I was an only child. For most of my life, it was just my mother and me. I had two uncles and grandparents that lived far, far away that we only saw every couple of years, or maybe yearly if we were lucky. Often we didn’t have the money to travel, though, and our relationship was a series of phone call and letters and birthday cards. My father’s parents, too, were part of my life although they sort of faded away when I was eight or nine.
When I was twelve, the phone rang, and the man at the end of the line said, “It’s your father.” I felt a rush of heat run from my hair to my toes, and I squeaked, “What?” before he went on to explain that he was my father and he was calling me to tell me his father had a stroke and was hospitalized and probably wouldn’t make it. At this point my mother figured out what had happened and pulled the phone away from me because I was near catatonic with shock.
I didn’t get to go to the funeral, or for his mother’s funeral either. Although he didn’t call me to tell me about that one.
But my father’s uncle was in touch with a friend of my mother’s, so when my dad started getting sick the word got back to us. I decided at that point to reach out to him and get in touch. I didn’t have an address; I just mailed him a letter with his name and Moriarity, New Mexico on it, and it got to him. He called me. I was 18.
I flew out to visit.
I only remember a few details of that visit, but the strongest memory is when I arrived at his house and a little girl – about ten years old – with eyes that looked exactly like mine answered the door. When I told her who I was, she flew out the door and into my arms. It was my youngest half-sister, Brigitte. Soon I meet Diana, her older sister, and we both looked at our faces with shock because we looked so much alike; same shape of face, same eyes, same eyebrows (although they are both blonder than I am).
The rest of that visit was a blur.
The next time I saw my dad it was while Charlie and I were visiting. None of the other kids were there; Brigitte was living with her mother in Louisiana, DiDi was off running a bit wild in El Paso, and my oldest half sibling – John – was away in the military.
Sadly, there wasn’t a next time after that. My father died in 2005, unexpectedly, in a fire he accidentally set while smoking and on 100% oxygen for his emphesyma.
It’s been challenging for me to keep up with my younger siblings; we live so far apart and our childhoods were so different. They had a father, and I did not, and sometimes that’s felt like a gulf too wide to cross. Our relationship consists of facebook statuses and likes on pictures. I thank God for social media because without it we’d be even farther apart.
But something’s happened that might change that.
Social media is a crazy thing, you know it? In 2009 I wrote this post on the four-year anniversary of my father’s death. Ironically, now, I see that I didn’t even get his name quite right; his name was really Howard John Rutz II. But even so, that post led to a woman named Sharmell finding my blog, finding my blog’s facebook page, and sending me a message.
Hello, my name is Sharmell I live in the state of WA. I have been searching for my father for many years, my mother had little info to share but he is on my birth certificate, Howard John Rutz II, he was in the military and was from Carlsbad, NM. Please if you can help me! I am 41yrs old and just want to know if you could possiby be my sister? Please contact me with any information you might have.
Everyone, I’d like you to meet my sister Sharmell.
More to come.