Years ago, I journeyed to my beginnings, searching for my birthfamily and eventually discovering that we are a product of our environment and of our decisions and not necessarily of our genetics. I chronicled that journey on this blog. (The links follow.) Throughout that experience, my birthmom and I exchanged many letters and emails and pictures. And I learned that I came from a very large family that included siblings and step-siblings. I always wanted brothers so I was excited to learn that two of my siblings & step-siblings were brothers. In the end, I never met my extended family face to face. But every detail and every image from that frame of time is burned in my brain.
Flash forward to this past weekend... As I stood in the middle of the dance area on the patio at a downtown St. Louis bar, I looked out over the crowd. Suddenly, I recognized a face. How did I know him? And then, it hit me. It was my step-brother. Quickly, I grabbed a friend, pointed him out and exclaimed, "Oh my God, I think that's my brother!"
I have to tell you that my friends and I often joke about seeing my random family members when we are out and about. Tall, skinny, long-haired old men are usually "Wilson," my birthfather. Dark-skinned, American Indian types (like Kyle Lohse) are usually my brothers. It's a joke and we have fun with it. So when I told my friend Kate that I thought this stranger at the bar was my brother, she laughed at me. Until she realized I was serious.
Soon, Kate chased him down and asked him for his name. Reluctantly, he obliged and Kate stammered around trying to come up with an explanation for approaching him. Eventually, I collected myself and joined them. I warned that we were about to get a little deep for a Friday night at a southside bar. He smiled nervously. "I recognized you from a picture," I said. "See, your stepmom Denice is my birthmom."
He paused. And then he threw his arms around me and hugged me for a long time. His smile grew broad. We talked for twenty minutes or so before he asked me to call him and gave me his phone number. Soon we will spend some time together and get to know each other a little. He promised that meeting with him would be a softer introduction to the family than the first time. He left me with another long hug, encouraging me to contact him. His name is Dan.
My story just keeps on unfolding. And now, I'm the nervous one.
links to the journey blogs: