Across the three years since discovering I am not linked genetically to Pops, to the whole of my Alexander-Stafford-Evan-Svelstad family, I’ve pretty consistently refused to describe my parents’ decision to not reveal my paternity secret as a lie, or a deception. As consistently, I have acknowledged that they made a secret of my paternity:
Did my parents keep secret the circumstances of my conception?
Have I been angry about the secret?
From the start, I’ve also noted that this particular secret impacted my parents more than it did me:
Have I ached knowing the costs to them of hiding their truths?
And through it all, I’ve taken pride in not perpetuating that secret, in not letting anger grow in the space between the life we lived together and the ways that “the truth of things” still re-orients my view on/of that life. I describe my experience as gaining a new backstory. How the story takes flight, that comes with choices I make.
In originally writing about this, I answered the Do I have a secret? query, with a resounding No.
This week, I’ve come to understand that No as a lie
I saw a new truth of things while reading Lemn Sissay’s My Name Is Why, a complexly honest meditation that draws on voluminous records depicting the lies and secrets that kept him in care from birth, on seeking for 30 years the release of those records, and on doing the hard work of life building by exposing the secrets along with their somatic, cognitive, and affective impacts.
This quatrain shows up as the heading for two key chapters:
Secrets are the stones. Reading Sissay made me realize that I have been lying to myself, had pocketed one secret in wanting to not reveal my existence to those who are “the bio dude’s children.”
Today I sent a letter to the oldest of these likely half-siblings, his daughter, a week after reaching out to the oldest of three likely half-brothers. Hoping, in the writing, to make enough of a connection to stop being a secret. And, yet, not really minding that they are likely going to want to keep me a secret. Stones out of my pockets, out where I can look at them. Secrets now words on paper, pebbles to land lightly – I hope – with those who read the letters.
Not holding myself as “the secret” feels so damn good.