I’ll get back to this blog early next week!
“There is something I have to tell you before I die,” she said.
This is a statement that, when said by someone in pain, in anguish, struggling before you to find the strength to communicate something that will forever change your course of events, will bring you into what I call a biological state of emergency.
I have only experienced this state a handful of times in my life.
I was 20 the first time it happened. I was driving on the Long Island Expressway with a girlfriend. We were coming back from a winter trip to the beach, and ahead of us cars began swerving and spinning all over the road. They had hit an ice patch.
I was maybe 1/4 mile from 4 cars that were zigzagging across the three lanes. One went off the road and flipped into a snow bank. Another hit the center divider and then began doing 360’s in the lane I was in. I was approaching fast.
I felt it kick in then – I became incredibly focused, aware, sensitized. My instinct told me not to hit the brakes. Instead, I accelerated. I drove the car 75 mph through a small opening between the spinning cars as my girlfriend screamed “what the HELL are you doing??”. The car behind me tried following my path but didn’t make it. I looked into the rear-view mirror at a five car pile up. It happened so fast that my girlfriend was for a moment both enraged and stupendously impressed with my execution.
In that moment my brain analyzed the weaving patterns for an opening to drive through.
And it was happening again. A biological state of emergency might only last a few seconds, but the brain is in high gear. All the scenarios of what I might be told were blazing through my mind.
“You probably already know this,” she said. “It was a different time back then. I don’t want you to judge me…”
I think a few minutes may have passed with her repeating those three sentences. I had no idea what I was being told. And then, from “it was my first time”, and “his father was dying”, and “I didn’t think it could happen”, she wound up finally saying, “you have a brother…a FULL brother.”
So my parents were dating before they got married and my mother got pregnant. She flew to California and spent about four months in a home for unwed and pregnant women. She gave birth and then flew home. She never spoke about it for 44 years.
I went into work the next day and couldn’t focus at all. I spent three hours imagining which of my enormously quirky characteristics he might have, whether he looked like me, sounded like me, thinks like me.
I’ve seen the similarities between my sister and I. We have many mannerisms that are very similar. Whether this is because of nature or nurture or a combination of the two I can’t say. I might have more insight into this in 72 hours, after I meet my full brother for the first time.
There is so much about this story that when I tell it to people I never know really where to begin. I guess for me, the beginning is my mother telling me about the brother, because until then, from my point of view, there was no story. And each person in this story has a completely different point of view, and that’s one of the first things that dawned on me.
“I just don’t want you to judge me…”
She was crying. “I don’t want you to judge me.”
How could I judge her? She was visiting her 36 year old single son in San Francisco who plays in a band called Erogenous Jones, her son who says of his songs, “music that humiliates my mother but makes my uncles proud.”
My biological state of emergency was guiding me through the situation. I knew that there was only one thing to do.
I hugged her and told her I love her and said, “You did the right thing then, and you are doing the right thing now. It’s all going to be OK.”
She smiled and thanked me and I knew then that we had both done the right thing and that everything was going to be OK.
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