I did NOT want to be late. I wanted to be the first one there this morning. I wanted to send the right message to Jackie – that I was so incredibly anxious to meet her face-to-face. So, I rushed home after fitness, rushed into shower, got the photos of she and Jan organized and packaged and flew out the door.
My mind raced. What would we talk about? Could I hold back my tears and not make a fool of myself? Would my sister, Jackie, recognize me? I KNEW I would recognize her. The more I thought, the more worked up I got and the tears began flowing. I just couldn’t stop myself. Why was I crying?
“Stacey”, I said to myself out loud. “Pull it together. This is about Jackie and Jan. This is not about you.”
I didn’t listen to myself because my thoughts kept racing about how I have always longed to have a sister and now I have two!!!! Wait – no – there are more. It was over-whelming.
“Stacey”, I said to myself out loud again. But I didn’t listen to myself again. No point in talking to myself because I do what I want to do anyway.
I had to pull the van over when I imagined how we would meet and how all I would do would be to run up to her a hug her. I bawled. I sat there in my van and openly bawled. “How long? How many years has it been since we last met?” I again asked out loud. “Too many”, I answered myself. I pulled out a tissue from my purse – thank goodness my daughter Katya had purchased them for me last Christmas.
“Nanna always bought you tissues, Mom”, she had explained to me. “I thought it would bring you some nice memories.”
How funny it was, now, to use these tissues now. What would Mom think about this encounter so many years later? Would she be happy? Would she be smiling? I think so. I think she had always wanted to learn more about what had happened to the twins. I know that’s why she and I had attended Jan’s wedding. We sat at the back of the church. Mary Ann, Mom, and I had gone. I think Mom wanted to know that the girls were okay. Yet – why did we not make our presence known? Why were they no longer living with us? What had happened?
“Pull yourself together, Stacey.” I’m pretty sure it was me who said it, although, I could hear Mom’s voice in those words too. “Go and reassure Jackie that you love her and that you have waited all your life to be with her again.” Who was speaking then? Were those words mine? Were those words Dad’s? In any case, I put the van in drive and continued on my way.
I pulled up to where we were to meet – Timmy’s. I wished we had chosen a quieter place – one where there wouldn’t be a million people staring at me when I sobbed. Nonetheless, I parked the van, noted I was still early, and walked around the building to find a spot for she and I. I held the door for a young woman to allow her to enter first. It was fairly quiet, other than the group of Hydro workers that had gathered near the front of the coffee shop. I took a quick look around, in the odd chance that Jackie was there earlier than I was. She was not in the line-up, she was not in the first section. I knew to look for long, red hair.
I looked beyond the line-up and through a small crowd. There she was. It was Jackie. It was her! She looked at me as I looked at her – she smiled and I ran. I ran towards her. I didn’t care who was in front of me. I didn’t care who I trampled to be able to get to Jackie faster – I just didn’t care about anything other than getting to her. It was a moment I had been waiting for for 48 years! I reached her and we embraced each other as though we were long-lost friends. We just stood there – in the middle of Tim Horton’s – hugging each other. I couldn’t let her go. The tears flowed. I don’t know how we must have looked – but I just didn’t care.
“I was looking for a lady with grey hair”, explained Jackie to me when we finally came up from our hug for air. “There is another lady I walked up to and almost greeted her! Good thing I didn’t as I took a look at her face and realized it wasn’t you!”
“I knew it was you, Jackie, the moment I laid my eyes on you! And yeah, I guess there are a few people here with grey hair!” We giggled.
“I don’t know what to say”, said Jackie.
“I don’t know either”, I replied. “But I don’t want to let you go! I’ve waited so long.”
We did make it to a table and we did sit down. We did not let go of each other’s hands. I held onto Jackie’s hand for fear of every losing her again. She held onto mine.
It is hard to explain what happened during the next two hours. There was so much to say, but so many more questions – questions for which neither of us had any answers. We talked about our families, we talked about work, we talked about Jan and Joan. We talked and talked and talked. I stared and stared and stared. I just couldn’t believe it was her.
“Jackie – you are as beautiful as I remember.” She seemed surprised. How could she be? Her eyes were perfect – blue – deep. Her hair – so thick – luxurious. It was really her. I was having coffee with Jackie at Tim Horton’s.
I reached into my purse and took out the enveloped of photos I had prepared for her. She trembled as she looked at the envelope and then me.
“I had a hard time parting with these”, I explained. “They were all I had of you.”
“I have no photos of myself or Jan as children, Stacey. These are so precious. I have never been able to show my own children what I used to look like. I have nothing. I am so grateful. Jan is so grateful. How wonderful that you kept these for so long.”
“The only way I could part with them is by making sure I had a digital copy. These are what I remember of you. I studied them when I was a child. I reviewed them as I grew into an adult. I wondered where you were. I wondered how your life had been. I looked for you.”
I found her. I had found Jan. I wasn’t sure they would ever want to see me. What would they think of me? I was 4 when they left. Would they even remember me?
“Stacey, Jan and I are so happy. It has been a hard life. But that is in the past. You are now a part of my family – and a part of this family that has grown to be so large because of Joan”, Jackie reassured me.
We tried to review all the “new” members of “our” family. There were many. Jackie and Jan had been two of 12! They were the last of that biological family to be “found”.
For two hours we talked. Our thoughts were swirling. How could we make sense of all of this? There would be so much to process. We knew that it was time to leave each other and return to our own lives. But we also knew our lives would never be the same again. Thank goodness. This woman – this stranger – had always been a part of me. I had carried her with me for 48 years. I had just never allowed myself to believe that she would ever be more than a photo in an album. Meeting her was more than I could ever hoped for. Being accepted by her was more than I could have ever dreamed.
“This is not good-bye, Jackie”, I said to her as I dropped her off at her home. “Who’s kidding who? We’ll be on facebook writing notes to one another all afternoon!”
She smiled and said, “I can’t wait to tell Jan! Joan will want to know how it went as will my family.”
“Till we meet again – very soon, Jackie”, I said. “I love you!”
“I love you too, sweetie”, she replied.
It was like we had never not known one another. What were those ties that bound us together? Why did we feel to be such kindred spirits? I don’t know – history can be so confusing. It can be so cruel – and – as in today’s case – it can be so very kind.
We waved to one another as I drove away. It was going to be okay. We were going to be just fine. Jackie was about to begin a whole new chapter in her life – and I in mine. It was a good day. It was a good day, indeed – a very, very good day!