Joe looked at his new baby girl: his first child. Most guys wanted a boy first, but he wanted a girl. He wasn’t sure why. His wife thought it was the missing sister thing. Maybe she was right; all his good girl friends he described as “the sister I never had”. His wife was sure he must have a birth sister. He knew he must be adopted. He was born 10 years after his parents were married, and they never had any more babies. He was 10 when they took in his little brother. But that didn’t really matter. His adoptive family was his family. Plus, they would never admit he was adopted, there was no point in even asking. Maybe he would find out once both his parents were gone. Maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe the future was more important than the past.
Anyhow, this baby’s life would be different than his. Joe was sure of that. She would have all kinds of opportunities that he never dreamed of. She already had perfect hearing. That was pretty clear from the way she jumped at the slightest sound. Yes, she would hear all the things he couldn’t hear. More importantly, she would be a good student. Things wouldn’t be as hard. She would grow up in this new free land, where there were no “benevolent dictators”, more educational opportunities, more jobs, and more access to so much more; the possibilities were endless.
Her life would be better. Not that he was complaining about his own. He loved his family. There were few very lean times, and he had plenty of happy memories. His dog, the way his daddy would come home with something he “found” for him, the cakes his mom would bake for special occasions, the food his parents served him (he really missed the food), the roughhousing with everybody, not just his brother, the joking, it was all pretty good.
What his daughter wouldn’t live with was a daddy who got drunk. She would never have to beg him for the key to come inside after he locked the family out so he could sleep off the booze. She would never be embarrassed because her daddy scared her birthday party guests and they had to go home early. And even if she wanted to, she would never give him the haircut of his life because he had passed out drunk and didn’t know what was happening to him. He’d kind of liked that memory, especially because when Daddy wasn’t drinking, he had such a good nature. When he saw the haircut he got from his son, he laughed till he cried. But his daddy’s drinking made his mom mad. She was angry a lot. She had to work. She was busy and distracted a lot. There was always an undercurrent of conflict and frustration in their home. It did get better when the missionaries boarded in their home. The gospel of Christ they brought had helped fill the voids for him in many ways and given him good role models. If only his parents had known long ago, things would have been very, very different.
That’s why his daughter would have it better. She would have a happier home, where there would be prayer and laughter and hugs. She would hear “I love you” everyday. He would make sure she had everything she needed to be happy and successful. Her parents would be involved in her upbringing more and she could become whoever she wanted to be.
Five years later, Joe had questions. The questions were bubbling and boiling up to the surface and spilling over in his mind. He wanted to know. It mattered now. Where had he come from? How had he ended up in his family? What was his heritage? What could the future hold for his family?
He had thought that things would be different when he brought his mother and brother to live with them after his dad died. He could help them more. Things would be different without all dad's problems. They could be happy together this time. His mom could finally rest. Well, it turns out it wasn’t that easy. Everyone seemed frozen in time, locked to all the roles and to all the conflict that had always been there. The problem was gone but the effects were still in force. He tried to make his mom’s life better, but she didn’t seem to want that. Everything he did for her seemed to blow up in his face. Then there were the lies. He knew she was lying about his birth now, because she had told his wife and daughter three different versions of where he was born. No one forgets where they had their baby. He wanted to just blurt out, “I know I’m adopted. Why lie about it? Or at least keep the same story. What happened? How did you find me?” But she would deny it. She could have her hand on a hot stove while swearing she wasn’t burning herself. He was sick of the denial. Why not just say, “Your dad was an alcoholic” or “You were adopted”? The truth wasn’t as terrible as the lie.
Then there were all the health questions. Could knowing his birth family’s history help unlock the mysteries of why his daughter had so many behavioral challenges? Apparently hearing too well wasn’t all that great either. What if it were worse? What if someday she got something bad like leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant? Or what if someone out there needed his or his daughter’s help? He didn’t know what to tell all the doctors that asked about their family history. What about his own health problems? His doctor told him it would be good to know. And what might this girl of his look like when she grew up? What about his curiosity? Who were these people he came from? Whatever happened to them? Did he have a sister? How did he get here, really? It was as if he was never born, he just started existing one day when he was small. The past did matter. He needed to know.
He made a decision: he wouldn’t wait. His mom wouldn’t tell him, but he would find the truth anyhow. He would go visit his uncle this summer and ask him to please tell him the truth.