One of the biggest fears I faced when I became pregnant was of telling my dad. It had been threatened (not in so many words per se – which, in my case, was perhaps far more threatening and/or affecting than words) that if I ever became pregnant out of wedlock I would be disowned.
So when I told my mom about my situation and asked for advice on how to go about breaking it to Dad, she didn’t hesitate or even blink at the thought of dropping this rather massive bombshell on me: “I’m going to let you in on a little secret about your dad,” and she proceeded to tell me about an affair that he’d had with a married woman during the war when he was stationed somewhere over in Europe (the only place he ever talked about being stationed in his conversations about WWII was France, but that was in peacetime, just after the war had ended…he never would talk about where he was actually stationed during the war but would kind of dance around that particular subject with vagueness….perhaps the circumstances of his eldest son coming to be are part of the reason…I may have recently uncovered where this affair took place, but I’ve digressed enough…). I knew the woman a little. She and her husband remained family friends, and Mom still hears from a couple of their children, even to this very day (the children, neither of which are my brother…we’ve never heard from him as far as I know…). The woman’s husband had denied her sexual relations for I guess what she’d considered an unreasonable length of time. The affair with my dad produced a son whom her husband raised as his own, even though the man obviously knew the boy was not his biologically. And this is how my mother told me not to worry about how my dad would react. As far as I know, both parents left this world without ever having told him. I’m the only one who knows…my brother still does not know about our elder brother, as far as I know…perhaps it’s time for me to let him in on the secret, but I really don’t know…
I found these little bits of evidence after Daddy died; these artifacts hold pictures of my brother when he was little, the words his mother wrote of him, and, to my knowledge, all that my dad would ever have as a reminder of the son he never really got to know:
These are among the precious few remaining personal affects that have survived of my dad in his youth. The black book on the right is a baby book which contains recorded highlights and small pictures of their son in his first six months of life. The writings reveal that she truly loved my dad and wanted him to be part of their son’s life in some small way (Daddy was, interestingly, named as his son’s godfather and can be seen in a picture within the pages of the baby book of the child’s christening – with the “father” [the woman’s husband] pictured on the left; the mother is pictured in the middle and holding the baby wearing a long christening gown, and my dad is pictured on the right in his military uniform). The light grey piece in the middle is a portrait of the child at approximately 2 years of age. The identification card holder on the left contains a couple of business cards of some doctors in Paris, some small pieces of paper with handwritten names and addresses, and a few snapshots of the boy at around 5 years of age. My understanding is that when Dad became serious about his relationship with my mom, he asked the woman to stop providing him with with news of their son. I have been digging for years to try and find out his whereabouts, and I think I may have just recently located my brother who is now in his sixties.
I have wanted to meet my brother for years. Now that I may have tracked him, I am conflicted about whether to contact him and introduce myself to him as his sister. This means dropping a bombshell on him. While he may have the right to know that we are brother and sister and share a biological link through my dad, the real question is this: Do I have a right to change what he knows about himself? This means also changing who he knows his mother to be, and, obviously, she chose not to reveal that she fell in love with another man and conceived a child with him while married to her husband (the woman and her husband remained married until his death in the late 20th century). She passed away a few years ago, and, as far as I know, she took the secret of her son’s conception to her grave with her. It is her secret, and she has a right to it – and yet it is not her secret, and she doesn’t have a right to it…he’s my brother! You know?
Therein lies the conundrum of the dark side of family secrets. Here, I have a brother I desperately want to know. He has a sister and brother beyond the family he was raised with that he probably has no idea about. Lord, in heaven, help us all!!