I felt my heart race. It was a moment I had been waiting for for so many years – 45 years in fact. And here it was. The moment had finally arrived. It was a message from Jackie.
So many years ago, I sat in the chair as I watched Jackie and Jan walk out the front door of our house. I had no idea what was happening. I thought they were going on a vacation. “Why did they get so many gifts?” I wondered. That’s all I knew. They were packed, armed with gifts and were leaving. And they left with someone I did not even know.
I was four. They were 10. We were young.
Days passed. They did not return.
Months passed. They did not return.
Years passed. Finally – a phone call. I think it was from Jackie. I must have been seven? I remember being so happy to hear from her and we chatted like we were never apart. I have no idea what we said. My only memory is taking the call in the den and either Mom or Dad walking in to take over the phone call. That was all. For some reason – that was all.
Days passed. No call.
Months passed. No call.
Then – an invitation to a wedding came in the mail. I think it was from Jan? There was some discussion, of which I was not a part. I have a very vague recollection of watching from the back of a church as she was married. That’s all. The rest is gone from my memory.
Years and years later, I transferred from elementary to secondary panel and got a job at the Barrie Learning Centre. Moments before I walked into my computer class, I read my list: Jackie’s name was on it. “Could it be the same person?” I was stunned. It was now nearly 40 years later. I walked in looking for a little girl with long, red hair. No one fit that description. I called her name for attendance. No response. There was, however, an empty chair. That chair remained empty for two days. On the third day, however, I walked into the classroom to see that it was now occupied. The person who sat in that chair had red hair. Again, my heart raced and I wondered, “Is that her? Is that Jackie?”. I called her name. She turned to face me. “Here”, she said. It was her! I could hardly believe it! She was not little – in fact, she was older. Could it be the same Jackie? “Impossible”, I thought. How could my adopted sister of so many years ago – be sitting here in front of me in my classroom. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. So – I did nothing. Nothing. But teach the class. And when the day ended, Jackie left. She never returned.
That was the last I had ever seen or heard of her – in person.
There were very few days when I didn’t think of her and wonder what had happened on “that day” she and her twin, Jan – had left. It remained an unsolved mystery in my life always. No one would give me answers. I did not understand. I was told it was better to not ask. And that was what I lived with. Well, somewhat. There were stories told to me through cousins and friends – were they true? For 50 years I’ve wanted to know the truth.
I had no idea they were two of 12 siblings, six of whom had been adopted out. I had no idea that 50 years later, I would be the one to lead one of their sisters, Joan, to find them. I had no idea the impact my connection would make on all of our lives. I simply had no idea. It was unfathomable – 12 siblings that had been out of their lives for nearly their entire life. And, finally, there were with one another again. I was so over-whelmed. Joan was over-whelmed. And bit by bit, I became acquainted with the siblings and their children, and their grand-children, nieces, nephews, husbands and wives. I was invited into their family. Me. The outside. I became the adopted.
Finally, yesterday, the message I had been anticipating for so many years arrived. “Hi Stacey its Jackie. Joan called me. We had lots to talk about. She told me you helped find Jan and me.” I sobbed. I literally sobbed for what seemed hours. It was more of an emotional out-pour than I had ever experienced. It was 50 years of emotions bursting the flood-gates all at once. There was the moment I had dreamed of for so long. How would she be? How would Jan be? What would she be thinking? How would she process everything? Would she be happy? Would she be angry? I’m sure she would be on the same roller-roaster as I was. I had no idea.
That message – those words will stay with me forever. It seems my destination has arrived. It seems the future is here. It is daunting for me – I have no idea how Jackie and Jan will feel. How do we process through this?
One thing I know for sure – it won’t end today.
It won’t end in a month.
It won’t end in a year.
This reunion is here to stay. For all of us.