A Blessing In Disguise
At eight years of age, my biggest problem should have been deflecting the names of Bucky Beaver and Nerd. My teeth protruded from my lips, my bangs hung in my eyes, and my bobby socks sagged at my ankles. What place do saggy socks have in the mind of a child when my parents sit me down one day after school and tell me, ?We aren?t your parents?? Thinking I didn?t hear them right, they said it again. ?We aren?t your real parents, and you have a sister.? Did I hear right? (What was wrong with my ears?) When they said I had a sister living across town, the words fell around me like shards of glass hitting the floor at once. The blood drained from my face as my hands went over my ears and I shut my eyes. Pretend not to hear, to see, and when I take my hands away, it won?t be real, I thought.
As I stared at my mother and father, I sensed their tension, and my stomach churned. ?We?ve been meaning to tell you this for some time,? Dad said. ?You see, we are your foster parents. Your father ran away right after you were born. Your mother had a nervous breakdown and was placed in an institution.?
Reality set in quickly. I learned my biological mother had recently made a miraculous recovery. At the state officials? insistence, a meeting was arranged between my sister, my biological mother, and me which forced the unpleasant conversation upon us.
I started thinking of the secrets I?d have to keep. How could I tell people about this other mother and sister? After all, I still lived with my now ?foster? parents. I felt confused and lonely for the first time. I didn?t really understand where I belonged anymore. I felt like my world had just turned upside down, and anger set in. Guilt filled some other holes because I felt responsible. I just didn?t want to accept this other family into my life.
But above all, I couldn?t share my thoughts or feelings with even my best friends. Certainly, they would look at my foster parents differently. Would my friends disown me or feel sorry for me? I didn?t talk to my foster parents about my biological mother or sister either. I couldn?t make all the pieces fit. With a jumbled mind and a heavy heart, I pretended to be okay while carrying a secret I just couldn?t share.
It turned out my new sister, Debbie, who was slightly older, had known about me for a few years and now wanted to spend time getting to know me. After our forced reunion, we began to see each other occasionally when the system made us. But it just didn?t seem right. How could she be my sister if we didn?t live together? I lived on the north side of Chicago. She lived on the south side. She had curly hair. I had straight hair. She wore jeans and I wore dresses. She knew all about me, and I knew nothing about her. It really didn?t seem like we could be friends, let alone sisters. But Debbie wouldn?t give up on wanting to get to know me.
During my junior year in high school, Debbie invited me to visit her at college. Setting my nervousness aside, I thought it was time to show some respect. For the first time, I shared my secret with one of my best friends, because I didn?t want to make the trip alone. To my amazement, my best friend found the whole situation exciting and intriguing, in contrast to my apprehension.
My best friend and I didn?t say much as we drove to Northern Illinois University. Debbie hugged me as I got out of the car, and asked, ?Can I introduce you as my little sister?? In that moment, everything turned right side up again in my world. I wondered why it had taken me so long to accept Debbie into my life. I was finally ready. All my concerns melted away.
Over that weekend, we found out that although we were different in many ways, we had so much in common, especially how we both love to laugh, take risks, and accept people at face value.
In three days we built a foundation of friendship. I hugged her and thanked her for not giving up on me. Not only did I enjoy being the little sister, I also got to know my wonderful big sister. I really belonged to someone. I didn?t feel as lonely anymore having Debbie beside me. The anger and guilt subsided as we learned we weren?t responsible for being separated. The confusion took its own course as, together, we learned about our different journeys and made a pact to stay connected in the future. Debbie taught me that I didn?t have to keep secrets anymore.
Not too long ago, I sent Debbie a card and on the front to had two little girls sitting on a seesaw, smiling at each other. It read, ?When I think of the closeness we now share?I wish we would have known each other when we were kids.?
Why is it the worst things that happen to us are often blessings in disguise?