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To Tell or Not To Tell - 4

by Lana V Lynx 7 months ago in Family · updated 5 months ago
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That Is The Tormented Parents' Question

It took Paul about three days to find the information about Mark’s biological parents. He found out that Lucy died of an overdose about a year after they moved. Her boyfriend was so shaken by her death that he returned to his parents, cleaned up and went to college. He was happily married now, running his father’s family business, with five-year-old twins. When Paul tracked him down on the phone and told him there was a chance Mark would find out about them and want to connect with his biological father, Lucy’s ex said he’d rather keep that part of his history secret from his wife and urged Paul to discourage Mark from seeking contact. Paul was relieved to share the news with Julie. Even though she was distressed and sad to learn of Lucy’s passing, Julie was also relieved to know that there was no threat to their relationship with Mark from his biological parents. They both agreed that it would be easier to tell the truth knowing this information, but they still did not know how to tell him.

There were several occasions when they were close to telling Mark. One was after the Thanksgiving dinner, when Mark pulled out some old family pictures and asked a lot of questions about his grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles, first and second cousins. It was one of his favorite family activities from early childhood, and Paul and Julie were always puzzled why their biological children did not have the same interest in the family history.

“Maybe he intuitively felt something, kinda like checking out our stories, to see if they matched or made sense,” Julie suggested after the Thanksgiving dinner, when the kids were watching a movie in the living room and she and Paul cleaned up and sipped wine in the kitchen.

“C’mon, honey, you’re just thinking too much of it,” Paul responded. “He is just curious and always had this keen interest in history, especially family history.”

“I wonder why,” Julie sighed.

“Are you talking about me?” Mark asked, emerging in the kitchen for more popcorn.

“Always,” Paul said without a second thought. Julie admired his wit again.

“Hope nothing bad,” Mark said.

“Never,” Paul reassured him, “You are our first and we love you the most.”

“Can you say this to the other two? They seem to have skipped the briefing,” Mark said with his broad smile, grabbed popcorn, and went back to watching the movie with his siblings.

“Should we tell him now?” Julie asked. “Seems like a good time, as good as any.”

“And spoil this moment?” Paul retorted. “Look how happy they all are. Just like when they were all little. We’ll find another time.”

As time passed, there were some other opportunities where Julie thought they could tell Mark about adoption, but every time Paul would signal her at the very last moment not to do it. One such occasion occurred when Mark stayed home overnight to help put up the Christmas tree. They decorated it with all the ornaments the kids made throughout the years, reminiscing about the family history. After they were done and they were alone in the room, Julie said to her husband, “It’s almost like you don’t want to tell him.”

“I really don’t,” Paul replied.

“But we’ve talked about this, dear, we cannot bury our heads in the sand anymore!”

“I just can’t pull my courage together, every time I imagine his face when he learns the truth my heart sinks,” Paul said.

“We are going in circles, Paul. We’ve talked about this a million times! If you can’t tell him, at least don’t stop me from me doing it!”

“All right, as you wish,” Paul gave up.

But then even Julie couldn’t pull her courage, stopping short of telling the truth at the last moment. Finally, Christmas Eve came and Mark still didn’t tell anything about the results. Paul and Julie were secretly hoping that they were delayed and would come after New Year’s. That way, the news of adoption wouldn’t kill their holiday joy.

They had a great traditional Christmas Eve dinner together, and the kids stayed up late watching their favorite movies. In the morning, the kids woke Paul and Julia and rushed down to the Christmas tree, just like when they were little, to open the presents. When Paul and Julia came down, Mark was standing in the middle of the living room, brimming with joy and holding a big red envelope with 23andMe logo on it.

“The results came in!” he exclaimed, “Should we open them now?”

“Yes, yes, let’s do that!” Alice and Nick started to jump and clap like they were five again.

“No!” Paul lost his cool. Julia noticed how the blood drained from his face and he became pale. She rushed to him and patted him on the back, “Are you OK, honey?”

“Yeah, dad, are you alright?” Mark echoed.

Paul pulled himself together and cleared his throat, “Yeah, I’m fine. You know how grumpy I get without my morning coffee.”

“Why don’t you kids open other presents while dad and I get our morning fix?” Julie suggested and lead Paul into the kitchen.

“Oh, OK,” Mark said, looking confused, “But come right back, I really want us to look at our DNA test results together.”

“That was strange,” Alice whispered following their parents with her gaze. “Do they seem off to you?”

