In my search for my birth father, regardless of all the time that had gone by, I found the majority of my inquiry phone calls and letters were well received. Many of the old-timers, who may have known my birth parent’s story had not strayed far from where my beginnings were written.
One of the most memorable responses was from a 95-year-old blind man. The gentleman said that his wife had read him my letter and he had asked her to dial my phone number. Although, he did not have any answers for me, I could feel the gentleness in his voice when he spoke with such compassion and understanding. He had just called to say that he and his wife wanted me to know that they cared and were praying for me.
During those times when I still grieve for the many losses and wonder how ones’ life story could have ever got so convoluted, I remember with a smile all the wonderful people I have met along the way in my search for truth/answers.
I would love to put a rose on the 95-year-old blind’s man grave with the words, “Thank you for touching my life with your gentle heart!”
My younger birth brother, Joe :).
Only 10 months after my birth, our mother learned she was pregnant with her fifth child. Married with three older children, I am thinking it would be fair to say she found herself in an unintended situation for the second time in a very short period of time. Both my younger birth brother and I were placed for adoption in separate homes after our births. Although my birth brother chooses not to meet me, I have a story I would love to share with him. I don’t think it could be just an hour conversation though, but perhaps an on-going one that lasts the rest of our lives.
When I was first searching for my birth father, the same person’s name kept coming up as a possibility. They identified him as a person who had been the Mayor of the small mining town where our mother, her miner husband, and our siblings had lived. By all accounts, the Mayor had been well-respected and those I spoke with said they had truly felt sorry for him. His wife had been the town drunk and often humiliated him.
Since my birth brother and I are close in age, I never gave it any thought we would have different fathers. I don’t know if it would be that I was naive or just that I can’t wrap my mind around things like that.
Well, years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with one of the late Mayor’s close friends on the phone. I must say that many of the individuals I’ve met in searching for answers in my adoption journey have been kind and receptive in talking with me. Few had the mindset that I didn’t deserve answers.
The older woman explained to me that over the years the Mayor talked about his birth son by name that had been placed for adoption. Although he had apparently never met my little brother or didn’t try to make contact, the Mayor knew of his whereabouts. I got teary-eyed myself when she then shared with me, “Oh, my, he was so proud of his son’s accomplishments with his high-profile career.”
The last thing the Mayor’s close friend said before hanging up is, “I am sorry Sweetheart. He never mentioned anything about having a daughter … only a son.”
After my husband left early for work Saturday morning, I got up for a few minutes to read my e-mail.
One message was from my long-time friend asking if I had seen the video she sent to me privately on FB last week. For some reason, I had not watched it yet, so I sat down and clicked the play button.
It was a video about Ryland’s story. When I got to the part where I heard the parents say, “She may have only been 5 years old, but we needed to start truly listening,” my tears from years of confusion and frustration as being my adopted brother’s sister started flowing freely. My brother and I were both adopted at birth; we are only two months apart in age.
My heart ached for my own brother who was so misunderstood. Part of me wanted to believe his life would have been easier if our parents had been more supportive and had loved him unconditionally like Ryland’s family has admirably done in the video above. Would my brother’s story still have played out so tragically if he had been part of today’s more accepting generation like Ryland was born into?
After watching Ryland’s transformation, I couldn’t help but wonder if this child had experienced as many losses as my brother and I did at such a young age (losses from adoption, divorce of our parents, instability, alcoholism, mental health issues, and verbal and emotional abuse) if the ending to Ryland’s video would have had the same outcome as my brother’s did; as I know now, he didn’t have a chance in hell.
I recall my mother’s one sister saying in a conversation with me, “Your brother always had such feminine, delicate-looking features. It doesn’t surprise me that he thinks he might be transgender.”
In such a disturbing contrast, after the death of my mother, this same aunt lashed out at me with the cold, heartless words, something to the effect, “Can you imagine how difficult it would have been for my sister to have raised your brother, such a bad seed.” And I got lumped into her awful thoughts as well, as somehow we as her adopted children made her a broken woman.
No matter if I had wanted her to, my aunt could not have taken back her harsh words. The damage had already been done. I felt violated all over again by some of the personal things she had spoken of only as hearsay regarding our “black-sheep” family.
My mother was always worried about maintaining her image, especially with her mother and sisters. Her family meant more than life itself to her. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my mother, out of pure embarrassment, would have never wanted her relatives to know any details about my brother that might make her look bad. And until now, I honored her unspoken request, even after she passed away.
As I watched Ryland’s video, I knew my brother had been screaming out for help for many years because he was really transgender. If the relatives were apparently maliciously gossiping early on about how different and delicate-looking my brother appeared, it seems so odd that my parents would be wearing blinders. It made me sad for him.
Isn’t it interesting how sometimes as children we can sense what our sibling might have been struggling with better than our parents ever did? It was clear to me that he had difficulty bonding and fitting in with family or friends. I believe that the two of us got as close at one time as he ever did to anyone. Looking back, it was when my brother and I stopped sharing a room at the age of 11 that he started to drastically change. I shouldn’t have been expected to know how to help him, but part of me feels like I let my brother down. All we had was each other and I didn’t know what to do or say.
After learning he passed away, I wanted to find out how to remove my brother’s online journals. His writings made me feel uncomfortable as if I was the reason he didn’t like who he was as a human being. As his sister, I was hurting as well.
Quite honestly, I don’t know how to stop these feelings that make me think that I am partly to blame, “My sister and I were inseparable and I wanted to be her!”
Was it just ramblings from a lost soul who couldn’t distinguish fantasy from the real world? The truth is — my brother didn’t get the help he needed with gender identity issues combined with serious mental illness. I do understand that not all transgender individuals are mentally ill and do live happy and healthy productive lives. I have debated with myself whether my brother would have had more of a fighting chance if my mother would have not been so worried about what others think – that somehow it would have made her look like she had failed as a parent if she didn’t have all the answers.
Excerpt from my brother’s journal (age 40 something):
Kids get the funniest things in their heads. My sister and I were raised as equals, even though she is two months and six days younger. We bathed together, played together, slept in the same crib and shared the same clothes. We got fed at the same time and were put to bed at the same time. My sister and I were inseparable.
Was there a difference between my sister and myself? Turned out there was. What, I really didn’t know at that time.
About age 4, I was lying in bed wishing upon a star. Mom came in and I asked her if I could be like my sister. Guess she didn’t understand the question. Her reply gave me another tailspin, “No, Scotty, you can’t. She’s a girl. You’re a boy.” Right then and there I changed my wish. I wished Tinkerbell would make me more like my sister. Tinkerbell was my invisible friend. That night Tinkerbell visited me, but she wouldn’t turn me into a girl. Tinkerbell told me I would take it for granted. That I must work hard and someday my dreams will come true. Then I would appreciate what I have. Yes, I was a female cognitively; I still had some lessons in life to learn that I wouldn’t learn as a female. Haven’t figured out yet what those lessons could have been.
As his sister, I never want any other sibling to grow up like I did feeling so alone and vulnerable while trying to make sense out of the tough issues in life.
When we plant a seed, one never calls it a “bad seed” if it doesn’t get plenty of sunshine and water to help it bloom into God’s beautiful creation. How can we expect it to be any different with our children, if we as parents and society aren’t truly listening to those unheard voices who are crying on the inside for love, respect and above all, understanding.
My only regret is that I did not know how to stand up for my brother in a world that can be so cruel and judgmental.