Archive for the ‘william frederick hunter’ Category

A Brother By Any Other Name

May 1, 2009

My brother, he has a name, a real name, a name that was given to him by the man and woman who became his true parents, a name that carried him through childhood and adolescence and high school and on into adulthood, a name that he probably learned to write by tracing its letters in pencil on lined scribblers, a name that he he probably scrawled on desktops and in the backs of math textbooks, a name that he has no doubt signed on countless cheques and contracts and letters. He has a name. It is not the name my mother gave him.

I know this name, now. Knowing this name makes feel both closer to him, and further away. Closer, because knowing his name will help me find him. Further away, because it is the name of a stranger, and sometimes I forget that it is a stranger I am looking for. A stranger who might have no idea that he has a birth sister (sisters), and a birth mother whose heart aches when she thinks of him. A stranger who might not care.

I have to remind myself that this story might not have a happy ending. I have to remind myself that, sometimes, an unhappy ending is better than no ending at all.

And so I press on.

I won’t be sharing his name here. I had thought that I might, thinking that people publish classified ads all the time, looking for lost family, lost friends, lost strangers. But this space isn’t a classified ad, and because he is a stranger – with name and a life that are all his own – I need to keep his name out of my story. If you have an opinion on this, either way, I’d love to hear it. The temptation to post his name was strong – someone, somewhere, knows him, and among the many visitors to this blog there must be some degree of connection to him – and although I believe that the decision to keep his name private is right, I’d love to hear what everybody else thinks. I want to do what is right. I also kinda want to talk it out.

Another question – because I am lost here, and your support and advice have done much to light my way so far – once one has narrowed down some possibilities – by name, and not just by the guesswork I was doing the other week – how does one approach a stranger with a story like this? How does one say, I found you by this name; were you once called by another name? Does one write? Does one call? Does one message via Facebook? Does one send word by carrier pigeon?

I’m lost.

(Note: if anyone is mean in the comments, like last time – and by mean I don’t mean critical – you’re allowed to give your honest opinion, even if you think I might not like it. I mean MEAN – I will close comments again. This topic is too sensitive for me. I want feedback, but don’t tell me that you think I’m a selfish, insensitive attention-whore for telling this story.)

(Oh, and? My computer problems are soon to be rectified. HP thought that my circumstances represented a great opportunity – because they are interested in simplifying moms’ lives, and I am a mom whose life became, with the death of her computer, very complicated – for me to roadtest, on a lending basis, one of their new notebooks. Which is kind of poetic, because it was an HP notebook that Jasper murdered. So it’s kind of like getting a Labradoodle puppy to replace your old Labradoodle who died when the baby pushed him off the couch. Sort of. If that Labradoodle puppy were just on loan and was wireless compatible.)

A Story Not My Own

April 8, 2009

This story that I`ve been telling about my brother – my lost brother – is not my story, not really. It is becoming my story – that is, it is becoming a story that matters to me, a story that involves me, a story that I am driving forward and that is driving me forward and so has become part of me, part of my life, mine – but still. At the end of the day, it is not my story. It is my mother`s story.

She is telling it here.

And it is breaking my heart all over again.


April 3, 2009

I have moments when I lose the thread of the story that I tell myself about why this is so important to me. I tell myself that this – this story about searching for my long-lost brother – is a story about helping my mother. I tell myself that this is for her, and for him. I tell myself these things, and I stumble over my lack of conviction. It is these things, of course. But it’s more than these things. I want to find him for me. I’m not sure why.

I never knew that I had a brother. His absence from my life, such as it was, was unknown to me. I never felt the loss, because I did not know it. It’s wrong, perhaps, to even describe it as loss. His absence from my mother’s life made it possible for me to exist. Had she stayed with his father, as was her plan, I would never have been born. We were never fated to share a life, he and I, so how can his absence from my life be understood, be felt, as a loss? (Also, oh god, loss. My heart aches for not being able to parse its experience of loss in a manner that makes such loss comprehensible. My heart, it aches, and is confused.) My brother was not lost to me. He was never mine in the first place.

