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Family Secrets

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” ~Psalms 30:5

Cousins Joined by the Blood despite Family Secrets

Me & My Cousin Bernadette

Here is an excerpt from a email to my dear first and second cousin in 2009:

“It is an enlightenment to find that my aunt (by marriage) is also my first cousin (by blood) and that my first cousin (her daughter) is my first and second cousin both by blood. “By the Blood” could be the title of an interesting book. I could write about this.”

I am so thankful for my cousin Bernadette for enlightening me. On that night in October 2008, she shared with me that her uncle was my father. It was that moment that my life changed forever; it was an ordinary day in a not so ordinary life when I was 46 years old.

As I recollect, Bernadette called me to have a conversation. She wanted to let me know that her uncle passed away recently and that her other uncle, Frank, recently endured bypass surgery. Those uncles were on her mother’s side of the family. Her mother, aunt Mary, use to be married to my mother’s brother which makes her my aunt and cousin. I expressed my condolences and then I was quiet. The silence was slightly awkward then she finally said, “I figured you might want to know since Frank is your biological father”. All I could say was “wow, I didn’t know”.

I held tight to my composure. I thanked Bernadette for her honesty and assured her that she did nothing wrong. We ended our conversation. At that moment I think I lost my mind. I screamed and I cried nearly all night long. Memories rushed in and out of my head. I began putting thoughts of the past together like a puzzle. My husband could do absolutely nothing for me. He told me before morning that he couldn’t see me through this anguish alone so I woke up, crawled out of bed and somehow made it to work. Later that day, I made a appointment to see a therapist. When I met with the psychologist two days later,  he immediately referred me to a long term counselor, one that could see me through to the end. I am so thankful for that first meeting. It was amazing that he could tell what was in store for me ahead and where my mind was going to wonder. He stated that it was going to be a long haul and that I would experience anger while piecing missing links together.

He was correct. It was almost like some kind of withdrawal. Every time I thought about all of the years this crazy family secret was kept, I cried and screamed all over again day after day; week after week. Those words of my cousin on that October night shall never leave me.

Road to Recovery

I was referred to Dr. Gray. She specializes in African American women’s issues in Atlanta, GA. We met weekly, then bi-weekly and soon we were meeting monthly. I had a lot to think about and a whole lot to do. There were conversations I needed to have with my family. This new enlightenment not only changed my life but everyone’s lives who had a direct connection with me. It was the consequence of a 46 year old family secret.

The Peace Lily: A reprieve from Family Secrets

My Symbol of Peace

I went about my first task and drove to Spartanburg S.C. to meet with my aunt Mary. She was the direct link to my biological father. Upon my arrival, she greeted me with a lovely peace lily. It is still a living reminder of her peaceful demeanor and willingness to help. During our visit she filled in information where she could and shared with me that since my paternity was hidden, my biological family could only love me from afar. My aunt was the third party that made sure a pulse was kept on my life. Throughout the years she reported back to my father (her uncle) various things about me including pictures.

As a young child I spent a fair amount of time with my Aunt Mary especially since she was married to my uncle and my mother was away attending college. She felt it was good for me to have a change of scenery while giving my grandmother (my caretaker at the time) a break. It occurred to me though that our relationship all those years ago when I was 5 or so was more about family love that ran deeper than I could ever imagined. It was about the fact that her and I were joined by the blood that spans over two families.  

That visit on that Sunday afternoon was comforting.

Next Steps

On my next visit with Dr. Gray, as fragile as I was, I laid out the order of conversations I needed to have. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Reveal to my daughter who her biological grandfather is
  • Meet my biological father
  • meet my two half brothers and sister
  • Speak with my brother whom I grew up with on the subject
  • Confront my mother
  • Talk with my father who raised me and reassure him that we are still father and daughter

These six interactions were the hardest I think I’ve ever had. Each one had its degree of difficulty and uniqueness. One-by-one, each were checked off.

A Note About Adoption

I rather like the way they are doing adoptions these days. I think it’s beautiful that birth parent(s) are kept in the loop and most often relationships are formed between the birth and adoptive parents throughout the life of the child.  I’m a one-parent adoptee. For me, it means that I belong to my mother. She married her college sweetheart who then adopted me. Not too bad if it were that simple. Everything was planned perfectly to keep it all secret. The birth certificate was changed and sealed. As with any secret, you have to keep it alive but as time passes, secrets grow old and weary til they die. The results are devastating.

Have you ever found yourself in some way joined by the blood?

Copywrite © 2013 – Joined by the Blood by Frances Stanfield


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