I'm eighteen. I've already moved out. At this point I'm living in my bf's grandma's house. I come to visit my mom because she says she has something important to tell me. So I drive a half hour over to the house and we talk. She's nervous. We walk casually out to the garden. It's only a few yards from her horse's fenced in pasture. Crescent comes over near the fence to say hi. It's been a few months and I've missed him. His chores used to be my responsibility. I'd bring him home my apple cores or banana peels from lunch at school. My mom stops the small talk and abruptly I understand why she is so nervous. The news she has is probably the most shaken I've ever been, up to that point. Your dad is not your real dad. What!!?
I'm waiting by the locker room across the hall from the gym in my elementary school. The school building is shaped like a big letter L. The kitchen is on the end of the short hall, next is the gym. At the end of the hall is the set big doors that lead out to the playground. We're waiting in line to go out for recess. While I wait I'm working on a math problem in my head.
I keep rolling it around. I must be doing something wrong. This isn't adding up. Literally. But maybe I'm just doing the math wrong. I'm seven. I know that, even though we don't celebrate birthdays. I know that for sure. But...my parents anniversary is at the end of summer, and I thought mom said it was their 5th anniversary. They had me before they got married. This literally just doesn't add up. I might be making a math mistake? I ask her about it later at home, and her face turns pink. She sheepishly admits that I was born before they got married. I remember being shocked. That was a sin. Jehovah doesn't like that.
So I'm standing in her garden, remembering that lie years later after she confesses that he is not my biological father. I mean, it was a lie that she let me assume I was his. Standing in her garden surrounded by rows and rows of veggies and weeds. Crescent was standing grazing in the edge of his field. He is getting anxious, tossing his head around and making nervous horse noises as I grew more upset. I'm pacing now. Looking down at the rows of plants. Being careful of where I stepped. Wanting to smash her stupid lying face in. Asking, trying to understand, the lies - hundreds of them buzzing in my ears.
She says that the reason she's tellingme this now is because we had each had a close call health-wise recently. I was bitten by a brown recluse spider, and she had a severe allergic reaction to a medication when she was out of state for a religious convention. She said she thought she might die in that hotel room. She says that she wanted to tell me, but didn't know how and now she's scared and feels guilty. What if one of us had died? I say she lied to me so many times. She denies the lies. I tell her that it's a lie of omission, she says that's not a lie. I ask how many thousands of times she referred to him as "your dad". That's thousands of lies! Thousands!
So...who's my real dad? She tries to say he is real, he raised me. I scream at her. She says that she doesn't know. She starts that fake crying thing. Might be two different people. I might've been either two weeks premie or two weeks overdo. I know I was a big baby. She told me that before. I call her a w**re! Scream it. I am livid. I feel so dismissed. I wasn't even important enough for her to tell me my own truth! I feel like she is lying to me about this too but my whole world has just been upended. I feel so betrayed. So abused. So used. She didn't even respect me enough to tell me the truth. What a lying fucking w**re! She knows but won't admit it. She wants to make it half-right, but won't tell me the whole truth. There's something else here...I know it. I can feel it. I storm off angrily towards the fence, careful not to crush the rows of plants. I give Crescent a big handful of clover and a little scratch on his forehead goodbye and I then I get in my car and drive away.
Her "guilt" about not telling was so self-serving. And, as it turned out, that was a fucking lie, too. My spider bite and her allergic reaction. Her fear of one of us dying while she still held this secret. It was pure bullshit. Years later I learned that my sister was the one who prompted my mom to finally tell me. Blackmailed her, really. Threatened to tell me herself if mom didn't.
She'd added the pieces up. Ls and Lb look like twins. Very similar bone structure. Similar blonde hair and blue eyes. Skin that turns a light shade of caramel in the summer. Nothing like me. I look like my mom, not him. Red hair and dark brown eyes. I was not a sun lover. My freckles get darker in summer but my skin would burn red as a tomato, blister, peel twice and still be as white as my siblings hair underneath. Somehow Ls added this up on her own. Not surprising though, she always was better at math than me.
When I was born I had my mom's maiden name. My birth certificate listed only one parent. Later I got my s-dad's last name but I wasn't adopted. My birth certificate got changed/edited to add the missing name of the father. This was not legal. But back then you didn't have to prove paternity to change a birth certificate. My mom stole me from my real dad. Snatched me and he didn't even know he was robbed. He didn't know I existed.
I wonder how she saw it. I wonder if she actually thought about using my innocence to pay for her "happy marriage." Did she think about it like that? As a quid pro quo? Sacrificing my innocence in exchange for a ring on her finger. It's hard now, with the benefit of hindsight, not to see it as a swap. I don't know when, exactly, but somewhere along the timeline she traded my pain for her relationship.
