Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)

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VšnTillBruden Posts : 353 Registered: 1/16/10
Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 28, 2010 4:28 PM

I'm coming to you ladies with an extremely personal matter that I need some advice on, particularly from a neutral standpoint, from someone who is not emotionally invested in the outcome.

On August 22nd of this year, I got a phone call from my older brother P that absolutely knocked me on my ass, in shock. A little back-story on this is necessary, before I go any further.

I have three siblings - my younger sister, L, my brother, P, and my oldest brother, J. Not a lot of people know about J. Frankly, I didn't know about J until I was twelve years old. He's never been a part of my life, and much of J's story is very cloudy. I only know what details P has been able to provide for me. My dad has never liked talking about J, and usually gets very defensive if he's brought up. But here is what I do know: at some point while my father was married to P's mother, they had a falling out, and briefly separated. While they were separated, my father had a brief relationship with another woman, and then later reconciled with P's mother. Months after this brief relationship with the other woman, J was born. P was born two years later. My father claims that he isn't actually J's birth father, and that the woman was already pregnant when he met her, but he had agreed to sign as the boy's father on the birth certificate since the real father wasn't in the picture. Somehow I find that story a little hard to believe, even though my grandfather did the exact same thing with my uncle R decades before (very, very long story for a different day). At any rate, J is my brother in name, if not also in blood. My father was very sparingly involved in J's life. J's mother moved on and later met & married a very nice man, who was essentially the only father figure J had. My father saw him now & then while he was living in Sweden, and helped J get an apartment in Stockholm when he turned eighteen. Aside from that? Nothing. P had a relationship with J for a few years when they were very young, but as adults, they've never been close. I never knew J existed until I was twelve. I was in the middle of a conversation with my mother, in our garden, about something (I can't even remember what about), when she said "...Well, what about J?" I asked her what she meant, and who J was. She said "Your other older brother." And my world came crashing down, for a brief moment. After a quick argument with my mother about why I hadn't been informed I had two brothers, it essentially boiled down to "Well, I thought your father told you kids already. I only met him twice." So yeah, this whole thing screams soap opera drama.

Anyway, back to my story about what happened August 22nd. When I moved to Sweden last year, I tried to get in touch with J over Facebook, as did P. He never responded to any of our messages, and we just figured he didn't want anything to do with us (can't really blame him for that), & moved on with our lives. Well, P calls me on August 22nd, saying "You're never going to believe who I ran into today." I laughed, asked if it was Alexander SkŚrsgard again (he met him at a truck stop in southern Sweden two weeks earlier), and P said "No. Our brother." I got really quiet for a second and then asked him to explain. It was one of those moments straight out of a movie. You know what I mean, those stereotypical "woman gets shocking news and immediately has to sit down because she's too weak to stand" moments. I literally had to sit down and strain to listen to what P was telling me because my mind was running at a million miles a minute. Evidently while P was in the next town over, he went into Elgiganten (our Swedish version of Best Buy). He noticed an employee out of the corner of his eye & got a sneaking suspicion that he recognized him. He approached the employee and said "Excuse me, what's your name?" The employee turned to face P and said "My name is J." Immediately J recognized P and they both said, almost at once, "Oh my God..." J and P hadn't seen each other in over fifteen years, and hadn't spoken in almost ten. J couldn't talk long since he was working, but evidently he asked a lot about me, and how P's life has been going. J told P that he was living in Stockholm with his girlfriend, and was working in the store after getting laid off from a previous job. He explained to P that he hadn't responded to either of our messages on Facebook because he's been so emotionally overwhelmed at hearing from us that the only thing he could really do was ignore the messages. I can completely understand that. Anyway, he had to get ready to get back to work, but before they parted ways, they exchanged phone numbers, and agreed that the three of us should go out for a beer & get to talk for a while, one weekend. P called me as soon as he left the store. I was absolutely astonished, and the shock still hasn't completely worn off, months later.

P and J later agreed that we should meet on September 11th or 12th. But the day came and went, and we never met. P tried texting J several times that week, but got no response. At that point, I just said "Screw it, I'm too busy with school to be worrying about this right now," and completely put it out of my mind. Evidently P and J have talked since then, and met a few times at the store when P has needed to pick up something, but that's as far as it has gone.

