Saturday, July 29, 2017
The phrase "skeletons in the closet" refers to shameful secrets. But how did I know my biological mother, my aunt to the outside world, didn't know she wasn't her father's child? She didn't know and neither did I.
It all started when we were discussing blood types in our family. Her brother, my adopted father, was A-positive and her sister-in-law, my adopted mother, was O-negative. Mom was proud of her blood type because it comes from her eastern European heritage, people of privilege and wealth, and she felt it made her special. It wasn't special to me or my adopted siblings because it wasn't special, except when it came to giving blood for the Red Cross. People with O-negative blood are less available than me with my A-positive blood type became A-positives are far more numerous on this planet than the O-negative. People with O blood types can donate to everyone but can only receive transfusions from other people with O blood types, and only with O-negative blood types for the select few with the Rh-negative factor in their blood. Mom spent a lot of time getting typed and cross-matched during her lifetime because she had pernicious anemia and, during the latter years of her life, had to receive monthly transfusions since her anemia was chronic and pernicious. When Mom had her kidney removed and the doctors predicted the remaining kidney would fail soon (the kidney didn't fail in the 30+ years with just one kidney and in spite of the hemangiomas (blood tumors) on her liver and kidneys - and likely the reason for her anemia), and we all, the children, 3 natural children born of Mom and 1 adopted (after she miscarried numerous times and had been unable to carry a child to term in the first 5 years of her marriage) to help take off the pressure of the inability to carry a child to term, discussed who was a match and could donate one of their kidneys if hers failed so she wouldn't have to go on a donor list since blood relatives with compatible blood and tissue types meant she had a ready made donor.
The Rh-negative factor in blood types has now come to mean the person with such a negative blood type is related to the global elites, the wealthy rulers of the world like the Rothchilds and British blue bloods, are special people who were direct descendants of the Adams and Eves who were genetically enhanced humanoids with alien DNA. The descendants of the master race that gave a genetic boost to the humanoids created from apes.
If Mom ever knew that my biological mother with her AB-negative blood was also of such master race descent, she didn't get the chance to have my hillbilly forefathers on a level with her eastern European poor relations with their elite blood type with the negative Rh-factor. That would have rather changed my Mom's attitude, although she would still have found a way to lord it over Dad's low class, cousin-marrying relatives. For me, the discovery was very different.
I was surprised that my biological mother's first husband married her knowing that she was pregnant with one of her uncle's children by rape and he married her anyway because he loved her that much. They were still in high school, though the marriage didn't last once Rhonda was born nearly 3 years ahead of me. I had always thought of Rhonda, the child my biological parents gave up for adoption to someone among my biological family's relatives because they could afford to have her damaged heart operated on, as my only full relative. I was wrong. Rhonda was a half sister, and suffered from the same genetic defect that has cropped up in the Cornwell family line throughout our history, a leaking heart valve. Many of my cousins either lived with the condition or, like Dad, suffered with it for decades. Dad's leaky heart nearly cost his life when the valve failed and the heart nearly exploded, drowning Dad in blood from the faulty heart.
At any rate, I recently found out that Jack Ford, my biological father, who divorced my biological mother and needed to get a Catholic annulment of their marriage in order to marry someone else, had 9 children by his second wife. I was not allowed to look for him or tell him I was born because I had promised my parents and my aunt when I was barely a teenager. As much as I wanted to know about my father and my other half-siblings, I kept my word and respected their wishes, keeping silent and keeping my surreptitious investigations on the down low. Since my parents died, I have been far more interested in talking to my biological mother and finding our more about my conception and the truth about where I came from and what really happened when I was conceived in the wake of the divorced and Catholic annulment. My biological parents were not done with each other, probably to the chagrin and anger of my biological father's mother, and in the renewed closeness that developed between my biological father and mother, and while he was engaged to another woman, a Catholic woman of wealth and family, I was conceived. He was probably buttering her up, or at least taking one last walk down memory lane with his child bride, now his ex-wife, as he readied himself for another marriage in his early 20s. He didn't stick around and I still do not know if he ever knew I had been conceived and born before being given up for adoption to my biological mom's brother and wife, but the Catholic priest who interviewed her to discuss the finer points of the Catholic annulment process, which she agreed to, knew she was pregnant and soon moved back to Ohio from Michigan, riding on the back of her oldest brother's motorcycle.
