A Ghost that Haunts Me

The Next Family

By: Lauren Jankowski

Not that long ago, I was reviewing some work and got distracted by a common element that turns up in just about every story I’ve written: separated siblings. It struck me because although this was completely unintentional, it clearly reflects an important, but still unknown, part of my life.

As I’ve previously written, I’m an adopted child. Unlike some other adoptees, I’ve chosen to forgo any kind of contact or reunion with my biological relations. To put it simply, I want nothing to do with them. This decision is due to a discovery that could have possibly affected my health and was undisclosed for purely selfish reasons.

Still, there is one biological relative of mine that remains shrouded in mystery: my older half-sister. All my life, I’ve known this person has existed, but other than that, I haven’t the faintest clue about her. The extent of my knowledge is that we share the same biological mother, she was given up for adoption through the same agency as I, and a few years back she was experiencing health problems. Being the naturally curious individual that I am, I’ve spent most of my life wondering about her. What kind of person is she? Does she know about me? Is she anything like me?

Perhaps, not surprisingly, this wondering plays out in my work quite often. Very few of my characters are only children. The ones that have siblings are often separated from them, usually due to forces and circumstances outside of their control. I’ve written a fair amount of stories that revolve around one sibling’s search for another, most often from the older sibling’s point of view. That’s interesting to me because technically, I play two roles in life. Among my adoptive family, the one I know as my own, I am the older sister. However, in my biological family, the alien backdrop, I am the younger half-sister. So am I writing from the mystery half-sister’s theoretical point of view or from my own?

Occasionally, I’ve found myself running Internet searches using a couple key terms and phrases. Sadly, since I don’t have that much information, these always prove fruitless. Does she run the same searches? Or does she share my distaste for our despicable biological relatives? Perhaps we’re both afraid of the same thing: that our mystery sibling is the apple that didn’t fall far from the genetic tree. Then again, maybe she is completely unaware of my existence. This seems to be the most likely scenario.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever look for her. I don’t think it’s very likely I ever will. I started to once, but then discovered the metaphorical skeletons that populate our biological family closet. That has soured me on the whole idea of any kind of reunion with anyone even remotely connected with that past of which I want no part.

I’ve come to accept that the lack of closure on this part of my past will likely continue to manifest in stories and dreams. Perhaps that’s another reason I’m reluctant to search. I don’t want to lose that last bit of mystery in my life, which can be a great driving force, creativity-wise.

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