Sitting across a Baker's Square table from my birth-brother, sipping coffee and eating pie grateful slowly turned to guilt. I first met my birth brother, 5 years younger than me, 20 years ago. We met when the State agreed to open my closed adoption record to help me learn more about my medical history.
I met him, my birth sister, and birth mom at a restaurant outside of Chicago- a middle point for us to meet as we lived in different states. When I walked into the restaurant I almost ran into this man near my age, who I immediately recognized, because he looked just like me. Meeting my biological family members was not romantic or glamorous, but it provided answers. However, as someone who was raised in a home with all sisters I was immediately fascinated with the idea of having a brother. We ended up losing contact and not reconnecting until the advent of Facebook.
And now I find myself sitting across this table from him. I have questions, but mostly he needs to tell his story. Before this night he once told me in a phone call that he was secretly jealous I was adopted. Now, I really understand why. I knew my birth mother struggled. What I know about her childhood is her ACE score is high and her adult adversity higher. Now my birth brother is sipping coffee and re-accounting the details that reveal his childhood adversity. He tells me of not knowing his father, to this day, moving every 6 months as protective services circled or a new man entered or they ran from a man. He describes how one of his "dads" beat him to make him more of a man.
We laugh over how we both dreamed up who might possibly be our real bio-fathers, of course both famous men. But all of the laughter cannot quiet my guilt. I got out. My birth mom became pregnant at age 16 and was quickly whisked away to live with a foster family until I was born. When I was born she didn't see me. I was then whisked away and placed with my forever family a month later.
As I take another bite of the decadent piece of pie I selected I realize I offer my brother something no one else can. I can listen, hear with a deep, shared connection but without all of the expectations, issues or pressures a family member might have. I have no judgement of what he is saying. I offer him all I can- a positive, stable, adult relationship. I am grateful I know him. I am grateful I love him. I am grateful we are friends. I am grateful for this man who is faithful to his wife of many years, is a wonderful father to his daughter, is a kid's soccer coach, loving dog owner, and well-liked co-worker.