It has been years since I’ve last seen most of my family. I think I was about four years old when my mom remarried and moved us away from our home in Florida and Tennesse. My mom met her new husband while he was stationed in Florida, while she worked as a waitress at a car hop. She had already been separated from my father for a while although he didn’t take to the separation easily. From what I have learned about him, he was a very jealous man and made life with him impossible. Moving to New York meant my involvement with my family both on my father’s side and my mother’s side would be very little to none at all. While some would say I’ve had a good life, I have a sister and brother who I absolutely adore and love deeply, I have always felt like I missed out on something. What most people don’t understand is, it is hard to be plucked out of one family – the only family you know – to be placed into a whole new family with strangers. Growing up I didn’t always feel like I belonged. I was reminded often I wasn’t Joe’s daughter (my step-father) anytime he and my mother argued or he would introduce me as Edna’s daughter. Saying I didn’t feel like I fit in was an understatement. After so many years went by I was more like a stranger to my actual family but, not “real” family to my step-family. I will say that was not how I was treated by my Aunt and Grandma. Even tho they were not my real family, I was very close to my grandmother and grandfather. I love my Aunt and I became very close to her children. Most people even thought we were related, interestingly we do resemble each other. We grew up as a close family, we celebrated holidays together and it was important to my mom for us to sit around the table as a family. She was a stay at home mom, and when it was time to eat our meals she insisted we sit at the table together as a family. That changed as I got older and then my sister and brother as well. But, holidays always meant our family sat around the dinner table. My mother would dress up the table and use our better dishes and silverware and the meal was always special.
For years my mom would tell me stories about her youth and things that she did with her siblings. It made me wish we had a closer relationship with them. My mother is one of eight children. I didn’t understand why my mother insisted on keeping a distance from not just her family but making sure my father’s family were not ever in the picture. I don’t think she knew when my father died, I believe she came into that information a couple of years later when my step-dad adopted me. I was thirteen, I didn’t want to give up my name, but it was what my mother wanted and so I really didn’t have a choice. I was too young to go against what my mother wanted and even when the judge asked me if I understood what was going on, I just responded saying I did. I know my name kept me with a sperate identity from the rest of the family, but emotionally I didn’t feel like I was one of them. I was made to feel like an intruder and giving up my identity meant leaving my family behind. Letting go of ever finding my father and reconnecting with my family. In a sense, that is what happened, and I felt as if I betrayed my father. I wish my mother would have made it possible for me to know them but she held on to such anger towards my father that she punished all of us. He was a jealous man and extremely jealous of her and any relationship she had with anyone. I always knew she wasn’t in love with my father but it turned into hatred because of how jealous he was that she did not want anything to do with them at all. Even making sure I didn’t too. My father died when I was ten and my grandmother – his mother – died just 16 months later. I missed out on a lifetime with her and with him. They died young.
Every year on my birthday my mom would make me and everyone else listen to her re-tell stories of my childhood funnies. Most of the funny stories were about Joe taking me to his barracks and I’d do impersonations of Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx, and a few stories about how I’d escape every morning to go play in my yard while my parents were still sleeping no matter how they locked the doors and windows. I don’t remember my dad much at all. I was so young when my mom separated and then divorced him and remarried and since she moved us such a distance away I never saw him again. My father died when I was 10 years old and at age 13 my step-father adopted me. My step-father was a good man. He worked two jobs to provide for us, and when my sister came along I was so happy. I was a big sister. Then a few years later my brother was born. I was eleven and he was like my baby. I was so proud to be his big sister. I watched him during times my mom worked with my dad or if they went out I’d watch both my sister and brother. It was an important role – Big Sister. But it did not erase the need to want to know my family. I didn’t know my father had died when he did. I’d constantly look him up in the phone books, but surprisingly there was no one else listed by my last name. I didn’t understand that at all. I later found out my father had a sister and a brother and was raised with his cousin in the same house. They were all raised like siblings. But they were living in other states, so now how to find them.
I first met my father’s cousin when I took a trip back to Tennesse when I was seventeen. It was the first time I was back to visit since I was five years old. My mom had eventually told me my father died but I didn’t believe her. I thought she was telling me that so I’d stop asking her about him. My mother had a lot of anger towards my father and I always felt she resented me because I did favor him. She never told me she loved me and that weighed heavy on me for many years. I always felt I wasn’t good enough. Well, when I met my cousin he confirmed my father had died and took me to see his grave. At the sight of his grave, I collapsed. The realization that he was really dead was a lot for me to emotionally handle. That evening I got very sick. In the middle of July, I was cold and couldn’t warm up and my throat swelled up, a reaction to the shock. Anger set in. I was angry with my mom for keeping me from knowing my family. I felt like I had no home. My father’s family were all strangers now and some didn’t want to know me because they were upset with my mom. I was stuck in the middle. My heart was wounded, my soul was wounded. For years my relationship with my mother was contentious at best. I can’t remember my mother ever telling me she loved me. I wondered sometimes why did she insist on keeping me, why not leave me with my father? During those years, I didn’t feel any special closeness with her. She would remind me I wasn’t family whenever my adopted father had an issue with someone in his family and I’d say something she’d tell me to leave it alone that was Joe’s family. So, even tho I was now his adopted daughter I was still put on the outside of family issues.
Yes, I guess in comparison to others I had a good childhood. I grew up with a mother and a father with a sister and brother but emotionally I was not in good shape. My heart and my soul were wounded and I didn’t know how to fix it. My mother and adopted father fought a lot while I was in Juinor High school and into High School. I’d come home with a nervous stomach afraid of what I’d walk into. It got so bad between them that I didn’t know which one was worst. My mother who was jealous of every woman my adopted father spoke to or him being intolerant of her. I’d come home from school to be made to sit at the kitchen table while he would proceed to tell me how sick my mother was. She was sick too, but we did not get her the help she needed because we didn’t know what her illness was. She had seen a doctor who prescribed tranquilizers but that only seemed to make it worst. We didn’t know at the time she suffered from depression. After my brother was born she suffered postpartum depression but since that wasn’t diagnosed during that time she wasn’t treated properly and the depression only got worst. The fighting only continued and escalated, at one point my mother tried to commit suicide. When I turned eighteen I decided to move out and live on my own. I couldn’t take the constant fighting or being placed in the middle of their arguing anymore. I needed to get out from under them and start to live my own life or so I thought. I went on to make some bad decisions. I married the wrong man, he was abusive and I spent years dealing emotionally with that divorce. Life continued with some good decisions and some not so good ones. I’m learning how to heal my wounded heart and soul. Part of that is getting reacquainted with my family. It has caused some emotional triggers but that’s how we heal. We deal with the pain we have been faced with all our lives and hit the reason’s head on. There’s more a lot more before healing is complete but this is a beginning for me.