By in Family

The Secrets that Family Keeps

My mother was the last born of 10 living children. More accurately, she was the 11th of 12 children, but two more boys were born--one before her, one after--who died early.

I did not grow up around most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We moved to California from Washington early in 1957. We did come up north to visit one of my aunts and her husband. Of course, because I knew them, they were my "favorites." The others, I barely knew.

What I did "know" is that I had 24 cousins. I only remember meeting 11 of them. I had only spent some substantial time with two. They were both teenagers when I was born, one of them being seven years younger than my mother.

Counting the five of us born to my mother, there were 29 first cousins of the 10 children born to our grandparents.

This weekend, I learned that we have a 30th. His name is Jim. He was the third born to one of my uncles and his first wife, but he was given up at birth to a next door neighbor. The adoption papers said, "For financial reasons."

That same uncle had five other children, only one of whom I remember meeting. The two other boys he had, I learned died as infants. I never knew.

There are a lot of secrets in this family. Some, I have discovered in the last few years. I will never speak some of them to most of the family, though I have shared some details with a select few, whom I trust.

I am also writing them down and will keep them in a safe deposit box, to be released to my daughter when I pass from this earth. Unlike my mother, and her siblings, I do not like keeping family secrets.

I have reached out to this new cousin, and will share photos and some of the good stories. It is actually nice to be able to connect with another who has not been part of this crazy family, but who shares similar DNA.

I wrote this to him today in an email: "...I am one who thinks, questions, challenges, talks, questions more, comes up with conclusions, asks again, delves, and wants to know more of the story. That has not ever set well with most people, let alone in a family. I always wanted to know more and more and more, but when I would get close to asking the 'wrong' things or on topics that were certainly uncomfortable, I was shut down. I did not feel very much part of 'family' as I grew up. There were times growing up that I thought I wanted to put myself up for adoption, as I did not feel that I 'fit in' somehow..."

Perhaps, this time in all of our (cousins') lives, we have an opportunity to gain some understanding of a family we never really got to know. It will come from some of us 60ish and younger who are looking for answers. There are others who want to push it away and not know.

Hopefully, it will be those of us who ask "Why?" and are curious and not offended or embarrassed by them, who will pass the stories to the second and third cousins, so they can understand the patterns they have seen in their own lives, the same patterns and stories from which their fore-fathers/-mothers ignored, hid away, and never told.

Maybe some of these things will remain testament to the importance of opening hearts and showing acceptance.

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1315 PDT 11,989 17.98

3 hours-- +68/$.10; 99 to 103 avg

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© Copyright 2015 - Coral Levang. All Rights Reserved

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lexiconlover wrote on July 14, 2015, 4:20 PM

Wow, sounds like there is a lot of hidden skeletons in your family. I too am familiar with that. There is a lot I found out as I got older, and am still finding out. Part of why I don't get too close to my father's family.

CoralLevang wrote on July 14, 2015, 4:24 PM

Well, in my father's side, I'm am sure there are plenty, too, but since he was only one of two boys, there were fewer.

I always FELT closer to my Mom's family. Looking back, I think it was because we were kept from many of them, which is another story, I am sure.

MegL wrote on July 14, 2015, 4:29 PM

Yes, lot less shame these days. I know one woman who was told some "secrets" when she went to stay in the country with an aunt and cousins and came back to ask her grandmother about them, only to be told it was "digging up old dirt"!

lexiconlover wrote on July 14, 2015, 4:32 PM

My dad's family was/is very money driven. They will chose money over nearly anything else. Which is a long story in of itself.

My mom's mom's family is big. She was one of 13-14. So those family reunions were always my favorite.

CoralLevang wrote on July 14, 2015, 5:25 PM

Yes, I heard similar things:

"Stop living in the past!" or "Do not air dirty laundry!"

wolfgirl569 wrote on July 14, 2015, 6:09 PM

Wow, sounds like a lot of secrets. Hopefully you will have a new friend with this newly found cousin

bestwriter wrote on July 14, 2015, 11:27 PM

Feels like I have read similar stories hovering round me with slight changes here and there. This kind of a scenario is common everywhere.

Shellyann36 wrote on July 15, 2015, 12:02 AM

I am rather close to my Mama's side of the family but not my Daddy's side. I grew up with my cousins on my Mama's side but as we have all gotten older we have all drifted apart. I only see them now on major holidays. In many ways I wish my kids could grow up with that extended family but we live so far apart it is not possible.

Paulie wrote on July 15, 2015, 12:03 AM

My father and maternal grandparents had family secrets which were always taboo. Hopefully through my genealogy research, I will be able to learn about these secrets.

inertia4 wrote on July 15, 2015, 7:59 AM

Ah, family secrets. Don't we all have them? I know my family does. On my fathers side it is somewhat vague. I know some things but not everything. That side of the family always was a quiet, do not speak of things, side of the family. On my mothers side, well, I found out lots of information as I got older. None of it shocks me. But now I know why I was always stand offish. And also, I do take after my fathers side of the family. There is one main secret that involves a family member that I will never tell anyone else about. Nothing bad, but nothing great either. I think all families have some skeletons in their closets. I always vowed to always tell the truth to my kids. No hidden secrets whatsoever. And I should write some of the ones I do know, or found out through the years for the kids to read later in life.

jiangliu1949 wrote on July 16, 2015, 8:15 AM

What an extended family ! You even can't know most of the first cousins ,let alone reunion with them .

Ruby3881 wrote on July 25, 2015, 11:15 PM

That's quite a piece of news! I hope the reunion with that branch of the family will be a pleasant one emoticon :smile:

CoralLevang wrote on July 25, 2015, 11:25 PM

I should be meeting this man sometime this week.