The best thing about moments is that you never know which one is going to change your life. It can be any moment. An out of the blue email, a chance encounter at the store, a wrong turn in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or something as simple as a phone call.
And that’s how it happened to me.
Last November. Casey and I were settling in to watch the Steeler/Ravens night game. I get to annoy Casey twice as much by not only having a personal phone that I check obsessively, but also a work blackberry that is never far from my gaze. It drives him bonkers, but I do public relations for a living. You have no idea when something is going to happen.
And that’s why I wasn’t all too shocked when my work phone started ringing. I decided to let it go to voicemail, figured if it was that serious, they would leave a message. I wasn’t peeling myself away from the Steeler game unless we were risking negative national coverage. That’s why I also ignored it the second time it rang.
They left a voicemail. Crap. Now I was going to have to check it and whatever it was I was going to have to deal with it and son of a bitch I just wanted to watch the football game. UGH! FINE. I will check the message.
“Hi, Bethany. I don’t know if you are the right person or not, but my name is Mike and I’m doing a family research project. 40 years ago my identical twin brother and I were giving up for adoption…”
For the first time in my entire life, I was speechless. My hand flew up to my mouth, probably to make sure my jaw didn’t fall off. My heart was hammering in my chest. The person on the phone was still talking, but I was sucked back in time, remembering a conversation that happened over 20 years ago.
I was 15. It was around Easter time. My mom asked me if we could go for a walk. Which was strange. We didn’t hang out much. We had settled into that nice routine that parents and teenagers enjoy, mutual suspicion and fear. But I was curious, so off we went. She began to tell me the story of her life, some 20 years ago.
She was a rebellious teen in a strict Irish Catholic family. She got pregnant (rebellious of course being synonymous with either drinking and/or sex), and being only 19 and in no way prepared to live on her own much less raise a baby, she decided on adoption. She was sent off to live on the other side of the state with a brother, and began the adoption process. She quickly found out it was twins, the adoptive family eagerly agreed to adopt both, the boys were born, and my mom moved back home to try to piece together a life.
She wanted me to know this, she said, because she was afraid that now that I was getting older I might somehow run across one of them and maybe start dating one. I’m not sure how she thought I would know, if maybe I was to ask every potential suitor for a family tree. I think it was also a cautionary tale (fat lot of good that did, since I was a mom at 20), but more than that, it was a rare glimpse into the person my mother was.
Not JUST my mom, but a woman who had experiences that I knew nothing about. Who went through more than I could imagine. It was the first time I looked at my mom as a person, and not that woman who was trying to ruin my teenage life. She grew in my eyes that day, and I didn’t have the maturity to tell her then, but I was very proud of her for what she did.
She told me that we weren’t telling my sister, Sarah. We were going to wait. Now, I had been telling my sister for the better part of her life that she was adopted. She wasn’t, but I am pretty sure that most older siblings do this to their younger siblings. It’s a rite of passage. So you can imagine her surprise when in playing in the attic, she stumbled across actual adoption papers.
“Oh my god,” she thought. “Bethany was right. I was actually adopted.” Through her tears she read the papers, only to discover that there weren’t for her, but rather for a twin boy A and boy B. Confused and relieved, she confronted my mother, who told her the story. There. We all knew. Time went on.
A lot of time went on. I thought of the boys from time to time, especially when I had my own children. I wondered how they were doing and if they had families, if they ever wondered about my mom and what happened to her. You know, Oprah stuff.
But I was completely unprepared to hear one of them, leaving a message on my work phone of all places. My brain just could not connect the dots. How in the world was this happening? I, a huge believer in the strangeness of the universe, could not figure out what in the hell was going on. Steeler game long forgotten, I turned to Casey. “Sweetie. That was my brother.”
To be continued…