My adopted older sister was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1963. Our adoptive mom always reminded us it was on the same day President Kennedy was buried and she adored JFK. What a bitter sweet time; the assassination of the President, the Thanksgiving holiday and bringing home a traumatized infant. My sister was the first of three blonde haired, blue eyed children adopted by my adoptive parents. After marrying in 1961, they had tried to have children of their own, but unfortunately were not able to, due to the sterility of my adoptive father, caused by contracting the mumps as a young man. My adoptive father, a high school and collegiate athlete, jock, football player, wrestler and physically strong, macho man that he was, felt he had completely let down my adoptive mother, ruining her dreams of having a family. He told her she should leave him. But they stayed together, my adoptive father indebted to her for life for staying with him, decided they would adopt, never working through the issues and valid loss of not being able to conceive their own children.
My father was a successful business man, so my big sister, their first child came by way of a private, closed adoption, as we all did. She was a beautiful baby and grew into a beautiful girl. Blonde hair, blue eyes, she looked like she was a natural born child to my adoptive mother, as we all did. My sister was very smart, eloquent, funny and also rebellious, hyperactive, manipulative, an attention seeker and often got into trouble. These later characteristics clashed horribly with our adoptive parents, who did not know (or choose) healthy ways to discipline their children. They were physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. Being the first born, my sister got the brunt of their rage and it has left permanent wounds and scars on our souls and bodies. With a narcissistic tyrant, bully, for an adoptive father and a “Mommy Dearest” borderline adoptive mother, you damn better learn how to sink or swim in this tumultuous environment.
Getting whipped with the leather belt hurt less than when my adoptive father told me, when I was five years old, that he hated the sound of my laugh and to never laugh in front of him again. It was common to get kicked if we were walking too slowly, to be pulled up by our hair, if we didn’t stand up fast enough. As adopted children who were already traumatized, my adoptive parents who were so often praised by adopting children, did not allow us to speak up, denied our reality, injured us and destroyed part of us.
As we got older she and I would talk about the way we were raised, and express our confusion, sadness, frustrations and reality that only we knew. Our adoptive parents dismissed our pain, silenced us, never encouraged our voice or addressed the reality of our adoption and the impact it had on us. Only their pain was important. My sister and I were allies in this crazy home where we learned the only way to not be annihilated was to learn how to survive. She was the outspoken rebellious one, I was the hyper vigilant compliant one and my little brother became the “golden child”, the blessed son.
My sister found her first mother, but was denied and rejected by her. My sister was diagnosed Bipolar and ADHD, became homeless, abandoned her children, and spiraled into self destructive, self medicating alcoholism and drug addiction. She has been in and out of rehab, been abused, raped, incarcerated, and has almost died several times. Although I do believe she is responsible for many of her life choices, I think about that little girl, unheard, rejected and abused by people who were supposed to protect her. I miss my sister, I cry for my sister and I will always hope she finds the inner strength and self love required to get healthy and sober and to find joy in living.
Where ever you are, I love you, sister. You were my first best friend. Happy Birthday. You matter.