“Hmm, don’t know,” Mark replied. “Let’s give them a minute and open other presents.”

In the kitchen, Paul plopped himself at the breakfast table and dropped his head into his arms in desperation.

“We have to tell him, honey,” Julie said quietly, starting the coffee machine. For once, she was grateful it was so loud. “There’s no way to keep it a secret any longer.”

“Now???” Paul said, “On Christmas Day? Why did he have to do this today, to spoil the family holiday? I so hoped the results would come in later!”

“Well, they are here, and Mark is so excited,” Julie said. “We have to tell him!”

“Exactly, so excited! That’s exactly why we can’t tell him! Not to ruin this day! This may as well be our last holiday together, as a family,” Paul put his hand on his chest, as if trying to hold his heart inside.

“So what do you suggest we do??”

“I don’t know,” Paul moaned in desperation, “Just wing it? Maybe the results won’t show what we are afraid of?”

“C’mon, honey, be reasonable. What do you think, the results will miraculously show we are his parents?”

“I know they won’t, but maybe, just maybe they will not show his other relatives, and maybe they were not able to pull anything on his parents, given the adoption secrecy laws? Let’s just have him open the envelopes and see what’s reported there?”

“Mom, dad, what’s taking you so long?” Nick called from the living room. “We are all done here!”

“Coming, honey!” Julie said loudly and poured two mugs of coffee. She handed one to Paul and said, “C’mon, let’s wing it!”

They returned to the living room and sat down together on the sofa, holding their coffee mugs. Alice and Nick sat on the floor, surrounded with their presents and piles of torn wrapping paper. Mark stood in the center, with the envelope in his hands.

“Are you guys alright?” he asked, looking at them intently. “Don’t you want to open your presents?”

“We’ll do it later,” Paul replied. “Let’s open the test results, just get it over with.”

Mark raised his eyebrow, surprised at the last remark, but didn’t say anything. He opened the big envelope in a slow award-show-like manner, while Nick imitated drumming on a present box. Mark pulled out five individual envelopes and gave them to everyone, calling his family members by name. He then sat in the armchair across from his parents. Everyone opened their envelopes, the kids more eagerly than the parents. They all took some time to look at the detailed reports, with lots of graphs and charts in them.

“Wow, I always thought all of my family was from somewhere in Eastern Europe!” Julie said, “But apparently, I have some Turkish, Armenian, and even African blood in me too! Who would have thought!”

“My genes are almost all from Germany, some from Austria and France,” Paul said, fascinated.

“What’s ‘Ashkenazi’?” Nick asked.

“Yeah, what’s that? I see that in my report as well,” Alice said.

“Eastern European Jews,” Julie said knowingly, “You must have gotten that from me. One of my grandmothers was of the Polish Jews who escaped here from the pogroms in the late 1800s.”

“Wow!” both Alice and Nick exclaimed.

“Fascinating,” Alice added, “We definitely need to find out more about that part of our history!”

“Where are you guys getting all of this?? Most of my DNA is from Ireland, some from Britain,” Mark asked, perplexed. “And who are all these ‘cousins’ listed here that I’ve never met? And ‘no data’ on parents??? Did they make a mistake or something?”

Julie’s heart sank.

“Let me see,” Paul got up and took Mark’s report. He returned to his seat next to Julie and flipped through the pages, showing the report to her. It did state “no data available” on parents and had a long list of people under “possible relations” toward the end. They must have all been from Mark’s real parents’ side. Some of the names sounded vaguely familiar from the time they were signing the adoption papers and Paul searching for Mark’s parents recently.

“Is THIS a good time?” Julie asked Paul sarcastically, mastering her courage. “We HAVE to tell him now.”

Paul just sat there, deflated. Julie took a deep breath, looked her son straight in the eyes, and said, “Mark, you were adopted.”

Mark’s jaw dropped. His eyes widened but he didn’t say a word.

“WHAT?” both Alice and Nick exclaimed at the same time and Alice covered her mouth with her right hand.

The wall on the clock was loudly ticking off long seconds.

“Was I adopted too?” Nick finally asked after what seemed an eternity of silence.

“No, you dummy!” Alice snapped, “You have Ashkenazi genes, just like Mom!”

“Please say something,” Julie pleaded with shell-shocked Mark. “Ask anything, we’ll tell you the truth.”

“Why?” Mark finally pushed a question out.

