Today’s story courtesy of the LINK> Huffington Post – My Dad Hid My Sister From Me For Decades. Then I Learned That Wasn’t Our Only Family Secret by Sarah Leibov. I share excerpts. You can read the whole story at the link.
Her dad had impregnated his girlfriend long before he met her mom and she was placed for adoption. The truth was revealed because the woman was coming to Chicago where the author lived and not only her mother (who had divorced her father 20 years ago) and her brother (who also knew about this secret sister) thought Sarah might want to meet her.
Her brother knew because he was going through their dad’s briefcase seven years ago and discovered letters from this woman and began corresponding with her. The mother discovered the secret when she asked who sent an email she saw on her son’s computer.
Sarah describes her reaction to the shock of learning about this sister. I only noticed that I was crying when people passing me on the street gave me sympathetic looks. I sat down on the curb, shaking. I was in shock, but another part of me was relieved. Intuitively, I’d always felt that my father was hiding something from me. Hearing the news validated the fear I’d buried inside for years. I was confused as to why he had kept this secret. My parents had divorced and married other partners when I was young, and I’d already had every kind of sibling imaginable ― my brother, a stepsister from my mother’s next marriage, and three half siblings from my father’s second marriage. Why would he keep quiet about this one? I didn’t know why my brother had never confronted my father, or shared the news with me. It was betrayal after betrayal.
She didn’t want to meet her father’s hidden daughter behind his back, or hide it from him, as he had from her. She called her brother and told him, “Call Dad now, and tell him what you know, or I will.” The next day, her father asked Sarah and her brother to meet him at a deli she’d never heard of. She thinks he thought she wouldn’t make a scene in an unfamiliar public setting, but admits, “I upset his plan. Tears flowed down my face as I ignored inquisitive looks from people trying to enjoy their matzo ball soup.”
Her father told them that when his girlfriend discovered that she was pregnant, she told him that she was moving to another state and planned to place the baby for adoption. Two decades later, the hidden sister gained access to her adoption papers and reached out to both her birth parents. Their father had then started corresponding with her and even met with her several times over the years.
Sarah writes about their first meeting – My fiancé and I met my new sister at a restaurant the following evening. My father was right ― she was lovely, kind and unassuming. I noticed that we both had inherited my father’s dark eyes and curly hair. She seemed a bit nervous and just as intent on making a good impression as I was. In her warm presence, all my envy disappeared.
And in the years since, we have bonded over our mutual interests in music and meditation, both on the phone and in person. I am very fond of her, but it’s so much more than that. I admire her political activism and ideals. She is a health care worker, and I’ve never heard her blame anyone for the difficulties she has endured. She lives with an easy, open acceptance that is challenging for me.
The hidden sister turned out not to be the only secret in their family. Turns out that her maternal grandfather had an affair during his marriage to her grandmother. Her mother and this half-sister (discovered thanks to Ancestry.com) were born only a few months apart, but on opposite sides of the country. When asked if her father had ever traveled to the East Coast, her mother explained that he was a traveling salesman. “We hear that a lot,” the geneticist told her mother.
Upon learning about this, Sarah was angry at her grandfather for deceiving her mother, similar to how she had been angry at her father for withholding a sister from her. It was frustrating that because the grandfather was deceased they couldn’t get answers from him. I know the feeling. I would love to know why my maternal grandfather appears to have abandoned my maternal grandmother and the baby that was my adoptee mother.
When she saw how overjoyed her mother was to have discovered a sister so late in her life, Sarah’s perspectives changed. It wasn’t their actions that were reprehensible, their decisions to hide what happened had caused pain.
She ends her essay with this – “Enough time has been stolen from me and now its my responsibility to recover what has been lost.” I understand. Building relationships with people who didn’t know you existed for over 60 years isn’t easy. I simply keep trying to stay connected with my “new” genetic family.