Like millions of Oprah fans I sat glued to the TV Monday afternoon to hear the talk show queen reveal a family secret: she had a half-sister that had been given up for adoption in 1963 and Oprah’s mom hid it from everyone.
Of course, when you find out your sibling is one of the richest people in the world, like Oprah’s half-sister Patricia did, you probably want to celebrate and tell the world. What’s shocking is how Patricia kept the secret for approximately four years once DNA test confirmed their connection.
All the focus is on Oprah, but I want to dish about her mother, Vernita Lee. I’ll do that below the CNN/HLN video with the highlights of the today’s show:
So Oprah’s mom, Vernita Lee, found herself a single mother of a fourth child when she gave birth to Patricia in 1963 and decided to leave the baby at the hospital. I sat on the edge of my bed watching the show, with A.J. playing with his toys around my feet, and shook my head in amazement. I’m not judging Ms. Lee or any other mother who has to make such a tough choice. I just couldn’t imagine my life without A.J., while she’s lived more than 40 years without her baby.
As Oprah explored, her mom is still dealing with the shame of having so many children out of wedlock, based on 1960’s “standards.” The shame must have been immense if she refused to see Oprah’s sister, Patricia, twice once Minnesota authorities told her the child she left at the hospital wanted to contact her.
Sadly, these type of secrets seem to run in families. As Oprah has revealed she got pregnant as a teenager and lost that child. She credited her deceased sister, also named Patricia, for selling that story to a tabloid which ended up helping Oprah facing her own shame.
All I can say is I’m thankful my motherhood experience is free from such shame and guilt. Although, I must admit I was concerned people would be counting the number of weeks between my wedding date and A.J.’s birth.