Monday, August 4, 2014 started out like any other Monday except that it happened to be my youngest son, Samuel's birthday, so it was not just like any other Monday. My baby would be turning 19 and my mind was filled with memories of his life past, and hopes for his life to come. I made my way out the door bright and early that day, like I did every Monday, for the 45 minute commute to my office. And on that August 4th Monday that was not just like any other Monday, I arrived at my office and opened my email to this:
Now, I'm an avid fan of the sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond. In fact, my parents live just across the street and life for us often resembles that show a bit more than suits my comfort level. For those who know my real life Frank, my step-dad... well, we will just leave it at that, you are already groaning and laughing at my pain. But I have to tell you,
...when your office is in a church,
holy crap in not an approved exclamation...
And that my friends, is exactly what came out of my mouth! A clear indication I need to lay off the re-runs.
The next few days passed in painfully slow anxiousness. I responded to Judy's email but I did not hear back from her. In fact, I have never heard from her since that email. She just vanished... I guess that is why them call them search angels...
That same August 4th day, with Michael and John's new last name in hand, my cousin tracked down a man who he thought was Michael, using one of my photos from the envelope, facial recognition software and some other mad, techi skills he has which I know nothing of. He was also my self restraint over the next few days when I had none, and for all of that I am forever grateful.
But I didn't need any "65% probable match statistics". This was in my mind, beyond the shadow of a doubt, my brother. The resemblance to the other men in my family was too strong not to see it.
Three days that seemed like an eternity later, it was confirmed. Four months and 2,000 text messages later, Mike and his wife, Janet were in my driveway.
Time stopped the moment their car pulled in. I wish I could remember now if the snow was really falling or if I was just having an ethereal, snow globe experience where everything floats delicately into place after it has been shaken.
I gazed out the picture window, watching him step out of the car and take in his surroundings. Through the glass, his gaze fell on me for a moment. I wish it would have lasted longer. It wasn't that I didn't want to meet. Truthfully, it was taking every ounce of restraint I had not to run outside, throw my arms around him and sob. But a moment that I had waited 35 years for was upon me and I wanted to bask in the awe of it a little longer... He smiled and waved through the transparent buffer as if we had just seen each other last week and I did the same, then I made my way outside.
I treasure every moment of that week they were here... his immersion into my life. Words fall short to describe the emotion of what it meant to wake up in the morning with my brother in the house... To be siblings together with morning hair and morning breath, reaching over each other in the kitchen to get coffee and tea, and to be okay with that. To be normal... doing things that normal siblings do. We cooked, side by side in the kitchen, we worked on a puzzle, we grocery shopped... that was a surreal moment for me standing in the produce section. I turned back to look at him, as if I half expected it was a dream and he wasn't really there. Our eyes met and he smiled and I said rather loudly, as if I was announcing it to the world, "I can't believe I'm grocery shopping with my brother!"
There is a natural intimacy with siblings, they know all about each other and they are good with that. Liz knows me like no other and I am totally me in front of her just as she is totally her in front of me. From my perspective, and I hope from Mike's too, there was a level of 'being known' that existed naturally...
and we continue to work on the unknowns.
I think neither time nor separation
can change what runs through your veins
can change what runs through your veins
With sunshine also comes the rain and it is with deep sorrow and regret that I share with you that my courage did not come soon enough for my sweet brother, John. He died in Louisiana on March 3, 2013 from cancer. He never got to hear the words, "You are loved, it was not your fault." The ache and longing in my heart will never be filled as I suppose it never was in his.
Now you know how my family grew, two by two by two. But what of the plus one?
If I say to you that God is good at all times, in all things, you may ask why this all happened. Where was God when everything went so wrong? I hold to the belief that God is present in all situations at all times and I do not believe that God is the cause of bad things that happen. He has given us the freedom to chose what we do with our lives, he does not control us like puppets. Sadly, we often make wrong choices that have devastating consequences. Those consequences harm not only us but those around us. Those choices break God's heart just as much as they break ours, actually, more than they break ours. Because God doesn't fix everything that we mess up does not mean that God is bad or doesn't care. God is holy and sovereign, and God is gracious. And, he does care.
In his grace, God kept Michael and John together through the years they were in various foster homes. He gave Michael and John a family that loved them and adopted them, together. He also gave them a little sister, Sally, in their adopted family. It blesses my heart to know that God did not leave them without a little sister.
According to Mike, Sally and I are cut from the same cloth. That is the grace and goodness of God. When she came to Michigan this summer, I could not pass up the chance to meet her so I drove to where she was. His sister has now become my sister. I don't know if the connection is our big brother, the cloth we were cut from, or the God we both love. Maybe it's all three, but the bond is there and it is a blessing beyond measure.
And what of the secret envelope? It's just and envelope, stuck away on a shelf somewhere. Its' powers rendered useless and its' mysteries replaced with answers. Its' sadness replaced with joy, and its' original contents replaced with photo copies.
The beginning of Mike's life, now 60 years past, is in a scrapbook on a shelf in his home. When I gave it to him for his 65th birthday I told him that I understood it might not mean much to him in the sense that it was a life he has no memory of, but for me it was everything. It was the entirety of his and John's existence in my life and I was gladly trading it in for the real deal.
This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on my Link. Thanks!