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Distressing Family Secrets

Rebecca Wong

You can depend on your family for anything—at least, in theory. What happens when a family member decides to keep a secret close to their chest for years? For these people, the reveal of family secrets has resulted in laughter, while others have been left in tears. Read on to find out what these families do when their secrets are dragged into the light.


1. An Unexpected Friend

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Apparently, my grandma’s dad—my great-grandpa—wasn’t the nicest guy to my grandma. He was a mechanic or something and used to work on cars, and my grandma would spend time at his shop. Well, one of the regulars would come in and dote on my grandma. One day, this regular came in and gave my grandma a porcelain doll, one of those nice super fragile ones.

The customer looked at my great grandpa and said, “Whatever happens to that doll, I’ll do to you.” What gave him the guts to be so menacing to my great-grandpa? Well, it turned out that the customer was none other than Al Capone.

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2. A Story Straight From Hollywood

I went to a friend’s funeral about a month ago. He passed young, in his early 30s, and had a wife and three small kids. We were close in school, but only casually kept touch over the years, so I had only met his wife a few times. I got to the funeral and was surprised how well she seemed to be holding it together, but figured everyone handles grief differently.

I offered my condolences, and then ended up chatting with a few other college friends after the service. My friend’s wife came up to the group to let us know that we are invited to go have a drink with her and a few others if we wanted, as her parents were watching her kids for her. I was going to decline until she told us that she had something shocking to share with us.

Apparently, she needed to let us all know what she had found out over the last week while going through my friend’s things. According to her, the reason she wasn’t very upset was because my friend had been leading a double life for the past 13+ years! He had always claimed his dad had owned a trucking company and then sold it leaving him really well off, and we believed him.

Based on his spending habits, this all seemed true. He also had claimed his mom passed while we were in school, and that he was an only child. After he left the college I attended during our sophomore year, he would post pictures of Vanderbilt and claimed he transferred there to finish school. All of this seemed to check out.

To add to all this, he also said he got a master’s from a different prestigious school. I had worked with him briefly a few years ago in a professional capacity when his company reached out to possibly work with my company, so based on his role there, all of that totally sounded like it could be true. It turned out none of it was.

His mom and sister attended the funeral—the mom all of us, including his wife, thought had passed when he was in college, and the sister none of us knew existed. She had no idea that he’d told people she wasn’t alive. She thought his son and wife eloped, and with her living out of state, my friend would make excuses as to why his wife didn’t visit.

My friend had also told us his sister was his cousin, so we were all shocked by that too. My friend even went so far as to show his wife an obituary for his mom when they were dating. His wife had thought the whole time that his actual mom was his aunt, and that his sister was his cousin. And the lies just kept coming—an entire life unraveling before our very eyes.

The school stuff was also all lies. He apparently transferred to an online school and got a bachelor’s, but would send us pictures from Vanderbilt’s campus. The trucking company his dad owned was real, but actually went bankrupt and was liquidated. The trust fund he told his wife that he set up for the kids doesn’t exist.

To make things worse, he had told his wife that he didn’t have student loans, but he actually had $78k in loans. He had maxed out multiple credit cards she didn’t know existed. And the cherry on top? He was cheating on her with multiple other women.  He was taking them for fancy dinners, to the casino, and even getting hotel rooms for them.

Needless to say, his wife was livid, and she was very happy to find out she wasn’t the only one my friend had been lying to all these years. The whole thing seriously felt like a movie. I didn’t realize stories like this actually happened in real life. I am still sad my friend passed, but I also realize many of us never met the real him. Now the rest of us are doing what we can to help his wife and his kids.

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3. A Surprising Windfall

I was asked to help clean out a house that belonged to the dad of a friend of a friend’s. While in his house, we knocked out a weirdly placed wall. Within it tumbled out stacks of banded cash. We counted it up and it was $1.2M in cash. Every single bill was $20. Our best guess is that his dad had a big day gambling, and decided to hide the money from the taxman and his ex-wife.

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4. A Real Femme Fatale

My mom and her best friend lived through WWII In their mid-twenties. Post-war, her best friend got involved in some shady black market activities together with a colonel of the French army. They got caught, the colonel got sent back to France, and she got sent behind bars. My mom wasn’t going to let that slide. She decided to do something about it, but her plan was outrageous.

She ended up seducing a prison guard, letting her best friend escape. The best friend hightailed it out of Germany and went to Australia to marry her Jewish boyfriend, who had left Germany when it was still possible. They remained best friends, and after my father retired, they emigrated to Australia. Didn’t find out until recently.

