Talking To Your Child About Their Absent Family Members

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 8.33.07 PMTwo weeks ago I got an email from my literary agent.

The subject line said: “must reach CHRISTINE COPPA.”

I was hoping that she was writing to tell me I earned out my advance and could retire to a pink house by the sea—even though the subject line was a little off-putting.



Immediately, thought … Troll. TROLL. Must get off internet. Why I am a blogger? Why am I all over the Internet? I must seek new employment. I am getting catfished. (Why am I writing about this? On the net!)

I slammed the silver cover of my MacBook Pro down, like I was hiding and no one could see me, even though everyone can see me. Everyone knows everything. Hi! 

I opened the top slowly and peeked back in … ah, you’re all still there. Hi, again!

I noticed the area code and it was from a place where I know his biological family lives. I was still scared to call, even blocking my #, so a family member did for me.

And … it was real.

Great grandfather is the biological grandfather of my son’s father. He just found out about us from a family member on his side. (It’s a little complicated. My son’s father was adopted. So, this was the biological side calling.)

My relative spoke to his wife. I am told she had a kind voice with sincerity in it. She wanted to know if my son needed anything, “With medicine and sickness these days, you never know.”

I was really wiped out by this. She wanted to give my kid bone marrow.

I spent the rest of the day walking around my tiny condo with my cell in my hand.

Do I call his father?

Do I call Great grandfather?

Do I call the biological parents of JD’s father?

Do I have some wine? Nah, it was only 3 PM and I had to pick up my kiddo from school.

Still I couldn’t shake that feeling. That feeling knowing that half of my child’s DNA was out there, trying to get in touch, wanting to get in touch.

My relative said that I would need time to think.

And all I did was think. Think about this. What it would mean. I googled. I found their house on google maps. It was a sweet home. It probably smelled like soup and pie inside (and only because that is what my grandparents home always smelled like).

But so many questions fogged my brain. Overwhelmed my person. I told Mr. Suit. I told girlfriends. They all responded the same: Calm down.

This was reassuring.

I just didn’t know how I would handle this … how would I explain to my son these people are X from X and they are related to your father and they want to meet you, but your father isn’t ready to. No, no, no. Too messy.


Then my phone rang. I was eating sushi at Whole Foods on lunch with workwife. The number was blocked and I assumed it was my older brother calling on his work phone.


I spoke to Great grandfather and he was kind and sweet and made me laugh. He reminded me of my Poppy, a war vet with lots of stories.

“I printed a photo of you and him and put it on my wall. He looks just like A when he was a little boy. I look at it everyday.”

My eyes watered up. Before we got off the phone, he said, “Please tell JD I love him.”

The rest of the work day was a fog.

That evening I told JD so many people in this great, big world love him. “I know, mommy!” JD said.

I couldn’t, at age 5, begin to explain this person to him, but I also couldn’t silence myself.

I sent Great grandfather a recent pic of JD and I let JD color on the envelope. I didn’t tell JD what was in the envelope or where it was going. I just said, “Decorate, dude!”

In nearly 6 years it was the first willful communication and, man, I welcome it.

Night, all. 

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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