…or so they say. Some of us have great childhoods. Some of us have ‘eh’ childhoods. Some of us have horrible, awful childhoods. We all grow up with a different definition of family and a different way of dealing with them when they show up. Out of the blue. 32 years later.
That’s what happened to me two weeks ago. My half brother called. For the first time. Ever.
I won’t go into the gritty details of how it came to be that I have a half brother that I hadn’t spoken to in the 32 years he’s been alive. We share the same father, while my half-sister and I share the same mother.
I grew up with a very strong fear of abandonment, of feeling unwanted, of feeling like there was something wrong with me. We all at one time or other feel one of these things if not all. There are other things we can feel too… unloved, unneeded, undesired, unacceptable, etc… They’re not good feelings to have and some of us are even very, very good at burying them deep. Some of us turn to friends as our surrogate family and grow up with not much use for those we share blood ties with. But there are some of us to where family is vastly important. They are a tie to our history, to our legacy, to bonds that even with the signing of a name on a dotted line, can’t be erased.
When divorce is a factor and new families are formed, the need for acceptance is strong, sometimes stronger than even we realize and we go through our lives trying to find it, trying to find where we fit, where we belong. It’s a hard thing to do, a hard way to live. We can turn everyone away, we can find ways to make ourselves invaluable and needed and responsible. We take on more than what we probably should in that quest to find that feeling of ‘here’.
There was a scene in City Slickers with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. They were riding along on their horses and Jack’s character, Curly was giving advice to Billy’s character, Mitch. Curly said the secret to life is ‘this. One thing,” and he held up one finger. Mitch asked what that meant, what the one thing one and Curly’s response was that Mitch had to find out on his own. I took that little scene to mean that for each person it’s different and I believe it to be true. The secret to your life is different than mine. The secret to your happiness is different than your neighbor’s.
The most joy I find in life is my children. My family. My true friends. My job. (And Kyle Busch winning, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.) The memories made, the experiences shared are things that no one can take away. But, I’ve still always tried to fit in, tried to find where I belong, tried to figure out how to erase that feeling of abandonment and that I wasn’t good enough to keep.
I’ve always wondered about my father’s family and over the years I’ve asked my mom about his brother’s and how he grew up. She’s always been more than willing to answer. Some of the truths were hard to take, but I’m grateful to her for answering. Since my half-brother called, he and I have talked or texted or emailed at least once a day. It’s been enlightening, entertaining, emotional, and hard. Even when you know you’ve got issues like I do, you try and do your very best to bury them. You don’t want them to affect others. You don’t want them to interfere in how you do your job or interact with friends or family. You bury them and you bury yourself in responsibility and ‘to-do’.
Along with the wondering about my father’s family, I often wondered how I’d react if they ever contacted me, especially my father or my brother. There have been times over the last 12 days where I’ve cried, where I’ve walked around in a fog, where I’ve laughed and smiled, where I’ve been angry, where I’ve taken so many deep breaths… I’ve called a friend and cried to her and thank goodness she’s let me. She had a similar childhood and understands exactly where I’m coming from in all aspects.
My mom knows he contacted me and that I have been talking to him. She and my sister know I flew down to Florida over the weekend to spend some time just me and him and his fiance and their baby. We interacted as though we’d been friends always. We laughed and joked and picked on one other as though we’d always been together.My sister is fully supportive and I know my mom is too, just that it’s understandably harder on her.
It’s been a surreal experience. You see the reunion shows on television and if you’ve ever had someone to be reunited with, the thought has crossed your mind as to how you’d react if that person suddenly appeared in your life. Much as I like to think I’d prepared myself for what I considered the improbable, I hadn’t.
There are many details left out of this blog and some people would venture to say I shouldn’t have even blogged about it at all, but those of you who know me, know how deeply I love my family and this change in my life will affect all areas of it. This man, my half-brother wants to have a relationship with me, wants to have that sibling friendship that he’s been searching for all his life. He wants us to be family and while some people will never understand it, I do. And I’m grateful.
Now, if I could just convert him from being a Florida Gator fan to a Florida State Seminole, he’d be almost perfect brother material…
I hope y’all are having a good week so far.