One of the women at work has been out for a week tending to her really sick mother. This co-worker is in her early 50's, and had to drop everything on a dime when her mom had an unexpected medical emergency. Luckily, the mom came through, and today my co-worker came in carrying a small folder like a priceless treasure. Inside the folder were photos.
She showed them around and explained each one. I looked at the faded, sepia toned shot of her and her mom and wondered. Her mom is clearly, traditionally Asian. My friend, while having a hint of the same features, also has a very deep olive complexion and kind of wiry hair. I asked about her dad, and was amazed when she simply said that she didn't know. Her mother would never talk about it. I'm lucky, she said, that I even got these pictures out of her. It's taken me a long time just to get these. One of these days, she continued, I'll find out about my dad. But not today.
I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but I just couldn't. Doesn't that kill you?, I asked. Not knowing something that important? Well, sure, she replied. But my mom has never been willing to talk about it, and I never could figure out a way to force the issue. She started leafing through the photos. This is my half-sister, she said. She's a few years older than me. I looked at the picture and casually asked what her sister's name was. I don't know, she replied simply. My mom doesn't want to talk about it and I can't remember. I haven't seen her since we came to the US when I was six. She stayed with her dad. You were six?, I asked. Well, she said, that's what the papers say. But I think they were falsified and I'm really a few years older.
My inner control freak was having a very quiet meltdown. You mean you don't really know how old you are?, I asked. Well, it's not even just that, she answered. My birthday is in the winter, but I clearly remember celebrating it during the summer when I was a kid. I think, she continued, that when they changed the papers they changed my birthday. But what about your mom?, I asked. Surely she knows when your birthday is. Yeah, she answered, I'm sure she does. But it isn't something she's ever wanted to talk about. She doesn't understand why we can't just let things be.
This gal at work has had a difficult life, but came out just fine. She raised three kids on her own and made a very nice life for all of them. She's always upbeat and has a terrific sense of both self and humor. But I kept watching her all day, unable to get this thought out of my head...
How can you know who you are if you don't really know who you are?
Friday, February 13, 2009
Posted by the rotten correspondent at 12:02 AM