I was a hidden branch of my family tree until three years ago, and my joy at finding the sunlight was immense. I was greeted in the open by both sides of my original family and I know what that feels like. This week, I was able to return the favor.
My adoptive father was a big honest sweet man who never forgave his father for being a serial philanderer. I got an email this last week that said, “The purpose of this letter is to let you know your father has a half sister, making her your aunt. We hope you can help us fill a few gaps in mom’s story.”
She had been his legal secretary, married to a WW I vet who returned alive, but mentally damaged, and it was her responsibility to earn their living. Since he was confined to a hospital, she had to conceal her pregnancy. The baby was offered up for immediate adoption, the PTSD vet died four years later, and the mother died the next year. A sad story, and not an unusual one.
That daughter, adopted into a good family, will soon turn 94. When her son told her he was doing an Ancestry DNA test, she wept and sat him down. She felt shamed by her adoption, not knowing what her origins were or why she was given up, and her son set out to find her story. They are making her a genealogy book, and needed whatever I could provide about her brother.
I searched old boxes, found photos and scanned them. The toddler at 11 months, the proud little boy at six, the beautiful young man, the father welcoming his adopted daughter, the contented executive at sixty. I told them how he’d had to court his beloved for a long, long time to overcome her old history of an abrasive destructive father and the image of men as either gay or cheating. (She’d been a vaudville comedienne.) I told them about a long life of love.
They have been profuse in their gratitude. I look forward to knowing how their mother feels about the book. And I am heart-deep grateful to have taken this journey back through my dad’s childhood, youth, and loving adulthood.
And this other long-hidden branch of the family tree? It is beautiful.