Home > Alone, Family, Struggling > I Missed a Family

I Missed a Family

When I was a kid I used to hear the usual stories from other little kids centered around the scorn they had for someone in their family. “I don’t like my sister”, “My Dad is making me help him” or “My parents are making me go with them to visit my grandmother”. Emphatic declarations common from the mouths of children at one time or another.

I’d smile and nod in agreement just because they were friends and we were all supposed to have these shared experiences that we either loved or hated. But the truth was, even at 9 or 14 or 21, I’d be swearing at them in my mind. They were in the position of always having been surrounded by something that they had never been without and it was imprinted in them just as solidly as their own fingerprints. They never realized how fiercely jealous I was and how bitter I was when I heard them utter those seemingly innocuous statement.

I grew up in a series of foster homes and adoption agencies.

My brothers and sisters and I were separated when we were very young. I was the oldest at 6 or 7, and my four siblings were all younger. From the day we were ‘put out’ as it was called, I didn’t see my sisters again until I was about 18. I lived with my brothers for a while, but we were later separated. The ‘siblings’ I knew were not my own brothers or sisters – and where I grew up, they let me know it. The only contact I ever had with my real family was the occasional Social Worker visit (while wearing my best clothes of course) where they would ask me how I was doing and then they’d tell me that my brothers, sisters and Mother were fine.

Once, in a very great while, I’d be at a playground, and I’d hear a voice shout out my name.

Someone at the playground would get my attention and point to a random car where my name was being called from. I’d come closer and see that it was my Mother. I would be at the sidewalk side of a car door while she sat inside and she’d be in tears, reach out, pat my hair and tell me how much she missed me. I remember that my heart would be running so rapidly that at times I almost felt as if I’d faint. She’d tell me that she would be coming for me soon, very soon, and that she was saving money to get a house so that we would all be together again. I’d stand there, thunderstruck at the visit while she talked and I mainly answered in stunned, nervous mono-syllables. She’d ask me to lean in so she could kiss me, and then she would drive off. Again. A few more years would pass and then it would happen. Again.

Growing up without a family from 6 or 7 until you become an adult made it very difficult, I realize in retrospect, to deeply connect with anyone. When I did connect, it was age appropriate to connect with a friend. Then it would be disconnected when a sudden move to another foster home occurred. A different set of rules, a different set of siblings and another set of friends. And another set of miles from any former ‘family’ stability I knew. More importantly, another step away from what I could remember about my own ‘family’.

Growing up this way forced a hard and frightening reality upon me as a young adult on my own – now that I was older, and had not grown up with my brothers and sisters, I no longer had any family at all! We had become strangers in one another’s company. Years apart had created a hard, crusted distance between us. We became those friends that I had when I was very young, and when we were shown to one another we could barely recall each other. We had no common memories of playing together, no memories of rivalries, no snapshots to show that we share a bond, no pictures of a house we lived in together, no remembrances of holiday gifts given to one another, no family meals together, no shared time together and inevidably, no sentences that would ever start with “Remember the time …..?”

I was never given the chance to engage in a conversation that included “I don’t like my sister”, “My Dad is making me work with him” or “My parents are making me go with them to visit my grandmother”.

And to this moment as I place fingers to keyboard, I miss the family that I never had.

I miss a Mother.  Someone who would have held me when no one else would when I had tears streaming down my cheeks and didn’t need to ask ‘Why’. Someone who would have told me that things would turn out alright and just give it time. Someone to share a secret with. Someone to bake me my favorite cookies. Someone to read me a nighttime story and tickle me after and finish with a kiss on the forehead. Someone who was a symbol, an example, of motherly love and grace. Someone who would harbor me. Someone to sit in the empty pews when I got married. Someone to hold, with teary eyes, my firstborn and each subsequent child. Someone to dote over as she aged.

I miss a Father. Someone who would have played ball with me in the backyard and pointed out players on the TV screen. Someone who would have taught me how to respect myself and all others. Someone to have taught me the value and benefit of higher education, who would have passed on, through his own experiences, what the ‘real world’ was going to be like. Someone to tell me what it was like for him growing up and relate it to me. Someone to have shown me how to be handy around the house. Someone to go to for advice. Someone to put a hand on my shoulder as we walked side by side. Someone to look upon as the example of self discipline. Someone who was a symbol of strength in adversity and who would show me determination.

I miss a Sister. Someone who would have been an example of the gender that I would later encounter along with all the daily invisible lessons on how to interact appropriately. Someone who would laugh at me with a giggle that I’d remember years later. Someone to have playfully taunted me or to have listened to me when I talked about dating. Someone to have been in my wedding. Someone to kiss me on the cheek when I enter her home and smile when she says “I’m glad you’re here”. Someone who calls me just to say I haven’t heard from you in a while, how are you doing?

I miss a Brother. Someone to share an unyeilding bond with while growing up and perhaps sharing the same room. Someone to stand up beside me. Someone to play with while learning how to get along. Someone to be crass with (as brothers do). Someone to discover new secrets of life with and to conspire in testing parent’s limits with. Someone to shake hands with when our families came together.