Now that we are getting closer to the holidays, and I am done with school for now, I keep feeling this urge to seek him out and meet him for myself. Maybe just drive to that store (it's only 20 minutes away, can you believe that?), introduce myself, and just, so to speak, "rip the band-aid off in one fast, fluid motion". But I feel like the fact that J hasn't exactly sought out P or I for this "meeting" he seemed so excited about shows that he has his own life, and maybe we have no part in it.

I can't really describe the emotions I'm feeling over this whole thing, to be honest. It's a bizarre combination of excitement, nerves, and overall confusion. I was really excited to finally meet him. I still am. I am nervous he won't like me/he'll be a total douche in person/we just won't get along. I'm confused for a cornucopia of reasons.

I've felt this gap ever since I found out about J, seven years ago. Whenever people would ask me about my family, I'd talk about my sister & older brother P, but in the back of my head I always wondered about J. I didn't like talking about J because, well, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because it always felt (and still does) like my family is the only one who has to deal with all this soap opera drama. Few of my friends have divorced parents that have remarried multiple times. Few of them have half-siblings. None of my friends have siblings they've never met/heard of. No one would really understand, because it's not normal. The few people I did tell, most of them wound up teasing me for it because, well, it IS a fucked up situation, and people are cruel/hostile toward things they don't understand. So, I kept it to myself for a lot of years. And it always felt like I had put this mental asterisk symbol next to the words "my family" because we weren't complete. I had my sister, my other brother, my mom, and my dad, but that oldest brother eluded me for all those years. I don't think I ever realized how much it bothered me all this time until the day P called. The years of pain, embarrassment, and feelings of rejection all came back to the surface, and it crippled me for weeks.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I'm not expecting J to immediately become my "big brother" and for us to be as close as P and I are. I'd love for us all to get along, and, once my sister L comes next summer, have all four of us be pretty tight-knit. But I know how unlikely that is.

I'm really hoping to finally getting some closure about this whole thing, and put a name to a face. But I am so scared of being rejected, I don't know if I can or even should go through with this. I don't want to force my way into this man's life.

What do you guys think?

Love me when I least deserve it, because that is when I need it the most. (Swedish proverb)

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 28, 2010 5:20 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Dear Van,

I am a lot older than you are and went through much the same thing. Listen to what I have to say.

I was adopted as an infant, then after my real (adoptive) parents died, I sought out my birth parents and was successful.

In the process, I gained five half-sibs. One is my mother's other daughter (half-sis), four are my father's sons (half-bros). All this happened 14 years ago, so I have some perspective of time.

Of course, I am older than all of them, for obvious reasons.

My half-sis first heard about me when she was 20 (or so). Her mom spilled the beans about having had a baby out of wedlock. My four half-bros knew nothing. Their father had told his wife about his illegitimate daughter, but they never told their boys. After I contacted bio-dad, he had to make four incredibly difficult phone calls. ("Dad, have you been drinking???? Are you out of your mind???")

In terms of sibling relations, it's been a mixed bag. Half-sis has been used to being an only child, and it was an adjustment to gain a sister who was father along in life than she was. (Got college degree earlier, got married, had older kids, etc.)

Of the four half-bros, again, a mixed bag. One guy really likes me, the other has nothing to do with me (I think it's his wife's issue, but never mind) and the other two are somewhere in between. They all had to get used to being "one notch down" in the birth order. Older brother was no longer his father's oldest child, etc.

Here is what I suggest for you. This is, probably, one of the biggest leaps of faith into the Great Unknown that you will ever experience.

I suggest that you set very modest goals for yourself. I suggest that you set the goal of meeting your brother face to face, then let things move along at their own pace. Go see the guy, take along your own contact information, then hand it over. Include a note to the effect that you are offering the hand of friendship, but you would understand if he doesn't think that would be a good idea.

Having made the first move, wait. Just wait. It might be a good long time before he feels up to making the second move. It might be never.

You don't want to badger the guy. You don't want to force him into an unnatural, difficult relationship. Just make the first move, then wait. It might be the "right" time for you, but the "wrong" time for him. Maybe he's involved in a romantic relationship that sucks up all his energy. Maybe he's in a life change situation and needs new family like he needs a hole in the head. You just don't know.

I can't tell you what will happen. I can only tell you that you need to be respectful of his space and his privacy. Make a move. Wait. See what happens.