“Well,” Paul finally said, “For over 10 years, we couldn’t have a baby on our own. We tried everything, including Invitro, and it just didn’t work. And then we went to an adoption agency, and they told us about this young woman, a high school drop-out, who was about to have a baby and wouldn’t be able to take care of it…”

Paul was prepared to tell Mark the entire story of Lucy and her boyfriend, but Mark interrupted him, “I mean why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“We wanted to…” Julie started.

“But we had to move after you were kidnapped,” Paul explained, interrupting her. “Here no one knew us. It was a perfect place for us to start over as we wanted to raise you as our own.”

“And then two miracles happened?” Mark asked, nodding at Alice and Nick.

“Exactly!” Julie said, “When I got pregnant with Alice, I did think it was a miracle! You were so little, not even two, and such a great big brother to Alice!”

“He still is,” Alice said. “Best big brother in the whole world!”

“And to me, too!” Nick chimed in.

“Just like in a movie,” Mark said, nodding. “Wait a minute, you said ‘after you were kidnapped’…”

“Yes, your parents tried to kidnap you when you were still a baby,” Paul started to explain.

“So, they wanted me back?” Mark interrupted, still not showing any emotion. Just asking questions, as if he were an investigator trying to get a full picture of what happened.

“No, they only wanted our money. When we found them in that dumpster warehouse, in unbearable filth, with other junkies, they demanded we pay them to give you back to us.”

“They were young and reckless,” Julie said, trying to soften Paul’s harsh account.

“Don’t try to defend them again,” Paul said, “You know exactly what would have happened to Mark if we hadn’t found them!”

“What happened to them?” Mark asked. “Do you know where they are now?”

“Your mother died of an overdose, about a year after kidnapping,” Paul said. “Your father’s parents got him cleaned up and sent him to college. He is managing their family business now, married, with twins.”

“How do you know all this?”

“When you brought this DNA test kit, we panicked,” Paul started.

“You panicked, dear,” Julie interrupted him, “I wanted to tell him the truth then.”

“Ok, I panicked because I knew this would happen. So before telling you the truth, I tracked them down and even talked with your father on the phone.”

“What did he say?” Mark asked.

“He asked me to discourage you from getting in touch with him. He doesn’t want his wife and kids to know about his past.”

“I see,” Mark’s lips tightened. “Do you have their pictures?”

“No,” Paul answered reluctantly, “Why?”

“I want to see if I look like them. I always thought I looked like you, but now it makes sense why Nick looks more like you than I do.”

“I can help you find their pictures online,” Nick said eagerly. “No one can escape the Internet now. We’ll find something.”

“Great idea,” Mark said, giving him a faint smile.

“I doubt you’d be able to find any pictures of Lucy, your mother,” Paul started.

“The adoption file may have one,” Julie said.

“Why are you encouraging this?” Paul said to her sharply.

“The boy wants to know if he looks like his biological parents. Who are we to stop him?” Julie said.

“Exactly, who are you?” Mark said, getting up. “I need some air. I’ll go for a walk now.”

Mark headed for the front door. While he was putting his winter jacket on, Julie asked, “Are you coming back?”

“Don’t know yet,” Mark responded matter-of-factly. “I need to think about all of this. May hang out with my friends after…”

“Can I go with you?” Alice asked, walking toward her brother.

“Me too, I wanna go too!” Nick pleaded, jumping off the floor.

“No,” Mark said decisively, wrapping a big scarf one of his grandmothers knitted for him around his neck. “I need to be on my own.”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea?” Alice asked, concerned for her brother.

“Give him some space,” Julie said as Mark opened the front door and stepped out into a cold and snowed-in but sunny morning.

“You guys,” Alice said reproachingly, closing the door behind him.

“What?” Paul asked.

“No one keeps adoption a secret anymore,” Alice said, going upstairs to her room.

“It was a different time…” Paul started.

“Literally NO ONE,” Alice shouted from upstairs. A second later, they heard the door to her room shut.

“Yeah,” Nick said, heading to his room as well. “In our school, we have a couple of kids who knew they’d been adopted ever since they were like… as long as they could remember themselves.”

“Smarty pants,” Paul said.

“I don’t want to say ‘I told you so,’ honey,” Julie said when they were left alone in the living room. “But…”

“You’ve just said it, dear…” Paul hid his face from Julie as he wiped away a tear.

Back to Part 3

Continue to Part 5

Start at Part 1

Family

About the author

Lana V Lynx

Avid reader and occasional writer of satire and dystopia under a pen name of my favorite wild cat.

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