In what, I hope, becomes a blizzard of beautiful moments for me in 2018.
This snowflake is from my oldest brother.
Last August when I made my final visit to my parent’s home, I cleaned out a block of eight file drawers filled with my moms collection of papers. I’d been looking for her journals and asked Dad if he’d like me to clean out Mom’s drawers. He was happy to turn it over to me. It took me the better part of 12 hours. In the end I found parts of her journals, lots of birthday/mother’s day cards and some adoption odds and ends. One of those odds and ends was a baby book for a little boy. I put it in a pile of things for my brother and was able to give it to him the weekend of dad’s funeral.
I called my brother a few weeks ago to ask advice. He’s the one person in our family who isn’t up in arms about the stepmother situation. He has no issue with her. I know, I know!! But that is another blog post.
He said he had something to tell me, and recounted the following.
“Remember that baby book you gave me? Well, before we left town I was telling my wife about this memory I have of a little red brick house that belonged to my grandparents. My original grandparents. Before we left Idaho we drove through the town and as I got closer to the address we had looked up, I was able to take each turn by memory and there it was. The neat little red brick house from my memory. Pretty incredible. After we got back home and after I caught up at work, I had a few moments one afternoon and I took out the book and studied it. It wasn’t completely filled in but contained my original last name, my grandparent’s names, my mother’s name. I remembered something that had happened when my oldest daughter was born. I told mom I was thinking about naming her Tina. Mom was surprised and said though she didn’t think I remembered, I had a younger sister named Tina. Hm. I turned to my computer and googled my mother’s name. No result. Turning back to my baby book I googled her with her maiden name. It brought up an obituary. I read it and there she was, daughter Tina. Not only that, but I found out I had an older sister, Roxanne. I, of course, wasn’t listed, but there they were, Roxanne, one year older, and Tina, two years younger. There she was, my mother, the obituary included her married name, my old last name. Looking back at Tina, it gave a married last name and city. I googled her and though the obituary was from 2007, I found Tina, still in that same city AND with a home number listed. Thinking it was probably an old disconnected number, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed. The phone rang once, twice, and then was answered by a woman. Now what do I do?”
At this point I was so excited I could hardly stand myself! What did you do? What did you say?!?
“I said hello, I’m calling for Tina. She said, this is Tina. I sat there silent for a moment wondering what I should say next. I finally said, this might sound odd to you, but my name is ____ _____ -. She started yelling into the phone – Oh my God, Oh my God! You’re my brother! You’re my big brother! I can’t believe you’re calling me! Oh my God!”
It gave me chills, brought tears to my eyes. Made my brother utterly speechless. He had no actual memory of Tina, just a name my mother spoke, a name written in pencil in a faded, incomplete baby book. He was taken completely off guard.
Hello, Tina said, probably afraid I’d hung up. I apologized and said, how do you know who I am? My brother asked.
“I’ve known who you are my entire life. Grandma and Grandpa showed us your picture and talked about you every day. It broke their hearts when they lost you. Roxy and I have always known about you. In fact, when I was sixteen I found your parents number and called your house. Your mom answered and I told her I wanted to talk to my older brother! She told me you wanted nothing to do with us and I was never to call that house again. I was devastated. Not to long after that, our schools played each other in football. I asked a kid from your school if they knew you. They pointed you out in the pep band. I saw you that one time, but didn’t dare talk to you. I’ve missed you so much! I can’t believe you’re calling me! This is amazing!”
Of course, he had a million questions, and she answered them all. Between the two of them they worked out his adoption story.
His mother married his dad when she was 13 and pregnant with Roxanne. His dad was 18. He was born when she was 15 and Tina when she was 16. Not long after, (and not surprisingly) she had a nervous breakdown. Unable to care for her kids, married to a brutally abusive man who beat not only her but the children as well, she turned her children over to her parents to raise. His mother had been the youngest and her parents were older, thinking they had raised all their children. Though they loved their grandchildren, these three little kids were more than they could handle, along with their ailing daughter.
The grandfather worked with my great-uncle, who knew that his niece was pining for children. He talked the grandfather into letting mom and dad adopt the boy. (An aunt has said that mom and dad wanted to adopt all three but the grandparents just couldn’t give them all up) There was an agreement that the grandparents could stay in contact. Why that didn’t play out, no one living knows. He came to live with mom and dad when he was four years old. He came bearing the scars of the beatings he’d taken from his father. Cigarette burns on his arms and torso and thin white lines where he’d been whipped with the vacuum cleaner cord.
He and Tina concurred on the brutality of their father. Tina said mom wasn’t much better. Rarely, she was present and a good mom, mostly she was depressed and looking for her next hit. His father was military and served in Korea. When he returned, he and the mother divorced when he learned she was hanging around with college boys. Tina said they’d never heard another thing from him. She’d never met her father’s parents and thought they had stayed in Germany, never coming to America like their son. Gerry’s mom remarried in the seventies and he has 6 additional half siblings out there. She died of heart failure, though Tina says she and Roxanne are pretty sure it was some form of drug interaction or overdose. My brother is hoping to take a trip to visit his new sisters this summer.
After they got off the phone, he went back to the computer and was quickly able to track down his father. Found him living in Utah with several felony convictions and lots of mug shots. He has no interest whatsoever in meeting the man of whom he has very vivid memories. But he got something even more interesting, a current picture. The similarities are jaw-dropping.
He said he couldn’t make his wife understand, this feeling, this hole he’s lived with his entire life that’s suddenly filled.
“It’s nuts.” He said. “I can’t even explain it.”
“I know.” I replied. “That moment you look at another person, and your own face looks back at you.”