Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Family Time: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

One day, my Dad called me with what seemed, at first, to be a disturbing revelation. “Hey Baby Girl, some dude in Atlanta called saying he was your Brother. I need you to check it out.”

My first reaction/response: “How old is he, Dad?” You see, my Sister and I were in our 20s and early 30s at the time, so his answer needed to indicate a time of birth that did not conflict with the timing of our family. Otherwise, I wasn’t about to have too much more to say to my Dad.

“He’s older than you and your Sister. He was born before your Mother and I even met.”

And with that, I had the strength to make the call.

***

I called my Brother on a Thursday while I was still at work. I had no idea what to tell him, so I started the drill about who his people were, who was still alive and stuff like that. We agreed to see each other that weekend. But, I flaked, and conveniently “forgot” to call. His wife called me the next week to see what happened. I can’t even remember at this point what I said, but somehow it proved adequate enough, and we made a date to hook up the following weekend.

We got into some normal chit chat about life in general, goals and such. I was at a point when I was ready to leave my job at the time. We were also at a point in the conversation when I realized that my Sister-in-Law’s name and voice started sounding way too familiar.

We go on and on about work, and finally I say something that makes her respond, “That’s exactly how I felt when I worked in the Mayor’s Office.” And then it hit me…I also worked in the Mayor’s Office…and I had known my Sister-in-Law by her maiden name for more than five years. This world is just too small.

In fact, during the time of our joint employment, I had commented on the wedding photo in her office (she had just gotten married then), saying how handsome her husband was. She had also passed by my area and noticed the picture of Dad on my desk. She said the same thing about him. Little did we know at the time that, one day, we’d be hooking up to meet as a family.

The two of them told me all about the process of finding Dad. My Brother’s stepfather, who had raised him, died about a year before they started looking for Dad. My Brother had always assumed that his real father was some bum living in his hometown that just dumped his mother after finding out that she was pregnant.

It turns out that she never actually told my Dad about my Brother in the first place. She just stopped communicating with him altogether because her great aunts, with whom she was living at the time, didn’t like my Dad. So, she never told him, and simply dropped out of his life.

His mother told him that, as far as she knew, my Dad was living up north with his family. She thought he had two girls. She told my Brother his name, and he and my Sister-in-Law did a national white pages search on the Internet. My Dad was the only person in the country to come up under his name. So, they gave him a call.

***

The weekend rolls around, and I make my way over to my Brother’s house for our initial visit. He wasn’t there at the time…he hadn’t gotten home from the gym yet, and we were going to meet him at The Cheesecake Factory for brunch. As I sat in their living room, I noticed all the pictures of the Brother I had not yet met lining the bookcases along the walls. One look at this man, and I knew immediately what Dad wanted me to confirm. This was, without a doubt, my Brother. He looked more like Dad than me or my sister ever thought about looking. This was wild…exciting…some TV shit as far as I was concerned. It was great!

I called my Dad, and left a voice mail about my discovery. Then I headed off to The Cheesecake Factory to meet my Brother.

We sat and talked for hours, and I watched my Brother and Sister-in-Law interact with one another. He made a couple of playful jabs at her, and always ended by calling her “Woogie.” I heard it the first time, and dismissed it as my imagination. I heard it again, and just had to ask.

“Are you calling her Woogie?”

“Yes,” my brother said. “It’s just a play name that I made up.”

“That’s funny,” I said, “because Dad has called me Woogie for as long as I can remember.”

Now you go figure. How do two people, who have never seen or even known of each other prior to this point, come up with the same goofy nickname for the people they love? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think it’s special.

My Brother, Sister-and-Law, and I continued to develop our relationship from that point. A couple of months later, and we have Father’s Day staring us in the face. We decided to surprise my Father by bringing my new Brother home.

Big Brother and I arrived in my hometown sometime around 6pm the day before Father’s Day. I called right when we were getting off the highway to give my Mom time to prepare my Dad. We had other relatives in town, so everybody needed a little prep time before the big, new addition rolled into the household.

We got out of the car to a welcome committee of about 20 relatives and friends. It seems that all motion in the world stopped the minute my Father and new Brother saw each other for the first time…both of them staring into their own faces. It was fantastic. A Hallmark greeting card couldn’t have captured the moment accurately enough. It was such a joyous occasion.

After endless kisses and hugs, we all went inside and watched my Father and Brother disappear into the basement to watch sports and get acquainted. We all took turns taking a peek into the basement, and we would come back up and report our findings.

“Did you see the way they both just stare into the television with the same blank expressions?”

“Did you see the way they both sit with their legs crossed? It’s exactly the same way!”

“You can’t even tell them apart if you close your eyes and just listen to them.”

People can say whatever they want to about environment and the like, but DNA is truly a powerful thing as far as I can tell. My Father and new Brother had never spent a moment together in life. And at that time, my Brother was 34 years old. But, trust me, these two were carbon copies if I’ve ever seen them. One was simply an older version of the other.

The years since then have just drawn us closer. Initially, we were all worried about Mom’s reaction to the whole thing since this was not her son, and we’d had the perfect nuclear family since forever. But, she was cool with it. She said it was a beautiful thing. She had not been violated in any way, so how could she see it as anything other than a miracle. My Father was united with his son, and it was nothing but a blessing.

With all the stories in the world that detail just how touchy such situations can be, I thank God that ours was different. We added love to the family. And now that my Brother has a daughter, I got the Niece I always wanted.

All I wish was that my brother had been around when I was growing up to keep some of the knuckle-headed dudes away from me…

Oh well…I guess it’s better late than never.

4 Comments:

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Truely a beautiful story.

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger Ignatious said...

wow, very touching. as a bastard child myself, i really enjoyed this tale. DNA is indeed an amazing thing. :)

 
At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a fantastic story. You and your family are truly blessed. You should publish this story!!! There are so many people who get involved in "baby's Mama Drama" and miss the opportunities your family embraced. You are ALL very lucky.

 
At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an amazing blessing. I'm 38 and my father and I are estranged in basically the same way. If only all reunions of this nature were as sweet.

 

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