I have not yet found my brother.
My heart hurts about this. It hurts more than I expected it to. I started this search on behalf of my mother; I agreed to do it because she wanted it, because she wanted to know how his life had unfolded after she lost him, because she wanted to know this without putting her own heart at risk. I agreed to do it because I didn’t want her to put her heart at risk. I offered up my own, thinking that it would not be so vulnerable. I thought that, because this was not my story, my own story, that my heart would be safe.
It was not safe. It was not safe at all.
I have put notices in newspapers. I have explored alumni associations. I have researched the extended family of his natural father. I have followed all of the leads sent to me by caring and concerned readers. I have found nothing. That I have found nothing is a source of some significant frustration, but it’s not the sole reason that my heart is hurting. My heart is hurting because it does not know what it wants. Or, more truthfully, because it doesn’t know whether it is right to want what it wants.
My mother does not know what her heart wants. I’ve known this from the beginning. It’s the reason that I’m looking for her son, my brother, the brother I have never known, on her behalf. She’s afraid of what she would discover. She’s afraid of discovering that he wants nothing to do with her. She’s afraid of discovering that he’s dead. She’s afraid because she’s not sure which of these represents the worst outcome.
She’s afraid because she would be looking for a window onto a future that she gave up. She’s afraid of what she might see, looking through that window. I assumed that I would face no such fear – that future, that hypothetical, long-rejected future, has, or had, nothing to do with me. This child – now a man – was her child; this child was part of a life that she lived long before I came along. His existence matters to me only inasmuch as he shares my blood, and inasmuch as he once had claim upon my mother’s heart. My interest, here, has only been to do something that might put my mother’s heart at rest, to help her find what the paperback self-help books have long called ‘closure.’ I wanted to help her find some conclusion – happy or otherwise – to this long cliff-hung story. So I have only ever said: my heart wants what is best for my mom.
When I visited my family back home some weeks ago, I told my father what I was doing.
So, I said, as he drove me to the airport. So. I’m helping Mom find the boy she gave up for adoption.
Yeah. She told me all about it. And I told her I’d help her. She doesn’t want to do it herself. So I’m doing it.
I don’t think it’ll be that difficult. The Internet, you know.
– What does your mom think of this?
She asked me, so. I shrugged.
– You remember when I found my father?
I did remember. I was seventeen years old at the time, and we made a special trip to St. Catherine’s to see him. He was an old man, and unpleasant. At the time, I put my distaste down to the fact that I was seventeen and he was old and smelled bad and said creepy things like give me some sugar.
– It was terrible. He was terrible. Your mother wouldn’t let him near you.
I had a vague memory of being hurried out of the house and taken to the mall. At the time, it seemed an entirely reasonable thing. I liked malls. But I remembered, too, my father’s distress after that visit, and the depression that he sunk into, and the damage that caused to my parent’s marriage…
– I wish I hadn’t found him.
We both stared out the front window. The road was wet, slick from rain.
– I just hope… I would just hope that your mother, that she isn’t disappointed. That she doesn’t get hurt. He glanced in my direction. This could hurt her.
When I arrived home, I called my mother. Are you sure you want me to do this? Because, I won’t do it if you’re not sure.
She paused. I’m sure.
Okay, I said. Okay. My father’s cautions could be set aside, if she wanted this. Well, remember what we talked about? If I have a copy of your birth certificate, I can make an application to Vital Statistics to find out his name. It’ll be pretty straightforward then.
I’ll send it this week.
That was weeks ago.
I’ve reminded her, now and again, to send the birth certificate; I’ve told her about my efforts with newspaper ads and search engines and she makes supportive noises and when I say but once I send in the request for his name from Vital Statistics, the search will be much easier, she clucks and says of course and I’ll get it in the mail this week. But she never does.
I know that she’s ambivalent. I know that her heart is torn. I know that she aches to know what became of that tiny baby in the blue blanket – the baby she refused to hold for fear that she would never let go – but that she recoils at the prospect of gaining knowledge that would bring her pain. I know that she’s afraid of getting hurt. And if I were a good daughter, if I were a sensitive daughter, I would hold to her pace. I would stand back and allow her to test the water and decide whether she dares to take the step that will plunge her into the unknown. If I were a good daughter, if I were a selfless daughter, I would not prod and nag.
But I am not selfless. I do prod and nag. Gently, of course, but still. I can’t leave it alone. Because my heart is in this now, and although it wavers when I think of my mother’s ambivalence and my father’s fears, it wants this. It wants to find that baby boy, my brother. It wants to know how this story ends. It claims that story, if only in part, as its own. As my own.
And so my heart aches that my efforts have been for naught. My heart aches – my spirit aches – for this story to move forward so that I can find my brother and know my brother – whatever that looks like – and piece together the missing chapters of our lives.
But however much I try to convince myself that this is my story, it is not my story – or, if it is, it is only tangentially my story – and the person to whom this story belongs is, I think, unnerved by its unfolding. Even if she cannot bring herself to admit it, even if she does not demand -even if she does not wish to demand – that we close these pages, this story frightens her. I know this. And so, and so…
I don’t know how to go on. Do I follow my own heart, or do I concern myself first and only with protecting hers? Can I do both?