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5. His Lips Were Sealed

My mentor had a Ph.D. in Engineering but also had an MBA and a law degree from Harvard. He was the most intelligent and emotionally intelligent person I ever met in three decades in academia. We became very close over the years. He was even the guest of honor at my wedding! We were close, but there was always one thing about him I couldn’t figure out.

Every time we went out to a restaurant in a major city, people would come by and speak to him, often interrupting our meals. On one occasion, someone paid the entire tab without introducing themselves. He wouldn’t tell me who these people were or why this happened. One day, I caught a first name from one of the people that gave him a big hug and thanked him for everything.

I looked him up. The person turned out to be an astronaut, and not just some scrub that managed to get on a test crew. This guy legitimately had flown into space. It blew my mind. I asked him to elaborate, but he said it was best to leave things in the past for the benefit of all of us. I trusted him implicitly. He was never dramatic.

After he passed, his family reached out to me. Apparently, over a thousand people wanted to hold an event for him. Try to understand, I knew this man well, but I still had no idea why thousands of people wanted to hold an event for him. I know you’re wondering, so I’ll tell you. It turned out that these people knew him but they didn’t all know one another.

Apparently, my mentor had helped design the U2 spy plane after a successful career in WWII, where his strategy for reconfiguring the limited amount of armor plating available changed the trajectory of the war. He was so paranoid about someone from that era coming back to potentially harm me or his family that he took this accomplishment to the grave.

All these people worked on the U2 project, but were isolated from one another. That is why they knew him, but they didn’t know each other. What an incredible life.

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6. A Painful White Lie

My parents were soulmates, so I never knew why I was an only child. I found out when I turned 18; the day I was born, the doctors found an inoperable brain tumor in my mom. They told her she could live to be 100 or die tomorrow, but could never have another kid. My dad asked what she wanted out of life, and her response was heartbreaking: She requested that her daughter never ever know.

She didn’t want me to grow up scared, but I was the only one kept in the dark. Our town, our friends, our family, everyone but me knew for 18 years. I found out the hard way when I left home for college. My mom passed on the first day I got there. The dorm room phone was ringing the moment my dad and I stepped in with our first load of boxes.

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7. The Runaway

This happened during my best friend’s grandfather’s funeral. He had left a letter to be read during the service. For a long time, the family was under the impression he was born an orphan and had no biological family living. That bombshell of a letter quickly revealed the truth and changed how the family saw their grandfather.

The letter detailed how he ran away from home after his wealthy pastor father started extorting people’s money. He saw through the lies being peddled to vulnerable people, changed his name, and went halfway across the country to start a new life. The letter also revealed the names of his brothers and sisters, many of who were still living.

None of the family wanted to reach out to those siblings after they learned about what his father had done. That side of the family continues the practice of extorting people for their hard-earned money. Some are in prison. Some are living off the father’s money in comfort and luxury, having never worked a day in their lives.

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8. The Worst Way To Reveal A Secret

This is about an acquaintance of mine. We went to the same high school, and later, when we happened to work at the same place, he gave me rides home because we lived so close to each other. One day, I heard he had a motorbike accident while he was rounding a corner around our neighborhood, and passed from internal injuries.

After listening to speeches at his funeral about what a lovely, wonderful, and loyal son he was, a girlfriend went up to express her dismay at his passing, only for other girlfriends in the crowd to find out right then and there that they weren’t the only one he was dating. It was a dumpster fire. It was a totally unexpected turn of events.

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9. Talk About Awkward

When my grandma passed in ‘99, we had to sort through her things. We found a medium-sized box under her bed, and inside it were about 25 antique “personal massagers.” I had no idea that my grandma, who was very strict and a devout southern Baptist, would have such a collection. We quickly showed my mom the box to see what she wanted us to do with them.

My mom was very vanilla and had no idea what they were. She thought they were just normal vibrating massagers. She told us to put the box in the pile with other stuff we assumed was going to be thrown out. Yeah, unbeknownst to us, that pile wasn’t going to be thrown out. My mom had plans for the stuff we had set aside.

About a month or so later, I came home from work and found out my mom was having an out-of-nowhere yard sale. She was deaf, so she excitedly told me in sign language, “I made $50 on that box of grandma’s massagers!” I also found out she sold my vintage bike. That was a bad day. Also, who the heck buys used personal massagers?

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10. A Real Penny Pincher

When my great uncle passed in the late 90s, he had been living in total squalor in an apartment in the Bronx.  His wife had really awful dementia, and had passed a year or so earlier. All of our family offered to take him in, but he didn’t want to move. My mom would call him once per week and some of us tried to see him, but he didn’t want to be seen in person.

When we eventually found out that he had passed, his body had been in the apartment for some time. People in hazmat suits had to go in not just because of the decomposing body, but because of how bad the apartment was. Entire boxes full of cockroaches, 40-year-old magazines stacked to the ceiling, the smell of decay and rot, and that sort of thing.

