“You always said you had two brothers.”
“I did,” I admitted. “Oh my God, I did.”
It was late; everyone else had gone to bed, and my sister and I were sitting up in my dad’s kitchen having our very first heart to heart.
I was hearing for the first time why we’d never really talked before.
“You didn’t claim us,” she said.
And she was right, I realized.
I do not have two brothers.
I have three half brothers and one half sister. I’ve had twelve step siblings – I say have had because the lines get confusing when the ties that bind you divorce and move away.
But the ties between my sister and three brothers are permanent. They’re blood. They’re undeniably family. And yet I have denied half of them over and over again for decades.
I didn’t do it to be mean.
“It’s because we grew up together,” I justified, because the brothers with whom I share a mother lived in the same house as me when I was a kid.
“I was always taught that didn’t matter,” she said.
“So was I,” I told her. So was I.
I know what it feels like to not be claimed, to not be chosen, to not feel special or loved enough or as important as. I carry those exact scars on my heart and have aired them out in therapy and lengthy prose.
And all the while I was inflicting the same wound on someone else – two someone elses – and was completely oblivious.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. And I was; I am.
I’m also so, so grateful that she had the courage to tell me. I would have never figured it out on my own.
Because what I learned in this conversation is that we can hurt people without ever knowing. We walk around as the narrators and heroes of our own stories, and we are so often blind to the roles we play in others’ histories. We rarely imagine ourselves as the villain.
This is important to remember.
It’s important to tell people when they hurt us, because most of the time it is unintentional.
And it’s important to believe people when they tell us we have hurt them, because our intentions don’t matter half as much as the consequences.
And it is important to never forget that our story – our perspective – is only one of the many in which we have a part.