“When you meet someone for the first time, that’s not the whole book. That’s just the first page.” — Brody Armstrong
Meeting my biological half-brother Joey, for the first time was more than surreal. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I was there, but everything seemed to move in slow motion and high speed at the same time.
Joey’s wife Brandi, contacted me on February 14th and my life has not been the same since. At 37 years old to realize you have a sibling that you share DNA with is pretty amazing. After talking to him, I knew I had to meet him. It was like there was a missing puzzle piece that needed to be put in its place. I had been looking for it all these years and never even knew that my soul was desperately searching for it.
After talking to him on the phone I felt like it was all a dream. There is no way this could be my life. This was something you see on Dr. Phil.
“So, you have a half brother.”
“Oh, and you have other brothers all over the country. And you had a sister, but she passed away.”
“And oh, our biological father that left you at age three lives only two hours from you.”
It was so much to process and I truly think your brain does play tricks on you. I had to keep telling myself that this was really happening. That this was my life. That Joey was real. I remember talking to him about booking a flight and that I needed to meet him in person and hug him just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Finding My Roots
I was born in Enterprise Alabama at what used to be called Coffee County Hospital on April 30, 1975. My first year of life was spent in the Aviation College Dormitory while my father went to school. I have no memory of my time in Alabama, but have heard bits and pieces from my mother through the years. I have always wanted to go and see all the places my mom talked about, but never had a reason more than mere curiosity.
I now had a very good reason to go back. I could meet my brother, my father’s brothers and sisters, my cousins, and see all the places that felt familiar, but I had never seen. I booked my trip to Alabama not even two weeks after learning I had a brother. I had to meet him. Anyone who has found out they have family they have never met knows what I mean. You have to see them with your own eyes… look them in the eyes… and make that very real connection.
I was originally going to surprise him for his birthday, but his wife said there was no way she could keep it a secret. He would want to know I was coming. It was far too big of a secret to keep from him. And so the plans were set in motion.
I was beyond nervous, I felt like I was going on a first interview or a first date. You know that feeling that you really want them to like you and everything you say and do matters. What should I wear? And the horrible, What if they don’t like me?, thoughts crept in. I just wasn’t sure I could handle another rejection from family. It was excitement and fear all rolled into one. I have found in these moments that your true courage is apparent. And these are the most important moments. The life-changing ones that you never forget.
I booked the tickets three weeks before I was supposed to visit and those three weeks seemed to drag on forever. I spoke to him every day either by phone or by text. We had some serious catching up to do. I missed not talking to him on the days we only texted. There was something comforting about thinking of him first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. My whole life paradigm was shifting, and it was certainly for the better. I wasn’t an “only” any more. I wasn’t alone in my pain and I certainly wasn’t alone in my joy.
The night before the actual flight, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. But I was getting something way better than a present. I was getting a brother. Someone who shared my DNA and the hurt of a father who never looked back. Blessings do come from really horrible circumstances. We are real examples of that goodness.
The Dothan airport is tiny… I mean ti-ny. I stepped off the plane and through a small gate and there he was across the hall. I knew it was him right away. I was walking with my seatmate, whom I had shared my story with during the flight. She was so excited for me, too. Time started to slow down and I couldn’t wait to hug him. I can’t believe that I didn’t cry. I did well up a bit, but not the faucet of tears that had plagued me for the past month. I kept touching his face and hugging him. He was real. Although I did poke him a couple times on the ride from the airport. Just to make sure… he pinched me back. It was official. I had a brother. I don’t think until that moment was I able to really accept it.
The weekend flew by. I spent time with Joey, his wife, and their kids. I event got to meet his mom and dad. I got to play with their animals and see their beautiful home. It was all so normal and very quickly my nervousness turned into pure comfort. They gave me a tour of Enterprise, Dothan and Ozark, and their little town. I got to try fried corn bread, grits, boiled peanuts and loved them all. I got to see the famous Boll Weevil Monument. I even met several of my father’s siblings (they haven’t seen him in years either) and some of my cousins. They were all so gracious and welcoming. It was such a humbling weekend. I didn’t want it to end.
Leaving was the hardest part. Not knowing when I will see Joey and my new family again and feeling as though I needed more time to just be with everyone and get to know them better is a bit heart wrenching. Hopefully, he comes up this summer with his family for a visit. I am sure we will have many more visits in the coming years. I know that I want them in my life now that we have found each other.
I simply can’t imagine my life without them. I have a brother and his name is Joey!