This episode was everything I was expecting, and something I wasn’t. I did not expect to find a personal connection with Rebekah – but I did.
The moment that stood out the most for me – in a stellar performance – was the moment in which Rebekah discovered that her brother had lied to her a thousand years ago in order to bind her to him. Such a moment is called a paradigm shift – when everything you believe falls away and the world as you know it changes profoundly.
I know exactly how Rebekah felt in that moment because I had such a moment myself – the moment my story changed.
I was adopted as an infant. My adopted parents never kept this from me. When I was 4, they told me in a wonderful way that made me feel special…chosen. In fact I was so proud, I went up and down my street knocking on doors telling our neighbors! (This was obviously back a few years when a 4 year old could walk up and down suburban streets alone knocking on doors!)
Naturally, as most adopted children eventually do, I became curious about my roots. My mother told me what she knew about my natural parents, and her story was consistent from year to year. Although my parents eventually divorced, I adored my mother and would not have entertained the idea of looking for information on my natural parents while she was alive. It was not important to me and as far as I was concerned, I knew exactly who my parents were.
Eventually, however, both my parents passed away and I decided to write to the “authorities” (there are always authorities in these cases – especially in the “dark ages” of adoption when all adoptions were closed) and register with the Adoption Information Registry at my birth state’s Department of Health. Once I did that, I never gave it another thought. Based on what I’d been told, I had no expectations of learning anything new.
Eight months passed. We’d moved from California to Texas, and one Saturday when I took in the mail, I noticed a yellow forwarding sticker on an envelope from the Dept. of Health. I knew what that meant. But on this particular morning, I was running errands. I was in a hurry.
I opened the envelope, read the form, my world spun off its axis, and I tried to right it by going on my way with my plans – handing the envelope and its contents to my husband and saying “I’ll talk to you about this when I get back.”
My husband was completely familiar with my adoption story. He read what I had read. When I came home, he was as perplexed as me, but at least his world hadn’t tilted on its axis. So I sort of clung to him in order to maintain my equilibrium.
You see, all my life I’d heard a story and my life was that story. I was adopted 6 weeks after my birth. My father had been killed in the Korean War and my mother, who was 25, had contracted a post-partum infection and had died. She was friends with my adopted mother, and specifically requested that I be adopted by the parents I wound up with. It was a death-bed request – otherwise it might not have happened at all. My parents were in their late 40’s and childless – no adoption agency would give them an infant without extenuating circumstances.
Also, my adopted mother knew my adopted father was an alcoholic. They’d been married for nearly 3 years when I came along – long enough for her to know the score. But when a dying woman asks you to take her baby – and tells you she cannot die in peace unless she knows you will – what do you say? Especially if you never expected to be a mother at all – but badly wanted to be?
So that’s who I was. An adopted orphan. An only child. The one with the alcoholic father. The one with divorced parents when divorce was still unusual. We all have a story, and this was mine.
But the paper I’d received said two things that blew the whole story up in my face. First, my mother was 32 when I was born, not 25. And she had had another child before I was born.
Ever had vertigo? That feeling that the floor has dropped out from under you and the room is spinning? That was the feeling. I was no longer “me” – or at least not the “me” in my story, because my story was gone. It was completely shattering and I could think of little else for weeks. Ultimately, I did nothing with the new information. But I haven’t been the same since.
And neither will Rebekah.
By the time I’d had my paradigm shift, I was 50 years old, and my parents were dead. I’m glad I waited until they were gone because I know that bombarding my mother (the keeper of the information) with questions and accusations at her advanced age would have been difficult, unpleasant, and ultimately damaging to us both. I prefer to think that she acted out of the purist of motives. There is nothing to prove otherwise.
But Rebekah has had her story for over a thousand years. So when she turns on Elena and repeats “Shut up, shut up, shut up”, it is because her “story” is no longer true. Rebekah went into denial. She has clung to this story for hundreds of years. It is inconceivable that there is a different version.
Later, when she reflects, she realizes it may be true, and she feels hurt and betrayed in the worst possible way. She cries inconsolably in front of the fire. This is a death as powerful as any other. And there are stages to grief that Rebekah must go through.
Becky and Nick will have a confrontation and they will come to blows over this. And Elijah will be dragged into it as well. And it will be ugly and painful – for everyone.
Yet within this story is another story – of two young women, both of whom have lost mothers much too soon, who choose to love despite great risk, who value family ties in all forms, and who stubbornly refuse to give up on people they care about. On the other side of her despair, I believe Rebekah will find Elena ready to meet her where she is.
And ultimately, I believe that Rebekah will find it in her heart to forgive her brother. Because, as she herself says, she is immortal and what are her other choices?