I knew from the moment I spotted them that they were sisters. Something about the way they interacted as they meandered around the old-fashioned country store. My “sister-radar” triggered into overdrive. I studied the combination of features and the expressions that accompanied the varying shades of short to medium length blonde hair. There was a definite resemblance between the four. I guessed their ages spanned ten years or less. I had the feeling they hung out together often.
I could try to blame my past job responsibilities, that required I chat with strangers, for what happened next. But in all honesty, it would have taken a Herculean effort to not fire up a conversation when I found myself behind two of the women in the check-out line. They confirmed their sister status in a warm, friendly conversation. And I shared that in a week I would be meeting my sister who I’d just discovered. They expressed genuine excitement for me and my newly-discovered family. “Good luck,” they said, then we went our separate ways.
I used to bore my friends by dragging out the piles of tiny, frilly baby clothes put aside for the baby sister I would be getting soon. No actual “due date”, of course, because this baby sister we were “getting” would join our family via adoption. My poor, uninterested friends nodded politely then insisted we move along to something more exciting or at least less boring.
But the baby sister never came. Instead brother #3 joined the family when I was 7. And mom and dad said four kids were enough, so that was that. No sister. And the baby clothes found a new home.
I always wondered if a biological sister might be out there somewhere. A full sibling? A half-sibling? Older, younger? Could she live close by? Within driving distance? I assumed those questions would remain unanswered forever. Even if by chance I DID have a sister, what was the chance we’d find each other? Honestly, it was never more than a wispy, “what if” kind of dream I didn’t allow to linger. Because other than occasionally glancing through a random adoption registry and one brief call about non-identifying information that produced zero info, I had no strategy in place to search for my biological family.
But all of that changed with the disclosure of a doorstep which led to analyzed saliva that resulted in DNA matches followed by a crash course in genealogy genetics. And all of the sudden I have a sister.
Back to the reunion in Hawaii . . .
Bio dad leaves us at the hotel with the reminder, “Your sister will be here any minute.”
The wispy dream is about to become a flesh and blood reality.
With my mind and emotions still trying to grasp and process meeting my birthfather, I busy myself with a mundane task: retrieving our wrinkled clothes from the suitcases they’ve been packed in for 30+ hours. After all, we are on the vacation of a lifetime, meeting just discovered close family while celebrating our 35th anniversary. The last thing we need/want is a closet full of clothes that look like we slept in them. I have six or eight pieces hung up when a knock followed by aggressive pounding announces my sister’s arrival. I forget the wrinkled clothes and head for the door.
Again, the first in-person words we exchange aren’t earth-shattering. I’m pretty sure we both say, “Hi.” Lorie is quiet and soft-spoken. We’re exactly the same height. Our hair is as close to the same shade of dark brown as possible. The resemblance our mutual father exclaimed over when comparing our pictures is undeniable. Although she’s my big sis, older by eleven months, she looks younger than me.
We invite her and husband Jim in and exchange hugs all around. Jim is anything but shy and quiet. The knock was hers, the pounding his. His good-humored antics make everyone laugh while my husband captures on video our first minutes together. I again shake my head but appreciate that he gets how important this is.
I’m very excited though a bit cautious, the odd numbness still hovering over me, and fatigue is really settling in. Not the best combination of emotions to surround such a life-altering event. But I think I’m with it enough to gauge that they seem every bit as excited about connecting as we are. And I’m so happy about that.
I had hoped she’d want to meet, to get to know each other. And I was giddy with excitement when she readily agreed. We exchanged a number of long emails and spent ninety some minutes chatting on the phone one evening. Although we’d dealt with the “elephant in the room” early on, still I was a little concerned. Because again, there’s no playbook for this kind of thing. Meeting the sister you never knew existed despite the fact you were both born in the same city, less than a year apart, but departed that city within weeks of each other—me to my adoptive parents, she with her bio parents—and grew up in different parts of the country, a thousand miles apart.
The conversation is fun, friendly, informal. Jim remarks on our similarities after only a few minutes of being together. And I love that. I don’t think this whole looking like someone, having stuff in common, being in the same room with blood relatives thing will ever get old. I have a sister.
We make tentative plans for tomorrow and share hugs all around again. They instruct us to get some rest, and we say good-bye for now.
We’ve fifty some years to catch up on. And we’re off to a great start.
The great Hawaii adventure and fabulous family reunion continues soon. Stay tuned . . .
If you’re just tuning into my adoption search/reunion story, catch the beginning of the story here.