My Sister

Posted in Excerpts at 10:10 am by admin

EXCERPT – Chapter Seventeen – My Sister

My Family - 1934

My Family - 1934

Lourdes took my shoulders in her hands and pulled me in close. “Grace,” she whispered, and I could feel her breath on my cheeks, “please do not tell these girls that Dorothy is not your sister.”What on earth was she talking about? I could hardly open my mouth to speak. I answered haltingly, “Of course. I won’t say anything.”But in truth I had no idea what Lourdes meant. That night after we came home from the church in town, I asked Mother what Lourdes had meant by her comment.”You will have to ask your father when he comes home next week. He can explain it to you.”I didn’t know what to say or what to think. It didn’t seem real. But I didn’t say a word to Dorothy. Finally, Dad arrived. Within minutes, Mom told him what had happened. He asked me to come into his study and he’d tell me all about Dorothy. “Dorothy is your adopted sister,” he finally said flatly. Still he stared intently past me, into that mysterious void.A nasty lump rose in my throat, swelling it shut. But I blinked back the tears and waited until Dad cleared his throat and spoke again.

“In Michigan,” he repeated. “It wasn’t a happy home for your sister, living with her grandmother. I knew they were trying to get her adopted. But I hadn’t stepped forward, not yet. Not until that day in the church when she reached her little arms up to me.”— Early in their marriage, my parents, like most of my father’s siblings, had intended to have a large family. As years rolled past, it became clear that my mother was not going to become pregnant. Then, in the spring of 1927, God stepped in. A very young member of my parents’ church in Flint became pregnant out of wedlock. A “great sin, a terrible shame,” my mother wrote in her journal. The whole thing stirred up a terrific scandal in the church community. Finally, on December 31, 1927, the baby was born, a girl. The young mother called the child Dorothy.—-”Maybe, he said, “that child was a gift from God.”"John,” my mother said slowly, “what do you mean?”"Her name is Dorothy,” my father said. “The name is derived from the Greek. It means, literally, ‘Gift of God.’ I believe we are meant to adopt the child.”Despite grave reservations, Marguerite complied. She felt she had no choice-her singular mission was to serve God by serving her husband, and God was watching. On September 28, 1928, under the dark shadow of my mother’s silent opposition, Dorothy Mae became a Kolenda, and my mother never forgave her for it.

Graceann’s Comment

I had no idea that Dorothy was not my real sister until that day when my Brazilian cousin, Lourdes, took me aside and told me. I immediately went to Mother and asked her if it was true. She further added to the mystery by asking me to wait for Dad to come home and that I should ask him about it. I was eleven years old, and I had no idea what was happening.

I could hardly wait until Dad came home, and the minute he arrived I asked him if it was true that Dorothy was not my real sister. Then he told me, in a very dramatic way, how it all came to about. This would not happen today, as adoption is nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. But in 1945 not being the natural child of your mom and dad carried a stigma.

After 12 years of marriage, and when Dorothy was six years old Mother had her first and only child, me. I felt very sorry for Dorothy, and always had the feeling that she resented me. As I became older it was easier to understand and see Mother’s rejection and constant criticism of Dorothy. I didn’t blame Dorothy for not wanting do have much to do with me. We were six years apart in age, and it took a long time before we had much in common, and became close. But I always felt that there was more to the adoption story and for the first time, at age eleven, I felt that Dad was not telling me the whole truth.

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