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 28, 2010 5:30 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Dear Van,

I'll add this.

You probablly know I have twin sons. I also have a niece who moved in with us following the deaths of her parents. She was 16 when she moved in; the boys were 14.

Before that point in time, my boys and their cousin really got along great. She was the "glamorous older woman" in their young lives, and she was charmed by these two funny, rambunctious identical twin boys. Before she moved in they knew each other and liked each other. They played well together.

However, it was a real adjustment on everyones' part for the boys to suddenly "gain a sister". It's one thing to see a cousin once or twice a week. It's a whole different thing to find her makeup and hair care products in your bathroom. (Finding her Tampax in the cabinet was a severe shock to one of my boys. His face was drained of color.)

Even starting with a positive past history, there were a lot of ups and downs for my boys suddenly living with a pseudo-sister. Her adjustment was, of course, immense. She had lost both parents and was, suddenly, no longer an only child living in a girl-girl household with just her mother.

I tell you this to remind you that sibling relationships can be complex even under the best circs. Your situation is far from the "best" of circs. As I said before, I strongly suggest you contact your brother, make sure he has your contact info, then just wait.

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PharmToxGirl Posts : 5,446 Registered: 8/30/07
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 28, 2010 10:57 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

I think AOTB has the closest personal experience that is most similar to this - and it happens that I also agree with her.

Part of the reason that I agree with her is because I think you want to try to reach out and make contact come what may.

I also think that it is harder for J to reach out to you - he did have a previous relationship with P and it was probably easier to reconnect with him.

So I say go for it.

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 29, 2010 6:42 AM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Dear Van,

Finally: Be prepared for the long game. He might not feel a need to contact you for 10, 20, 30 years. Might not be ever.

Give him your info, keep your Facebook status current, and then wait.

People go through life changes when they marry, when they have kids and when the kids grow up. It might be one of those life changes that triggers a need for a sister. Please be patient and don't think there's anything wrong with you if your new brother does not "jump" into your life immediately.

After all, I did not feel a need to search for my bio-parents until I was 43, after my own parents had both died. That was my life change trigger.

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VšnTillBruden Posts : 353 Registered: 1/16/10
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 3:16 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

Hey everyone,

Thank you all for your advice, you in particular, AOTB. It's comforting knowing that another person has gone through this (and, pardon my saying, a well rounded person has gone through this, not just the trailer trash you see on Springer and Maury).

I'm going to sleep on it for a few days and see how I feel next week. I am going back to the States for the holidays in twenty days, so maybe what I will do is go and visit J before that, introduce myself, give him my contact info, and leave the ball in his court. Maybe he'll reach out, maybe he won't. But at least I will have tried.

Thanks again, everyone. I will update you all further as things happen.

Love me when I least deserve it, because that is when I need it the most. (Swedish proverb)

Reply


auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 4:57 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Dear Van,

That's the spirit. At least you will have tried. Then, you can sleep easy knowning that you reached out when you could.

Hmmm... let's see, you're going from Snowy Sweden to Sunny So Cal?

Reply


MsDenuninani Posts : 3,962 Registered: 3/16/07
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 5:08 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Hey Van,

My husband (and his sisters) went through something similar. When he was 18 and leaving for college, his father told him that he had a half-sister that lived in that college's same town, the child of a previous relationship. It was the first time hubs had ever heard about her. (If hubs hadn't already been moving there, who knows when/if his father would've ever told him, but I digress). Hubs and his sisters had to adjust to another sister.

Hubs met her -- C -- and they get along, although they are not particularly close. We know of the major milestones, like marriage, birth, or when they change addresses, but compared to the relationship he has with his full sisters, it's not even close. And I'm pretty sure it never will be.

The thing is, no one tries to force it. I regularly contact C on holidays and her kids' birthdays, but my husband probably wouldn't bother if I didn't. His younger sister talks to her more regularly, and feels responsibility to know and be responsive to her because she's family. His older sister is different. The older sister is not thrilled to be replaced in the birth order, and doesn't talk to her at all, and has been rude to her in person. I know that their father wishes it could be different, but he knows that he can't force it. This situation was created a long time ago, and you can't go back in time and create a relationship that never existed in the first place.

Anyways, I think AOTB's absolutely right. Just meet them, but there's no need to put a lot of expectations on it. He may be a brother, but he was not raised as "your brother" -- in truth, he is from an entirely different family. Find out who he is, cause you're curious, and you'd like to know.

