Two months after my 15th birthday, my mom shared a secret: The man I called Dad wasn’t my biological father. And just like that, I was half Costa Rican.
There were differences I’d long wondered about, like why among our blue-eyed Irish clan, my eyes were brown. Or why my skin was like the desert and theirs the snow. At every Thanksgiving dinner, I would ask the same question: “Why am I darker?” And every year, Grandma answered: “Because my sisters are darker.” Though I’d never met those brown sisters, her words had been my refuge at my predominantly Irish school in New York City, where I battled students who insisted I’d been left on my parents’ doorstep. In the wake of my mother’s announcement, those teasing kids seemed like visionaries. Despite the fact that Mom believed I was old enough to handle the news, I tried to ignore it at first, hoping to lessen the feelings of betrayal. But my anger wouldn’t disappear.
I went from a happy model student to a moody class-cutter; withdrawn one moment, blowing up the next. I felt torn, split between the only world I’d known and the mystery surrounding my biological father and his heritage. At one point, my confusion even led me to contemplate suicide.
After four years of parent-mandated therapy, I realized that I needed to forgive my family in order to move on. I also chose to close the door on the unknown: It seemed easier to embrace the comfortable side of my life, where I already felt accepted.
But more than a decade later—the year I was to be married—I found myself wondering about my father. I’d always thought that when I started my own family I wouldn’t care about the past, but my incomplete history made me feel less than whole. My pending nuptials made it clear: I needed to learn how to love myself for the sake of my future children. But how could I love what I didn’t know? With my husband’s support, I began to uncover my past.
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