Wednesday, August 6, 2008

As Erma Bombeck wrote about family, "The ties that bind and gag!"

Family. That one word can evoke many emotions, thoughts and memories. I hold my family close to my heart, all of them; I really do in my own way.

My family is a mish-mash of sorts. I have two fathers, one biological and another who adopted me when he married my mother. Of course, we also have to add in my mother.

My biological father has been remarried for many years and he has three other children. My mother has two other children with my adopted father.

I am the only one that is a product of my mother and my biological father. I look like my bio-dad, which is short and weebly. My mother is much taller and thin.

I look nothing like my half-brother and half-sister that I grew up with. They are blessed with the tall and thin genes of my mom and adopted dad. "Why couldn't I have received just an inkling of the thin gene?" I cry out to the cruel universe.

Have you heard that phrase "the elephant in the room"? That's ME. Well, not literally but definitely I am the figurative elephant in my family.

I grew up in the family with my mom, adopted dad, and two siblings. Never did we mention that I was the offspring of another man. In fact, my mother refuses to talk about him or tell me anything about my young life. You see, it's not my business.

Not my business she says. Wow, call me crazy but I thought I was somewhat involved there.

There are no baby books about me, no baby pictures of me anywhere in the entire house. I think pictures of me show up from about the time my mother remarried. I was four and a half and I am in the picture of their wedding as a very reluctant flower girl.

I knew I had a different father from when I was very young. I was a bright and perceptive child who heard things, read things, knew things I wasn't supposed to know.

My mom never mentioned my biological dad, who still lives in the same town my family does, until I was in sixth grade and I had discussed this issue with a friend. This friend's mom was a friend of my mom. My cover was blown.

My mom said I could see my dad if I wanted to, but being the perceptive and intelligent child I was, I knew that she didn't really want me to see him. She was just trying to cover her tracks. I was not only bright but I was very much a people-pleaser at this age. I wanted to make my mom happy and by this time in my life I wasn't doing very much of that. I was too shy, too fat, too needy, too much to deal with now that I had a younger brother (whom I love very much even if he doesn't realize it) who took up a lot of parental time.

To my knowledge, this subject has never been brought up with the siblings that I grew up with. They know but I'm not sure how they know. Perhaps through their own keen powers of perception. Then again, it could be that my two half-brothers were friends at a young age. That must have made my mother a little antsy.

I have tentatively started a relationship with my biological dad. I talk to him on the phone occasionally. I saw him once for dinner in 2000. Then I ran away from him as fast as I could. He is the polar opposite of what I know about families.

His family has pictures and videos of me from when I was a baby!

Pictures in the house displayed, not hidden away or thrown away. Everyone in that family, children included, not only knew about me but knew all about me. This is a family that is interested in getting to know me.

How on earth does a person reconcile that with what they have experienced for so many years? It's a tight rope, a careful maneuver getting to know them. I told my mom recently that I talk to my bio-dad on the phone. It's taken me years to get up the courage to do that, to say to my mom that it is okay for me to get to know the rest of my family.

The elephant sees the cage door ajar and noses it open a bit. It looks outside, to the left, to the right, to see if anyone is coming with the keys. One step, then two, then faster movements away from what has confined it for so long.

I'm looking around, finally able to see that I can go outside and that maybe it's not such a bad place. Maybe I'm not a bad elephant after all.

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