That adorable child with the great top and the totally awesome fivehead? Me. Somewhere between 8 and 10, I'm not entirely sure. That teency little baby I'm holding? My brother. Somewhere between 2 and 14 days, I'm not entirely sure, either.
In fact, I had no idea that picture, documenting my parents admirably sophisticated decorating scheme, even existed until my brother emailed it to me a year and a half ago. Which doesn't seem very exciting, I know, but the thing is, that picture is damn close to the last time I saw him.
See, his mom met my dad and they went and had them some babies after my parents got divorced. The jury is still out on whether or not their overwhelming need to procreate played any part in the divorce, but if it did, well, then I thank their naughty bits. My parents never should have been married anyway. In my scattered memory, my dad moved out and the very next weekend there was that new baby. Except that if you look at that picture, I'm not 6. So my memory is clearly wrong; imagine that. Fact is, I don't know the age gap between us, but I think it's 8ish years.
His mother and my father had another boy two years later. Dear god, I loved those boys. I loved their mother, too. She was a total raging bitch to my other brothers and sisters, but she was always really great with me. I so wanted her to be my new mom. My mother, for obvious reasons, wasn't the biggest fan of my father's new flame, but we spent every other weekend with him, and we lived mere blocks away from him, and the babysitter lived just doors away from us, so we got to see them plenty. I think my mother actually let them come over once or twice to play, as well. We were six active siblings, for sure.
My father and their mother stayed together until one fateful Christmas Eve when, on the heels of a pseudo-break up, the boys and their mom came to see my father at his new apartment, opened presents, had dinner, went to bed one big happy family, and the next morning my father woke to an empty home. She'd taken the Christmas stuff and the boys and he never saw them again.
My father is a rather difficult man to live with. She'd had her fill, and I gather from the sketchy stories I've been given, told him over the phone to go away and stay away, and as long as he did that, he would never have to pay her one dime of child support. It sounds shitty that he agreed, but you should know that in his mind, she was The One. His great love. He still aches for her to this very day. Her mind was made up, and he loved her enough to let her go.
I don't know much more than that. I know he'd sent gifts to the boys that she'd taken the gift tags off of and replaced them with tags bearing the name of her new boyfriend. She was determined to wipe him out of her existence, and he rolled over and died. I saw her and the boys at the grocery store when I was 15 and the boys thought it was really funny that we had the same last name. They had no clue who I was. And that broke my heart in two.
My father and I would watch old home videos of the boys' early birthday parties sometimes, and we'd cry a little together, imagining what they were like as teenagers. He always said that once they turned 18, once it was up to them, he'd look for them. But he never did. I imagine that would be a really hard road to start walking down as a parent, and I really don't blame him for just letting it be.
Occasionally, I'd look for them online. There wasn't really "google" then, but I tried digging through Classmates, guessing what schools they'd have gone to. I'd search whatever engines I could for their names, but we have a really common Irish last name and they live in Philly. I just never found anything.
Until MySpace, that is.
A year and a half ago, I was dicking around on MySpace, and who did I find but a boy named Ian MyLastName, with a private profile and a blurry picture that didn't look anything like that baby up there, but he lived in the right place, and was about the right age, and so what did I do?
I freaked out, that's what.
I stared at that profile picture for a while, wrote a post about it, and eventually just sent him a random friend request with no explanation. Which he accepted. Once I saw his pictures, I knew it was him. After a while longer, I got the balls to send him a message that just asked, "Hey, do you remember someone you grew up with named Shannon?" Which, two (of the longest of my life) weeks later, he replied simply, "Are you my sister? Because if you are, you really should just say so."
Oh, how I cried. For days.
We eventually sat on the phone together and rehashed our lives. He didn't know he had siblings, but when I sent him that message, he vaguely remembered that maybe there was a sister and her name was Shannon. He sat his mom down and asked her flat out whether or not I was his sister, and she said that I sure was, and that she was more than okay with us talking. He didn't know anything about our father; he'd never seen a picture, never heard a story, nothing. Most importantly, he'd had a really good life. He was happy. He played guitar, just like we all do. He was good at technical work, just like we all are. His life had been good, and that's all I ever wanted to hear.
His, our, baby brother had just before I'd found them joined the Air Force, and was in Italy at the time. We all started emailing, I gave our oldest brother (who y'all see around my comments as Gnilleps) his email address, and we are slowly starting to come together after something like 20 years.
Why am I telling you all this? Because sometime this morning, BlogHer is going to announce where they're having BlogHer '09, and Philly is one of the 3 cities on the chopping block. If it's in Philly, guess who I get see for the first time since before I had armpit hair? Oh, and my littlest brother is now stationed in Little Rock, and can come up for the weekend if I'm there.
So, yeah, I'm praying quite loudly to as many gods as I can think of that they didn't pick St Louis. I'd really like to pinch these cheeks sometime soon.
Update: Chicago. It's in CHICAGO. le'sigh. So much for killing two birds with one stone, eh?