The "Helping Sisters"

August 11-September18, 1998

Once upon a time there were three sisters.

In the middle of her junior year of high school, the eldest sister went to Florida for six months to “help out” after Aunt Mary’s surgery. A couple of years later, the middle sister went to Michigan to “help out” Great Aunt Betty who was getting on in years. About a year later, the youngest sister spent several months “helping out” Uncle Henry and Aunt Sylvia with their kids. These extended trips to render service to distant family members was never discussed and time passed.

Twenty years later, the eldest sister approached the next younger sister. With great emotion, she began telling her of a phone call she’d just received from a young lady who had been adopted as a child and was searching for her birth family. The younger sister excitedly began to laugh and cry, saying, “At last, oh, at last my daughter has found me!”

At this, the older sister said, “What are you talking about? She’s MY daughter and she’s found ME. Remember when I went away to Aunt Mary’s?” The younger sister’s tears of joy turned to sorrow as she began to comprehend her sister’s words. They sat down together and openly shared their truth for the first time. Neither could believe that they had each conceived, born, and relinquished daughters and never known about it. They wondered how their parents could ever have kept two such secrets!

The oldest sister’s reunion with her daughter went very well, so well, in fact, that it prompted her younger sister to search for and find HER daughter. That reunion, while different, was also good.

Then, one day, the oldest sister received another phone call. ANOTHER young woman was searching for her birth family! As the two sisters discussed this third call, they remembered their youngest sister “helping out” Uncle Henry and Sylvia. Could she have given up a child as well?

“No”, they said to themselves! “This can’t be! We’ve talked to her. We’ve told her of our experiences. She’s met our daughters. Surely she would have told us if she’d had a child this way, too!”

But, they called her and asked her if this third young woman could possibly be her daughter. She denied it. She claimed to have no idea what they were talking about. “It couldn’t be me!” she exclaimed. “ I was helping Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan that summer!”

Hint: This family wasn’t “dysfunctional” because three of its daughters got pregnant and gave their babies up for adoption. Three of its daughters got pregnant and gave babies up for adoption BECAUSE the family was dysfunctional! The fact that the youngest one couldn’t even correctly remember her cover story only highlights the denial in which many such women must live.

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