Anything goes

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.

When I was 15, my step-grandmother, who I called “Nahni,” passed away at the ripe old age of 82 while visiting her niece in Washington state. Nahni had become quite the traveler in her later years, sometimes showing up unannounced and uninvited at relatives’ doorsteps and staying for weeks at a time. We knew it was a real burden on them, but no one ever complained. Nahni was a beloved matriarch, and as much of a pain in the you-know-what she was, everyone loved her. On one such visit, she had broken her hip on the way out the door after a two week stay and had to stay another eight weeks. At 15, I was sure that was a joy for everyone.

So, Nahni died. My dad had her body shipped back and, as her only living heir, made the arrangements for her funeral. He did a great job. It was a beautiful funeral, though we were a little disappointed that the new Methodist preacher was going to do the service. Our old preacher, who had been at our church for as long as I could remember, had moved to another city, and nice as he was, this new guy didn’t even know Nahni. He’d never met her. But what can you do? Dad filled him in on a few of the more salient points about Nahni…the fact that she loved tulips…the fact that she loved to travel and did so often…she loved apple pie. You know; the regular kind of stuff a guy can build a sermon around.

As the funeral began, Mom and Dad sat in the front row. I and my sister Marianne, who was 27 at the time, sat in the row behind them, and my dad’s double cousin, Ralph, and his sons, John and Woody, sat behind us. Once everyone was seated, the preacher stepped up to the podium and began the service. He did pretty well for a guy who never knew the subject of his sermon. He retold some of the stories Dad had passed along to him and wove Nahni’s traveling kind of like a theme through the sermon, coming back to it again and again.

One thing never to do when you get tickled while in a solemn place: catch your sister’s eye, especially if she is also tickled.

And she was. Oh, Lord, she was.

Head bent, I looked over at her, and our eyes met. I knew she was getting as much a kick out of the way he was portraying the traveling stuff as I was, because the second our eyes locked, her chin quivered ever so slightly. Of course, then, recognizing this in each other, we could barely contain ourselves. It was all we could do not to laugh out loud, but somehow…God knows how, really…we did.

We never really did regain control throughout the rest of the sermon, which was (Thank GOD) relatively short. We didn’t laugh out loud, but we had to keep our heads bent and couldn’t look at one another, because we both had huge grins on our faces. Every now and then, our shoulders–hers or mine or both–would shake from the pent up and silent laughter that would erupt from time to time.

Then, we could tell the sermon was ending. The preacher was winding down, and we both felt relief flood through us, because that had been hard. Very hard. We absolutely had not wanted to laugh at our dad’s mother’s funeral. How awful would that have been? And just as we knew the end was near, the preacher said, “Gladys Wolverton…your boarding pass has now been accepted to Heaven.”

And that was it. We lost it. Our shoulders shook up and down, our laughter came out sounding pinched, because we were still trying so hard to hold it in. And that’s when my Uncle John*, who was sure we were weeping–because to everyone else, that’s what it sounded like and certainly looked like with our shoulders shaking like that–put his sympathetic hand on each of our shoulders.

I’m telling you, it was all we could do not to fall onto the floor right there and wail with laughter.

Somehow, we regained our composure before anyone knew the truth. We got out of there, looking like we’d been crying, because tears of laughter also leave you with dark circles under your red rimmed eyes, and made it to her car where we fell into each other’s arms and laughed until our sides hurt.

Best. Funeral. EVER.

*John was really Dad’s second double-cousin, but that was too complicated and genetically speaking, he was as closely related as an uncle. Feel free to Google “double cousin.”

With every day that passes, I’m struck by my changing emotions. As I thought I would, I got over being angry with my half sisters. They are the ones with the issues, and I have to feel bad for them. I know seeing me post on their brother’s, cousin’s and son’s/nephew’s Facebook pages has got to stick in their craws. I have tried not to do it much, because I want to avoid making them feel bad, but I’m also not going to hide out and NOT participate. I guess, in the long run, they’re just going to have to live with seeing my name on those pages. The closer I get to the family members who have accepted me, the more likely I am to just be myself and post when I feel like it.

And speaking of my feelings (see how I segued that so smoothly?) I’m completely amazed at how strong they are. I expected to grow to care about my brother, cousin and nephew, but I didn’t expect to love them the way I do. I don’t know if it’s been brought on by the gratefulness I feel toward them or the fact that they’re just wonderful people (or both), but I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the love I feel for them and the happiness they’ve brought to my life. I just can’t wait to spend some real time with them and talk for hours, learning about each other.

