Auntie and Uncle


Dear Ezra and Lian,

Just a couple weeks before I married your mom (Wedding was Sept. 8, 2000) I was talking with my great aunt. Auntie Marge told me how she and my Uncle Bill were so happy for me. They were proud of the man I had become. They were wishing me the best of marriages. She then said, she wondered what would have happened if they had adopted me.

I was stammered, “What are you talking about?” She said that my dad had asked them to consider adopting me. My great aunt and uncle thought and prayed about it, but they felt they were too old to look after me permanently. Their youngest child, my second cousin Mary, was 9 years older than me. I knew that shortly after I was born that my mom had a mental breakdown. She was hospitalized for months. My dad worked full time and in those days in my small town, there was few daycare facilities. Every week, I was sent to stay at a different family’s house until my aunt and uncle took me in. I stayed there 7 months.

My aunt told me that at the time my dad asked, it looked like my mom would never be discharged from the hospital. In the early 1970s, that would not have been unusual for someone with a severe mental illness. My dad didn’t think he would be able to raise me by himself, so he thought I would be better off with my Auntie Marge and Uncle Bill.

I was shocked. It was the first I had ever heard about it. I called up my dad and asked him about it. He said, “Did they say that? Did it really happen that way? I don’t remember that.” I exclaimed, “Dad, how can you forget something like that? Are they lying?” My dad said, “Well, I guess, I did. I didn’t want to get rid of you or anything. Your mom came home from the hospital. So we didn’t need to worry about that anymore. So I never thought about it anymore. I never tried to hide it from you.”

When I found out about this, kids, I had given notice to quit my job. I was moving to India until your mom could immigrate. (At the time, it could have been years, but it turned out to be only 10 months.) All the details of our wedding were unsettled AND I was getting married. This really shook me. At first, I didn’t know what to think. It was great to know so many people loved and were willing to sacrifice for my well-being. Yet, my life could have been totally different. I staggered around for a few days until I processed this. The most nagging thing about this was, “I’m almost 28, why didn’t anybody tell me this before?”

Kids, I have a lot of secrets. There are landmines, which if you step on them, they will blow up in your faces. So I can spend the rest of my life trying to bury them deeper; trying to steer you away from them; trying to protect you from them; wait for that perfect moment that never comes. Or I could just tell you.

I’m just going to tell you. Ezra you have an amazing ability to forgive. Lian, I hope you learn from your brother. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I hope you can forgive me. I hope you can learn from them.