Secrets are hard to keep. On the other hand, some people are able to take secrets to their grave.
I have always known since I was a small child that I was adopted; in fact, it was a point of pride for me. I can remember telling my childhood friends that I was better than them because “my parents chose me (as opposed to their parents not being able to chose them). My adoptive parents were very open: I knew names, locations, and the story behind the adoption of my brother and me (we are biological brother and sister). So, for me, there were no secrets. But for my biological family, secrets were not found out until after the holders of the secret died.
|Hattie & Elmer, 1972|
You will notice in that last sentence that I said “holders of the secret.” There was only one secret, but four holders of that secret: Elmer Vigoren (1903-1975) and Hattie Bourque Vigoren (1902-1985), my biological maternal grandparents; Violet Vigoren Curfman Evans Hendsbee (1923-1995), my biological mother; and Robert Douglas Evans (1919-2011), my biological father.
Let’s start with Elmer, Hattie, and Violet. Violet’s first marriage produced a child, Wayne Curfman (1941- ). Her marriage fell apart and she left Wayne with her parents. They still had a child at home, Harry Vigoren (1929-1946). Then, Violet married again, Robert Evans. They had two children my brother Douglas (1948-2003) and me. The marriage was breaking apart, so the two of us were also left with Violet’s parents. Now, Elmer and Hattie had four children under their care. To make a long story short – my adoptive parents Frank and Florence Newhouse, adopted Douglas and me in 1949.
Through internet searches on my part to find medical information, I met my maternal biological family in 2002 (remember, I knew names). The family, for the most part, is living in California. Wayne Curfman, my half-brother, said that one day my brother and I were there, and then we were gone: He would have been about 8 years old at the time. The extended family would get together for Christmas, including my biological mother and grandparents, and there would be a discussion as to what happened to the “missing children.” My mother and grandparents knew where we were and what happened to us because they had kept in contact with my adoptive parents. However, never a word was said.
|Violet & Robert, 1946|
My father, Robert Evans, eventually remarried and had a family. He died in 2011, and his son (my half-brother) Robert Evans, Jr., and daughter-in-law, Barbara Stewart Evans, found me in 2012. They had requested his personnel records from the Department of Defense in order to find out about his various medals, awards, etc. In those records they saw a notation that in 1946 he had a wife and two dependents. They were shocked. Using the internet, they found me. Robert had never revealed to anyone in his family, including his siblings, that he had had a prior marriage. I had not tried too hard to find my birth father because of his somewhat common name and I knew he was from the St. Louis, Missouri, area. For me, there were just too many to try to go through.
So, my question is, how does someone keep a secret – like having children and even a marriage – to their death?
According to the July 2017 issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, keeping secrets is “stressful because you . . . keep thinking about that information, which reminds you that you have a secret.”
So, did Elmer, Hattie, Violet, and Robert keep thinking about my brother and me? Did they want to share the secret but were afraid of the judgment of others? Did this secret cause them stress? I guess we’ll never know.