I wonder what the clerk at the public records office thought. Did they realize that they were assisting in a kidnapping-by-forgery? Probably not. Probably whoever they were they just thought "well that's sweet, a family reunited." My mom probably did that fake crying thing that she does to tell the sob story of how at the time of my birth they were separated and now they are back together and newlyweds and they just want to make this right. Aaahh, what a happy ending.
I'm wondering about what the train of thought was behind that for both my mom and for him. He always knew I wasn't really his. I was born before she met him. So is that why he saw me as expendable? As disposable? Was marrying my mom a package deal? Was there abuse before they got married? If there was, did my mom know about the abuse before they got married? Did she really think that he was her best option? That a single mom with a bastard mini-me in tow was such a horrible position to be in that he was her best option?
My own oldest turned 21 recently. It's strange to ponder. He is the age I was when I had him. I remember the surge of Mama Bear hormones that flooded through me just looking at him. Knowing I would do anything in my power to protect him. Anything. His cries were a secret code that unlocked my previously hidden ability to feed him. His presence upgraded my body's creation ability. Not only did my body create a person. A whole. magical. living. person, but the mere thought of him gave my body the enhanced ability to turn water and sandwiches and pizza and hotdish into baby fuel. He needed me in a way that no one ever has. I learned his language so I could understand him. His asking for love, for food. When he told me he was hungry, I fed him. When he just wanted love, I gave it to him.
I was thinking alot about how my caring for everyone else shaped my personality. Does the abuse define me? Does my reaction to it? How did I manage to care for Ls and Lb with no real example to follow? Underneath all the neglect am I just a reaction to my situation? Am I a reaction to a toxic environment? Am I the way I am because of having to take on the roll of caregiver so very young? What is my real personality? More urgently, in my thoughts anyways, is this question - Why have I managed to survive my life so remarkably intact? Why has it taken me this long to have a breakdown? Why now? How did I survive? I've been thinking about this a lot, so I talk to my T about it. Where did I spend my first two years? With people who loved and doted on me. Who showered me with love. Who nurtured my personality. Those first two years were critical to shaping my ability to form connections. To be bonded. To have commitments. To know what love was. So in an odd way, even though I have no actual memories of him, at a very basic level the person who had the most influence on me might've been my grandpa. And instead of just relying on nature, I was given nurture too, if only for a very short time.
The faint smell of pipe tobacco is a happy memory for me. My mom told me many times I was allergic to cigarette smoke as a baby. Grandpa smoked a pipe, or cigars (I can't remember which). After I was born he'd smoke outside. I think the reason I have a warm fuzzy happy feeling about the faint smell of burning pipe tobacco is because it is one of the first smells of love I ever knew.
I was 2 when my mom's dad died. I think I remember his funeral. Not a body or a casket, but a foggy faint memory full of shadows, of us walking up big hard (not wood) white steps, people in dark clothes crying, there was a big table and a line, we were waiting for something, waiting in a line to see a table. Pots or vases of flowers. Lots of flowers, and a red and white striped tablecloth.
My 6yr old son and I are volunteering in my daughter's Headstart room. He is across the room reading to a small group of preschoolers. He is reading the book upside down like he does at home with his sister. The headstart teachers are amazed. He's only 6 but already a good reader. My daughter is sitting in my lap while I read the book "Each Peach Pear Plum" to another group of her classmates. I'm sitting crisscross applesauce on the circle rug with my legs folded. A little blonde boy stands up and darts towards me. He grabs the book to see the picture and for a few moments it's not me reading to my daughter, the rambunctious boy, and their classmates. It's me and Ls and Lb. I was big enough to lift Lb onto our floral couch by now. I climb up and sit between them and we explore the story. "Where's the tree?" They point. I flip the page. "And the baby bear?" They point again. "How many bears?" I ask. "Let's count, 1, 2, 3!" They smile. They are happy. We find all the little hidden pictures. The fishing poles, the pie, the empty cupboard. The hats and birds. Clouds in the sky, the water, it's a river... I am lost for a while in this sweet memory, until my daughter, still sitting on my lap, shakes my arm and brings me back to her.
My mom was just a bit younger than my son is now when she had me. She moved home. She transferred to a closer college and continued going to school, though eventually she'd end up not finishing. She had a 60 mile drive to school. I'm not sure if she lived in the dorms and came home on weekends or if she drove every day. Either way, my Gram worked as an elementary school cook so it was my grandpa who watched me during the day. I wonder where my mom's Mother Bear instinct was when I was that little. Did she ever have one? Did she hate me yet then? My cute little round face and head full of curls. Was she born with a stone in her chest or did her heart just gradually fossilize to me? Did she see me as something to barter with from the beginning? Was I a hurdle to overcome? Bait for a prospective romantic partner? Or was that just later that she sacrificed her bastard firstborn? Did she know my language? Did she care when I was hungry or just want to shut me up? Did she know when I just wanted to talk? Or play? Did she know when I just wanted love?