I was a 22 year old only child born in the war years, raised in the Andy Griffith years in the South. Three days before Christmas that year my world came to an end when my parents both were found dead in their home on Sunday morning. This was bad enough. My whole world had collapsed; people were telling me conflicting stories about how it happened; family members were acting as though I should be able to get past it and "get on" with the Christmas festivities (the phrase "you don't have to spoil everyone else's Christmas" was said to me often). Southern girls really ARE steel magnolias, so I went into the bathroom, got into a bubble bath, cried my eyes out for the fifteen minutes allowed me to complete my ablutions, pulled up my "big girl panties" and went back into the world. After that I was never allowed to cry in public. Christmas went on. Life went on. People stopped calling to see if I was ok.
The bills for the funeral were the scariest thing I had ever seen in my life. I had no idea it would be so expensive to die (and this was 1968). I made arrangements to pay them as soon as my parents insurance policy paid. I made the same arrangements with my mother's car, my father's truck, my parent's house. It required that I go through my parent's papers which were kept in a steamer trunk at the foot of their bed. Instead of what I needed, I found a strange bundle of letters, pictures, documents that told me a secret. My father had been married before. In fact, the woman looked vaguely familiar. I started reading the letters and discovered that he had married her when she became pregnant with his child; that he later enlisted in the navy; that after the child was born he married my mother. What I did not realize was that my mother wasn't.
It took so long to uncover the truth in the big puzzle that became my life. First of all I discovered mother had O+ blood type and I had A-. My doctor told me she could not have given birth to me in the early 40's . One or the other of us would have died. And then my father's blood type was AB-; entirely different. As I grew older I started having medical problems that were not common to the family in which I had grown up. My doctor suggested that I try to find out the medical information of my father's first wife to see if she could have been my birth mother. That brough about a long battle.
Birth parents are not always happy to be found by a child they don't raise. Believe me; sometimes it is not a joyous reunion. In my case, she had another family and a son who didn't even know I existed. When I started to look for her I went to the town in which they had lived when I was born. People ran from me. They knew her, knew my father, knew about me....but no one wanted to tell me how to find her. When I finally found someone who would tell me where she was, she became our "go-between". My birth mother send photos and I was not surprised to find myself in one of them. In fact I knew I was in it before I got out the magnifying glass that helped me find myself. Her eyes were mine, her face was mine it was like looking at myself in an Alice in Wonderland mirror. But she wouldn't see me. She had leukemia and her family didn't know about me so she chose to talk to me through the lady who befriended me. She died before we talked but not before I met many of her family members who had already known of my birth (old members who were no longer in touch with her and her current family). I was told not to come to her funeral. Her husband did know I existed(he had just chosen not to acknowledge me until it was known I might show up at the graveside).He threatened to have me removed if I came. I wanted to say goodbye but decided it would be better to not go.
Years followed and I had unanswered questions to ask but no one to ask them to. My "mother" who raised me had left two sisters who didn't know about the "birth" mother. One of them got really upset and tried to make everyone else in the family think I had lost my mind. I almost believed it myself. If I hadn't looked exactly like my "birth" mother's other child, I might have been persuaded that it was all a really bad dream.
Of course, since all the people who REALLY knew were dead, how would I find out for certain? The facts became my only ammunition against insanity. Daddy was married to mother 1. before he married mother 2. Mother 1. was pregnant at the time of the marriage. Daddy kept all the documents of the marriage etc and all the letters to him regarding the baby's impending birth and the marriage. Daddy kept a photo of him and mother 1 together. I look like Mother 1. Mother 2. and I do not have compatible blood types. All three people are dead. Only those people know for certain who I am. When I die I can finally stand before them both and say "R U my mother?" And maybe I will get an answer.