It’s been 1 year, just a little over, since John and I heard the news. It was a Skype call Adam, my nephew, set up with us. He had something important to say.
Nothing could have prepared us for what we heard. There before us, the man of whom we knew — full beard and close cut hair on his head — proclaimed that he would like to become our niece.
My first responses. Love, of course I love him no matter what. Support, to listen to what he had to say. But shock. I put on a brave face. As soon as the call ended, I collapsed. I started crying from deep within, tears that didn’t stop for days.
I never saw this. To me, he never showed signs. In a way, I felt the need to grieve. Something was lost that evening. A childhood, an entire lifetime to that point of not knowing. I was so sad that we had let him down for so long.
As the scientific-minded person I am, I immediately started doing research. I had doubts. Every question I asked, he had an answer. He had indeed been thinking about it for a very long time.
I couldn’t talk about it at first. For, the rest of the family still did not know. And, frankly, I could not find the words. There were periods of fear. What kind of change would this bring to his life, the life of our family? Is this really going to solve any underlying issues?
And, sometimes I felt anger at the whole situation. Of course, I was not mad at Adam, not that day or when we were younger. My anger, likely the anger of my whole family, is aimed at his father. When he came into our lives, things changed.
[A short side note: We tried to love him, but he walked on that love over and over again. I accept now that he is a deeply troubled and hurt man, from whom I am glad we all have distance but for whom I believe that we need to find forgiveness. We do more harm to ourselves by holding on to negative feelings for others. But, I digress… ]
Let’s rewind 26 years… I thought I was finally going to get my own room; my poor sister shared a room with me all throughout high school. She had plans for college. I remember sharing my excitement with my grandma, “I’m going to have my own room soon.” And I was greeted with some hushed whispers and nervous laughs.
Angie, my sister, Adam’s mom, was the one who finally told me that she would have a baby. I remember being happy: I would be an aunt!
He was born when I was 10. My sister had just graduated from high school. She was made her own room in the downstairs living room. So, I did end up getting my own room, but my sister never got to go to the college that she planned.
The day he was born, I woke to much anticipation in the kitchen. Mom, dad, and Angie were off to the hospital. My cousin stayed with us until it was time for school. I’m not sure which day after, but I got to see my sister and meet the baby. She even let me touch her belly, now deflated and soft like jelly. I thought it was the most intriguing thing I’d experienced so far in my life. And, how open my sister had been with me is a closeness I cannot begin to describe.
I rode home from the hospital in the back seat next to the baby, saying repeatedly, “Look at ‘im… get it, look Adam…” thinking I was so clever in the similarity of words. I ran through the neighborhood announcing his arrival.
It wasn’t easy, but my parents made sure my sister went to school. As a young mother, she successfully completed nursing school and started working as a nurse almost immediately after. My mom watched Adam for the foreseeable future. Aaron, my sister’s second son, came four years later. We became a crew, me and the boys. Swimming, fishing, summers of fun. We grew up together.
But, that was the past. And, upon hearing Adam’s news, I knew I had to let it go. I finally pulled myself together, went to a meditation class, and started on the path toward acceptance. The present was calling for a deeper understanding. Slowly but surely, everyone in the family became aware. And, everyone has processed, is still processing, in their own way.
We weren’t sure exactly how to tell the girls, our girls. We were a little worried about Maia especially. She is 9, just growing into a young lady herself. We sat down with her to share the news. She asked why? We were truthful, told her that we loved him and that we didn’t exactly know why [there is some science that shows that this is indeed a biological trait in the brain but none of the research is conclusive]. When we told her he planned to change his name to Aubree, she said “That’s both a boy and a girl name. I read a book with a boy named Aubrey.” Then she asked to see some pictures. “He looks cute in this one.” Then she ran off to play a video game, giving me a thumb’s up. We learned something from her that day. Amongst my sadness and doubt, she showed acceptance, softness, and flexibility.
We have been watching the transition. Longer hair. A different voice and dialogue. Hormone treatment. Less facial hair. A changing body. New clothes.
Now, one year after we heard his news, it has become Facebook official. Recognized as a woman in all social situations, it was time. One post, he was still Adam. And the next post, her name was changed. Bree came out to the world. A beautiful woman, strong and smart.
I still had some tears that day, the kind of mixed emotion. As I painted our basement, the David Gray song played on my phone:
“And take a look in my face, for the last time,
I never knew you, you never knew me,
Say hello goodbye,
Say hello and wave goodbye”
As we say hello to Aubree, we also say goodbye to the boy, the man we once knew. Adam is no more. I will miss him. But, I welcome this new person. The same, in essence, but truer and happier.
As always, life has a way of breaking us open in ways we never dreamed possible. At the end of the day, it is LOVE that sees us through.
“Love yourself. Accept yourself. Be honest what heals and helps you. Then you’ll bring your healing gifts to others. Your life will be a gift to the world.”
– Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie