Copied photos a stranger was kind enough to send me five or six years ago, so that I would know something of my father's side of the family.
When I was scrounging around in my file cabinets the other day, I finally found this packet of old photos, sent to me by a paternal relative I had no knowledge of.
And she found me on Ancestry.com.
She wanted me to know my people. Especially my father's side of the family. Who I knew absolutely nothing about.
I tipped the packet up and let the photos fall on my desk. Then I chose a few and put them on this small bulletin board. Sometimes I study the faces. Trying to figure out if I look like the father I never met. The older step-brother I never knew about.
And the others. My mother, my younger brother, my older sister and the two little sisters, strewn across the map many, many years ago. Never to be united.
And if I sit there very long, I start to cry. For all the relationships I never had with people who were supposed to love me. For all the aunts and uncles and grandparents I was never given the opportunity to meet.
For a history I know nothing about.
This is my mother and father, apparently on the day of their wedding. Probably the hardest photo for me to gaze at.
I've met my mother a few times. Not in the past 30 something years though. I never met my father. They are both an enigma.
These are my two little sisters, whose names rhyme with mine somehow, though I'm not quite sure exactly how because I don't know their actual names.
Both were left by my mother. And then I understand that they were taken from the home of family members I never met and adopted out probably soon after this photo was taken.
There were paternal relatives who loved them and wanted to give them a home, but were not given the opportunity.
Apparently a social worker showed up at their door without warning, took the two little girls without reason, and whisked them away to be adopted elsewhere.
A crying shame.
So I seriously doubt they even know that "their people", like me, exist.
She, like all the others, were adopted out because my mother could not take care of her children. And my father was off in prison for something or other.
We have no history together.
Still, she is my people.
This is an older brother, Charles, that my father had with his first wife. I have no idea how old he'd be now. I doubt he knows about me either.
I didn't know of his existence until I got the packet of photos I'm showing.
And on the far right, my younger brother, whose whereabouts I'm not privy to either.
I know my father is dead. I don't know about my mother.
I look into these faces, just a foot away from where I sit, and wonder what it would have been like to know them all.
Of course that baby was me.
These are my people, though I don't know the first thing about them. Will probably never meet any of them. I'm sure quite a few of them are already dead and gone.
I just know that I grew up with secrets filling all the dark corners. Invisible yet discernible. People whispering. They always stopped when I appeared.
No one was actually willing to tell me who I actually was or where I came from.
I was a mystery to myself. And still am for the most part.
I want you to realize that none of it matters.
No matter what the problem is, nothing should break the bonds of the blood you share with your people.
And that to further any sort of animosity, to prolong being estranged, is to punish the children that really need to know where they came from.
Because you see, knowing where you came from is part of how one figures out who they are.
And for the adults to take this away because they can't get along is basically stealing a piece of a child's history.
No one should grow up wondering who they are or where they came from.
Everyone should have the right to know their people.
Just like I did.