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51 Birch Street

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"With 51 Birch Street, Doug Block has fashioned an engaging and at times even suspenseful mystery out of his family's story and, along the way, a social history of the American family unfolds, from the uptight 50s through the 70s (a swath of story worthy of Updike, Cheever or Roth) to the present."

– David Hudson, GREENCINE DAILY

Valerie Matthis (age 53)

Mom lead me on. She did this for the first 18 years of my life. Then one day she admitted that the man who I thought was my father, wasn’t. I felt so betrayed after her confession. I wish that I could say that the situation brought us closer, but it didn’t; there was always a bit of unspoken tension between us. Shortly before her death, Mom started confessing things nonstop; I can honestly say that I guess that I never really knew her. Then there was the matter of her personal effects that told of a life that was far different than I could have imagined. I still remember the night that I was going through her things and found out that she had a child who died in infancy. I guess I never knew her.

Comments

Parents can be the ultimate mystery,I think.  Secrets (any side of life) kept from friends, coworkers, and acquaintences never have as much effect as they do on family.  Some people know too much about their parents; others don’t know nearly enough.  It’s a balance, I suppose, that is different for everyone.  One of my mantras: Having resentments is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.  It never works that way.


By: boomer, on Dec 17, 2006

I think this comment would be a little different, I am a mother, who is living a life undercover, with secret wishes, secret loves, pretending that life is fine for those I dont want to hurt. I guess i will be like your mom when i pass in that my family will find my personal effects and finally see who I am. They wont understand and may be hurt but they shouldnt be I still loved them tremendously.  I love my husband as a human being as a friend just not as deep seated love. Neither one of us wanting to be the first to end it. Like a comfortable pair of shoes that are worn and torn but you just cant bring yourself to get rid of them.


By: sue, on Feb 28, 2007

Sue--I was so touched by your confession. I think there are so many people out there living secret lives because they are trying to protect others--but that those secrets often take a serious toll on the person who is hiding something. There are significant costs to such secrets--just as there are significant costs to being truthful about who we are and what we need/want. Thanks for your perspective.


By: Holly, on Jan 15, 2009

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