Well, they also found something other than refuse—and it was utterly bizarre. It turned out that despite these atrocious conditions, he had a huge stock portfolio of major companies, all of which had been issued in the 1940s and 1950s. The man was sitting on a very comfortable amount of money—enough to have bought a nice apartment in Manhattan even at the time, in order to live out the rest of his days.

It’s too bad because he was a really lovely guy and we’d have loved to take care of him. We could’ve even used his own money to help him if he wanted to. But such is life, I suppose. My grandfather wound up inheriting it all and eventually distributed it evenly to all of the family about six years later.

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11. Never Underestimate Grandpa

A couple of years after my grandma passed, we found out that my grandpa had a long-lost son that my grandpa never knew existed, and that this long-lost son had been adopted 60 something years prior. Grandpa has gotten to meet him a few times. Not long after that story made some headlines, another old man reached out with an unexpected story.

It turned out that he was also my grandpa’s son—from yet another woman. At this point, we sat down and asked grandpa how many more kids were out there, and he actually ended up giving us a list of possibilities. We’re 90% sure he’s got a half Japanese kid, and possibly a half Korean kid from his time in the marines during WWII.

The best part of all of this is they fit right in with the family during family get-togethers. What’s more, my grandma would have absolutely LOVED them, and would have absolutely tried to adopt each and every one of them. She always wanted 15 kids. Grandpa said he didn’t want any kids, but now he’s glad he has them. All 11 of them.

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12. When Motherhood Goes Wrong

I discovered that my mother abandoned her eight-year-old daughter at a school when my parents shipped out from England. She then lied about the existence of her and my other half-sister. I also learned that she put my two older biological sisters into orphanages because she didn’t want more kids. It’s only thanks to my grandparents that they were reunited with the family.

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13. Speaking the “Bear” Truth

My great-grandfather had not, in fact, been eaten by a bear on Mt. Rainier while he was working as a park ranger. Instead, he’d been cheating on my great-grandmother and was summarily run out of town by her brothers. He moved to Alaska, and nobody knew what had become of him until we located his grave, many decades later.

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14. Down To The Penny

My parents saw me as an investment and kept a secret journal of how much they spent on me my entire life. This included what I got for Christmas, birthday gifts, movie tickets, even when they gave me quarters for the arcade. Even after I got married, they would track anything they gave us: gifts for the kids, things they bought for our house renovations, etc.

Eventually, I found my Mom’s diaries and a handwritten ledger with my name on it, detailing everything when we cleaned out her house. She also really didn’t like my wife—she repeatedly wrote that I married someone that she felt was from a lower class. She had multiple notebooks detailing what to do when she passed that we found throughout the house. What I found left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

The notebooks stated that my wife, her family, and her friends were not to enter the house after her passing, nor would they have any of her possessions. Jokes on her, though. It took us six months to clean out their three properties, and guess who showed up to help? My wife and her family helped me to clean out the three properties, which was completely packed with stuff.

They helped me to sell anything that we didn’t want. My family—the ones from my parent’s side—never showed up until the day of the final property auction. It completely changed my entire view of my parents and their love for me.

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15. Hold Your Horses!

My grandad was a farmer his whole life. Every animal loved him—and I do seriously mean every animal. Every time we would go to a new place, dogs would be mysteriously coming straight to him, or horses would cuddle up with him. He just had a charm with them—or so we thought. This illusion was about to be shattered for us.

One day, while cleaning out his closet and digging in his pockets to make sure nothing of value was thrown in the wash, we found grains, bits of dried meats, dog treats, bits of old carrot. Turned out he didn’t have a natural charm with animals at all! The man had simply been secretly bribing animals with food all this time.

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16. A Hidden Treasure

Great-Grandma owned a speakeasy in Philadelphia during the Prohibition. She stashed all of her money away in the form of gold. Eventually, she had the gold turned into picture frames that she then painted black and hung around her house. We found out after she passed, when my uncle wondered why the picture frames were so heavy when he took them off the walls for the first time in decades.

I always thought the black picture frames were ugly but never asked about them.

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17. A Hidden Life

My great-grandparents lived through the Great Depression. As a result, they had a compulsion to save things that you wouldn’t ordinarily think to save. When they both passed, my mother and grandfather cleaned their house and prepared to sell it. That’s when they discovered some life-altering letters. The letters were about another family—one that my grandfather had had before ours.

My mom was able to track them down and we got to know them, and they were all black folks from the Midwest. Apparently, he got into a bar fight and feared he had accidentally offed a man. He left his family and the state and started a new life—as a white man. He was actually able to pass as a darker skinned white man.