I was especially excited this week to hear that my other brother finally learned about me and thought it was cool to have a half sister. I’d been worried about how he’d take the news, so it was heart warming to know that he welcomes me. I look forward to meeting him, too.

My trip to California can’t come soon enough for me. I can’t WAIT!!!

It’s a weird position to be in, being the unwanted “black sheep” of the family. I would have never guessed in a million years that anyone would ever consider me that, but here I am. And why? Because my father cheated on his wife with my mother and knocked her up. This isn’t my fault, of course. Our parents were the unfaithful assholes. I just happened to be the product of their assholery…completely innocent of any wrong doing. (At least in relation to this situation.)

So why hate me? Or at the very least, why not want to have anything to do with me? I’ve told myself that this shouldn’t matter to me, and I’m sure I’ll work through it in time, but right now, it pisses me off, because I could never do that to someone else, least of all my sibling.

And don’t think I don’t understand how it feels. My husband cheated on me and got his girlfriend pregnant, and while it caused our divorce, it didn’t cause me to harden my heart. Instead of hating their child, I love him. He spent much of his childhood in my home from the time he was a tiny infant–all AFTER my husband moved out. He was never made to feel like a black sheep. Instead, he was showered with love from all sides.

This is not to say I don’t understand their feelings. I do. They didn’t grow up with me, so why take the trouble to care? After all, as far as they’re concerned, my father…their father…was nothing but a sperm donor. I know they’re mad at him; I’m mad at my mother, too. Too bad neither of them is here to take the brunt of that! But should I?

My brother, David, thinks like me (thank GOODNESS). We look at this discovery as a blessing, and I believe we’ve already enriched one another’s lives. My sister and brother that I was raised with feel the same way. They have both opened their hearts to my new family, just as I have. (And I point out here that they have just as good a reason to be embittered about this than anyone does.)

So what’s the deal? Why NOT open your heart up to another person who’s never done you any harm? What good does that do you other than harden your heart even more? Does it make you feel better? I doubt it could. If anything, that kind of negativity would make me feel worse. Does it allow you to pretend it never happened? That’s going to be pretty hard since I’m already a part of your brother’s life and don’t plan to hide out in the shadows. Does your legitimacy make you somehow better than me? Not in 2013 it doesn’t.

Your choosing not to have anything to do with me doesn’t lessen me any. I am still the successful person I have always been. My IQ is still just as high. I still have the same friends. My heart is still as full of love and forgiveness as it has been since the day I was born. Turning your back on me only lessens you, and for that, I am sad.

I’ll get over this. I don’t need their acceptance, but right now, I need to be ticked off about their attitudes for a little while. I guess that’s part of the process. Maybe they’ll get over it, and maybe they won’t. It would be nice if they did, but I really don’t expect them to. People are who they are. But I’ll say this much, my father’s sins are NOT my own. Having to feel like someone I’m related to thinks of me like a dirty secret is not fair to me.

I gave some advice today, and that was to not bemoan the adversity in our lives but to embrace the positive, and that’s what I intend to do. The positive is that I love my brother, and it has been very easy to love him, even though we’re just getting to know each other. In fact, the ease at which I welcomed him into my heart came as quite a surprise to me. I never expected it. Conversely, I will not hate my half sisters, nor will I hold any ill will toward them. They are entitled to their feelings, whether I like or understand them or not. I will just continue to hold my head up high, love and care for my family and live my life as best I can.

Now, on to the next step in the process.

I’ll say this up front. I’ve been a Star Trek geek (Trekker, Trekkie…whatever you want to call us) since I was eight years old. I’ve seen all the episodes of each of the iterations (Original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise) many times and love them all. I’ve enjoyed each of the movies as well, though admittedly, not as much as the TV shows in most cases. (And I still really wish they’d done DS9 and Voyager movies. I would have really enjoyed those.)

I’m very disappointed, however, in the new ST movies. In my opinion, they are missing THE fundamental element that made all the other iterations so good.

