This "It's a boy!" moment had come nearly 31 years late. And I'd been so busy studying his fingers and freckles that I hadn't yet handed out the chocolate cigars. And now to put him on a plane and send him back?
The boys and I waited off to the side while my brother and sister-in-law checked in for their flight home. Zach was the first to notice Luke sliding down the terminal wall beginning to cry. As I comforted my son - and held back my own tears - Kerry and Alyssa were hearing words that the majority of travelers don't want to hear... "Your flight has been overbooked."
They took the bump. And the four free round-trip tickets the airline offered.
And we kept them for another 20 hours. Very happily, I might add.
Before their arrival, a lot of people expressed shock (tempered with excitement) over how long they were staying. NINE DAYS! What's the saying, "Fish and company stink after three days"? And their visit was three times that. And we'd never met them.
But anything shorter would have been too short. Sure, everyone was ready for some privacy, alone time, their own bed, to not dress out of a box...
But it took a couple of days just to get comfortable around each other. Even though he and I had been in contact every day for the previous two months, we didn't know how to be around each other. In those first couple of days, I found myself filtering every action with the thought, "But, what if he doesn't want..." Thirty hours into their visit and I knew that had to stop. I simply wasn't being me. That night I prayed that he and I would both get comfortable being uncomfortable...and that we'd extend to the other whatever it was they needed. I was myself again the next morning.
Over the course of the week, we shopped a lot, visited my kids' school, visited my school, had lunch with a couple of my students, saw all of my childhood sights (church, schools, homes, etc), ate ridiculously good barbecue, visited the art museum, had dear friends over for dessert, and had dinner with Jim, Shanna and all of my nephews and niece. At home, we played a ton of games, talked for hours on end, looked through tons of photos, and Kerry and I ran/walked something like 14 miles.
Ten days allowed for relationships to unfold naturally. A long-weekend trip would barely allow for us to get comfortable.
I spent a long weekend with our dad 13 years ago, and I was casual and distracted. I was doubtful and scared to be vulnerable, totally engaged and interested. Today, I don't remember half of it. And I wish I did. I remember what it felt like to stand beside him and I remember what he looked like the first moment I laid eyes on him. But I don't remember anything else. I don't know the most basic things. I have no idea what my hand felt like in his, I don't know if he smelled like anything, and I can't hear his voice. And this man was my father.
I was determined to walk away from this
How many times did I catch myself thinking that? I'd look across the table and hear myself thinking, "He is every bit as much my brother as Jim." And I know how much I love Jim, and it completely overwhelms me that this guy might fit into my life the way Jim does. Like he was made to fit naturally and perfectly. It is the weirdest and most wonderful thing ever.
In ten days, I watched him become Uncle Kerry. He is a typical uncle. Hype them up, then return them to their mother for reprogramming. Play hard, sometimes until someone gets hurt. Give them things Mom won't...within reason, of course. All while hanging on their every word and taking an interest in everything they do. In ten days, we went from a handshake at the airport, to everyone fighting to sit beside him and be on his team when we played games.
I even left my kids alone with him for a couple of hours while Alyssa and I went shopping. Without hesitation. This is completely unheard of.
Over the course of our visit, we grew comfortable being in each others personal space. When you're a tactile and affectionate person, and you've gone 39 years having never really touched a member of your paternal family, you notice when you do finally touch. Heck, I "feel" something merely touching things that others have touched, so you can imagine how I feel about real contact with real people. Especially those people who were meant just for me. And he was meant to be my younger brother.
He and I talked for hours, usually late at night or while out running/walking. A lot of times we could finish the others thoughts, as there were many "me too" moments. Those things that only siblings can relate to. Those things that, for us, no one else has been able to relate to...until now.
The family resemblances are uncanny. From appearances, to personalities, to values and life choices, to interests and hobbies, I see the connection between Kerry, my kids, and me. It is incredible for two people who have never met, who never knew the one person that connected them, to be so similar. Nature vs. nurture - nature scores some big points here. In a good way.
It is so weird how a perfect stranger can complete the puzzle...and quickly become anything but a perfect stranger.
It is so wonderful - utterly miraculous - how God can mend the hearts of two abandoned kids and bring them together in a way that breathes life into a family. Creates a family.
Seriously, this branch never existed on my family tree. Indeed, God has created a family here. And I couldn't be happier.