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To Tell or Not To Tell - 5

by Lana V Lynx 6 months ago in Family
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That is no longer question

While Mark was out clearing his head, Julie and Paul cleaned up the living room from the wrapping paper on autopilot. They hardly exchanged any words since Mark left, and to get herself distracted, Julie unwrapped her present from Mark – a large frame with family pictures of their joint outings and events from the entire year, arranged in chronological order. It was accompanied by Mark’s handwritten card saying, “To the best mom in the world, to remind you of our good times. Love you to the Sun and back, - Mark.” Julie showed the present to Paul and started crying. Paul hugged her and asked what he could do to make her feel better.

“Open your present,” Julie said, smiling through tears.

Paul picked up his present from Mark and unwrapped it. It was a silk tie from the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida Mark visited on his college trip in the summer and a stylus pen for a graphic software program that Paul had broken a couple of weeks before. The card said, “I thought you’d look dashing in the tie and the pen is something to help with your art work. Merry Christmas, dad! – Mark.”

“He’s always been so thoughtful,” Paul said, and they both started to sniffle. They then opened their other kids’ and relatives’ presents, trying to cheer up each other. Finally, Julie asked what both of them were thinking, “Do you think he is coming back?”

“I hope so,” Paul said, “Otherwise we failed as parents.”

“I wonder what goes through his mind now,” Julie thought out loud.

“I’m sure he is trying to make sense of this all. I can’t even imagine what it’s like,” Paul said, “And yes, you are right, I can see now how keeping it a secret from him was wrong. I’m so sorry, my love.”

“I know, honey. Let’s hope he understands we did it out of love, trying to protect him.”

Paul was grateful to Julie for understanding and forgiving him. He did indeed have the best wife in the world.

To kill time, they watched a couple of Christmas movies together. They couldn’t really enjoy the movies or fully relax and every noise at the entrance door made them jump to their feet, hoping it was Mark. The kids stayed in their rooms without coming down even for food or snacks, a clear sign they were still mad. Julie made a couple of attempts to call them for late lunch and then dinner, but they said they were not hungry and wanted to be left alone.

Finally, shortly before 6 pm, they did hear Mark at the entrance door. They both eagerly rushed to the hallway. When Mark entered the house, he said, taking off his winter jacket, “I only have one question.”

“Anything, sweetie,” Julie said, inviting him to go into the living room. They sat down again just like several hours before: Julie and Paul on the sofa and Mark – in the armchair facing them.

“Did my grandparents know? And all my aunts and uncles?”

“Of course they did,” Paul said.

“There was no way for us to hide that we couldn’t conceive a baby, or that we were in the process of adopting you,” Julie chimed in. “And everyone was very supportive.”

“How about my cousins?”

“Only the older ones knew, and they were sworn into silence. Those who are your age and younger didn’t know anything,” Paul reassured him.

“Wow, you guys are great at keeping family secrets,” Mark said. “All those years, and no one said anything once or even dropped a hint!”

“Only one,” Julie said, “We have no other secrets from you.”

Mark smirked, “You know, I was always wondering why we lived so far away from our close relatives, especially grandparents. I saw all these other kids who lived across the street from their extended family and thought how lucky they were because I only saw my grandparents, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins on big holidays when we could travel there.”

“Didn’t you feel loved enough?” Julie asked with bated breath.

“Oh, no, mom, it’s not about that. Like I said, I just wanted them all closer. But your kidnapping story checked out and it makes sense now, why you had to move.”

Julie let out a sigh of relief.

“What do you mean, ‘checked out’?” Paul’s investigative ears perked up.

“Oh, I went out for a walk first, and then ended up at Luke’s.” Luke was Mark’s childhood friend going back to the elementary school.

“A-ha,” Paul said, eagerly waiting for Mark to continue. Both Julie and Paul were so absorbed in what Mark was saying they didn’t notice Alice and Nick quietly coming down the stairs and standing at the landing, listening in on their conversation.

“I told him about everything, and he suggested we do some Internet search. We found a short story in the local newspaper about my kidnapping, mostly criticizing the work of the local police. From there, we found more information about my biological parents. It all checked out.”

“So, are you still mad? ‘Coz I’d be, if I were you,” Alice asked, crossing the living room to join them.