Into this nearly full closet of skeletons about 50 years later, I asked questions about what happened in 1954 while she was pregnant with me and before she moved back to Columbus to live with her other older brother, my Dad, and signed me over to my soon-to-be adoptive parents while living with them. I knew about her going to secretarial school to get an education she could turn into a career as an administrative assistant, but through all of the sordid sounding details, I didn't know much about her blood type and how that fitted into the story I remembered Dad telling me when I talked Dad into writing about his life and growing up in a one-room log cabin with 5 other brothers and sisters during the Great Depression when his father was bootlegging moonshine in the southern Ohio hills.
Turns out, after his mother died in the wake of giving birth to fraternal twins, Doral and Dorothy, likely of infection since the twins were born at home in the one-room cabin situated behind the tobacco fields in Hillsboro, Ohio, there had been a time when my grandmother, Edith Cornwell, and my grandfather, Cary Cornwell, hit a rough patch and left Grandpa and the 6 kids behind, moving to Columbus to be with her family. She got a month-long vacation from the noise and clamor of the 6 kids until Grandpa packed the kids in the truck and drove to Columbus, on the west side of town, to get Grandma and bring her home to the family. Since Dad was 10 years old when Grandma died, he couldn't have been more than a year or two old. My biological mother was born five years after Aunt Wilma and 3 years before the twins. Aunt Anne didn't know about Grandma leaving the family and going to Columbus to take a break with her family, but that isn't what led to letting the skeleton out of the closet. That came when she told me about her blood type, AB-negative.
I already knew that Dad's family all had A-positive blood type, just like me, so Aunt Anne having AB-negative was no recessive gene showing itself in the genetic roulette wheel lottery that is spun when children are conceived. The AB-negative blood type, the story of Grandma's impromptu break from the kids, and Aunt Anne telling me she had always felt out of place in her family and ignored by Grandpa when he kept Aunt Wilma close to him, even though he had given up Aunt Dorothy, Doral's remaining twin when he died a few weeks after he was born began to spin the curiosity wheels in my mind. I was studying blood types and genetics at the time and I wanted to know how Aunt Anne ended up with AB-negative blood.
You don't get a recessive blood type gene of the rarity of AB-negative without a parent being the originator. Grandma, Grandpa, and all the children were A-positive, so Aunt Anne popping up with AB-negative is not possible . . . unless Grandpa was not her father. But how? How about when Grandma moved to Columbus to stay with her family?
I'm a writer, so the possibilities were curious, but not endless. There are few ways for a child to end up with an aberrant blood type and the only way is that Aunt Anne had a different father.
At first, I thought Aunt Anne would be glad of the news. She wasn't. Finally knowing why she was treated differently and it was due to Grandma having an affair, or a one-night stand or being raped, did not make her happy. All it did was underscore her belief that she was treated as though she was odd had nothing to do with spending her childhood being bounced from pillar to post and never raised by Grandpa, and likely everything to do with not being his child at all, but the child of another man Grandpa may or may not have known. At least Grandpa didn't hold a grudge long since there is no question that Doral and Dorothy, the twins, were his biological children.
Grandpa went to prison for moonshining for 2 years, but that was after Grandma died, and not during the 5 years between Wilma and Anne's birth. That 5-year span in the otherwise regular birthings of the other 5 children were filled with Grandpa working in the fields and sticking close to home when he wasn't up in the hills making moonshine and avoiding revenuers (government men cracking down on people making moonshine in their stills) and Dad told me how Grandpa tested his moonshine batches out on his kids. Dad was still a small child when Grandpa tested the moonshine on him.
For whatever reason, and lack of connubial bliss was not one of them in the years before Anne's birth, Grandma and Grandpa weren't getting connubial at all and there was no need to take a break from the house full of children until the 5-year lack of children and pregnancies between Wilma and Anne. Whether Anne was conceived during her stay in Columbus or was pregnant when she left for Columbus, someone with AB-negative or B-negative blood type was intimate with Grandma and she was left with a bun in the oven. The bun in the oven turned out to be Anne and now, nearly 80, I had solved the lifelong question of why she was different than the other 6 children and maybe why Grandpa didn't let Anne live with him after Grandma died. That is a very big and very hidden skeleton in the family closet and since most of the relatives, including Dad, are dead, I cannot verify what I now know to be the truth.
