Wed 5 Mar 2014
People have asked me, “Does the reality of your birth shame you?”
I’ve thought a lot about this question. Had this been another era, perhaps my answer would be yes. But the truth is that I’m proud of my family. Yes, it was hard to learn that my mother had cheated on her husband and that that husband wasn’t my father, but I was very lucky that I wasn’t as emotionally connected to him as I would have been, since he died of a sudden heart attack when I was three years old. It’s so strange to say “lucky” in relation to that, because I spent my entire life feeling the loss of not knowing him like my brother and sister did. But I was lucky. I was raised by my step-father, who was the best father I could have asked for, and I loved him dearly. He will always be my “real” father, and I’m so grateful for him.
So, when I learned almost a year ago who my biological father really was, I was able to accept that news with relative ease. Since then, I’ve learned as much as I could about him and the rest of the family I don’t know, and what I’ve learned is that I have much to be proud of. I’m proud of my father, who was 15 years old when all hell broke loose in Hitler’s Germany and grew up to be an officer in the U.S. CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps), who searched out and interrogated Nazi war criminals in preparation for the trials, who was a plant in American POW camps, pretending to be a captured German soldier to gather intelligence from the Nazi POWs, and who later became a well respected physician, his way of thanking God for saving him, his mother, brother and sister from the Holocaust.
I’m proud of his sister, my aunt, Rose Beal, who is 92 and has spent her life making sure that the Holocaust is not forgotten. As a docent at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, Idaho, she tells our family’s story of their harrowing escape from Nazi Germany as WWII began to thousands of people a year who visit the museum. She is so well respected and loved that the museum has dedicated the Rose Beal Legacy Garden to her.
I’m proud of my brothers and sisters, who have all had their trials and tribulations and yet fought the good fight to make their lives and legacies something worthy of being proud of. I’m proud of my niece, who was smart as a whip, beautiful and loved by everyone who knew her, but who died at 17 of cystic fibrosis. I’m proud of my nephews, who are also brilliant young men who are each making their mark on the world with vigor and elan! I’m proud of my cousins, an eclectic group of smart people who have each left their marks in unique ways.
So, no…I’m not ashamed of my birth. I’m not ashamed one bit. In fact, I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing family. I may never meet all of them, but I will always love and respect them, if only from afar. While some may consider my father a mere sperm donor, I don’t consider him that, and I’m grateful that some of my father’s family don’t think that way either. It has allowed us to build valuable relationships, even this late in life. It has allowed me to have a brother I’m so proud of and love so much. It has allowed me to get to know a nephew very well and become good friends with him. (We are SO much alike!) The gifts my father has given me are boundless and the possibilities are endless. I couldn’t be more grateful.