“Me too! Soooo mad!” Nick followed Alice. They both sat at Mark’s feet on the floor, looking up at him and eagerly searching for clues in his eyes.

“Oh, no, I was never mad!” Mark said, ruffling Nick’s hair, and Julie’s heart jumped for joy. “Shocked and confused, but not mad.”

“Why did you walk out on us like that, then?” Paul asked.

“Wouldn’t you, dad, after the brick of a confession like that falling on you out of the blue? I just needed to think about it, process it all.”

“And?” Paul couldn’t wait.

“Aaaand I did think about it. A lot. Talking with Luke about all this helped a lot too. I thought back on my childhood, trying to remember if you ever treated me differently or behaved in such a way that would give me hints I was not your son. Couldn’t find anything. Literally nothing.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Julie said and crossed her hands on her heart. She thought it would jump out in joy and gratitude.

“I couldn’t have asked for better parents,” Mark said and looked at Alice and Nick. “Or these two knuckleheads for siblings.”

Both Julie and Paul felt so overwhelmed they were completely speechless. Julie teared up. Mark got up and moved to the sofa, to sit between them, and put his arms around them.

“Wouldn’t you want to have known earlier, as a child, maybe?” Alice asked, smiling.

“That’s exactly what Luke asked me, so I had a chance to think through that, too. I honestly don’t know. Had I known I was adopted, I could have been a lot more critical, looking for unfair treatment and explanations when they were not there. I also don’t know if I’d have loved you the same, knowing that you were their kids and I wasn’t. Could have been too jealous, you know? Couldn’t have even beaten you up…” Mark said, teasing.

“Oh, sweetie, I’m sure you wouldn’t have,” Julie said, holding her proud tears. “You are such a good soul!”

“We’ve raised you well,” Paul said, his eyes sparkling through the mist of tears as well.

“You did, indeed,” Mark said and smiled faintly. “Although I would have probably appreciated if you told me a little earlier, like when I brought home the DNA test kit. Would have saved you all those hush-hush whispers, long conversations in the dark, and sleepless nights.”

“How did you know?” Paul asked.

“I have my eyes and ears, like on that night when we were watching the movie and I came into the kitchen for more popcorn and caught you talking about something, in secret. The tension was pulpable,” Mark replied, “And then there were a couple of times when mom nearly broke, I remember now looking back… And these two were scared, called me almost every day, telling me how they thought you were about to divorce or something…”

“Maaark!” Alice said, “It was supposed to be a secret!”

Julie couldn’t hold her feelings anymore. Tears of relief started to stream down her cheeks. Mark got up and brought her a box of napkins, “Mom, please don’t cry!”

Paul shifted closer to Julie and wiped away her tears. She got up, wanting to go to the bathroom, but they all descended on her in one big family hug. “Group hug!” “Everything worked out fine in the end!” “We are still a family, stronger than ever!” “Don’t cry, mom!” she heard them saying.

“I’m crying because I’m happy and relieved,” she said, “You can’t even imagine what dad and I went through ever since you brought that DNA kit!”

“Speaking of that,” Nick said, “Are you going to get in touch with your biological father?”

“Nick!” Julie said, stunned by his question.

“It’s OK, mom, and no, I’m not. He crossed me out of his life, I’m not interested in his either. I might get in touch with some of those cousins from the long list, though. Or maybe I won’t, I haven’t decided yet,” Mark said, biting his lower lip. “Anyway, do they serve food in this house? I’m famished, after all this walking and thinking!”

“Leftovers OK?” Paul asked. “Mom probably needs a break from cooking tonight.”

Julie again admired her husband’s wit.

“Let’s go warm something up,” Alice said to her brothers, “I’m so hungry too!”

As the kids started to move to the kitchen, Paul hugged Julie and gave her a kiss, “We did raise them all well, after all…”

Disclaimer: This novella is loosely based on a story of one of my students. He told me about it after I assigned a debate in my communication ethics class on whether the adopted children should be told the truth about their adoption. I took a creative license adding some details to the story that also summarized key points from our debates. I’ve been doing this exercise for five years now, and in most cases the debate team that advocates for telling the truth as early as the child can comprehend and process it wins.

Back to Part 4

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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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