To this day, I refer to myself as an only child because that is how I was raised. For all of my childhood years, it was just my mom and me. But in reality, I actually have two half-brothers and two-half sisters who live many states away from me. Four siblings.
To help you understand, my dad has always been very in and out of my life. He was born and raised in Florida, moved to the Midwest with my mom shortly after my birth, and then left us to go back to his hometown when I was three.
For the better part of my childhood, I never had a way to contact him. Birthdays, Christmases, and special days passed by without so much as a phone call from him or a valid phone number for me to contact him. He was unreachable to me, and it was something I never understood as a small child.
My mom tried on several occasions to find him per my requests. And after roughly four years of no-contact, she finally did. Somehow, she was able to find his phone number. But when she called him, it wasn’t my dad who answered. It was a babysitter who innocently blew his cover.
It was then that we found out I had not just two younger siblings, but a sibling who was older than me by six years… none of whom my mom ever knew existed up until that point.
Still, I gave my father my childlike faith, as well as the benefit of the doubt, and attempted to form some kind of relationship with him. I met these three siblings at Disney World a year or two later, as well as another “friend” I would later find out is my sister who doesn’t even know she is my sister.
Apparently my father was super classy, because this sibling is a few days younger than me. He cheated on my mom with my mom’s “best friend.” This woman’s husband was unable to have children, and she’s been letting my sister believe a complete and utter lie. Not only has she let her daughter live a lie, but her ex-husband — the man my sister calls dad — has no idea his daughter isn’t biologically his.
I didn’t find this out until I was an adult, and I’m sworn to secrecy on the matter. But still, I can’t help but wonder what it might be like if she were to find out the truth. And sometimes, I feel she deserves the truth no matter how painful it might be. I think to myself, what if she finds out later on down the road, finds me, and I have to tell her I knew the truth for years and chose to keep it from her? How horrible would that be for her?
But then I look at my father — our father — and compare him to her dad and I decide to let her live with something she doesn’t know. Because right now, even with the lies, her dad is far better than our biological father.
She doesn’t have to know what it’s like not to receive a Christmas present while seeing our other siblings receive countless of them on Facebook. And she doesn’t have to know what it’s like to live in this chaotic entanglement that will never be a united family.
She has a dad who has treated her the way she was supposed to be treated from the very beginning, something my siblings and I never had with our “now you see me, now you don’t” dad. Why would I take that away from her?
To put it plainly, I won’t. It’s not my place, and it would be unfair to wreak that kind of havoc on her world.
Unless there comes a day when she finds out the truth for herself, I will love her from a distance… as I do with all of my other siblings.
But not knowing them personally has created a void. Because when you have estranged siblings, you spend so much time wondering what your relationship would or could be like had you been given the opportunity to know one another.
And what makes it even worse is that the strain on these relationships was caused through no fault of our own.
We make promises to finally meet up, but they fall through every time. We say obligatory and awkward “love yous” because it feels like the right thing to do. And we do love each other, we are blood, but we do not know each other.
Because of our father, we missed out on spending critical years of our lives together. We don’t have the bond siblings are supposed to have, and we will never have childhood memories, except the single one, to cherish.
Almost all of us have babies now, and as an only child whose partner is also an only child, I wish more than anything my kids could know what it’s like to have a house full of cousins running around wild like I did. But my life is here and my siblings’ lives are nearly a thousand miles away.
We are living our most busy season in what feels like two parallel universes. We are together in heart, but separated by the distance and the time that was stolen from us.
Still, I love them. And I hope I get the opportunity to know them personally someday.