I left for vacation and I never returned. I can’t even process the anxiety that my older brother must have experienced while waiting for my return. I wonder how many nights he lay with his head on his pillow falling asleep with thoughts of the unknown whereabouts of his baby sister. His own father’s death had been ruled a suicide years earlier and now our mother’s untimely death sent ripples of injustice across our universe. My 11-year old brother waited, but I never returned. An 11-year old boy was told that his baby sister had went on “vacation”, that vacation lasted a lifetime. The reality was I had been adopted.
My 9-year-old sister whispered in my ear, “Tell the judge that you don’t want to go with them.” My sister knew well before Wikipedia came along what “adopted” meant. It meant that her baby sister would be going away to a new family and that she may never see her again. She desperately prompted me and when called upon I firmly told the judge, “MY SISTER TOLD ME TO TELL YOU THAT I DON’T WANT TO GO WITH THEM!” My terrible secret was that I did, I did very much want to go with those seemingly nice people and leave the orphanage. They rarely allowed siblings to visit one another and kept us all separate rooms like animals in a double-blind study. I wanted a mommy and a daddy like all the other kids talked about when the nuns weren’t in the room (nobody talked about mommy’s and daddy’s when the nuns were in the room, we weren’t allowed).
I think that I probably perceived adoption more as a vacation, something that was temporary and not permanent. It came as a big surprise to me that I was getting a “new” brother. “New brother?” Suddenly this whole “adoption” thing wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I didn’t like the sound of that at all. When my “new brother” came home from school I greeted him at the door and decided to lay out a few ground rules. “If you touch me I will have my big brother come and beat you up!!!” At 5 years old I hadn’t realized that I had set the tone for our relationship from that day forward. I was viewed as naughty and yet, no one peeled back the layers to see the very scared and frightened little girl underneath tossed in a world she didn’t know. This wasn’t adoption, it was abduction.
I should be grateful that I was adopted by a first cousin and was given opportunity but there was always a very dark shadow of what was left behind, my brother and sister. My brother and sister were left behind in that orphanage as though they were some dog abandoned at a shelter hoping someone would find it in their hearts to love and give it a home. You see, they were full siblings and their father had been in the Navy, so if they remained in the orphanage their father’s benefits followed them. I was the product of who knows what. Father unknown. My mother took that information to her grave and the only shred of evidence that I have of this man’s existence, besides the fact that I am here, is that my 19-year-old son has severe hemophilia A which means my father most likely had severe hemophilia A and passed the gene on to me making me a carrier of this most difficult chronic illness.
I can’t recall how many years that I woke up in a sweat from terror. I had a reoccurring nightmare that my sister was stuck inside of a glass bottle and an evil witch stood guard cackling that no one would ever find her. My sister pleaded deep inside the bottle for me to find her and to get her out of the bottle. I vowed to find my sister and brother and free them from whatever was binding them and I wanted to free my own self from the chains that were binding me.
I didn’t fit in. I was the iconic square peg in a round hole. I came from a drunken poor white trash widow in a trailer park in central florida and now I was part of middle class “family” in a midwest town. My new brother couldn’t stand me and my new parents were determined to break me. I seemed to have developed a lot of bad habits as a product of poor white trash. The first thing I needed to be broken on was my poor eating habits. I did not like very many foods, perhaps because I had never been introduced to them and like most young children, I was afraid to try them. I was forced to sit for hours on end at the dinner table while my food was cold and eat every bite, the more I cried the funnier my new mother thought it was. One of her favorite pictures of me that makes her laugh is of me wearing a bib. She had put the bib on me while I sat at the table crying that I didn’t want to eat the cold food. “If you are going to act like a baby, I am going to treat you like a baby.” It is now no surprise that I struggle with my weight.
My vacation was clearly not off to a good start…
To be continued…