My Long Lost Brother: The Note to Ann Landers

When I was eleven, I found out I had a long lost brother.

I was playing Riven. I don't remember what I was stuck on; it was probably the little balls in the puzzle on top of the globe. No matter how many times I went back to the place with the puzzle's clue and how many times I thought I had it right, it just wasn't working. I was close to tears.

My mom, who'd played the game before, wasn't home and she wouldn't answer her cell phone. It was off. I thought I might be able to find her Riven notes in her filing cabinet, where she keeps her personal papers. When I noticed a file titled "Adoption," I was curious.

You can guess where this is going, right?

I found a note she'd written to Ann Landers. The advice columnist had told a birth child not to search for his birth mother, that the mother had given him up for a reason and probably wanted nothing to do with him. My mother wrote back and told Ann Landers how she'd had a baby in college and given him up for adoption. She considered it his right to decide whether or not to meet her. She had given him up, given him the decision, but she would be devastated if she never got to see him again.

His name, when she left him at the hospital, was Michael Patrick.

I stared at that piece of paper. I didn't know when my mom was getting home. She was probably at the grocery store, or paying bills at the bank. I put it quickly back in the filing cabinet and brought the phone into my room, where I had an unused jack for it. My parents didn't think I needed my own phone.

I called my best friend, and cried because my mother hadn't told me. Cried because I wasn't supposed to know; I'd found out clandestinely. I'd been intruding.

Bette Midler had a song called "Lullaby in Blue" about adoption. After that summer, whenever my mom would skip it on the album, I'd calmly ask her why. I asked to see her yearbook photos, since I'd figured out that she must have given birth during her senior year at Notre Dame. I didn't know all the details.

Every once in a while, I'd go back to look at the letter again. I'd wait until she was gone, for sure, for a while, and go back to the filing cabinet, slamming it closed if I thought I heard my sister coming up the stairs. I did this every few months until Mom sat the family down for a macaroni and cheese dinner three years later.

**Update** I was going to continue this story, but I decided I don't actually want to, at least not in this style. The short story is that Michael Patrick was coincidentally named Patrick by his adoptive parents and found my mom and our family about a year after she finally told my sister and me about him. He's a Catholic youth minister and just had a baby girl, I, with his wife, C. They got married as soon as she graduated college. I won't use his full first name after this, but it's a pretty cool coincidence.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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