Surreal as it seems and as strange as some might judge, I met my son for the first time in recorded history four decades after he was born. Our introduction and first view were without fanfare in a neutral public location and attended by just one other: my greatest supporter and life partner, my husband. It was a long and painful birth for a second round, but well worth the wait.
I reveal this, to the surprise of many who are close as well as not close, because, well, the secret holds no meaning anymore. Secrets are funny things, since they are devised and held for reasons: to disguise shame or perceived shame, to protect the innocent, to protect the not-so-innocent-but-need-to-get-on-with-their-destinies, to avoid scandal, to spare, to deflect, to honor (or perhaps not dishonor), to prevent upheaval, to dodge punishment, to aid or bring down political powers, to construct a subterfuge that can inform a moment or, in this instance, an entire lifetime. The life span of a secret can vary depending on its effect. The most difficult period of holding a secret like this one (a child born out of wedlock) was at the very moment it took place and for several years after. As I grew into more of an adult, the secret lost power but it had become so much a part of me that it just seemed normal. Why disclose it now, I would wonder? To what end or purpose would disclosure lead? Did I want sympathy or understanding? Not really.
I moved away from everyone I knew, especially those who were connected to my pre-secret life. In many respects, I was in the witness-protection program; aside from a few blood-relatives who knew the truth, I was someone else, someone without a past: clean slate. There is a placeness in harboring a secret, creating one reality for the external world and another within, it becoming a well-fashioned pretense, or maybe, rather, an omission. It can be a cold comfort because it is the one thing you can control but you do it alone. Even those in the know didn’t broach the subject. And it was not an easy task to be secretive for one who is otherwise honest to a fault. But, as the years ticked off, it just started to look like a given that this one would go to the grave with me. I could handle that, especially since I had already handled some of the harder stuff.
Almost eleven years ago, I reached out to find this child, believing that at age thirty he would not be psychologically damaged by my existence. Also, I wanted him to know that my intention was not abandonment, that the secret didn’t apply to him. He was a gift, a gift to his parents, to the world, to the future. Not mine, but someone else’s. Alas, it was not the right time for him, and I respected that, again feeling it to be his right and his choice. Obviously, thirty years prior he had had no choice, and I had very little, too, although more than he did. I was saying, in essence: “I am putting myself out there and if you want to find me, I would welcome and encourage it, but it is your choice.”
Eleven years later, he made the choice. A little slow on the uptake but, thankfully, he made his move before my decrepitude. I applaud his intestinal fortitude (must take after me), and it turns out that he is such a really great man to boot. And handsome, too. It has to be that perfect storm of nature and nurture. Arslocii.
I have no idea where this is headed, I’m just along for the ride. Much like the curious twists and turns of what life hands out, I roll with the tides. What a weird trip it has been. My hope is to encourage a relationship, not become boring to him, to engage him in a different way from his already extremely rich tapestry of a busy life. I am in it for the long term for whatever he can eke out. We talk on the phone, his is a voice I immediately recognized – a little of my dad, a little of his dad – but he is his own person. I know him, yet I don’t, but the learning has begun.
And this new relationship in my life called on Sunday to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. Whoa, not something I ever imagined happening. The secret is out, a new approach begins, a connection is made.