Well this is what is on my mind today. The first 11 years were spent with brutal christian zealot foster parents. I was in childrens homes from 11 to 18. At 18 I was given a letter marked 1968 from a file. It was from my mother pleading for my return. I was also given my birth certificate and I was placed in a small flat in poets corner Atherton Lancashire. Number 21 Cowper Avenue.
Here’s some of the tale. She, studying in England, approached the social services for
short term fostering while she studied. It was 1967, the social services had no intention of doing this for her and the social worker, named me after himself and found foster parents many miles away. He then disallowed her from visiting. Just as you would with an adopted
child. The foster parents, put me into care at 11 telling me the devil was inside me and then the social services held me until i was 18 and then let go. Giving me my birth certificate was a legal obligation.
The most penetrating and horrific earthquake that happened inside me was a growing awareness that I was the only proof of my own existence. My own echo. That nobody i knew, knew me for longer than a year. The foster parents never got in touch with me after they placed me into care. So I have hardly any memory below 11. And between
11 and e18 I was placed in five children’s homes, all which had a turnover of new children each week. And each children’s home had new staff who worked in five hour shifts.
It was a really difficult concept to articulate; that all family does at the bottom line is confirm the existence of its other human beings. It is so primeval that most do not even see it. This is what birthdays, memory, weekend outings, family gatherings, funerals, weddings, holidays are, that’s all. They are a set of systems to confirm the existence and relevance of the human beings within the clan. And with the skills one learns within this complex set of behaviours, you then go out to the world.
IF I hear another person say to me “yes but family is not all good” I think I might explode. Whether family is good or not is not the issue here. In fact as one who never had a family I would say that the whole evaluation of “family” as good or as bad is a privilege that only someone with family can have. You are afforded the right to simplify, by the fact that you are part of the complex equation.
So anyway, I spent most of my adult life searching for my family. I found my mother at 21 and my late father at 28 and I found my fathers and mothers daughters and sons (by different partners) between 28 and finally my sisters on my mothers side at 32. I found my uncles and aunts within the same period. It’s a search that began at 18 years old when I left the children’s Home and discovered my real name. And it continued for Fourteen years and stretched over three continents. It bled me financially, professionally and emotionally.
Most of my new found family have continued the pattern of their lives set by the trajectory of their pasts. They are great people with great pasts. They have all of the difficulties and triumphs that happen to families that are split by revolution war and survival. They are
to a man, all educated. This is one thing that families do for each other – especially Ethiopian and Eritrean families. Education is, with all peoples in the world, a passport. But its not just the education, its the fact that someone wants and encourages you to pursue it.
Having not been part of their pasts I do not really “figure” in their future other than the “we have a relative in england” conversational piece. I forget to say to my family that having
searched for them my entire life I would have liked them to search for me. One visit
does not a family make. On the other hand I don’t have the tools to slot into a family. I find myself “wrong” and a threat to a status quo that has, by each family member, has been hard fought for. They’ve all got their own stories. And though my story is horrendous (to me) I am aware that it’s all relative. There’s an irony in the phrase “it’s all
Maybe what I want is something they could never give me. My aunt Alemash said to me
“you will never be alone again”. That was seven years ago. And she has called me every Sunday, since then. Why am I sharing this with you. Well, why not tell the truth. Not a
day goes by that I am not reminded of all of this. I am not angry and noone is to blame. However, someone once said of the illness “depression is anger turned in on the self” and how right they are. Be well.
Stardate six eight two zero zero six. The enterprise. Captains Log. No creative writing today. Oxygen bleeping on number five, before critical.