“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…
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:
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
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
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.
(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
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.