When I was 11 years old or so, my father brought two of my half-siblings down to Miami. I’d never met any of my many many half-siblings, the product of my father nearly giving Ol’ Dirty Bastard a run for his money. My mother just had me, so I was raised as an only child.
I was excited. I’d always wanted to have siblings. Being an only child is kind of lonely. So when I got to the old arcade my dad took me to I ran up and hugged one of my brothers. Silly. I mistakenly thought they’d be as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. As I felt my brother stiffly hug me back, I felt humiliated. I don’t remember if I hugged the second one. It was a long and awkward afternoon. I wouldn’t see either of them again for many years to come.
There was a huge age difference between us. They were in their 20’s and I was just a child. Basically, I don’t blame them for their reaction. Perhaps the age difference was too much. I was a kid, they were grown men. I look back and imagine that they didn’t see me as a sister, because they already had one, one they were raised with. I was just another one of their dad’s many kids spread over two continents. They didn’t care that I existed. And that’s fine. I’m not mad about that.
I suppose this is the view I developed towards them. In my head, my other half-siblings all felt the same way about me. I’m just one of many, not important. Not that they wished me ill, but that there was no reason to care. Dad didn’t care, why should they. In most cases, dad didn’t really care about them either. That’s how I felt anyway. And I always say I’m an only child while sometimes referring to my siblings as a bit of a joke of papa being a rolling stone and why I don’t date anyone with my last name. Who knows? They could be my brother.
And it turns out, I wasn’t far off the mark. Because I unknowingly went to the same high school as one of my half-brothers for two years and never knew until yesterday. After realizing that if my dad died no one would call me or even know how to find me if they did want to let me know, I went ahead and called my father and asked about some of my siblings. I intended to find them on Facebook and then convince them to add me as a friend. If dad died surely they’d post about it. He gave the one in Miami (I thought he was in the next county over, also, not one of the one’s I met when I was 11) my phone number. That brother called me yesterday and we talked for the second time.
The first time was about 15 years ago. He asked me for a picture of dad which I emailed him, but it seems he never received it. I didn’t follow up. I didn’t care and I couldn’t imagine he actually cared either. I was a curiosity, not a sister. But again, I’m projecting. He told dad I was weird on the phone the first time. I don’t doubt it. “Weird” was probably a nice way of saying “bitch”. But this time conversation flowed and while I’m sure I still came off as bitter, I’m a bit more open to the possibility of being friends with my siblings.
However, saying “our dad” or “my brother”, “my sister” feels as strange to me as if I looked down and saw my hair turn blonde. It feels like stepping into a parallel universe. Or waking up hungover in Vegas married to a person you can’t remember even meeting. Who are these people? Why do they want to talk to me? Why does it matter to them? And I don’t understand. They’re blood. But since when has that mattered to anyone on that side of the family? Or maybe it just didn’t matter to my dad. Again, I’m projecting. I don’t actually know.
I have my friends who are like my family. My nearest and dearest who I know would go the extra mile for me if I needed them. Family don’t end with blood. But they have siblings they grew up with. That’s who they turn to first. Those are family reunions I’m not part of. Perhaps to say “this is my brother” feels like a mockery of a relationship I know I’ll never have and don’t think I’ll ever fully understand.
I still hate being an only child.