I miss Aunts and Uncles. Someone to clandestinely listen over when they disclose funny secrets about each other when they were younger. Someone to smile at me and pat me on the head when I came to visit and tell me how big I’ve grown. Someone to receive birthday cards from. Someone to send birthday card to. Someone that would have commonality and continuity with my own Parents.

I miss Cousins. Some that would be younger, the same age or older. Someone to run around the backyard with when we came together, listen to music with or watch a movie with. Someone to sit next to at family picnics or weddings that we’d attend. Someone to send me an email with an e-invite. Someone to call just for the sake of calling and hearing a friendly voice.

I miss Grandparents. Someone who would be overjoyed to see me walk in the door and squeeze me so tight against their breast that I could hardly breathe. Someone to slip me a piece of candy forbidden by my parents, or take my hand in theirs as we go for a walk – just me and them. Someone who would stand up for me when hearing that I was ‘bad’ or did a ‘bad thing’ by telling something about my Mother or Father that was just as ‘bad’ when they were my age. Someone to give me something of sentimental value that I could cherish always as a reminder of them. Someone who I could visit, on my own, as they grew older and more frail and always greet me with a smile and sincere gratitude for visiting.

I miss Nieces and Nephews. Someone to give hand-me-downs to. Someone to get a picture from when they are born, are Christened, had a dance recital, had a baseball game and hanging that picture on the refrigerator along with all the others.

Having a picture of anyone that is related to me.

Ironic when I think about what I’m about to type; I found, years later, that I did have all of this. I always did have all the above relations that have tormented me all my life for being without.

My Mother, I discovered, was one of 22 children. When I was ‘put out’ into the adoption agencies and foster homes, not one of those 21 other brothers and sisters came forward to take any one of us into their home.

When you become so exasperated at your relative, are at the end of your rope, no matter the branch that they sprout from, however dysfunctional, think about how it might have been for you if you were in my place. How would you have turned out without the guidance, the support, the memories of any of them?

As I sit here alone, nobody to call for comfort, nobody that I could unexpectedly pop in and visit, nobody who will be thinking of me, nobody I’m able conjour up in my imagination, I tell you this truth –  I would be willing to exchange a large portion of my remaining life expectancy to have what you have.

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  1. casse01
    12/01/2010 at 7:22 PM

    just started reading your blog – will be praying for you and your family. Hope things get better soon!

  2. 12/01/2010 at 7:38 PM

    casse01, thank you so much for not only stopping by, but also for the effort of prayer.

    I do believe that things will get much, much better for me – beginning with a new position. I see how much revolves around a job and had been quite unaware of that, and what others go through, without employment.

  3. 12/02/2010 at 12:51 AM

    I can’t imagine what life must’ve been like for you… or how it is now.

    What I do believe is that “love makes a family”… and regardless of what lies in the past, we can’t lose hope for the future.

  4. 12/02/2010 at 12:54 AM

    Have you read my post about the F-Word? http://thedivorceencouragist.wordpress.com/2009/12/

  5. 12/02/2010 at 12:46 PM

    Thanks thedivorceencouragist – yea, it was tough as a kid, but I always thought (and continued to think as time went on) that I would be over it. “Never miss anything you didn’t have”, so to speak. But I found that the opposite was true, I somehow missed it more as time went on. Especially after a divorce and most hurtfully when the children come and go on a holiday. Christmas is right around the corner.

    I heavily invest in the “love makes a family” theory though. It’s just that it becomes so wrenching when that love steps in the door for only hours at a time every few days.

    But, as they say, “Chin up”, right?

    • 12/02/2010 at 1:25 PM

      thedivorceencouragist – thank you again for the link to the post on your site.

      Though I agree that ‘bloodlines or certificates’ do not a family make (heck, I learned to do that all my life), when one who has never had a family finally achieves the ultimate dream of having a ‘real’ family, only to have that ultimate dream taken back … well, it feels as if it might have if my mother had taken us all back as kids, only to ‘put us out’ again.

      Now that I knew how it felt to have a family – (her) uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces/nephews, mother, father etc., it was gone in a moment. Just feels more cruel than if I hadn’t achieved getting the prize at all. Now I mourn the loss of the only family I ever knew in addition to the family I never had.

      However, I can’t thank you enough for much needed and treasured encouragement! I started this blog as a form of therapy and through writing, and reading other blogs, such as yours, I see hope and spirit I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. For that I am profoundly grateful!

  6. 12/07/2010 at 7:59 PM

    My ex is one of 10 kids. His mom is one of 17. I have 4 brothers. I’m adopted so I only know the names of 3 of my brothers and have never met 2 of them. Of all the relatives on my ex’s side, they all act like my kids were never born. They don’t see aunt, uncles or cousins. They don’t know the names of some of their cousins even. For the last 12 years, it’s been me and them. And the “family” that we’ve created here for ourselves which includes so many friends of the kids that call me “mama”. Not a day goes by that I’m not fielding text messages, visits, or calls from some kid or another (that aren’t biologically mine) that “need” me or my advice or just a safe place to hang out for a few.

    I’m so sorry that you went thru those things. Have you tried to reconnect to any of your siblings? Aunts, uncles, cousins? I grew up 100’s of miles from all my cousins but I still chat with them on fb. I don’t really “know” them but in today’s day and age of internet, I’m sure learning more about them.

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