by Tamara Flaherty
I’m lying here in bed tonight with so many thoughts and feelings overwhelming my mind and spirit that I just cannot sleep.
I’m crying for a sister that I barely knew, and who I will now never get the chance to know.
Kelly died yesterday.
I was so shocked when I got the call that I burst into tears and began sobbing. I was surprised at the level of grief that I felt. Even though we weren’t close, she was still a part of me.
She was my sister, we were blood.
I had just lost my brother Earl in January and now this.
I received the news of both of their deaths from yet another sister I barely know.
I wonder who will call me if she dies?
She is the last one left.
My sisters and brother are not “real” siblings in the sense that we had the same parents and grew up together.
They are half-siblings, my dad’s other children.
I didn’t even meet them until I was 23 years old and then, with the exception of my brother, never saw them again.
You see, my dad had three children with his first wife before they divorced. He then married my mother and had six more children, but we never met this “other” family growing up. They had moved to another state and my dad never contacted them again after the divorce.
My dad died in 1990 when I was 21 years old and for some reason, a few years later, I felt like I needed to find his other children and let them know that he had died. I felt like they deserved to know that.
I began my search. I worked so hard locating them. It took months. This was 20+ years ago, before we had a home computer and internet and so my search was old-fashioned telephone detective work. I spent literally hours on the phone with my notebook, chasing down leads, talking to distant family members until finally one day I found what I was looking for; a last name and a phone number.
They were polite to me over the phone when I called and agreed to meet with me. I was so excited!! All my life I knew they were out there somewhere, and something in me needed to find them.
I left my boys in the care of my husband and boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Ada, Oklahoma.
Ironically the bus drivers name was Earl. Ironic because my dad’s name was Earl, my older brothers name is Earl, and the “new” brother I was going to meet was also named Earl. Yeah I know! My brother Earl and my other brother Earl. Ha!
I don’t remember all the details of the week that I was there. I just remember that it was very emotional for me. It was as if my dad had just died, because meeting his other children and telling them about his death, reopened that wound for me.
I stayed a few days with Earl, his wife, and their sons. Earl and I went for walks and talked about our lives. He gave me some old pictures of himself and his family. He was so nice to me and treated me like a “real” sister.
20 years later, he sought me out and spent some time with me here in Washington. He got to meet my family and more of his half-siblings as well. We played some poker together, talked a lot and had a great time. He was a comedian, but he hid a lot of fear and pain behind the laughter. We talked at length about that pain. He certainly felt like a “real” brother to me by the time he left.
I also spent a few days with my sister Kelly all those years ago, as well as her husband and their girls before I headed back home on the bus. She gave me a beautiful necklace to remember her by before I left. I no longer have that necklace although there is a nice story behind why I no longer have it that I may share another time.
We talked occasionally over the years. We kept saying “we should get together”, but we never did. I last talked to her in January when Earl died. We talked about how shocked we both were about his death and how young he was. I’m sure neither one of us dreamed that would be our last conversation before her death.
I had last texted her a few weeks ago about some beautiful glass she was selling on her website. Apparently we both had a love for glass, particularly antique glass. I always thought we would have more time…..
I briefly met my other sister who was very distant to me while I was there 23 years ago. I understand now why she wasn’t thrilled to meet me then but that is not my story to tell. We stay in touch with each other now through social media and play online word games on a regular basis but we still barely know each other. We have tentative plans to get together this summer and start to change that.
I think the most shocking part of that visit 23 years ago was realizing that my dads other kids just didn’t care that he was dead.
They, just, didn’t, care!!
Maybe they were even happy about it, although they were too kind to share that with me.
They didn’t need or wish, or pine for the dad that I had. They didn’t have an emptiness inside of them that needed filled.
They hit the jackpot in the dad lottery.
They were adopted by their stepfather soon after my dad walked out of their lives.
My dad had badly abused their mother and them, and they had all started a brand new life without ever looking back.
My dad was just a bad memory that they had all gotten over decades before they ever met me, although I’m sure my visit reopened some old wounds for them and their mother.
So as I mourn the loss of a sister and brother that I barely knew, I am mourning anew the pain of the past, of broken hearts, broken families, and broken dreams and wondering how differently things would have turned out for all of us, if just one man had made different decisions in his life.
I was going to end this blog there and not publish it because I just didn’t see the point. It is sad…just sad.
And then I started thinking about the generations of lives that were affected by the actions of just one man!
One man’s actions affected the trajectory of 9 children, as well as the generations that came after them. It’s like the butterfly effect. We won’t ever even understand the millions of combinations of events that cascaded as a result of his decisions and actions.
What is the lesson here?
We ALL have choices in life to make. Our choices NEVER affect only ourselves. When we make selfish choices, telling ourselves that we “deserve” to be happy, we are changing not only our own futures, but the future of all those who come after us.
The lesson is recognizing that great truth, “You reap what you sow.” When we make moral, wise, and loving choices in our own lives, the fruit of those choices are bestowed upon our children and grandchildren.
When we make selfish, immoral, and foolish decisions in our lives, “The sins of the Fathers are visited upon the children.”
We should live wisely, with an eye on the future, rather than just on what we want right now.
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