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Hello, and welcome to Lemonade Tales! Pardon the dust while I get things rolling. I hope you enjoy the stories of inspiration, courage, and grace. I am humbled by each and every person and their personal struggles. This is the …

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Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Only ChildI grew up an only child. What does that mean? It means that I always wanted a brother or sister. So much so that in 5th grade I made up a story that my mom was pregnant. Let me just say at teacher conferences that year my mom was in for a shocker. And I am sure my teacher was a bit embarrassed, too. Oops. ;-)

Brothers & Sisters

At age 37, I thought the only way to have brother’s and sisters was to marry my husband and inherit his six siblings: three brothers and three sisters and nine nieces and nephews. Little did I know that God had much bigger plans for me than I could have ever imagined and I do mean ever possibly could have imagined.

On February 14th, 2013 I got an email that would change my life forever. It was from my half-brother’s wife, Brandi. A half-brother I knew nothing about until I got the email from her.

I remember the day very clearly, I was home visiting family and friends in Michigan for block leave with my husband, Robert who serves in the U.S. Army. We were at my parents place and I was doing some marketing work for a client on my computer. Across the room my husband was probably playing a video game or checking Facebook. I saw an email come through that had the subject line: “Half Brother?” from an unknown sender named Brandi. I quickly opened it curious as to what this could be, but thinking most likely it was spam. This is what it said:

Hi Beverly– My name is Brandi and I think my husband, Joey, might be your half-brother. His biological father’s name is Joseph Aldridge Bradley Jr. and he left when Joey was an infant. Joey’s mother remarried (actually their 44th anniversary is today!) and her husband adopted him. Is your mom’s name Jean?

I verbally said out loud, “Oh My God” and began to sob. I mean really cry. The kind of cry that comes from the center of your soul. My world would never be the same. Immediately, Robert was very concerned and came over to me asking what was wrong. He thought my computer had crashed and I had lost all my work or something. I couldn’t even talk. I simply turned the computer around and let him read the email. He was stunned, too.

After a couple of minutes I got myself together and said,  “I need to write her back. I need to find out more, like NOW.” Robert stopped me and said, “What if this is a con or something shady?” You see my father is not a good man, so anything associated with him has always been negative. After a short conversation with him and more crying on the phone with my mom, I decided to write Brandi back and ask her questions only someone who knew our story could possibly know.

Hello -

I was a bit shocked to receive your email.

Yes, My mother’s name is Jean and my biological Father is Joseph A. Bradley.  I knew that my father had other children but did not know how many or by whom. I too was adopted by my stepfather. The last time I saw Joe was when I was around three.

How old is Joey? What is his mom’s name? Does Joey or his mom know if Joseph had siblings? And what his mother’s name was?

I am very excited and a bit skeptical of all of this as I have had zero contact with that side of my family. I hope you understand.

Thank you for reaching out!

And then I waited. Waiting was torture.
We had already made plans to volunteer at our son’s school that afternoon and while I was very emotional, I still wanted to do that. It kept my mind busy so I wasn’t obsessing, but come on. I just found out I had a brother. I was definitely obsessing. Then I got a notification on my phone that I had an email from her. I had to excuse myself from the class and read it. I again started to cry. But pulled myself together quickly.

I apologize for the shock…I can imagine it was quite a surprise!

I have put together quite a bit of information–you’ll have to let me know how much you want to know. My husband’s name is Joey Carr. He’ll be 45 in March. His mom’s name is Margaret and I think (HOPE) she was his first wife sine they were so young when they married. She and Joe had Dawn and Joey but weren’t married very long. I’m not sure when Joe left, but I know Joey was only 11 months old when his “daddy” married his mom. Joey’s sister Dawn died when she was five of appendicitis, Joey was 3. Bless his heart, he’s had a lot of hard times in his life, but he’s such a tender hearted person.

He and I both grew up in the small town of Level Plains, AL. I started dating him was I was 15 and he was 19. This May we will be married for 22 years. We actually met his grandfather, Joe Sr. about 15 years or so ago. He was a retired Lt. Col and lived near Dothan, AL with his wife Catherine. He died in 2002. I believe he and Joe’s mother, Rachel, divorced when Joe was younger. Rachel lived in Ozark, AL and I believe she died in 1998. When we went to visit Joey’s biological grandfather, he gave us some pictures and told us some of the family history. We only went back to see him once again, and we never heard from any of the rest of the family. I don’t know if he ever told any of them we came to visit or not. We learned that Joe and Rachel had three sons, Joe Jr. Bob, and Pat. then, if I’m not mistaken, he and Catherine had 3 daughters together, Daisy, Kaye, Carolyn and a son named Bruce.  We live probably within an hour at most, of all of them but have never met then.