And yet: I’m haunted by the moment, in the telling of her story, when my mother said “your father would have adopted him.” They were friends, she and my father; the circumstances surrounding her giving up this boy brought them closer. My father offered to stay with her, and with him, and make a family. But it didn’t happen that way – my mother didn’t know that she could change her mind about giving up her son, and so the wheel of the fates turned and the boy went to another family and was lost forever to mine. Is it this that haunts me? The idea that he could have been my older brother, that my life might have been the same in every respect save for the presence of a brother? No, because – if there is one thing that Lost has taught me – history does not unfold that way. Keeping my brother would have set my mother on a different path in a different life, regardless of whether or not my father was with her on that path. It would have set her on a different path in a different life. A life without me. So am I haunted by the idea that, but for the grace of the fates, this boy, this lost boy, might have had my life? Is this why I want to know him?

I don’t know. I’m still sorting this out. All I know is, I keep turning this Dharma wheel, hoping that it will project me into a time and place where I know my brother. For better or for worse.

UPDATE: I’m shutting down comments on this post. Apparently, not everyone in the world supports public adoption searches – which, fine, but some of those not-everyones are unable to express their opinion about that in a manner that is civil. My heart’s too vulnerable around this. I’m putting the comments away, to keep private, for myself, and closing further commentary. Anyone who needs/wants to get in touch with me about this, please use e-mail.

Another Story, Not My Own (Lost Boy, Part II)

December 4, 2008

I have not yet found my brother.

My heart hurts about this. It hurts more than I expected it to. I started this search on behalf of my mother; I agreed to do it because she wanted it, because she wanted to know how his life had unfolded after she lost him, because she wanted to know this without putting her own heart at risk. I agreed to do it because I didn’t want her to put her heart at risk. I offered up my own, thinking that it would not be so vulnerable. I thought that, because this was not my story, my own story, that my heart would be safe.

It was not safe. It was not safe at all.

I have put notices in newspapers. I have explored alumni associations. I have researched the extended family of his natural father. I have followed all of the leads sent to me by caring and concerned readers. I have found nothing. That I have found nothing is a source of some significant frustration, but it’s not the sole reason that my heart is hurting. My heart is hurting because it does not know what it wants. Or, more truthfully, because it doesn’t know whether it is right to want what it wants.

My mother does not know what her heart wants. I’ve known this from the beginning. It’s the reason that I’m looking for her son, my brother, the brother I have never known, on her behalf. She’s afraid of what she would discover. She’s afraid of discovering that he wants nothing to do with her. She’s afraid of discovering that he’s dead. She’s afraid because she’s not sure which of these represents the worst outcome.

She’s afraid because she would be looking for a window onto a future that she gave up. She’s afraid of what she might see, looking through that window. I assumed that I would face no such fear – that future, that hypothetical, long-rejected future, has, or had, nothing to do with me. This child – now a man – was her child; this child was part of a life that she lived long before I came along. His existence matters to me only inasmuch as he shares my blood, and inasmuch as he once had claim upon my mother’s heart. My interest, here, has only been to do something that might put my mother’s heart at rest, to help her find what the paperback self-help books have long called ‘closure.’ I wanted to help her find some conclusion – happy or otherwise – to this long cliff-hung story. So I have only ever said: my heart wants what is best for my mom.

When I visited my family back home some weeks ago, I told my father what I was doing.

So, I said, as he drove me to the airport. So. I’m helping Mom find the boy she gave up for adoption.

– Oh?

Yeah. She told me all about it. And I told her I’d help her. She doesn’t want to do it herself. So I’m doing it.


I don’t think it’ll be that difficult. The Internet, you know.

– What does your mom think of this?

She asked me, so. I shrugged.


– You remember when I found my father?

I did remember. I was seventeen years old at the time, and we made a special trip to St. Catherine’s to see him. He was an old man, and unpleasant. At the time, I put my distaste down to the fact that I was seventeen and he was old and smelled bad and said creepy things like give me some sugar.

– It was terrible. He was terrible. Your mother wouldn’t let him near you.

I had a vague memory of being hurried out of the house and taken to the mall. At the time, it seemed an entirely reasonable thing. I liked malls. But I remembered, too, my father’s distress after that visit, and the depression that he sunk into, and the damage that caused to my parent’s marriage…

– I wish I hadn’t found him.

We both stared out the front window. The road was wet, slick from rain.

– I just hope… I would just hope that your mother, that she isn’t disappointed. That she doesn’t get hurt. He glanced in my direction. This could hurt her.

When I arrived home, I called my mother. Are you sure you want me to do this? Because, I won’t do it if you’re not sure.

She paused. I’m sure.

Okay, I said. Okay. My father’s cautions could be set aside, if she wanted this. Well, remember what we talked about? If I have a copy of your birth certificate, I can make an application to Vital Statistics to find out his name. It’ll be pretty straightforward then.

I’ll send it this week.

That was weeks ago.

I’ve reminded her, now and again, to send the birth certificate; I’ve told her about my efforts with newspaper ads and search engines and she makes supportive noises and when I say but once I send in the request for his name from Vital Statistics, the search will be much easier, she clucks and says of course and I’ll get it in the mail this week. But she never does.

I know that she’s ambivalent. I know that her heart is torn. I know that she aches to know what became of that tiny baby in the blue blanket – the baby she refused to hold for fear that she would never let go – but that she recoils at the prospect of gaining knowledge that would bring her pain. I know that she’s afraid of getting hurt. And if I were a good daughter, if I were a sensitive daughter, I would hold to her pace. I would stand back and allow her to test the water and decide whether she dares to take the step that will plunge her into the unknown. If I were a good daughter, if I were a selfless daughter, I would not prod and nag.

But I am not selfless. I do prod and nag. Gently, of course, but still. I can’t leave it alone. Because my heart is in this now, and although it wavers when I think of my mother’s ambivalence and my father’s fears, it wants this. It wants to find that baby boy, my brother. It wants to know how this story ends. It claims that story, if only in part, as its own. As my own.

And so my heart aches that my efforts have been for naught. My heart aches – my spirit aches – for this story to move forward so that I can find my brother and know my brother – whatever that looks like – and piece together the missing chapters of our lives.

But however much I try to convince myself that this is my story, it is not my story – or, if it is, it is only tangentially my story – and the person to whom this story belongs is, I think, unnerved by its unfolding. Even if she cannot bring herself to admit it, even if she does not demand -even if she does not wish to demand – that we close these pages, this story frightens her. I know this. And so, and so…

I don’t know how to go on. Do I follow my own heart, or do I concern myself first and only with protecting hers? Can I do both?

And Miles To Go

August 25, 2008

I think that I broke my mom’s heart all over again, writing that post. Even though she told me to go ahead, even though she knew it was coming, her heart wasn’t ready.

That was beautiful, she said. I only read it once. I won’t be able to read it again.

-That’s okay, I said.

But it was beautiful.

-I just told the story.

But the way you told it.


Something you didn’t write about… why I’ve been afraid to look for him… I’m afraid of the hurt. If he didn’t want to have anything to do with me, it would hurt as much as it did when I gave him up. It would feel like the same loss. It would be that loss, all over again. I would feel it all, all over again.


It’s a wound that’s never healed.

We don’t have to do this, if you don’t want. I don’t. You just have to say so.

No. Do it.

-You’ll tell me if you want me to stop?


Both of our hearts will break many times, I think, before this is over. But hers will break more than mine, the cracks will run deeper and longer, and I am pained by that. I’m pained by that because she’s my mother, and I love her, and I want to spare her hurt. But I’m also pained because I will, I know, be the architect of some of that hurt, because it will be my words that press her heart to strain. I can only hope that there is some joy – or at least some release, or some closure – at the end of this journey.

I am so tired, and we’ve barely begun.


She loved your comments. The comments stretched the ache in her heart, and soothed it. That so many people understood, that so many people took something from her story, that was precious. Thank you.

We’ve quite a journey ahead of us.


I had to walk away from e-mail this weekend. I needed a break. But I’ve read and am reading everything. If you haven’t heard from me yet, it’s just because I’ve been putting sleep and baby-cuddling ahead of correspondence. You will hear from me. I’m indebted to all of you.


August 22, 2008

And then, there was this:

wow, you don’t understand what your post really did for me today… I am right now in the middle of an adoption plan gone wrong… i have so many emotions going through my mind… Its hard for me to look at her sometimes because I know what I should do, but why can’t I do it?! …just got word the adoptive couple just wants to back out completely… is this a sign? do I keep my baby girl even though if I do I will be sacrificing the lives of all my children… this baby is #3… I would love to have your opinion… please…

Her name is Marie. When I saw her comment, the other day, I stood up from my chair, closed my computer and walked away. I walked into the room where my baby was sleeping, and sat down on the floor with my knees curled up against my chest, my arms wrapped around my legs, my heart pounding. I didn’t cry. I was cried out already, from having written that post, from having taken that story that I’ve been carrying for days and bringing it to life, from having made public my pledge to do this remarkable, difficult thing. To find my brother.