It makes sense to me that life was easier for him when he was pretending to be white during an era where people of color faced many difficulties. If you think my family should have guessed, I think the older folks may have suspected. Unfortunately, as this information came out, we also learned who in our family was in denial.

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18. When Secrets Come Out

We only found out recently that my grandma’s boyfriend, who was in our lives for at least the first 10 years of my life, had another family. And WE were the “other” family. Apparently, he was married with his own kids and grandkids, who didn’t know about us, but his wife was a chronic drinker, so he tried to avoid her as much as possible. He eventually fell in love with my grandma.

He passed during a cruise with his family, tragically, when we were kids. My grandma had to go to his funeral incognito and sit in the very back. I only found out about all of this because I was asking my mom why we never went to his funeral. It’s really sad too because my grandma has been alone since then, and now has pretty bad dementia.

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19. It’s Always The One You Least Expect

A family friend, an old man who was one of the most miserly people we all knew. He would make a fuss about everything even when he wasn’t the one paying the bill. A month after his passing, around 15 different families showed up. It turned out that he was paying their rents, college tuition, childcare, and what not for them. The man turned out to be a saint.

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20. Hopping On The Gravy Train

My grandmother recently passed. She was famous in our town for her amazing cooking and catering, and her turkey dinners were particularly good. Notably, her gravy was absolutely amazing. So delicious. She had a heart attack several years ago and her experience convinced her to share some of her secret recipes with me, all except for her gravy recipe.

I was confused that she wouldn’t share that particular recipe with me, but soon, the reason why she kept the recipe close to her chest became clear. When she passed this spring, I was going through her pantry and found an entire bucket of KFC gravy mix. She was literally using KFC gravy mix as a base to make her incredible gravy. Huge scandal.

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21. Dark Voices

After my grandma passed, we found her old medical files. She had undergone a psych evaluation in the late 70s. It turned out she had schizophrenia. In the transcription of the interview, she talked about demons trying to convince her to do things. And if she ever did anything bad, it was only because the demons told her to.

She was the sweetest, kindest, most loving person I’ve ever met. I knew my mom had a difficult childhood with her, but didn’t really get it until I read that file.

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22. A Dark Family Surprise

My wife’s dad passed 10 years ago. Growing up, she had two half-brothers. Her mom had been married twice before she married my wife’s dad. Last year, my wife decided to finally go through all the family photos that she had gotten from her parents over the years. For more context, her mom had moved into a memory care unit for dementia a couple of years ago.

She was identifying family members and reaching out to them on Facebook, offering them copies of photos they were in if they wanted them. But there’s one picture of her and a boy who appears to be a couple of years older that she can’t identify. So, she started asking the various relatives that she contacted. She was in for a surprise.

One of them tells her that he’s her half-brother. A half-brother she had no idea that she had until that very moment. Crazier still, it turned out he lived 20 minutes away from us. She found him on Facebook and reached out to him. They spent several days texting back and forth. His mother wanted nothing to do with my wife’s dad after they were divorced.

To make things even sadder, his mother didn’t want my wife’s dad around his son. Rather than battle her, my wife’s dad just stopped seeing his boy. After corresponding for a couple of weeks, he and his son stopped by our house to say hello. We all get along very well. My wife and him text at least weekly as well. We’ve been out to dinner with them, and are talking about going on a trip together soon.

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23. Should’ve Seen It Coming

I took care of my dad before he passed, and also handled his finances afterward. I eventually found out that my parents were divorced well before I would have been conceived—I’m the youngest of four. That, plus the fact that I have blonde hair and blue eyes and all my siblings have dark hair and brown eyes, pretty much got the ball rolling.

I started to ask my mother and other family members questions. Mom initially denied it, but I was pretty persistent and took things into my own hands by taking a DNA test. After I came back with the DNA results showing that another man was my biological father, she came clean. The conversation we had was interesting.

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24. Pure Motor Madness

My grandma didn’t drive. I thought she couldn’t, but it was just never discussed. One day when I was maybe seven or eight, I’d been trying to get someone, anyone to drive me to the store for candy. We were visiting my aunt and uncle, and grandma lived with them. They had Bit-O-Honey at the local store, which I could no longer get at home. But no one would take me to the store.

Finally I said I’d just ask grandma, and my cousin chimes in with, “Grandma can’t drive.” Suddenly, I heard a voice saying: “Oh you bet I can drive. They just don’t let me!” Grandma had overheard and she was in high dudgeon! But that’s all that was said about it, and my aunt finally took me to the store, so I forgot about it.

Years later, when I’d just gotten my license, I asked my mom what was up with grandma not driving—and the truth finally came out. She explained that during the Prohibition, my grandma boot-legged for moonshiners. She was very successful at it. She was so successful at it that when the moonshiners were finally busted, she got in a ton of legal trouble.

Even though the revenuers never caught my grandma, her license was suspended by the state “to never be reissued.” And so, my grandma didn’t drive for the longest time, but it wasn’t like she actually had a choice. Later in life, she was told she could petition for it back, but it came with an admission of guilt or some such. She told them to stuff it.

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25. Shady Dealings

My mom found out about 10 years ago that her biological father was actually my grandmother’s business partner, who acted as a family friend and whom my mom referred to him as her “uncle.” He passed when she was only seven. She had no reason to be suspicious of anything until my grandfather made a shocking confession.

My supposed biological grandfather confessed a few years before his passing that he had suspicions about whether he was truly her biological father or not. After some research and a DNA test, my mom confirmed it. When she confronted my grandmother about it, my grandmother’s response was, “And it took you this long to figure it out?”

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26. Marriage With A Twist

When I was 16, my mother and I were living in poverty. The lease on our home was coming up and wasn’t going to be renewed. The new landlords wanted to make some desperately needed repairs on the house, as it had never once passed a single inspection from the day we moved in. We had nowhere else to go, and things were looking desperate.

Out of the blue, my mother’s uncle—my great-uncle—showed up and offered to let us come live with him. He’d been my mother’s favorite uncle when she was growing up, but they had lost touch before I was even born. It turned out that he lived only a few short hours away, and was in need of some live-in help, so we figured this was our best bet.

His health was bad and deteriorating. My mother took care of him by driving him to doctor’s appointments, helping him after surgeries, and more. For years she did this, and in return, he took care of not only her, but me, and even some friends of mine. He and my mother were the kindest, most generous souls I’d ever met.

For the longest time, I told everyone he was like the father I never had, so I was devastated when he passed right after Chrismas within a week of my 30th birthday. He went into the hospital on my birthday, and less than a week later, he was gone. It was one surgery too many, and he didn’t have the strength to pull through.

I stayed with my mother for as long as I could, trying to help her figure out what her next steps would be. He’d had a will that left her everything. His house, his bank accounts, all of it. But the will was gone. No one knew where it went. We searched high and low, but never found it. What I did find, however, made my jaw literally drop.

I discovered a marriage certificate. As it turned out, my mother was married to her uncle and had been for over a decade. You see, he went into the hospital for surgery one day, and in the process, the doctors realized he’d need a second surgery. Instead of keeping him under, they had to let him come out of it and become coherent enough to consent to the second surgery.

As his niece, my mother didn’t have a say in that, so why not simply make her power of attorney? He had amazing health insurance and retirement. By becoming his wife, she was able to be put on his health insurance. She was getting older and needed healthcare, dental, and vision. She was also the beneficiary of his life insurance, as well as his social security and veteran’s benefits.

I was never able to call him my step-father in life, because I never knew. My mother was always afraid I wouldn’t understand or that I’d judge. Their relationship wasn’t physical. My mother is a CSA survivor, and his health was too poor and his medications too severe for him to be able to do anything of the physical sort.

I understand why they didn’t tell me, because even I hesitate to tell other people. It’s not a dark secret or anything that I’m ashamed of because I knew the nature of their relationship wasn’t like that. But it’s definitely something that requires explanation and it’s hard to tell if someone’s going to understand it or not.

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27. I Got Your Back… Not!

This is kind of messed up, but my parents told me my mom had a bad back because I pushed on her spine during birth. This was what I thought all my childhood. I think I was in my teens when my older brother told me my dad pushed my mom during an argument. She fell and had to have surgery. I thought I ruined my moms back my entire childhood and they let me believe it!

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28. Giving It All Up

My dad gave up a 100% paid-for fellowship for a math Ph.D. in order to work and provide for an unanticipated pregnancy—me. He really wanted to teach, and he was a natural. In the 60 years I knew him, he never mentioned the Ph.D. or fellowship opportunity. Not once. I found out by going through his papers after he was gone.

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29. For The Love Of Books

I was dsylexic as a kid and my grandpa most likely had some learning disabilities growing up as well, but that didn’t stop him from always encouraging me to read. He would read along with me as a kid, and then when I got older, he read books I was assigned in school, and whatever trendy YA novels I was interested in at the time so we could talk about them.

We always went to the bookstore to buy them. When his health was failing he couldn’t really read anymore so he asked if he could pass his store credit on to me. He had a lot of books to donate to the bookstore, which meant he got a ton of store credit. And when I say a lot, I mean he read a western a day after he retired and had been donating to the store for 20+ years.

