Monday, April 25, 2011

Sibling Love

As soon as my ex-sister-in-law contacted me with the news that Dallas’s grandfather had taken a bit of a turn for the worse, I knew we had to go see him. We could not have known that Grandpa Wayne would die within just a few hours of our first visit with him in 13 years.

Many months back I went on Facebook and found Dallas’s little sister and her family. They were immediately open to us and we quickly exchanged photos and stories. Like Dallas, a wonderful man adopted his sister Jodee and raised her as his own.

You know, men get a lot of bad press and there’s no doubt that some of it is deserved. I mean, men have the luxury of walking away from their children, and many do. BUT, there are tons of great men out there who become daddies not because they have to, but because they want to! Dallas and Jodee have both been blessed with that kind of a daddy.

As soon as I knew we would be traveling to Memphis, I contacted Jodee and her mom, Carm. They live five hours from where we’d be staying and I told them we’d love to visit. They gave us a resounding “YES”, and even offered up their home to us.

On a chilly Saturday morning in March, Dallas and I made the drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in America. The Amish communities in Missouri are just gorgeous. The rolling hills are dotted with big barns, simple wooden houses wrapped in wide porches, cattle, and lush trees reaching to the sky.

As soon as we walked in the house my son and his sister embraced as their moms cried happy tears—as moms are wont to do. Carm captured the moment on video and I snapped still pictures.

Carm and I look nothing alike, but our children share so many physical similarities. DNA is an interesting thing. Dallas and Jodee both have blue eyes, the same nose, and that cleft in the chin. I loved Carm and Jodee the moment I met them.

We had a great few days with the family. Carm, Darin, their other daughter Kiera, and Jodee are just fabulous. We spent the first evening eating and laughing. On Sunday we went to church in the morning, and hung out in Branson, MO all afternoon. Sunday night – more eating and laughing.

Later Sunday evening we watched a video Carm had of her family celebrating Christmas 1988. It was of interest to us because that’s when Carm and Terry were together, and he was featured prominently with the rest of the family as they celebrated the holiday.

I wasn’t prepared for the tears that came when I heard Terry’s voice and saw his face staring back at me from the television monitor. He would have been 29 that year—so much hope and promise. If love had been enough, Terry would have been wildly successful. I loved him, Carm loved him, and our families loved him too. His own family showered love and favor onto that boy (his Grandma Mattie doted on him).

I watched on that tape as Carm’s family interacted with its youngest member – a one-year-old boy with bright eyes and blond hair. Dallas was 4 in 1988, and he hadn’t received a birthday card or Christmas nod from Terry in three years. I stared at that grainy old VHS video—looking for any sign that my son’s dad was thinking about him on that day. Was he? I don’t know.

Everywhere we went on our trip, people were always saying, “Wow, Dallas looks so much like Terry.” Dallas had seen pictures, but as the tape played that night, he was listening to Terry’s voice and watching his mannerisms for the first time. Jodee didn’t remember ever seeing any pictures, so this was all new to her. We all now agree that, when comparing them side-by-side, Dallas did not look quite as much like Terry as we thought he did (although the similarities are unmistakable).

My marriage to Terry was hard and there have been times I wished it never happened. However, because of him, we now have an extended family in Missouri for whom we are so grateful. Dallas loves his sister Giana so much and watching them together is a blast. He summed up Jodee as “tight" and if they’d been raised together he imagines he’d have a similar relationship with her that he has with Gia. They were awfully darn cute together.

Dallas and his sister, Jodee

So, to all the family members who hosted us when Dallas and I were in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri – thank you! You guys rock, and I can’t wait to see how our relationship grows over the years ahead.

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