And then just let it go from there, into whatever relationship (friend, family, acquaintance) naturally forms.

P.S. I know what you mean when you say you don't know exactly how to define your family -- do you have one brother or more? -- although for an entirely different reason. I had a half-brother who was raised by his father, although we shared a mother. He was 10 years older than me, but we knew spent a lot of time together when I was very small, until he died unexpectedly when he was 18 and I was 8. Given that he died when I was so young, and that we didn't live in the same house when he was alive, I was esssentially raised as an only child. Yet, when people ask if I have any siblings, and I say "no" I always feel like I'm wrongly erasing his existence. But it's an honest answer.

My husband, by the way, always says he has two (rather than three sisters). Also, I think, an honest answer.

__________________________________________

"I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, or insanity, but they've always worked for me." Hunter S. Thompson

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mrscreamer2be Posts : 153 Registered: 6/14/09
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 5:34 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

Sorry, I just had to but in and say, "It was 30 degrees this morning in sunny San Diego! LOL

Van, it sounds like what you did was the best thing you could do. I do hope you two will have a relationship with each other.

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VšnTillBruden Posts : 353 Registered: 1/16/10
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 5:54 PM Go to message in response to: mrscreamer2be

Actually, AOTB, more like snowy Detroit, Michigan. I'm visiting my father and stepmother, this time. I won't make it to So Cal until next summer, for my younger sister L's graduation.

And MsD, for the record, I know what you mean about "who knows when his dad would have said anything". If it had been up to my father, I probably would never have known about J. Any info I have gotten has been from my brother P, or from my mother. And every time I have gotten new info, I go back to my dad and ask him "Is this true?" He always has a new tale to tell, as if it's some small thing, like: "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that part..."

Incredibly frustrating.

The really messed up thing is that he completely denies J's existence to my stepmother. He will acknowledge to P, L, and I that he is at least the legal father of J, but my stepmother has no idea. When I was thirteen, rebellious, and angry with my father, I told my stepmother everything I knew about J, and my father somehow managed to talk his way out of it. She chose to believe him over me. She still buys whatever story he gave her. I confronted my dad about it when I was sixteen, and he told me "Všn, your stepmother just wouldn't understand. She was raised in a very conservative family, and it was already a bit difficult for her to cope with the fact that I had three children with two different women by the time we met. If I were to tell her this whole messy story about J, it would just send her over the edge, and I don't want to do that to her. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. As far as I am concerned, I have three children. Not four." I haven't said anything to my stepmother about it since, frankly, I told her everything once already. She chose not to believe me, and I'm not going to go and pull up all of this old drama again. Do I think it's right that my father kept this all from her? Absolutely not. But is it my place to say anything? Not anymore.

What I find interesting is that P, L, and my mother are all friends with J on Facebook. I used to be, but I deleted him from my friends list last year when he ignored my messages. And my stepmother also has a Facebook. I am really, really surprised that she hasn't noticed that "J Bruden" is a real person and just so happens to be on their friends lists...

Well, sometimes people choose to keep their heads in the sand, I suppose.

Thanks again for all the good wishes!

Love me when I least deserve it, because that is when I need it the most. (Swedish proverb)

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MizJodi Posts : 65 Registered: 3/8/07
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 6:07 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

I was gone for the last week. What happened with half this thread?

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PharmToxGirl Posts : 5,446 Registered: 8/30/07
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 7:18 PM Go to message in response to: MizJodi

What half are you talking about? Maybe you're talking about another thread? I'm asking because Van just posted it on Sunday.

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mrscreamer2be Posts : 153 Registered: 6/14/09
Re: Long Lost Brother (Warning: VERY LONG)
Posted: Nov 30, 2010 10:29 PM Go to message in response to: VšnTillBruden

Your dad sounds similar to my mom as far as not letting others know about things. The only reason I find things out is because my grandmother tells me things.

Recently I found out my grandfather died(about a month ago). My grandmother told me; my mom still hasn't said anything. I had never met him and my mom didn't have a relationship with him, but I had always wished to have had met him.

Unfortunately, it sounds like this is how your dad deals with things. Ignorance is bliss. As much as we don't like it, we really can't change that.

Regarding your stepmother, it's probably best to leave it as is.

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