Bastar Child Un-witnessed Part V

Part five of a six part series that I wrote this past Fathers Day as my sister’s death neared. She died the next day.

When I found my sister, Nan, sixteen years ago, I responded to her first loving letter welcoming me into her heart with deep gratitude. Now, unwilling to involve anyone else in our,”undisclosed family connection”, I proceed with caution as I try and tender my goodbye’s at her impending death.

A few weeks ago, her daughter Em, (my niece), who I’ve never met or spoken to, emailed to say that the end was near and that Nan would love to talk with me before she died. She also assured me that she knew to hide my book (Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe) that I’d just published and sent to Nan. I had prolonged mailing the book for as long as possible; a memoir that detailed my bastard-ness and the ways in which my mother intruded into my father’s life and his then new family. My sister had told me many times how her mother hated me. I felt such relief that my sister’s elderly mother would never have to see the book.

Three weeks ago I called Nan’s home phone−and left some obscure message that no one but Nan would understand. No response. I waited a few days and called again, hoping to connect directly with her.

This time I spoke with someone who identified herself as Nan’s best friend. I could feel her protective stance as she inquired who was calling. Guarded, I simply replied that I was Dawn, from the west coast. The tone of her voice softened instantly and I could tell she knew who I was, the way only best friends would know these things–things that can’t be shared in families that carry old shameful secrets.

She tried to hold the phone so my sister’s mouth so she could talk but evidently, too heavily sedated, my sister couldn’t speak the words she wanted to share with me. If she could have, she would have been generous with love and appreciation. She was always generous with me except for some in-between years after our first meeting when I unintentionally hurt her feelings regarding alcohol. She pulled away for a few years, later telling me that she felt humiliated. Humiliation often renders rejection. Without much of a relational foundation, we eventually bumbled through reconciliation.

I told her best friend that I would wait and call back when she felt better, even though I knew that wouldn’t happen. I understood in that phone call that Nan’s death was looming near. Now it’s too late. With the arrival of my sister’s relatives, funeral arrangements and all, I felt obliged to protect the secrecy that we had harbored all of these years. Four generations of secrets to be exact.

I had known for a few months that Nan’s dying was close at hand. Now it was imminent. As the un-acknowledged bastard child, I didn’t have the right to call, inquire, reach out, console. I didn’t realize that the need to comfort could initiate the same kind of ache as the need to be comforted.

Now she is gone and a part of me feels unmarked like the blank headstone that signifies an un-acknowledged life. If I could I would shower her grave with flowers of  appreciation for our undisclosed relationship.    To be continued           




Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Dawn, This wriitng is poignant. It softens the heart and and makes me remember with compassion the multigenerational secrets in my own family. I talked to me octogenarian parents the past week-end about the hardened shell my father’s mother wore over her pain. My father’s grief over the unresolved relationship between them was palatble.

  2. HI Gayle,

    I have a friend who runs a nursing home. She reports that her motivation to keep working on her own heart injuries comes from observing those close to death with unresolved relationship issues.

    Unresolved hurts are almost as painful to watch in our loved ones as they are to feel in ourselves.

    Thank you for commenting. Blessings, Dawn

  3. Ron Kelley says:


    You write so well from the heart. You have in the past (as in Ragdoll), but you are exceeding even that with your words–no, expressions that you share.


    • Hi Ron,

      Thank you for the encouraging comments.

      I hope that I can learn to write one day without having to have a heart that feels raw just to get heart words said.

      Be well. dawn

Speak Your Mind


Bastard Child Un-witnessed (part IV)
Bastard Child Un-witnessed (Part VI)