Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Secrets

 I guess all families have their secrets.  I've never considered my family in that category but the older I get the more secrets I discover.

Before my father died we discovered that one of his brother's had fathered a child that remained unknown to anyone in the family for over 40 years.  The grown daughter contacted my dad one day and told him about her paternity.  Unfortunately my uncle was no longer living and my dad was unable to assist her in finding that piece of herself.  He did try to fill in as much of her missing lineage as he could.  My uncle's demise may have spared her the hurt of rejection as my dad wasn't sure he would have welcomed the contact.

Last night I learned that my older brother may have followed in his uncle's footsteps.  My oldest brother was often compared to his uncle as they shared common interests, not just hunting, fishing and guns but women.  My dad always said his oldest son was more like his brother Pete.

Last night I was reading my niece's online blog and she described how  she would sort the bills when she was a little girl.  She would open them and attach the bill to its outgoing envelope making the task of paying them that much easier for her dad.  She recalled a statement that came regularly from the Department of Human Services.  She didn't know what it was but one day showed it to a woman my brother was dating at the time.  That's when she learned it was a statement for child support.  One of my brother's students had named him as the father of her baby on the birth certificate.

I was shocked when I read this but not surprised.  I always knew he was quite the womanizer and certainly his bad judgment wasn't a surprise.  My first reaction was to confront him with what I had learned but then I thought what good would it do?  Would I just be wanting to punish or shame him in some way?  Is it just a family secret that I should leave alone?  

The person I most hurt for is my niece.  I have learned more and more about the dysfunction she grew up in and it makes my heart ache.  My brother adopted her when he was married to her mother.  I always thought it was strange that she remained with my brother after their divorce.  I never spent much time with her when she was growing up because of proximity and my own life was absorbed with being a single mother of two.

Growing up my brother was my hero.  He was thirteen years my senior and like another parent.  He was a great older brother and was always there for Mike and myself.  He allowed us to tag along with him when he was in high school though we were only 6 and 7 years old at the time.  But of course he was soon out of the house and on his own.  He moved to another state when I was fourteen and by the time of was sixteen I realized that I was more mature than my brother.  That's when I learned of his infidelities and sexual exploits.  It didn't change the way I loved him but he lost my respect.

Knowing the pain of marital infidelity first hand only increased my lack of respect for my brother.  When my ex-husband's affair led to our divorce my older brother tried to comfort me.  I rejected his concern because I wanted him to see just what the pain looked like and I wanted him to know that it was the same pain he had caused to his first wife.  I don't think he ever understand that at all and still doesn't.  Somehow people have a way of justifying their actions and he is no exception.

His daughter wrote about a catamaran that her dad owned but it never got wet except when it rained.  She wondered why he had a boat that he never used.  I know the answer to that question.  

When my husband left he not only left me with two small children to raise he left me with his catamaran.  I had no job at the time and he didn't pay child support.  I was in very desperate situation.  One day my brother offered to buy the boat stating he had always wanted to sail.  I knew this wasn't true but it was his way of trying to help me.  So I sold him the boat.  The same one that never saw water again unless it rained.

So in spite of all the things my brother is and is not I love him and I know he loves me.  He and my other brother are the only link I have left to our parents, to the family we once were with all its idiosyncrasies.   I see no point in punishing my brother now with his secrets.  He's 74 years old and there would be nothing to gain.

So, I guess this is just another family secret best kept.  

Lately I feel like I'm the loan survivor of a family shipwreck.


Anonymous said...
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Olga said...

All families must have such skeletons in the closet somewhere along the line. I try to love the person even if I hate the behavior...and I would like the same for myself (who is far from perfect!)

Paisely Brook said...

now i get the catamaran, he still swore that he was going to fix that thing though.....supposedly, the child wasnt his because he had been "nipped and tucked"

oklhdan said...

Thanks for telling me that TJ I didn't want to think he had a child he didn't acknowledge