In August of 2009, back when Myspace was so much cooler than Facebook, a young 17 year old girl sent me a friend request. Even though my profile was on private, I would occasionally get friend requests from teenagers who competed to have the most friends (remember that?) Her screen named was some teenage angst, like "beautiful disaster", so I just ignored it.
A few days later on Facebook, the same girl messaged me saying that she was pretty sure we were related and she had been trying to contact me.
My parents divorced when I was about a year in a half. I've made no secret that my mom is seven shades of crazy and it took a while before I realized that and broke free. But my entire life, all I heard was that dad was no good, he cheated on my mom and had a baby with another woman by the time the divorce went through, and discouraged me to try and make contact. Eventually, I lost any type of real interest. The only thing I knew was that my mom met my dad when she was in the military, I had an older half-sister and a not much younger half-brother.
So, when my younger sister Ashleigh messaged me, I was taken back. It went like this:
A: Hi I have tried adding you on myspace but it hasn't been
working... so I/m trying fb now... add me when you get a chance I think we are
Me: You're officially added. Where are you from? My parents separated when I was a toddler and all I know is that my dad's from Chicago.
A: Hey, I think my dad is your dad. I'm from Chicago
Me: What's your dad's name?
Me: Call me now!!!!!
I can't even describe how I was feeling. I always wanted to be a part of a family; I wanted a brother's face to stick maxipads on while he was asleep; sisters whose closest I could raid, siblings to scheme with, sneak out with, love, play, dote upon, siblings that looked like me, I wanted family game night, Thanksgivings, Christmases, I wanted traditions and reunions and all of these things were taken away from me for so many years. And here it was! All of a sudden I'm an older sister, a younger sister and an aunt. Being presented to me in in such an easy way that it didn't seem real. (Also my dad never impregnated anyone during his marriage to my mother, so no younger brother. Told you she was crazy.)
Through my sister, I connected with my dad for the first time ever. He was immediately apologetic; he said he was a different person, different priorities, some of it his fault, some of it not. And all of a sudden I have this family; not only do I have a younger sister but I have two older sisters (but a chunk of change older; I have nephews that are almost my age) and my dad's has ten siblings and from that there's 5000 members of his family scattered throughout Chicago (fun fact: I once had a professor who told me she knew who my people are because she grew up in Chicago, went to school with my dad's entire clan and flies back a few times a year. She actually goes to church with one of my aunts. Apparently our genes are very, very strong.) My dad and I talk once every couple of weeks and we're building a relationship and I think he's doing everything right. I've never, ever, called anyone "dad" before and the word feels and sounds like a foreign expression that you're not quite sure if you're saying right. But my dad has never once told me to call him dad or "pressured" me into saying I love him. Both of those eventually happened but it took until just last week for me to say it.
Sometimes I'll call him with just a random question; last week it was why did he name me what he did. Or to describe his Vegas wedding to my mother, other times more serious questions like why didn't he try and find me. He always gives me an honest answer.
My relationship with my sister is semi-complicated, at least on my end. Ashleigh is a child of an age where she can't really remember not being able to easily get ahold of someone, whereas I can remember killing a whole Saturday waiting for a call. She's not completely withdrawn from people or anything like that but I can tell the art of phone conversation is a bit lost on her. One time, I called her and she seemed distant and gave one worded answers so I ended the call. About five minutes later she IM'd me and we ended up talking for an hour.
I didn't meet Ashleigh until the very end of 2012; I was 28, an adult. I did have some high anxiety in the days leading up to her visit. What if we just don't connect? I barely hang out with people my own age, what the fuck am I going to say to a 20 year old? What if she thinks I'm too old (I remember being 20 and thinking how old 25 sounded)? What if we have nothing in common? Worse yet, WHAT IF SHE DOESN'T THINK OF ME AS HER COOL, OLDER SISTER THAT LIVES IN SAN DIEGO?!!
My anxiety disappeared. It was like we had known each other forever once we hugged. And she had my nose, the nose that I hated because it doesn't look like anyone on my mom's side and people would insult me over it (they said it was an "ethnic nose".) My rather big, flat nose was on my sister's face and I fell in love with it. My lips were her lips, our smiles were identical, though our bodies were…sheesh, I must gotten the recessive gene in boobs from both sides of the family.
The visit went great; I got to experience the first time being a big sister when she started crying over some boy and I gave her a chocolate martini. Our sister bond is still a work in progress; sometimes we go a month without talking. But when we do, it's like we just spoke yesterday. I'm happy I got to meet her when I did but sometimes I feel really cheated; I wish we had met her when we were kids so we'd be closer. But then again, maybe we wouldn't be (I was typically selfish as a teenager.) I actually wrote about the scenarios of meeting Ashleigh when I was 10, 13, 16, 18, and 21. And I'm definitely not trying to live in the past, but I can't help but wonder every now and then. But Ashleigh's wonderful and I love her dearly.
As for my dad, I'm planning flying out to Chicago to meet him as a Father's Day surprise, at which time I'll be thirty. I want to meet him, his wife, my sisters, my nephews and all 5000 members of his side of the family.
I might as well start my 30s off right.
Thanks for reading!
Ashleigh just called and said she's coming out next month for Spring Break! And she's 21 so I can get drunk with her!