If I wanted to make this story more poetic, I would say this: that I stood up and looked at my baby – my precious baby boy, this boy that I could no more give up than carve out my own heart – and, overwhelmed by my love for him, made my mind up to help Marie at once. But that’s not what happened. I stood up, and took extra care to not look at my boy – for fear that I would be reduced to a sodden mess of tears – and went back to my computer. I opened it up and logged on to Twitter and prattled something about could anyone, anyone please go respond to this comment please please I just can’t and then I went and ate some cake.

Then I went back to my computer and posted a response to Marie: Please, Marie. E-mail me.

And she did.

I found your blog one day just browsing and you are amazing… It was so ironic to find your story and here I am going through this… I haven’t made a decision yet… I haven’t even named my baby yet, she’s been with me since monday and all I can call her is Beaner, what I called her when she was in my belly… I’m really confused, I don’t know what to do….. She’s not my only child, this is kinda a big mess…

I started my adoption plan 2 months ago, I told my family… they are not happy.. I live in a shithole little town that sucks the people in and i don’t want to be one of them… My family threatened to take my 2 older kids 2&4 away if I placed this baby… I went into labor early, I had her on July 23 and she wasn’t due until Sept 3. After my mom drove me to the hospital where I gave birth alone, I got a summons that afternoon stating my parents were granted temp custody of my 2 other kids because I abandoned them…

I picked a family and because of all this drama, they backed out and now I’m left with deciding do I try to get to know another family as fast as I can? Or do I take it as a sign and keep my baby… I’m just afraid of the life I’m destined to have w/ my kids in this shit hole town if I do… If I place her in an open adoption, I can still see her grow and be happy…And then I can move out of shitville with my kids and away from my family….

I don’t know…

I wanted to say to her, keep your baby. Keep your beaner, please. But how could I say that, when I didn’t know that would be the best thing, the right thing? My own heart is bruised and sore, struggling to come to terms with my mother’s loss, with my own loss, a loss that I had never known, a loss that might have been for the best, who knows? I didn’t know. I don’t know.

I’m not the best person to turn to on matters concerning the heart, right now.

I said this:

Oh, Marie.

I wish I knew what to tell you. All I can think is, you haven’t said what you *want* – what do you want most? It’s so hard to predict or know what the best path is – but what one do you *want* to take? Do you want to keep your beaner? Can you get out of your town with all three kids? Or do you really think – and this might be true – that beaner’s best shot at a good life is with another family? SO HARD.

I wish that I could do more to help, other than say things like ‘follow your heart’…

It’s not necessarily true that her heart will guide her to the best decision. I know that. Maybe the heart should be left out of decisions like this. I know that my mom tried to put her heart aside, or part of it. It was why she didn’t hold her own beaner. She was afraid that she would never let him go, and that that would be the wrong thing for him. That it would not be the best thing, that she would get carried away by her own selfishness, that she would give in to the selfish thrum of her heart and keep her boy. Her heart was divided against itself: do what was best for her heart – keep her child – and do what she believed was best for his heart – give him to a family that could give him everything she couldn’t.

She did what she believed was best for him. But it broke her heart. The cracks have never gone away. And now here I am, her daughter, her love, suffering for knowing that those cracks existed, that I could never fill them, for the fact that I never knew they were there.

But this isn’t about me.

I don’t know what to tell you, I told Marie. Can we ask some others for help?

Yes, she said. Please.

my heart wants to keep my beaner but my mind says i cant… i don’t think i have asked my self what my heart wants… i need all the advice i can get. this just hurts so much i love all my kids so much and i just want the best for them.


I can’t, we can’t, tell Marie what to do. We can’t know what the best thing is to do, anymore than I can know what the best thing would have been for my mom and for my brother. All we can do is hope and pray that they find – that they have found – some path to happiness.

And we can hold her hand while she finds her way. Please, any words of support you can offer… so many moms never get to have this kind of support. My mom didn’t. Offer it to Marie, and to all the moms that do and ever did need it.


To all of you who have been sending links and tips and stories: thank you. I love you. I just do.

And? That thing that I said we were going to do? We’re still doing it. Next week, if I can stay on top of everything. Info here.

Lost Boy

August 20, 2008

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and she only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.


