For three days and nights, the tears rained like a defective faucet that I couldn’t turn off. A combination of nerves, excitement and sadness, all tossed together in a salad-spinner. That DNA match set off a tear tsunami. Finding your family meant, of course, that I got to revisit your final departure, on the anniversary of your funeral. No irony here.
Yep, allergies in full bloom!
Sleep, however, eluded me successfully.
Would Helen read her messages about your DNA match?
Would she reply to me?
Would she answer my questions?
Would she tell me who her grandparents were? I didn’t want to seem too nosey at first. What I really wanted to ask was, “where was your father in July of 1954?”
Would she sense the fear and trepidation in my e-mail and become wary?
Would crossing my fingers help?
And then, suddenly, ding, there it was. An e-mail from Helen. Then one from another cousin with the same surname.
Helen apparently hadn’t held it against me that I had to correct my original e-mail, not once, but twice. I shouldn’t type when I’m nervous and somewhat overwrought – but had I waited for that to subside, I’d still be waiting.
We had come this far and reaching out was the only way to end the agony – regardless of the outcome.
Then the next step in the worry-chain began. If this sounds like “over the top” anxiety, all I have to say is that you’ve never stood in the shoes of someone during the discovery process of long-lost immediate family. I thought I understood it before, but empathy is no substitute for the proverbial mile in the moccasins.
Would I ever hear back from Helen again?
Would she tell me who her father was.
Did she have uncles?
Where did they live in 1954?
I did (mostly) resist checking my phone every hour during the night to see if Helen had replied. I admit, I checked twice. Ok, maybe three times.
Was it only yesterday morning that Helen sent her phone number and invited me to call? Surely, it was at least a year ago.
I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe right now, or maybe a parallel reality. Of course, sleep deprivation doesn’t help any. Like Helen said, it’s like we’ve stepped over some transformational line in the sand that we didn’t even see – and now we’re suddenly on the other side wondering what the heck just happened.
This just happened so fast. We’ve been run over by a bus whose passengers are every emotion on the planet.
Life changed in the blink of an eye. Helen has a new sibling – her family just expanded. DNA did in an instant what 60 years failed to do. I’m just so grateful that she is welcoming of this news and not upset.
Yesterday, after I finally composed myself enough to call Helen, sitting at my desk in my jammies because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Of course, I did.
Thankfully, Helen is a lovely person.
Then Helen called me back again. Then I called her. Then we laughed, and cried, and talked and did it all over again. Several times.
Helen told me how she and her sisters had longed for a brother.
She told me how her father had moved north from Georgia in 1952, after her mother’s horrific death, and how the rumors swirled of a half-brother someplace, born about 1955.
You were conceived in July 1954.
Helen DNA tested to make genealogical discoveries. It never occurred to her that she might find her long-rumored half-brother.
Well, Dave, meet your half-sister, Helen.
No, not me, the other one. And yes, we are truly as joyfully happy as we look.
Rest assured, we’re trouble-makers together! You have no idea what you’ve done by introducing us😊
Of course, because our lives cannot EVER be simple, Helen’s results are low for a half-sibling match, so there’s a possibility you’re first cousins. Helen’s other sister is DNA testing as well, just to confirm.
Would taking a look at Helen’s father help?
Dave, meet the man we believe is your father!
He is positively either your father or your uncle. Helen and her sisters say that you don’t look anything like the one other Priest brother that may have been in a northern state about the time you were conceived. The rest of the Priest brothers never left the deep south – and let’s face it, proximity is kinda critical in this situation.
When I saw that photo of Helen’s father, my breath caught. Could this really be the man you sought for so long? Let’s look at the two of you together.
What do you think, Dave? Is this your father? I think he’s a dead-ringer for you. Of course, those pictures of you simply don’t do you justice. (No, I am NOT biased either!)
Because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, Helen and I decided to delay our meeting until this evening. Another 24 hours of torture!
In an amazing stroke of good fortune, Helen and I live about an hour apart. So I left two hours early, just in case.
I prepared to gift Helen with what small things I have of you. I have nothing tangible from your lifetime on earth, except for a few photos and the prayer Jim wrote for your funeral. I put the prayer in an envelope, made Helen a thumb drive of your photos to keep and took my laptop so that we could look at your pictures together.
I told Helen about our fun times together. Your determination to climb that wall at the fair and how you succeeded, in spite of how ill you were from your treatments. You and Helen are remarkably alike – unstoppable once you set your mind to something. I was awestruck by the unmistakable similarities.
Helen and I met at a lovely restaurant whose patient staff was incredibly tolerant of our long dinner. She brought me a white rose. I brought her a brother.
We ate. We laughed. We talked about you. Were your ears burning? They should have been.
We cried. Ok, I cried.
We exchanged meaningful looks and shocking stories. We swore, in your honor, of course! And we hugged.
We discovered that somehow we had known each other forever – just like you and I did. Deja vu.
We share the same regret – that you didn’t live long enough to meet Helen and your other sisters – who are now welcoming you posthumously with open arms. Helen had experienced exactly the same longing I felt when I searched so long for you.
They were looking for you Dave, while you criss-crossed the country feeling so alone in the world.
All that time, THEY WERE LOOKING FOR YOU!!!
They wanted to meet you, to love you. They wanted to have with you what I had with you.
So, via me as the intermediary, today you finally met your sister. What are the odds? Your non-half-sister helping you to find your real one. No one could make this stuff up!
I felt so honored to tell her about the beautiful man I knew so that in some small way, she can come to know you too. Through me, you two connected, across time and space. A long-distance hand-hold with me as the human extension cord..
It’s the best we can do now.
But you know the most amazing thing, Dave?
You gave us something too. A surprise Valentine. Something precious that neither of us expected.
You united us in sisterhood. Yea, I know that sounds really corny – and you would probably guffaw a bit.
Perhaps the final gift of your life is to both of us, your two sisters who both love you now. Bringing us together so we can love each other too. A beautiful new beginning.
I certainly didn’t expect to receive that gift today. I thought I was gifting Helen with you. Ending a chapter. I never expected to recognize so much of what I love in you – in her. Perhaps by finding your family, I found a piece of mine too, a new beginning. I went to give, but instead we both received. For this gift from beyond, I love you all the more
Two sisters through another brother. Sewn together from broken hearts. Best Valentine’s Day, ever. An amazing happy ending to an incredibly sad story.
Love you, now from both of us.
Bobbi and Helen