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Family Secret


"Tino" was born into a poor Hispanic family.  He came home to five older brothers ranging in age from seven to seventeen.  His father struggled to provide for the needs of his family by farming the the few acres adjacent to the tiny two bedroom home which often housed ten or more members of their extended family. 

Tino, being the baby of the family was both adored and spoiled by his mother and her older sister who lived with them, but it was a hard life for a child who suffered from asthma and allergies associated with crops they grew, with a father who was prone to drinking and held little tolerance for "slackers".  Discipline was harsh, and always administered by Tino's oldest brother.

 Tino, for whom English was a second language, struggled thru school, and failed to graduate, walking out when he learned he lacked one required credit, refusing to return for another semester. When he reached adulthood and met a young woman he wanted to marry, Tino needed a copy of his birth certificate to obtain the marriage license.  He didn't know that this simple request was about to blow his world apart.

The task fell to an older brother to take Tino aside and explain that the names of the parents he would see on his birth certificate were not the people he grew up calling Mom and Dad.  In reality his birth parents were his oldest "brother" and a cousin that he had never met.

Tino learned that his birth mother was just fourteen when she got pregnant by her first-cousin, a shameful situation in this devout Catholic family.  She was kept at home and her pregnancy was concealed from the small community where they lived.  When the time came for her to deliver the baby she was taken to a hospital nearly 100 miles away, rather than to the local hospital.  Her parents gave her son an English first name on his birth certificate, with the plan being to put him for adoption.  However, Tino's paternal grandmother stepped in and insisted that she be allowed to raise the little boy, her first grandson, as her own, and so he came home to the tiny house and big "brothers". Tino's birth mother was never allowed to see or hold her baby, the family believing this was the better way to handle things.  She and her family soon moved away to another state.

Tino, had grown up believing that his grandparents were his parents, and that his uncles were his brothers.  He had no idea that his oldest "brother" was in reality his father. The secret had been well kept within the family, giving no thought to a day when he would have to be told the truth. If others knew, and surely there were some who did, no one had ever enlightened him.  Tino was shocked, and he was angry; his anger over that deception was to burn inside him for years to come, and he longed for the love of a mother he had never known.

Afterward: This is a true story. "Tino" is my previous husband. It was I who finally made the long-overdue connections and arrangements for him to meet his birth mother when he was well into his thirties.  The memory of that meeting will remain forever in my heart. 

Tino, ever "macho" in demeanor, was shaking like a leaf the day we walked hand-in-hand to the door behind which his mother and two of several half-sisters waited to meet him. When the door opened we gazed upon a face that so closely mirrored Tino's own, that there could be no doubt as to who she was. They share the same smile and the same bright green eyes, unseen in the rest of their family.  We also soon discovered that she shared Tino's "wild child" personality, never having quite grown up after giving up her adolescence so young.  

Many hours of  conversation, laughter and tears followed. Tino learned that she had never come looking for him because she had been told that he wanted nothing to do with her (another family ploy to keep her out of the picture). 

That day, as mother and son embraced for the first time, a crack appeared in the steel armour that had surrounded Tino's heart. The first seeds of healing were planted, and the secret no longer held power over their lives. 
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Our writing prompt for this week's edition of  Two Shoes Tuesday was "secret".

16 comments:

  1. What a powerful story. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Thank you Robin! It remains strong in my memory. That secret caused so much pain for both mother and son. I was glad when it was ended.

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  2. Josie, this is such a powerful story... I am glad you shared it!
    It is just another example of "You just can't make this stuff up!"

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    1. Thank you Brenda! That is so true, I love true stories and I read primarily non-fiction... life is so very interesting... the things people will do, the choices they make, and how it affects the lives of those around them!

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  3. Too often these things happen. Shame is a heavy burden to bear and is often at the root of a family secret. It was a blessing that they were able to find closure and healing. Peace is a gift.

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    1. True Annie. I can understand why the families involved made the decisions they did, things were handled so differently back then, and they probably believed they were doing what was best for all concerned at the time. But to perpetuate the lie for twenty years, and to add to the pain by telling both Tino and his mom that the other wanted nothing to do with them, was so very hurtful and unnecessary, all the shame had long since passed, and many people by then new the truth of things. This was one case in which reconnecting with your birth parent was an amazing gift, Tino changed that day, I saw the anger and the hurt melt away. It was a blessing!

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  4. wow, webs and webs of screts and lies....I am so glad there was a hopeful ending to Tino's tale....

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    1. Isn't that true, Joanne?! Tino told me he always wondered why his "oldest brother" was the one to discipline him while his "dad" never did. Finally it made sense, but they waited MUCH too long to tell him the truth, and it should have come from his real father, no an uncle. They knew it was going to upset him, big surprise huh? This was a very happy ending to that chapter of Tino's life. Though there remained many more issues that need to be addressed.

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  5. This made a nice story, Josie. One with a happy start for a happy ending. I am glad that you were able to facilitate this meeting regardless of circumstances that led you to be helping 'tino' to meet his mother. I see too why you wanted to have 'secret' for a prompt word in that you could share this with your readers.
    ..

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    1. Thank you Jim! I was glad I was able to gain the cooperation of some family members in tracking down Tino's mother and arranging for them to finally meet. It was probably the best gift I ever could have given him. Actually, I don't even begin to contemplate my own story/post until I've chosen and posted the prompt for the week, to me that would be like cheating! In fact I'm usually hammering it out on Monday night. I excel at procrastination... even with my own blog hop! :-)

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  6. Very nice story. I think it would be even better if you could incorporate the explanations into the story itself. I am sure that such things happen more often than we might guess.

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    1. Thank you Shimon, I wrote the story with very little time, but I agree it could be revised a bit. I know that in the past such stories were actually quite common, families kept their shameful secrets and children grew up damaged because of it. I am glad more is being brought out into the open now. It is always the children who suffer, as you know.

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  7. So glad this had the ending it did. It amazes me how long this secret was kept.... and hats off to you for arranging everything and helping Tino fill the longing for his mother.

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    1. Not all such reunions work out well, Robin, but this one was meant to be, and much too long in coming for both mother and son. The amazing thing was how truly identical they look, there could be no denying the connection, and so very much alike in personality and spirit too. That made it really fun for all of us. I am greatful that God helped me find a way to make it happen.

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  8. A beautiful and powerful story which highlights the hold a secret can have over families and often over generations. I am so glad it worked out in the end. It is a very hopeful and positive conclusion!!

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    1. It is amazing Selma, how secrets started for maybe what appear to be good reasons can grow into tangled webs of deceit and hurt. Breaking down the barriers created by this secret did wonders for the family, no longer were there walls between brothers and sisters and cousins and their children. Tino's mother and sister attended our wedding, as did his father and his brother. That was as it should be. :-)

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)