Take the above, and add on him donating all of the favorite books he had kept over the years and you basically get a discount for life. I go in whenever I visit family now and the owner jokes that I’ll never truly be able to use all the credit he had saved up. I didn’t know all this at the time, though. I found out at the store, and my reaction probably shocked the customers there.

I came back from college when my grandpa passed and visited the store to pick up some textbooks I had ordered for the next semester. The gal who owns the store told me about my lifetime discount when I went to pay for them. I don’t cry in front of people much, but let me tell you this: I had a full-on ugly cry meltdown in that store.

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30. A Sweet Surprise

My great-grandpa on my dad’s side lived to be 101. He was the pinnacle of health for his entire life. He ate a very good diet with basically zero sugar, got regular exercise, and had all his mental functions and senses even in his old age. The man was still walking everywhere and taking busses on his own until literally the day he passed.

He passed due to medical complications after a broken hip from a fall when he tripped on some steps. After he was gone, my family went to clear out the house and get everything in order. My dad opened a drawer to find a hidden stash full of chocolate bars and wrappers. The dude was so proud of his health that he felt the need to hide a sweet treat from his own family.

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31. Hoarding The Wealth

I recently found out my biological father made six figures. The cheapskate would give my mom—who at the time was unemployed—$40 or so every two weeks for child support. He was supposed to be giving us a few hundred, and even then, he stopped giving what little child support he was providing when I was like nine or 10.

I mean, when I heard that I was SHOCKED. Especially considering every time it was over, we never ate real food. We usually just had McDonald’s or some junk from 7/11. I even remember a time we had it for all three meals! With my mom, even though junk food was all we could really afford to eat, she would try to cook a meal when she could.

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32. Age Is Only A Number

My Grandma turned out to be 13 or so years older than we thought. She had a reason for lying about her age,though. It turned out she changed her age to hide the fact that she had a first marriage before my Grandpa. In those days, it was undesirable to marry a “pre-married” woman. We thought she was about 85, but it turned out she was 98!

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33. A Love I Never Knew

I lost my dad in April, to really aggressive cancer. He’d gone into remission a year ago, but his quality of life was terrible. He had stage four throat cancer, and they had to do aggressive therapy to shrink the tumor to remove it. He lost his voice, his ability to communicate, and was half his usual size. He couldn’t eat and was fed through a tube.

I hated seeing him this way, but when he told me in February that he had a year left, I desperately wanted him to try to survive. We had a good relationship, but I’m a product of a divorced family, and we never lived together. We didn’t communicate as much as we should have, and I always felt like I was a bit of a burden to him.

Fast forward to his passing. I was traveling to deliver my last letter to him, but I missed him by half an hour. I wanted him to know he was my hero, but I didn’t get the chance. Afterward, I randomly remembered that my grandmother had told me he left a box for me. She didn’t know what was in it, but my stepmother and my own mother knew.

They asked if I wanted to know, and I said no, I’ll find out myself. I’m glad I did. He had saved all the cards I’d sent him as a little kid. He saved my mother’s letters to him, talking about me and my life, general updates etc. But what got me was the love between them. She talked about how much she loved him and understood he couldn’t handle his life right now.

There were letters asking if he could come back as a better person. My tiny kid handwriting on Father’s Day, and birthdays. I sat and read them alone in a train station and cried because I was never a burden to him. He kept all those moments to show me that although they weren’t together, they both loved me and had love for each other, despite it all.

My stepmother later gave me a box of his things from his office at home. There were pictures of me and him while I was a little baby and all the things I’d made him over the years. A small clay figurine of his guitar, a guitar pick box, a cross-stitch of the Judas Priest logo. All those things made me see that he cherished me as his child.

thebearofwisdom

34. An Ice-Cold Truth

Granny had always been famous for her fantastic iced tea recipe. No one made it like her! But it was kept a family secret, handed down through the generations—or so I thought. After she passed many decades later, we finally found out what the recipe was: one can of frozen iced tea, mixed with one can of frozen lemonade, with added water and lemon slices.

PALOmino1701

35. Keeping It In The Family

My great-grandfather passed a few years back, and his wife passed just this past year. I found out from my grandma that his wife had moved my grandmother’s inheritance into her name right before he passed. And then, when she followed suit, HER family got all of the money. My grandmother was trying to fight it with lawyers, but wound up giving up.

It was too stressful and painful to deal with. Some people are just awful.

tinkflowers

Family secretsPexels

36. A Shocking Revelation

I found out that my father was awarded medals for saving fellow shipmates on the U.S.S. Benevolence when it sank. I knew my dad fought in Korea, but he never spoke about it, ever. I found out how high up he was in the Navy at his funeral. They played Taps, gave a gun salute, and they asked my mother for his uniform.

