a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

32 comments on “a family’s erosion

  1. Wally Fry says:

    Hi Julie

    You just made my squall like a baby. Do you know what really got me? When you pointed out that you are the last surviving family member of four. Me too, and two of those died way younger than they should have, my Dad at 54 and my brother at 3. Mom was not young, but we lost a lot of years, so she might as well have died young too. Sounds like your Mom and Dad had good hearts in the right place, and just wanted a family. Obviously, they had flaws like all of us. I look back and think mine should have never had kids. I mean, they loved us of course, but I think they loved themselves more.

    I am glad you are willing to write and share about your story, as maybe it will be a help to another.

    Bless you dear Sister.

    • well Wally, I didn’t mean to make you cry— we often think that maybe there shouldn’t have been kids for a reason or that the mix was so bad the two should never have had a family—but in the legacy of family…there is a purpose for each member and for the lives each member touches–for both good and bad—and you and I both know that God uses each of us—we may not see how we are used or know of the lives that we have effected—and it may be even long after we are gone—but there is an interconnectivity to the family of man and God’s hand is right in the middle!
      I appreciate you reading the story Wally because the post is lengthy…more so than what is comfortable reading…
      The story is longer and more complex but this was the nutshell and after reading that letter, I knew I needed to share it all because maybe someone out there will find comfort or common ground….

  2. davidkitz says:

    What a pain-filled story. Yet there is much love and grace in it — truly deep love.

    Grace, love and healing be yours Julie, through Jesus.

  3. What a blessing you are, Julie. Thanks for telling that story. I too am the last man standing in a family full of erosion, mental illness, grief, and then to make it harder, I have the eyes to see it all. Jesus has been said to be a man of many sorrows and I think part of that is that He can see the whole picture, where we are heading, what grief we will suffer. He collects a lot of tears in a bottle for us.

    I read an interesting article yesterday about inherited trauma, sins of the fathers so to speak, the way children can be impacted by a war five generations back. They were studying Native Americans and looking at actual physical and emotional changes that happened and seemed to be passed down. So your ancestors suffered a grievous event way back and now you have a genetic propensity for depression or alcoholism.

    What was so fascinating,was that those changes could be altered,over come,by a life altering change of heart, a metanoia so to speak. A generational curse broken. We are actually not only our genetics and environment,there are other forces at work. Science is hesitant to
    say what those forces are, but I am not. Jesus saves and He heals.

    Someday in the future perhaps we will understand better, we will remove the shame and the blame around mental health issues and we will begin to treat people holistically, as mind, body, and spirit.

    • thank you IB for your kind words and much informative as well as needed comment—it is amazing as to the sins of the father and what we tend to carry deep within our psyches—and you are so right in that treating those who suffer must be of mind, body, spirit and soul…as that is what makes us who and what we are as living .breathing functioning, or not, beings.
      Yes, you are 100% correct…Jesus saves ad He heals…
      I raise my glass to all “those last men and women standing” in the group—ours is to go forth sharing the Gospel…
      thank you again…

  4. atimetoshare.me says:

    Thank you for sharing this painful part of your life with us. It explains what a determined, loving, passionate, compassionate, persistent person you are. Through our adversity we can’t always see why things happen like the do, but reflecting back on it, we can see God’s hand working and serving a purpose through it. These pains make us stronger. Part of the shaping, refining and molding process. You are now being used to help someone else going through similar situations. Love you, Yoda!

  5. Lynda says:

    Yes, your family story is sad and deeply painful on so many levels. It is a microcosm of what occurs in many different ways in many families. We cause each other so much pain and we don’t know how to reverse it – except, of course, through the healing power of our Lord Jesus the Christ. I am so grateful that you have a deep relationship with our Lord, Julie, for you are aware that it is God who has walked with you and continues to walk with you every moment. How difficult it must have been to have witnessed the suffering within your family and to have suffered with each member. Blessings and prayers as always.

    • and it is because of that relationship with God as Father, Jesus as Savior and the Holy Spirit as Guide that I worked my way through all the pain and anger…all the residue that clung to me and actually caused me to inflict more damage than good often to myself and those around me, often without full knowledge of what it was I was actually doing—it was a coming to a place of healing Grace that I could finally let go of all the hidden anger that was eating me—age also helps with that as we are wizened in time thankfully!
      It is because of prayers and loving friends, such as yourself that has been such a soothing balm Lynda—
      thank you always for your support

  6. ColorStorm says:

    Just amen to all your good friends comments here.

