Yesterday evening I watched Long Lost Family on the television. I really don’t know why I watched it as in the past , it has always upset me. I was sat comfortably, which is a feat on its own at the moment, with the added comfort of my companion Luther, on my lap. I didn’t want to move him so left the TV station as it was. The remote was on Daniel’s side and he had fallen asleep so there was no choice.
A lady had fallen in love when she was very young, with a married man, when she was about 17, I think and he loved her. She became pregnant and he stood by her and so did her parents. She really believed they would spend their lives together, he would leave his wife and live with her as he had said. When her daughter was 7 months old, this lady became pregnant again. This time the father, didn’t stand by her breaking all ties to continue with is marriage. Common enough story I suppose, married man, innocent young girl, baby, often ends this way. Back then, there was little help for unmarried mothers and I suppose her parents couldn’t give any more help, I don’t know but the result was that she had her baby son adopted.
Every day of her life she had thought about him, every birthday, Christmas had given her pain. Every birth mother will understand how this feels, how painful this is and how that pain doesn’t ease with the years. She had told her daughter about the baby brother she hadn’t been able to keep and her daughter then had this void in her life that couldn’t be filled. This mum agonised over the decision she had made and also wondered what her lost son would think if he knew she had kept his sister. But back then, she felt she had no choice.
Well by this stage I was unable to speak, feeling every emotion that this mum was feeling, on the screen in front of me. But what I hadn’t really taken on board, not fully, until last night, was the impact on her daughter. This woman, the daughter, talked of her guilt, guilt that she had grown up with her Mum and Dad and her brother hadn’t. If they ever met, would he hate her for that? Would he be confused as to why her mother kept her and not him? What would her brother think of her, would he be jealous, resentful? Had this been how Melissa felt?How hard it must have been on their mum, everyday, seeing her daughter pass the milestones of growing up, knowing that somewhere, out there, her son was also passing these milestones? Well I do know the answer to that one. The mum’s pain, heartache and guilt was evident throughout the program and my heart went out to her.
The program tracked this man, this son and brother , down to not far from where his family now lived. He had been happy, one of the things his mum and sister wanted to know, he only knew about his sister for the latter part of his life and held no animosity towards either of them. The photos of the siblings were uncanny, the likeness as they both had the same parentage. He told the presenter, that he would like to be able to call his birth mother, Mum. Heartwarming and so good for her and for him.
So far, a great deal of this could have been my story. Single mum, becoming pregnant, having a baby boy and the father walking away. The only difference at this point was that I didn’t have any family support. I felt this lady’s pain with every fibre of my being. I hoped so much that the son would understand.
When they met, they fell into each other’s arms, crying and hugging like they would never let go. No similarity there. She was able to explain things to him and so was his sister, who was so happy that he didn’t bear her any ill will. But it made me think of how Melissa felt. She had grown up knowing about Jack, not every detail until she was older but she knew she had had a brother. Both she and Lucy knew, Jack’s photo was on our mantle piece for all to see. He was an absent part of our little family. When Melissa was old enough and when she asked about him, I told her the whole story and she said she understood that I had no choice. Either give them both up and leave them in foster care; keep them both and risk them being taken away as I had no means of income and no family support. Or let Jack go to a family who could afford to keep him and keep her. No choice. If taken into care I was told they , or rather Melissa was too old to be adopted and I had said I wanted them to always stay together, so neither of them would have a family. Things were different back then.
The day a reunion was arranged for me and Jack, I was too poorly, too shaky to drive myself and Daniel had to take me. I had wanted to meet him at a local beauty spot, a place I went to a lot, in my childhood, this was a ‘happy’. I also went there with my daughter and this was where I had wanted to meet my son. But it wasn’t to be. The meeting was arranged in a contact centre in a local town. I had made a promise to his adopted father that it would be a one off and that I would not encourage Jack in any way to come to live with me, to visit me or to indeed stay in touch. These were conditions that I had no choice but to agree to enable me to meet my son again.With all of this in mind, I was feeling very stressed, almost desperate. When he came into the room, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t stand at all. ‘Get up’ my heart cried, ‘hug him’ it cried again. But I didn’t, I had made a promise and so I didn’t. Perhaps my feeling so weak was my body’s way of making me keep the promise made. I don’t know. At first Jack wouldn’t meet my eye, just looked down. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was Melissa and Lucy all rolled into this one young man standing in the doorway of the room. Eventually he sat beside me, I tried not to let us touch, that would be too much for me. As he leaned forward to look at a photo album I had made for him, I could smell the aroma that perhaps only a mum would recognize. His own personal smell, the same as it was all those years ago and my heart broke again.I didn’t hug him, I didn’t throw my arms around him and hold on, like the mum last night did. I wanted to but didn’t. Another of my huge regrets. Our reunion was the best and the worst day of my life. When he looked at photos of his sisters, he said how good it was to see someone who looked like him. He didn’t ask why I hadn’t been able to keep him but kept Melissa, not then but I did try and explain. We only had a few hours so to tell everything wasn’t going to happen. And then my next mistake. As we went outside to go our separate ways, he threw his arms around my neck and I wanted to run, with him, back to the safety of my home. I wanted so much to keep him with me and he asked if I could. This is the part I regret more than anything. Again my honesty and integrity came between what I wanted and what was right in my eyes, to what was right and what someone else wanted. To keep a promise made I said I couldn’t but then said we could keep in touch. So in one way I broke my word to his birth father but I couldn’t help it. Trying to say goodbye to my son again, the third time in my life was impossible.
After watching the program, through bleary eyes, I went up to my study and needed to cry but couldn’t. The barriers were back. I was so happy for the lady in the TV show but couldn’t help but feel incredibly sad for myself and Jack. I had wanted to throw my arms around him and hug him but couldn’t and now, so wished I had.
It is his birthday on Monday and as always my flowers will be here , in the window, for him. I will spend some time on my own, thinking about how different life should have been. Thinking of how so many times I had got it so wrong and regretted decisions made.
I will try not to watch this program again but on the occasions I have in the past, although sometimes things are too close to home, to see people who should never have been made to live apart, become part of each other’s lives again, make me so happy for them.
I live on the edge of Jack’s life now as I do on Melissa’s, both because of my need for integrity that is never understood. Honesty is so important to me but my need for it has lead me to a lifetime of regrets in many ways. I hope one-day, Melissa will understand and forgive me for ‘allowing’ in her mind, her brother to be adopted and Jack for the same. I hope one day that I will meet Jack again and this time, like the mum last night; I will hug him like there is no tomorrow.
Thank you for reading x