I wish I knew

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Helen AngelaTaylor  

New South Wales, Sydney

Your patient file stated that my birth was routine. I disagree.
When I was born you gave me away to complete strangers. Government calls it adoption. Psychologists call it abandonment. I don’t have a name for it even though it’s the canvas upon which my whole life has been painted.
People said you gave me away so I could have a better life. Better than what? I wish I knew.
When I was thirteen Mum told me she wasn’t my Mum. Well, not my ‘real’ Mum. I said, what does that mean? She said, it means you’re special. But I felt different. Other. Odd.
For eighteen years I wondered about you. What you looked like. Where you lived. Why you didn’t want me. Whether you wondered about me, too. I searched for you in the crowd at the local shops, and on the train platform on the way to school.
When I was thirty-one we met for the first time in a seedy hotel on the city fringe. I brought flowers, and a heart begging for belonging. You brought a pile of loose photos from your past. Some black and white, some colour. Faces of people I’d never met. We parted without touching. Not even a hug. I phoned the next day to thank you. You didn’t return my call. I don’t know why. I wish I knew.
When I was forty we met again in a noisy nursing home in the western suburbs. You shared a tiny room with a skeletal woman who kept crying out for cigarettes. You looked different. Mellow. You wanted to know all about me, you had many questions. But it was hard to talk in that cramped room with the crazy lady in the next bed.
You said sorry. You cried. You sobbed. I held your hand. I held back my tears. Until you said I was beautiful.
When I was forty-four you died. The brother I’ve never met buried you next to the sister I’ve never met. He tried to find me so I could attend your funeral. Even posted an ad in the paper seeking me out. I didn’t see the ad. I don’t know why. I wish I knew.
I wish I knew you.


I was born in Crown Street Women's Hospital in 1966 to a 41 year-old Russian woman who wanted desperately to keep me. Our separation at birth caused lifelong trauma for both of us. My heart aches every day ffrom the brutal theft of my identity, family and history.