Oprah's Shocking New Secret Mirrors One of My Family's Darkest Secrets

Oprah's Shocking New Secret Mirrors One of My Family's Darkest Secrets - Talk show host Oprah Winfrey admitted she's been hiding a secret since 2007 in an effort to avoid a media frenzy. The secret? Her mother, Vernita Lee, gave up one of her half-sisters for adoption when Oprah was 9. Living with her father, Oprah never learned of her mother's pregnancy with that half-sister. She learned for the first time that that half-sister existed in 2007.

Oprah's half-sister has been identified as a woman named Patricia from Milwaukee. Oprah and Patricia met in October for the first time. Patricia has not publicly disclosed her last name, preferring to keep family business private. She acknowledged trying to track her birth mother after spending much of her childhood in foster care, only to learn that her birth mother did not want to meet her.


But when Patricia saw Vernita Lee give an interview, she recognized some of the scant information she knew about her background in Lee's recounting.

Patricia's desire to keep family matters private is understandable, though why she would appear on "Oprah" if she wanted privacy is a bit perplexing.

For years, I wondered about the mystery child in my own family; not my sibling but my mother's. My grandmother and mother were suspiciously mum on the subject of my mother's older sister, telling us my grandmother was ill for a full two years after the baby's birth and let a neighbor raise her. The story was the neighbor ultimately decided to move away, and my grandparents allowed them to take the baby since they had bonded with her.

This story smelled of cover-up, and for years I tried to pry out more details to no avail. I did genealogical research, convinced that this sister of my mother -- my aunt, though it never felt that way to me since I never met her -- must have been born out of wedlock.

Birth and marriage certificates proved my suspicions wrong. My mother's sister was born three years into my grandparents' marriage. The best information I have, and it's not all that I'd like, is that my grandparents gave the baby to my great grandfather and he placed the baby in foster care.

One thing I do know about family secrets like mystery children whose existence or birth circumstances are obscured is that they cause unnecessary concern and confusion. My mother's sister showed up on her birth family's doorstep at the age of 15. I asked my mother, who would have been 12 or 13 at the time when her sister suddenly appeared, "Wasn't it exciting to find out you had a sister?"

Her answer was reflective and very, very cautious. What she said was, it wasn't what I might expect. She and her sister had grown up in different circumstances with different opportunities and different values. It was unfortunate, but though they tried to be friends, they were very different people. It was obvious to me as a preteen at the time that she felt guilty about being the chosen child who remained with her parents while her sister was "given away."

Ultimately, my grandmother and mother refused to associate with the long lost daughter/sister, which is why I never met her.

Reading about Oprah and her sister, I can't help but think that some of the same observations might apply in her family as applied in mine. Oprah, the child the parents kept, struggled but not only survived, she triumphed. Patricia, the child sacrificed, had a difficult childhood and began having children herself at age 17, outside of marriage. That has a familiar ring as my mother married and had children after a troubling childhood, while her sister placed in foster care as a baby started drinking heavily and got pregnant out of wedlock at 15, another fact I learned through genealogical research.

Vernita Lee said it was shame at giving up her baby that motivated her to keep Patricia's existence a secret. But hiding the truth seems to eventually cause other pain: for siblings that includes longing for the relationship that wasn't, guilt at being the chosen child, and anger at the parent who secretly gave a sibling away. ( news.yahoo.com )

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