Goodbye to an Illegitimate Daughter

Tía Gladys & Me
There are people in this world who affect us more than we could possibly know, and in ways we could never fully understand. In the spring of 2011 I made a pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic to discover my heritage and uncover some truths about things that people in my family just didn't want to talk about. One of those family secrets was my aunt (or Tía) Gladys, the illegitimate daughter of my grandfather César Rosario.

While on this trip I discovered that there were four illegitimate children (all with the same mother) that my Grandfather spawned while actually married to my Grandmother Ysabel. I don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of this situation, or to point fingers at those responsible, what is done is done but what I do want to point a finger at is the fact that this information was kept secret from me, from us "children."

There were four, an aunt and three uncles, that I didn't know were related to me. People who could have imparted wisdom and kindness, who could have shared experiences with me and my other family members. Forgive me if I sound selfish and not understanding but I was robbed. By the time I came across this information, 2 of the four had passed away and so I made sure to look up the remaining siblings. I detailed my meetings with my aunt Gladys and uncle José in the 4th week of my Dominican Experience.

As is evident from the title of this post, my dear aunt Gladys has passed. She had a stroke last week and went into a coma. After a few days, the doctors said she wasn't going to survive and took her off life support. She died quickly and was buried the next day. She lived in a wooden shack and was very poor, but thanks to the fact that her husband is a retired fire fighter she was given a fire fighter's funeral.

As an illegitimate child myself, I can understand the shame and secrecy. The not wanting to explain the wrong to a child and then making believe like nothing ever happened when that child grew up. For many years I was angry, at both my parents, for the mark they made on my life. It was when I met my aunt Gladys that I realized that the anger was irrelevant, that the actions of my parents were irrelevant, but that my life was indeed relevant.

She was poor, lived in meager conditions, and scraped by but she was happy. She had a husband, four children, and even some grand children. She cooked for me eagerly and was thrilled that I wanted to meet her. She expressed no qualms about her life, or any hatred or anger towards her parents or the legitimate siblings (my mother and uncles) who faired so much better than her. She only spoke of her joy, of the things that were good, of the things that were right. I only got to spend a small amount of time with her at this meeting, but I learned so much about love and kindness, about peace and creating your own joy. I can say with honesty that in those few hours we were together, she was a better example to me than many of the adults in my "legitimate" family.

Thank you Tía Gladys for showing me the way. May you find rest and peace, may your husband and children continue to live in your example, and may you continue to remind me to appreciate and make the most of the life I have today, and not dwell on the life that was given to me yesterday.


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