  7. Grace upon grace upon grace…Where would any of us be but for God’s amazing and generous Grace. As I read this I thought of the long journey we’ve had with our two adopted grandchildren. First was Joe with his Asperghers. And althogh he was on the low end of the autism spectrum
    it was a long hard uphill struggle to get him where he is today. And as I read about your brother, I couldn’t help but wonder if his mental illness didn’t come about as the result of something like Joe’s that they knew so little about at the time. He is a wonderful boy and has come so far but he’s had all sorts of medical care in areas one might not even expect. He will always have to be careful even of the foods he eats as they trigger and increase outbreaks. But I love that kid and he’s so smart like your brother and he’s funny and weird, but lovingly so. And then there was Alex’s sexual abuse that he has had to come through. In the beginning because he had suppressed the assaults, they thought perhaps he was suffering from RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder which some adopted children deal with. This is also something very new that could have played into your brother’s problems. And then they thought maybe it was Borderline Personality Disorder which can be inherited from a parent. He also suffered greatly from the reason his mother gave him up for adoption once that was revealed. Ultimately it seems it was the assaults that were the greatest problems and the reason he had to be hospitalized. But who know all of those things could be a part of the mix that nearly took his life on several occasions and caused him to also start cutting himself. Like you I firmly believe in adoption and am dead against abortion so I’m delighted that now there is so much help available for trouble adoptees and people in general. And I thank God every day that He has been there through all these trials with my boys. Alex is so much better but he still has a way to go in his healing and in forgiving God. Since the assaults happened in a church, he wonders why God didn’t find a way to help him and stop it from happening. The interesting thing is that when he ran away several weeks ago, the first place in he went was their church which is 6 miles from their house. He loves the Lord and I’m ever hopeful that he will get past all this and come back into His keeping. At least he is willing to attend church again with his family. I’m so sorry that you and your family had to go through all of this! But it seems that none of us get to chose the trials we must face. Thank you for sharing this for there may be others who will benefit from reading it.
    Love and hugs, Natalie 🙂 ❤

    • Lynda says:

      Natalie, every family has their story. As I read about Joe and Alex I couldn’t help thanking God that they have a loving adoptive family. God is there with them just as God is with each of us. Prayers that they may discover the grace of God in their lives. My sister is adopted and I know that there is that deep seed of feeling rejected within a child who has been adopted. It is an interesting facet of human nature that we dwell on the rejection rather than on the chosen-ness of the adoption. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

      • I second these words of wisdom Lynda

      • Thank you Lynda for taking the time to comment and share about your sister❣️ I going to remember and share with the boys about dwelling on their chosen-beds instead of their rejection! That’s such a great way to look at it. Both of our boys are so precious and I adore them so. None of us would have made it through this last year without our loving God to lean on and lean into! We are so thankful that He is ever faithful and full of grace and mercy! You might get a chuckle out of this. One Sunday when things were so bad last fall, my daughter Nikki called
        And said she and her husband Chris wanted to know if it was okay for two adult parents in their 40’s to need and want their Mommies to come! And God is always as trustworthy and loving as Mommies, isn’t He?! Have a blessed week lovely lady😊❤️

      • Nikki is lucky to have such a mommy!!!! 🙂

      • Awwwwwww! Thanks my friend!❤️❤️❤️

    • as sad a story it is…in the end, there is the assurance of Grace and of God’s presence—Alex will see that in time, God has been there and still is there…and that He has anguished over what happened to Alex…
      for none of us ever understand so much of the bad that takes place on this earth…His mysteries are beyond our comprehension—but those are empty sounding words to a victim…as we can do is pray for continued healing!!!
      hugs and love back to you 🙂

  8. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow so much that was shared in this post (30 years + years of grief and pain). I’m sorry to hear this of your adopted brother…but to read of his own mom rejecting him…man, that is so so heavy.

  9. Citizen Tom says:

    What mental illness can do to someone who is otherwise levelheaded is almost demonic, and perhaps it is. I don’t know. I just know how frightened and helpless we can feel.

    Whether your brother was otherwise levelheaded I don’t know. It seems, however, he was quite smart. What a gifted person can do to someone who loves them can be quite cruel. What a mentally ill and gifted soul can contrive to say can be so twisted and yet somehow almost make sense. The guilt can just pile up on a frustrated mother or father. They feel responsible even when they are not. They have no idea what to.

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