For me, the truth and the information is of paramount importance, though I have never punished or thrown a fit about not knowing that Rhonda, who I thought was my only full blood relative, is only a half-sister just like Jeff and Timmy are my half-brothers from when Anne married Dewey after I was born and I never met or knew about Jack Ford's 9 children, or they about me. Looking at things in that half-light, maybe the truth and the information is of less importance than I knew or realized. My family, at least on Dad's side, were not much into telling the truth or passing out important information. It would take me a very long time to publish what I have found out over the years. Not that there aren't gossips in my family and Dad was the biggest gossip -- or so I thought until recently -- and Mom was just as big a gossip, especially when it showed others in a bad light so she could revel in her pre-eminence and importance. Too bad I didn't know about Anne's hidden secrets about her biological father or that much of the family either didn't know or had forgotten about Grandma's infidelity. That is one bit of information much of the family would have passed around like Great Grandma Cornwell's corncob pipe they kept hiding from her because she smoked it all the time. It isn't as if the rest of the family didn't smoke or drink, but Great Grandma Cornwell was forbidden to smoke in the house in case she set the house on fire, like when she hid her corncob pipe in the side of her favorite chair.
I had been the subject of family gossip from the time I could walk and talk at the age of 7 months (I was quite precocious). Great Aunt Betty and some of the others of that generation took great pleasure in announcing that I had arrived to visit, not Jim and Virginia's oldest, as I was, but as Anne's daughter which I didn't know about until I was 10 years old and Mom was forced to tell me or risk Aunt Edith and her daughters telling me I was adopted before she had prepared me with her newspaper clippings about adopted children who thanked their lucky stars they were adopted by good people, a file I received when I was 10 years old and read through before Mom broke the news that I was adopted. Finally! every question I had about why I was treated like Cinderella by an evil stepmother while my brother and sisters were cherished and treated with lavish attention and love. No matter how many times Mom told me, "I adopted you because I loved you, not like the others whatever we got." I had daily proof, just as Anne did when she was growing up, that I was not loved, but treated like a duty Mom had to bear because she took me in as a newborn baby they took in because Dad's sister was pregnant and they had no chance of getting pregnant after 5 years of marriage. I used to imagine I was Cinderella and Mom was my evil stepmother who resented my existence, but did what she viewed as right by me even while punishing me every day for not looking like the children that followed me within a year of my birth.
Because I imagined Aunt Anne had felt as out of place as I did, I decided to tell her she was illegitimate and that is why she was treated differently and wasn't allowed to live with her father after her mother died. She was not his child. Her biological father was not the same as the other 7 children of her family. Yes, there was a reason she was different, looked different from the other children, and was treated differently, as if she were not from the same family and didn't share the same mother. They did not all share the same father, but I didn't know who her father was, just that he would be the man who had AB-negative or B-negative blood. There weren't enough relatives around to ask who he might be and they likely didn't know about blood types and Rh-factors because that information did not become public knowledge until the 1950s and 1960s and there were no helpful DNA tests available to the public then. It would've been so much easier had public-available DNA testing kits available then.
Aunt Anne was not pleased. She cried. Unlike me, she didn't appreciate knowing the truth or finding out that, yes, she was different from her brothers and sisters because she had a different father. As hard as I tried, I didn't not offer her peace of mind and the knowledge was not welcome. I had broken her heart and for a moment I wished I had left the skeleton hanging hidden in the back of the closet.
For me, as unusual and difficult as the truth can be, I prefer the truth to not knowing what is really going on. I wasn't pleased when I realized that Mom always disliked me. I already knew that by the way she treated me when I was growing up and until the day she died. Mom told me to my face one day when I was out at their house and she told me point blank, "I've never liked you." Dad was more stunned by the declaration than I was. I'd always known even when she tried to cover the truth by pretending to make a joke or calling a couple days later to let me know she was kidding and didn't mean what she said. I already knew the truth and hearing the truth set me free from years of physical and mental abuse. Aunt Anne had the truth and she finally knew what I experienced growing up and how Mom treated me. I didn't blame Aunt Anne, but Aunt Anne did blame me for turning her world upside down and turning her into an illegitimate child from a forgotten and misused child who had the bad luck to be still a young child of 3 when her mother died. She got no relief from the scientific facts and she did not welcome me with protestations of thanks. My pursuit of the truth and my all too accurate memory were as bad as having written a book where an 80-year-old woman learns the truth from the child she gave to her brother and sister-in-law in hopes that they would provide a better life than she could provide with her limited funds and education even while her brand new fiance told her he would happily raise her child and that she did not have to give the child up.
What webs we weave when first we practice to deceive and even more complex webs we weave even when the weavers die and leave the web to be completed by future generations. Such webs should be left to disintegrate with time and hidden with the dust of hidden skeletons never meant to be revealed. Sometimes the pursuit of truth is not always welcomed with relief and happiness. Sometimes the truth can destroy when it was meant to heal.
That is all. Disperse.