My friend was born in our small village April 12, 1934. This was fine with me, but it was not pleasant for his family, because he was an illegitimate child. It was a disgrace for the family and later was a hardship for my friend.
Older readers probably shake their heads and understand such situations, but maybe younger ones probably don’t comprehend what the fuss was all about.
My friend is now 84 years old and is no longer interested in what others think about his out-of-wedlock birth. When he was about 13 months old, his mother married a man from a nearby village — for the greater part because of the boy. A boy needed a father.
The marriage, according to my friend, was not a happy one. His stepfather adopted him, at that time a simple act. He only had to declare that he accepted the boy as his son. It was all noted on the boy’s birth certificate. It did not take long before the boy realized there was something wrong with the marriage, like the date of his birth and that of the marriage.
He would later ask why he was older than their marriage. With some lame excuse they would talk it away. The boy was baptized when he was about 5 years old. And he wondered, why not right after birth? Then he heard that there was no place at church for an out-of-wedlock child.
And why had his mother been dressed in black at her wedding instead of white? Again, because of the boy.
During the war, the local minister had taken in a boy from a war-torn region. This boy and my friend became good friends, but the minister stopped this because, he said, it was not seemly.
When he dated a girl, he felt obligated to tell her of his origin before someone else did. After my friend had finished grade school, his stepfather felt that the boy should start working for a local farmer to earn some money. The stepdad had at the age of 12 started working for a farmer, why not now the boy?
His mother wanted him to continue his education, but the principal of the local school felt this was not a good idea. The boy’s grandmother in a nearby town offered to let the boy live with her and she would pay the tuition and other expenses.
Years later, he met a girl and their marriage has now lasted for some 60 years. During his early dating years, he met many of her family members. He was always amazed that he felt himself so free and at ease among them. No one asked him where he came from or about his origin.
During later years, he started to visit more of his own family, and among them was an aunt who had been a great support for his mother during those early years. She told the boy that the day after his birth, there had been a family gathering to decide what to do with the boy. An uncle was sure, he said, that this child would be the cause of damage to his career. He insisted that the boy should disappear. They also decided that the boy’s mother would not be able to afford the child. They talked about orphanages.
But then the grandmother came between all of them and said with force: “The boy stays here.” That probably was the strong bond between the boy and his grandmother during their later years. He always knew that his grandmother was his great supporter and that she loved him.
Years later, the man and his wife received a visit from a young woman who had two children and no husband. But no one spoke of illegitimate children, there had been no family gathering, no talk of orphanages. At that time my friend realized that he had been stupid all those years to carry that heavy burden about his origin. It had not been his fault to have been born.
But such were the times then, and condemnation came easily. Luckily feelings and attitudes about such things are quite different now. My friend knows now he was born 60 years too soon, but he no longer feels that he was an inconvenient addition to that different generation.
Tony Antonides lives in Central Point.
Be a columnist for a day
Do you have something to say? Do you have a humorous take on current events or an insightful angle on the seemingly mundane? Maybe you have a view of life that will help us all see things a little more clearly. If so, email your 500-word column to features editor David Smigelski at email@example.com. Please put “Columnist for a Day” in the subject line, and include your phone and city of residence. The rules are simple. Keep it short. Have a point. Don’t cuss. And make us glad we asked. If we like it, we’ll run it in the Sunday paper.