Not very long after we made the visit to meet Joey’s grandfather, Joey’s mom got a call from Joe one night–I believe all he said when she answered the phone was “The old man said the boy was looking for me.” We had not told her anything about going to meet the grandfather so she told him “No, he’s NOT looking for you and don’t ever call here again.” What little she has told us about Joe was not good. Basically that he was a no-good drunk, who cheated on her and abused her. She gets the devil in her eyes at the mention of his name. Understandably I guess. Joey is open to learning about it though and I hope someday you and he can maybe get to know each other. I’ve always felt like his sister took a piece of his heart when she died –even though he was only three and he says he doesn’t remember her at all.

He’s had anger issues most of his life and we went to counseling for years which helped tremendously, but I think learning that he’s not the only child his father left behind gave him a little peace. I found you because one of the pictures that Joe Sr. gave us was of  “Joe and Jean Bradley, 1974.” I kept goggling and digging and found information piece by piece. I found more information, but don’t know how much you want to know. Just ask if you want to know more and I’ll tell you what I know.

I’m glad you’re excited, and totally understand being skeptical. But thank you for having the courage to reply and feel free to ask questions if you want to know more!

Thanks!!

Brandi

 

Note: Just to keep things straight. Joe Sr. is my grandfather, Joe Jr is my father, and Joey is my brother.

family pic 2008Brandi sent over pictures and it was amazing to see him and his family. Once we got back home and I showed my mother, she immediately said, “He looks a lot like Joe.” What I could see was our skin coloring was similar. We had similar eyes and hair color. But they looked like normal people. This was important as I didn’t know if I could trust them in any way.
I began to talk to my mother more about my biological father and ask tons of questions. She remembered Joe being with a Margaret, he actually had her named tattooed on his arm. She also knew about Joey and Dawn. She remembered when Dawn passed away and she said my father was really upset about it. But she never met them or heard much more about them. I was started to get very excited, but was also very emotional.
I replied to her with this message:

Surprise doesn’t really describe my feelings. After the tears have dried and I can breathe again, I am a bit overwhelmed by all the emotions. I never thought this day would come. I had given up any idea of contacting that side my history since Joe was not the best person.

I too have had to work through abandonment issues even though I have had a fantastic stepfather who was a wonderful dad to me.

I welcome communication with you and Joey. I loved the pictures. I feel you have a bit if an unfair advantage because you know so much about me…the power of the Internet. You should have been a detective by finding so much stuff out.

I went through many different feelings about Joe through the years. Wanting to meet him and wanting to slam the door in his face. I ultimately decided I didn’t want his baggage.

I called my mom after your email and she actually remembers hearing about  Joey and Dawn. And remembers Joe telling her that Dawn had passed away.  My mother left Joe when I was two. The last time I saw him was when I was three. He never paid a lick of child support. My mother doesn’t really talk about Joe so I don’t know much. Please feel free to call me  (xxx) xxx-xxxx. I will be home after 8 EST tonight.

What a fantastic Valentines Day surprise! :-)

I then friended my brother and his wife on Facebook. And posted this:

Today has been very emotional. My half brother on my biological father’s (have not seen him since I was three) side found me. I have been crying all afternoon. Overwhelmed. Seriously deep stuff.

I proceeded to stalk his and his wife’s pages, posts, and pictures. I think I was on there for almost two hours going through their timelines. They seemed like really good people. Pictures of them with their kids (my nephews, YES I have nephews), notes to each other that were thoughtful and sweet. And stories about building their home in Alabama. I think I started loving them that night.

The next day Joey and I talked on the phone for over an hour. It was easy, it was emotional, and it was wonderful all at the same time. His southern drawl and gentle way made me comfortable and secure. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I could never have guessed that I would be a little sister to such a wonderful man. I knew I had to meet him and touch him to make sure this was real and not just a dream.
Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my journey as a sister. To be continued…

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