Friday, February 22, 2008

Madelaine

Debi asked if I had contact with my half sister. The very short answer to that is NO. and here’s the very long answer as to why:

Iris was 40 when she had me in 1970, and was already a single mom to Madelaine who was 7. On my non-id’ing info, Madelaine was described as a “strong-willed and difficult child”. Nice label, poor kid!

Iris managed to keep her pregnancy hidden from everyone, includingin Madelaine. Her father even drove her to the hopsital when she had me, after she told him that she had to go into the hospital for a few days for a procedure. Madelaine was on vacation with Iris’s sister for the week. Apparently they were not a close family, and certainly Iris did not have the type of relationship with her father where he would have asked her about any procedures she was having.

So Iris gave birth to me, stayed at the hospital for a day or two and at some point signed the adoption papers. And then she went on with her life. We’ve never had any big deep talks about how placing me affected her, or how she coped. She was told to forget about me and move on with her life, and in her own way she did. She was also told that the records were sealed and that I had been adopted by a family in Nova Scotia (I wasn’t, I was adopted by a family living in the same town that she was living in.) and that she never had to worry about me ever finding her.

When Ontario first set up it’s adoption registry in the late 1980’s, Iris kind of figured it was only a matter of time till she was contacted about me. And so it was.

In the 30 odd years since she had me, Iris had never told a soul about me, other then my father who knew about the pregnancy and subsequant adoption. So her worst fear was that I would find her, “out” her to everyone and cause all sorts of disruptions to her life. It took her a year or so of us communication by snail mail before she trusted me enough to know that I would not do that.

So to this day, Madelaine still does not know about me. Iris has said that Madelaine suffers from depression and has hinted that she may be bi-polar or have some other diagnosis of a mental health disorder. She says that this is the main reason that she does not want to tell Madelaine now, as she worries how it will affect her. I also found out a couple of weeks ago that Madelaine will be laid off from her job of almost 20 years sometime in May so Iris is even more concerned for her overall well being right now. I personally think that Madelaine’s mental health is a factor in Iris not telling her, but I also think it is a crutch, a protection that Iris uses so that she doesn’t have to go there. After keeping such a big secret for so many years, it must be terryfying to think about letting that all out, and telling the people you love that you have kept something like this from them.

All of this makes any communication with Iris difficult as Madelaine still lives at home. She pays the bills, so Iris can’t call me lest a long distance charge is found. She can email me but because they share the same computer and email address, I can no longer email her in case Madelaine is home from work and gets the email. I can call their house, but if Madelaine is home Iris will tell me that I have the wrong number and hang up on me.

Iris has sent me one or two pictures of Madelaine. We even have one of the 2 of them hanging on our family wall of pictures. It’s nice to have a face to see, even if I don’t think I look anything like either of them. I can only hope that one day Iris finds the strength and courage to tell Madelaine. As Iris gets on in age, and suffers from ill health, my biggests fears are that Iris will die without ever having told Madelaine the truth. And that I will then be faced with a choice: reach out and tell Madelaine myself, with all the risks that that involves, or accept that I have lost any and all contact with my first family.

They are choices that I think about almost every day and I honestly have no idea what I would do if I was faced with making that decision right now.
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