt on my childhood bed.  And then one day, it was too late.  And now they are long gone, irretrievable, their memories shapeshifting with every passing hour.  What was it Mom said when I wrote that first short story?  How many fish had Dad and I caught that July Saturday at Onesquethaw Creek?  What was it about Anne Frank and Jem and Scout that had invited me into their difficult worlds with such befriending ease?  Young adult pain and mistakes, college lit class discoveries that catapulted me into the land of the curious and restless, early trips abroad…gone, gone, gone.

I wish I’d written it all down…and every day since those earliest of days, from high school graduation and boyfriends to post-school friends who tried to help me save my own life.  From college courage to a first husband’s honest and kind yearning, with which I’d tried to braid my own.  The long stream of workdays and dreaming nights until a rupture from which extrication was frightening and sweeping and eyeopening.  Followed by a fresh and lifesaving beginning with my new husband, which still takes my breath away.  And yet most of it has escaped the trailing thread of ink that would have told me how it truly was for me at the time.  Now all I have is my superimposed and ever changing memories of days gone by.  Will I ever really know?  I doubt it, but what I do have is the first page of my new book of old and now me.