Sure, they are adventurous and exciting, but there are many shows/movies that fit that description. What the makers of these movies don’t seem to realize (or don’t care about) is that ST isn’t about adventure. Gene Roddenberry had a vision of an optimistic future where people are truly equal, and each of the shows under his purview was an example of the universe he envisioned. First, almost all the episodes stood alone, on their own merits. The only time we saw this fail were the Borg, Cardasian, or the Xindi episodes, shows that focused only on adventure and fighting. Those episodes became boring and trite and, in my opinion, the reason Star Trek: Enterprise ultimately failed is because it almost exclusively focused on the Xindi after the second season. Second, each episode taught a lesson, be it moral or ethical, and those lessons weren’t only for kids; adults benefited from them as well. “Let That be Your Last Battlefield” (Original Star Trek, Season 3, Episode 15). This episode revolved around two enemies, seemingly of the same race, whose faces were half black and half white. I remember the first time I saw that episode and the shock that came at the end when we finally understood why they hated each other so much. It was ridiculous to those of us on the outside looking in, and I know that many ST lovers who also happened to be bigots thought it equally ridiculous until they realized it was an allegory meant to shed light on their own bigotry. For some, I’m sure it was a big “Aha!” moment and maybe even convinced them to throw off their bigoted attitudes. (I knew of at least one person for whom this was true.)

Then there was “The Outcast,” (TNG, Season 5, Episode 17) a TNG episode where Will Riker falls in love with a person from a non-gender race of people. The person he falls for identifies as a woman but has to keep it a secret, because their race frowned on those with gender identities and saw to it that that type of thinking was “corrected.” Beautifully written and performed, this episode clearly pointed towards prejudice towards gays and transgender people in our own society.

“Rememb” (Voyager, Season 3, Episode 6) saw B’Elanna Torres experiencing dreams in which she is a young Enaran woman having a love affair with a young man known as a “regressive.” A group that spoke against technology, the regressives were deported and executed in a program of mass genocide, much like Earth’s own Jewish Holocaust.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. My disappointment in the new ST franchise is really two-fold. I’ll openly admit I’m not happy about the alternate timeline created in the 2009 movie by the destruction of Romulus and the Vulcan home world. This, in effect, nullifies every ST episode I’ve ever seen, and I don’t appreciate that. (Yes, I realize they “exist” in another timeline, but that doesn’t make a difference, since we won’t ever SEE that timeline again.) But my real disappointment comes from the fact that the movies are all about adventure and do not support Gene Roddenberry’s vision. I don’t think Gene would have liked them either.

I welcome others’ comments on this subject! It would be interesting to see what other ST fans think.

One of the hardest things about this discovery has been the stress of worrying about how my family would take the news. How do you tell the people you have loved your entire life that you aren’t even related to them, or at best, you are only half related to them?

Believe me when I tell you that I spent weeks worrying about this day and night. I thought about it every waking moment. I dreamed about it every night. Needless to say, there was a great deal of fear associated with this revelation. What if they rejected me? What if they said hurtful things? What if they became incredulous when I told them I want David, Aaron, Bruce and even the others who haven’t reached out to be part of my life? The entire situation has been fraught with risk. By telling them, I would be putting my entire future on the line.

Platitudes aside, I knew in my heart that none of these things would happen. I’ve known and loved these people for 54 years. I know who they are on the inside, and I know how they feel about me.

Telling my sister, the closest person to me in the world next to my son, was easy. In fact, she had it figured out before I did. I know she was hurt and disillusioned, but she has backed me completely. She has listened to me excitedly talk endlessly about my new brother, nephew and cousin and never became stoic or burst into tears as I feared. In fact, when David excitedly welcomed me to his family on Facebook, she was the first person to comment, telling him that I’m a wonderful sister and she’s happy to share me with him. She’ll never know how much I appreciated that and what a relief it was to me.

Telling my uncle and cousins was the hardest part. They, who mean so much to me, were about to learn that I’m not related to them by blood. When I told them, it was through email and Facebook messages–not my preferred method, but it had to be done quickly before someone else let it slip. To a one, they were all wonderful. My uncle had been surprised (which was a surprise in itself…we had thought maybe he knew all along) but said he loved his brother but also loved his sister (Mom). I wept at his forgiveness of her. Each of my cousins, in turn, told me they love me and I’ll always be their cousin. I spent most of that day crying with relief.

Finally, I was ready to tell my brother. I had put this off till last because he was the wild card. He had been very close to Mom, and I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. After frettng about it for several days, i finally mustered the courage and called him. No answer! I texted; still nothing. He called me back the next day and said, “So, what is this big news?” So there it was; time to just spill it. He was shocked and doubtful until I convinced him we’d double checked the results against David’s DNA, but finally he accepted it and told me I’m his sister no matter what. The funniest quote from the whole thing came about 30 minutes into the call when he said, “Wait! Does this mean Mother slept with Dr. X?” Really? That’s the question you asked? Hehehe…yeah, bro…that’s what it means!

So now everyone knows. It’s a huge relief that the reveal is all over and couldn’t have gone better. Now, we’re on to the next phase. It can’t come fast enough for me.

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