The Janus Tree

Half dead tree

I once saw a tree at a distance and it was lush and green. This deciduous plant was full of life and filled with vibrant leaves. As I passed by the tree, I noticed the other side was scarred, withered and void of life. When I questioned people who lived near the tree, “What happened?” I was told the tree was struck by lightning and that one side had caught on fire. When viewed from the side with branches sprouting rich green leaves, one could not see the death and destruction that it hid on the other side.

This tree is a symbol of my family. My sister is my biological sibling, adopted with me into the same family. We are branches that extend from the same family tree. Today, people say I am the successful one. I have multiple degrees, I have travelled the world, I have 2 gorgeous, happy and healthy kids and I am financially stable. My sister, unfortunately, did not fare so well. She became a mother in her late teens. She married young. She suffered through multiple failed relationships. She lost custody of her children and gave them to the people who abused us as children. She didn’t use her scholarship to obtain a degree and is unable to hold a job. Many individuals would call her unsuccessful.

It wasn’t always this way. If you saw us as teens, I think 99% of people would have placed their betting chips on my sister to become the successful one. My sister’s accomplishments were impressive! She was on the A honor-roll, made it to State in track, she was a beauty pageant and the “popular” one at school. I was probably considered a sure loss. I wouldn’t have placed chips on myself either. I barely graduated high school receiving a 2.1 GPA. If it weren’t for an “A” in shop, I would have had to take my Senior year all over again. As for looks, my small waifish 112-pound frame was not built for any sports and I was that guy who never had a date all through high school. I guess you might have called me lame.

So how could a branch growing so well, get stunted so quickly? It’s due to the fact that in doing so well and reaching for the stars, her branches got struck by lightning. My short branches could never attract so much power. I had to learn to weather life’s storms the hard way. Possibly the bullying, the criticism and neglect I endured in silence toughened me up? I don’t know what happened to reverse our roles and make my little sister do so poorly in life.

It is so hard to watch the people we love suffer. It hurts to see them in pain. I wish the river of tears I’ve cried for my sister would somehow flow to her and make her sprout success and wash away her pain. But it doesn’t. I cannot live for her. She has to do that for herself. As some people can find only blame, I have strived to move on with my life. To make lemonade out of lemons. Strive to do better.

We may never know why one side of the tree bore fruit as the other side remained barren. We look to the obvious. Lightning strikes can cause the tallest of giants to become weak and wither away. The tree was subjected to destructive powers which stripped the tree of its protective bark, making it more vulnerable to disease.

In adoption, these protective layers come in the form of love, peace, and acceptance. We need these along with constant cultivation to rejuvenate our broken branches. I hope I can be that constant in her life to inspire her to heal and grow. She can sprout into the great person she was destined to be – that smart, talented and beautiful girl I knew not so long ago …  Maybe it’s inevitable. It’s been said that when 2 kids are adopted, one thrives and the other fails. I hope it doesn’t have to remain that way forever!

4 Replies to “The Janus Tree”

  1. Beautiful words – but remember your natural mother’s live was destroyed to – and your experience has happened in natural families as well non adoptees – children living in foster care etc. take care and never forget your natural mother who has suffered a life time legacy of pain, suffering loss and grief

    1. This is so far off the mark. You have no idea what his first mother has or hasn’t suffered, but either way, the responsibility doesn’t fall to the adoptee. He’s sharing his own pain. Listen to that.

  2. Mirah Riben – Author of "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry" (2007).
    familyadvocate says:

    One of the things we are born with and/or obtain in life is reisliance. Some of us have more than others.

  3. I’m sorry for what your sister has endured and what you have watched her suffer. You are right, we all need constants in our lives. Those with trauma as children struggle more to maintain a steady course, and are more easily thrown off by ‘lightning strikes’. We have less capacity to withstand hardships. Best of luck to you both.

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