She was given the uniform back the day before the funeral; it had been cleaned and pressed. We received a flag as well, and my mother was saluted. There may have been more, but the day was tragic enough, and it was a shock to see so many naval men there as well. It was like there was a whole different dad who I never knew about.

Argyleskin

Family secretsPexels

37. A Not-So-Holy Event

My aunt, who was a former nun, had left the nunnery after being taken advantage of. Even though she had no discernible income or job after, she managed to accumulate something like 300k by the end of her life. This was the 80s, so it was more like 500 or 600K today. A ton of money, but, due to a shocking turn of events, we would never see a penny of it.

My aunt was going to pay for my college education and my brother’s college education, but the Catholic Church swooped in with some legal shenanigans and claimed it was the church’s money since she never formally left the church—even though she’d been gone for almost 20 years. I worked to put myself through college. Thanks Jesus!

thestereo300

38. Keeping It All Hidden

I learned that my gruff, no-nonsense, former OSS grandpa had an adorably sappy side. Dad found a sizable stack of old photo albums chronicling his and his siblings’ childhoods and their day-to-day family life, full of cute captions in my grandfather’s distinctive handwriting. There were super sweet captions on all the pictures of Grandma, too.

JustUsetheATM

Family secretsShutterstock

39. A Guardian Angel

My uncle, in life, seemed just like a nonsensical goofball. He got on my nerves a decent amount, but he was wise, and when he shared that wisdom, I listened. He was a trucker, which eventually cost him his life. My dad, after having lost his dearest brother, then confessed to us that my uncle was secretly there for us all the time.

Not physically, but he was the number one person my dad would go to for consultation regarding me and my sister. He would also provide vast financial support and managed to keep my dad away from his drug problem for years. He was basically the cement that held our family together for so long. All I knew about him was that he was my goofy fun uncle. I miss him a lot.

jontheawesome12

40. Some Secrets Shouldn’t Be Kept Secret

One day, my grandpa thought he was having a heart attack. But, being super old school, he decided to sleep it off and not tell anyone, hoping it would go away. He woke up the next morning, still having symptoms, and realized, “Yep, heart attack.” Instead of telling anyone, he decided to drive himself to the hospital. That’s dedication to a secret!

frachris87

41. A Fulfilling Life

At my 92-year-old paternal grandfather’s burial, people noticed four women sitting together on a nearby bench. They were chatting happily, not talking to family members, but definitely there for the funeral. It turns out they were his four current mistresses and girlfriends. And they all knew about each other and got on well together.

LozNewman

42. A Tough Survivor

Always knew my great-great-uncle Tom was a highly decorated WW2 vet, but no one actually knew what it was he did, as when he returned he refused to speak about it. After he passed, we found his journals which documented the awful things he was subject to. He was a Gordon Highlander, and was often sent on missions where he often ended up the lone survivor.

On his last mission, he was tasked with taking a German-held hill. He and his squad fought for a solid week to reach the top, wiping out all opposition. They held it for a further week, before being reassigned and letting the English Grenadier Guards take over. He was awarded two Victoria crosses for the Gordon Highlander work.

Monty423

43. Living A Double Life

He was an executive VP of sales for a real estate company, so he was on the road about two weeks each month. He had a wife and child here in Florida. When he passed, we found out he had another family in Texas. They were not married, but he still fathered two kids. He lived with them the two weeks each month everyone thought he was away on business.

RodsRevenge

Family secretsShutterstock

44. A Twisted Family Tree

This story is my mother-in-law’s. Her father came to my country from Italy in the 30s. He left behind his wife, hoping to bring her over once he’s saved up enough money. That never happened, and instead, he married a local woman and had three children with her, one being my mother-in-law. Her father eventually passed in the 70s.

Time passes, and it’s the 90s. One day, someone calls speaking Italian. They claim to be her cousins, and found out about her through some other of my countrymen visiting there. She’s surprised but happy, since she never had the chance to meet anyone from her father’s side. They make plans to visit her as soon as they possibly can.

Her cousins come over, and everyone is getting to know everyone, until she finds out that the “cousins” aren’t really her cousins. It turned out that her grandfather had married the wife her father had left behind, and had children with her. So, these people were actually her half-siblings, but also technically her uncles and aunts.

She never knew, and her father hadn’t either—I imagine it would’ve been awkward for everyone involved if the secret had come out while her father had been still alive. It was shocking, but she wasn’t angry since she never met the man and was happy to gain some new family across the ocean. They still talk on the telephone regularly.

lkuolpip

45. You Can’t Hide The Truth Forever

My stepmother’s family had a story that her grandfather had accidentally offed his sister’s husband by pushing him off a staircase when he found the husband beating her. The story goes that the family snuck him off to Italy for a few years until things cooled down, then he came back to America and carried on life as usual.

