by Candi Byrne
I learned last Friday that my brother died. I didn’t know I had this brother…don’t know his name…been told I can’t learn his name until the woman who gave birth to me dies. I don’t know her name either. I know someone who does know, but she is sworn to uphold Michigan’s closed adoption laws, outdated and unfair though they are.
C, as I’ll call her, is a confidential intermediary whose job it is to broker connections between birth families and their surrendered offspring or siblings. She holds the keys to the magic kingdom–“identifying information.” I sometimes fantasize about holding her hostage until she releases my 55-year-old file which is stored on rapidly deteriorating microfiche. I wouldn’t hurt her, mind you, I’d just grab and run off with the flimsy index card-sized film detailing the beginnings of my life story.
C has spoken with my birth mother on several occasions…has spoken my name to the woman, given her details about me…but my birth mother does not want to establish contact. She’s not told her children about her early indiscretion…never revealed it to her now-deceased husband. Some of her siblings don’t even know about it, C said.
I’ve been trying through C to get a picture of my birth mother. “I’ll think she’ll follow through,” C told me in late February. But my April birthday passed, then Mother’s Day, and still no picture.
Just before Memorial Day I asked C if I could send pictures of my granddaughters to my birth mother. I secretly hoped once she looked into the eyes of 2-year-old Corrina and newly hatched Jillian, my birth mother would say ‘to hell with keeping secrets.’ C said she would ask my birth mother if it was okay to forward the pictures.
“I have information,” C told me, her voice tight, “Your birth mother’s son–your, well, brother–passed away suddenly; she found him dead in her house.”
Stunned, I whispered, “What happened?”
“Heart attack,” and then quickly, “There is no history of heart issues on either side of the family.”
“Can you tell me how old he was?”
An emotional hurricane blew through me, thoughts whipping and whirling–
“52? That’s only three years younger than I am.”
“Oh my god, I can’t imagine losing my son.”
“Now she’ll contact me!”
“Now she’ll never contact me.”
“She’ll think this is God’s way of punishing her for giving me up.”
“My tribe is shrinking before I even get to know them.”
“I could be a comfort to her.”
After hanging up I sat for hours in the storm’s aftermath, poking through mental detritus for shiny or unbroken bits…for hope.
Finally, I rallied, turned to the computer and typed “michigan obituaries” into Google. Selecting the first site on the list, I entered “52” into the search box. Over 5,000 results returned.
Not so many to look through, I thought, not for family.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Candi writes in a tree house perched on the side of a West Virginian mountain. When not having tea parties with her two besties, 2-year-old Corrina and her baby sister, Jillian, Candi, handicapped by her post-menopausal brain, labors over learning graphic design software. Find out more at her blog: