A few days ago I found out that my two younger sisters had been found through one of those DNA tests.
This led them to a distant cousin on the paternal side of my family, the side I never knew. And ultimately to me.
It has taken me a few days to absorb and digest what I've learned.
Years ago I heard that they had been left with paternal relatives who loved and wanted them. But for some reason social services unexpectedly appeared at their door one day and took them away.
The girls were adopted together. Their names were changed.
In an email, I have learned some of what they endured.
I used to think the worst thing that could have happened to them would have been living with my mother as she traipsed through life, blowing from place to place like a leaf in the wind. While my father served time in prison.
Instead, they were locked in dark closets, abused. Treated like chattel.
Innocent children handed over by the state to people who should never have been given the right.
And then treated like slaves.
Here are just a few sentences from one email. I have blanked out names.
"They didn't love us, but in front of others, especially the many extended family members, we were paraded around, cutely dressed & given pretend affection.
"It was strange enough that the boy they'd adopted as a baby, who was 9 when they got us, was clearly adored & spoiled, not forced to do any work. We even took our weekly bath after him, in his dirty water. And we had a well, free water!
"I remember once we were working in the garden & for some reason, Mary started beating her with a hoe.
"Once in the kitchen, she picked up a dining chair & beat her for separating a rotting strawberry into the good pile. She seemed unable to defend herself, so I came to her defense often, jumping on Mary to try & pull her off, pulling her hair, etc."
I used to wish I'd been adopted. To wonderful Beaver Cleaver parents that would shower me with love.
Now, not so much.
"She said he had always molested their own female blood relatives. I told her she was as guilty as if she'd participated, as she knew it happened. Then she revealed that her brother Virgil, who had "committed suicide" when I was 7 or so, was actually murdered by Leo because he was about to turn him in.
"Leo told us, when I was 8 & Linda was 11, that we were going to leave. Three years later, on a rainy school morning, he said "I'll drive the girls to the bus stop". We never went back. We first stayed at Holiday Inn, in the honeymoon suite."
The sister who wrote the above email is quite ill with MS, as is another sibling.
She has never married and has no children. I don't know much about the other sister yet.
My heart is heavy for all they endured. I hope they find some degree of peace. In an imperfect world that did little to protect them when they needed it most.