Recently, someone in the family discovered a 1922 newspaper article regarding the incident that revealed the truth, and it wasn’t pretty. My stepmother’s grandfather actually knifed the dude IN THE HEART when they got into an argument after he got out of a reformatory. Really tells you how “well” those institutions worked out!

pontecorvvo

46. A Christmas Miracle

When I was five years old in 1988, Santa Clause left a Nintendo on our front porch. It was wrapped in newspaper, and my parents had no idea who had gifted it to us. My dad, particularly, tried to figure it out. He was always suspicious that it had been a family friend. It was by far the best gift of the year, and we played it all the time throughout our childhood.

My dad later passed in 2004. Last Christmas, my mom explained that she was the one who had bought it and had surreptitiously placed it on the porch. My dad really liked to be in control of things and had forbidden the purchase. She knew better, and wanted to give us an awesome Christmas. She didn’t tell a soul for 30 years. Thanks Mom!

Madame_F

Family secretsPexels

47. Home Away From Home

Back in 2003, my mom got a letter in the mail about some kind of life insurance policy from a chaplain with a last name we’d never heard of before. My mom did some digging and what she discovered was earth-shattering. This guy was actually her father, except he had a totally different last name than her family’s. That wasn’t even the most surprising thing, though.

Supposedly, this man was a catholic priest and had been a chaplain for decades. As in, the kind that’s supposed to be celibate. So yeah, it turned out my grandparents met during WWII, and afterward ended up having four kids together. He decided not to stick around and ended up having a whole other life on the east coast.

My grandmother passed a few years before so we were never able to get the full story, but it’s kinda wild that there’s just a whole other family that no one in our family knew about.

mechperson

48. A Secret Superhero

My uncle was a POW in WWII. No one really knew anything about it, and he rarely told anyone about it. During his funeral, some random people showed up—about a dozen or so. After a few people spoke up about his humor and what kind of great guy he was, one of the new people got up there and told us a story so heart-wrenching, it’s unforgettable.

Apparently, my uncle had saved her life in one of the concentration camps. My uncle was a cook. Apparently, he was a good one. He’d have German officers ask for him to cook for them. He’d use that influence to set free some of the Jewish captives. Another got up and said when that cooking influence started to die down, my uncle took up being a barber. He’d learned to cut hair quite well after a point. So, he’d use that influence to set free more Jewish captives.

All dozen or so spoke about their experience, of how they were saved by this man. We had no idea. Not even his wife. No one knew, except for the survivors. It turned into a true celebration of life. What shocked me the most is how many people existed because of his actions. Hundreds of people now were in the world, that would not have existed if not for him.

UWontHearMeAnyway

Family secretsShutterstock

49. A Scandalous Past

One week before my younger sister’s wedding, my dad decided to call myself, both my sisters, and my mother—his ex-wife—to meet at his house for something “very important he needed to tell us.” We all thought he had cancer or something. We were very worried. Once we were all there, he sobbingly confessed to having a five year old son living in the town next to ours.

The bad news? This meant that the kid was conceived and born while my parents were still married. He claimed he didn’t know for sure that the kid was his, and he had only recently gotten a DNA test. He showed us a picture of our half-brother. He looks EXACTLY like my dad. Even though they were already divorced, my mother was devastated.

Icosotc

50. A “Shameful” Family Secret

My great-grandmother hated me. I was an “illegitimate” child, and my parents split when I was three. When my dad got his girlfriend pregnant, my great-grandmother said that she would cut him out of her life if “He didn’t marry this one.” My father married my stepmother, who was a single mother, and my great-grandmother was fantastic to my step-brother and my sister, but not me.

She flat-out refused to have anything to do with me. I spent Christmas with the family, but I came home crying to my mum, asking why Grandma wouldn’t talk to me. For the entire four days I was there, she ignored me, while cuddling my brother and sister as much as she could, because they lived in another country by then.

I didn’t find out any of this until after she passed. I wasn’t included in her will—the only grandchild not included out of about 7 grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren. My dad took some of his inheritance and passed it on to me, along with a few heirlooms, keeping up the pretense that she didn’t hate me up into my 30s.

I was so hated by her that I’m only just starting to meet family members, who had no idea I existed. My dad, siblings, and nana were forbidden to speak about me to other family members, so the few who met me when I was a baby had forgotten I existed. I’m 36 now… It’s a long time to be keeping me a secret from the rest of the family.

My sister only told me all of this a few years ago, though she’d known my great-grandmother hated me from when we were kids because she would speak very hatefully about me behind my back. My nana’s partner confirmed it a couple months ago, with my mum finally telling me about it the last Christmas I ever saw her.

ngatiara

Sources: 1, 2,

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