It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

She had loved his father. They had planned to marry, as soon as he divorced his wife. Nobody had believed her, but it was true. It seemed true. They’d run off together twice. They both went AWOL from the Air Force, running off into the night to be together. Her family pursued them, his wife’s family sent private detectives after them, the Air Force searched for them. They were wanted. They ran. They were found, and they ran again. He left his family for her, risked his career for her. He was happy that they were going to have a baby. They hid out in motels.

At the time, she said, I thought it was romantic. She shakes her head.

She was nineteen years old. He was nearly twice her age. When her family found her the second time, they didn’t bother to reason with her. They just took her. They took her and put her in a home for unwed mothers. She stayed there. She doesn’t know what happened to her lover. She never saw or heard from him again. She thinks that he probably went back to the Air Force, and to his wife.

I would have liked for him to know that he had a son, she said. I think that would have made him happy. She paused. Or maybe not.

When she went into labor, the nurses at the home for unwed mothers gave her some money and put her in a taxi. She arrived at the hospital alone, labored alone, gave birth alone. Gave up her child alone.

She was alone when the social worker came into her room and asked her if she knew anything about the parents who would adopt her child. It’s a private adoption, she told the worker. My doctor arranged it. The social worker nodded. But did she know that those parents were in their 60’s? That they were old? That the province would never approve it if it were a public adoption? She didn’t know. She didn’t want that. She wasn’t giving up her son to new parents, only for him to lose them in a few years. Like he was losing her, now. She wanted the best for him. That was the only way she could do this. She had to know that she was giving him a better life.

She called her doctor in. She told her that she wouldn’t do it. She wanted her son to go to a young family, to parents who had their whole lives ahead of them, to parents who had years and years and years to love him. Her doctor was furious.

I was terrified, she said. I’d never spoken up to anyone older than me, not to anyone with any authority. But I had to do it. For him.

Her baby went into foster care while adoption services sought new parents. She didn’t go to see him.

My parents went to see him, I think, she said. They never talked about it, but I’m sure they did. My mother put him in her will, and kept him there. Through revisions and revisions until the end of her life, she kept him there, always a member of the family, in her heart.

The man that she would some day marry came to her side during that time. They were friends. He held her hand, a lot. She grieved for her lost love and her lost baby, and he held her hand. He said, I’ll marry you. We can get your baby back. I will love that baby. With you. We will love that baby, together.

But it was too late.

William Frederick Hunter was adopted by a Vancouver couple. Professors at UBC, I think, she said. It was too late for me, she said. For us. Or so we thought. We didn’t know any better. We were so young. We might have been able to get him back. But we didn’t try. We didn’t know to try. We thought he was gone.

She grieved for years. Her husband held her hand. She couldn’t bear the idea of having children. Just the thought of seeing another baby in another blanket it was too much.

The grief became less acute, as time passed. One day, she realized that she could have another baby, and bear the pain. She could imagine not transposing her lost boy upon a new child. She could love again.

It took seven years, she said. Seven years before I knew that I would be okay. And then I had – then we had – you.

And I loved again.

I squeeze my own baby boy, pulling him tightly against my chest, wondering how it would feel to let him go. Even if I thought it best, for him – could I let him go? My heart screams.

I understand why she couldn’t hold him, her lost boy.

I’ve thought about him every single day of my life, she says. Every single day. Every single day I see that little baby in that blue blanket, and I wonder.

I wonder.

She pauses. I imagine that her hand trembles as she lifts her wine to her lips, but I can’t see in the dim light of the late summer evening. I’m glad that I can’t see, and that she can’t see me. Tears are streaming down my face and wetting my baby’s head.

I’ve never looked for him. I couldn’t. What if something had happened to him? What if he hated me? What if he didn’t want to know anything of me? What if he never forgave me? Her voice cracks. I couldn’t stand knowing.

We sit quietly. I reach for the wine bottle between us and fill her emptied glass.

Still, she says. Still. I’ve often wondered whether you or your sister would ever look for him.

Would you want me to?

She takes a sip of her wine. She doesn’t look at me.


Then I will.

Thank you.

We sit.

I just want him to know how much I loved him. How much I love him still.

I know.

Thank you.

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and he’s my brother. I’m going to find him.


PS: Because you are asking: he was born in July of 1963, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. William Frederick Hunter was the name given to him to at birth. One or both of his parents were – we think – professors at UBC. That’s all I know.

PPS: Those of you who are offering to help – oh god the tears – your generosity makes my heart ache – please e-mail me, if you haven’t already. And, all of you, with all of your tremendous words of support: THANK YOU. Going off to weep now.