Looking for My Sister
by Kimberly M. Thompson
ďHi! My name is ReNey and I wish someone, anyone could help me find my sister. Itís so strange to know that there is someone looking like you and hopefully somewhere looking for you as much as you are them. Do you think you can help me?
Let me give you a little history about the situation first. Maybe if you are reading this story she may be a part of your family and therefore I may be too. Talk about extended family, huh? Well, I come from a very small immediate family. Mommy, Daddy and me. I still call my parents Mommy and Daddy. Some things just donít change. I would frequently ask for a brother or sister as I was growing up. But it just didnít happen. Most of my best friends as a child always came with large families. It seemed that I would instinctively gravitate to these people for some reason. For me, watching the dynamics of all of these people in one household and living together were a science.
Initially it was enough for me just to know only my good friends. When you are an only child you tend to think itís just about you and whoever. A one on one. But as my friends became more important and involved in my life every day they grew to be my best friends. And with becoming that close you get invited into each otherís homes on a regular basis so you start to see the real day to day. I quickly became an extension of that sister I hung out with. The events that occurred in their homes were mind boggling to me. Where as I had to invent people and games to occupy myself when I was home alone there was always a host of activities going on in theirs. You'd hardly ever walk through their family doors and it was quiet.
There could be children gathered watching television, but never altogether. There were certain clicks in the family, due to personality and or age. There was the alpha sister, not necessarily the oldest as you would often assume. Most times the brothers would follow age appropriate leadership unless he didn't live in the house or was irresponsible. And sometimes the irresponsible brother still led the pact. Because even though he might be doing wrong he didn't allow his siblings to follow suit. But it didn't seem to work like that with the girls. This alpha sister had to be on point because she took care of the home when Momma wasn't around.
Therefore at a very young age, these girls were being put ďin place.Ē That place that we as women are forced to manage for everyone else in our lifetimes. Whether warranted or not, youíve been served. Maybe somehow some girls may have asked for the job to prove their worth in the family line. But more often than not, their assignment was already a given even if they werenít quite ready to fill the shoes. They just had to learn through trial and error. And it could only be a couple incidences of that.
Then there was the arguing, fussing, fighting and backbiting. I loved this part. It reminded me of the wrestling matches on TV. Iíd just sit on the sidelines and take it all in. Matter of fact, sometimes Iíd waited for the next round. But this foolishness was only among themselves. Let anyone else outside those doors attempt to slander or touch a sister or brother or me for that matter and there'd be hell to pay. And to top everything else off you got to know the other brothers and sisterís friends too. Children of all ages coming from out of the woodwork. In a couple of those homes it seemed like a family reunion all the time. All in all, I learned some valuable lessons early on in embracing these childhood friends and their families. And in the interim they became my extended family and vice versa. I loved them all dearly and all their craziness.
Then there came a time around my twelfth year when huge changes in my life were occurring. And an unbelievable twist of fate was about to unfold also. I had just graduated from 6th grade and we moved on up to a better neighborhood. Naturally I'm scared to death. I was a pre-teen in new surroundings, meeting new people and trying to fit in. This was all too much. But I survived the move and made 3 new and very important friends. Niecy, Cheryl and Micki. Niecy and Cheryl lived two doors down on either side of me. Micki lived around the corner. And guess what? The same family dynamic I just described to you previously occurred with two of these new families. The same exact thing. It must be universal as far as large families go. But these sister/friends are still today, my beloveds. We've been through hell and high water together. Teenage craziness, pregnancies and births, trials and tribulations, marriages and break ups you name it we've gone through it.
Now going back in time once more I remember just being a typical teenager. Getting into all kinds of mischief and there was a particular day when Daddy stopped me in my tracks. He came to me and said, ďReNey, I need to talk to you.Ē We sat down in my room for one of ďMyĒ talks. I always had to have ďA TalkĒ about what little girls and now little young ladies should and shouldnít do. Then Daddy begins to tell me this story. He was stuttering and stammering and I was my losing patience. I needed to get outside to find my girlfriends. I had a lot of nerve didnít I? So he got himself together after I started looking up in the ceiling with a sigh. But I did know not to carry this insolence too far.
The story was of this girl named Carenthia who was a part of his life a long, long time ago. And he had chosen now to tell me that she is also a part of my life too. Come to find out this Carenthia is my older sister, my half sister. I'm sort of shocked but I'm much more happy than mad. I see his mouth moving but Iím thinking almost out loud, ďAll of this time you mean to tell me I had a sister and no one said anything to me?Ē Now I have what Iíve always wanted, another somebody. My somebody. I don't know her. I've never met her but I don't care either. It just doesn't matter. I have a sister and I want her. ďDaddy tell me everything right now!" Thatís all I could say. I needed to absorb as much as I could. I felt like I was in a desert and had just come across an oasis. My thirst was insatiable.
So Daddy begins to explain how back in his day it was taboo for women to have children out of wedlock. And evidently it was bad blood between him and his daughter's mother and family. They didn't want him to have any contact with her. I really don't know and probably will never know if his version of the facts were absolutely true. Or if he, in fact, was infallible as a man and just didn't or couldn't step up to the plate. It was not my place to judge at that age or even today. All I know is that back then all those years ago I wanted and needed immediate contact. And this Carenthia, some kind of way, through all odds had contacted her father, my father, after all these years. I can only guess that all of this old history must have opened up some intense dialogue between my parents and he felt the need to tell me about this life-altering event before it blew up in his face.
Daddy then handed me a letter to read. It was from her, Carenthia. She wanted to write to me if it was allowed. I think the letter said she was getting ready to graduate soon and how she wanted to become a nurse. And she thought of me often. I can't even explain the feelings of connection going through me as I read her words, memorizing her handwriting and gliding my fingers across her words like Braille. Still at the tender age of twelve this was a real grown up moment. I remember so clearly, it was like a magic carpet ride. This is the kind of stuff you see on TV. Isnít it? But I did have the presence of mind at this young age to ask my mother if she'd mind if I started to communicate with my new found sister. With her being a woman and my being a little lady, I knew my Mom had to have felt some type of way about this situation. Past and present.
Once Carenthia and I began corresponding we compared our lives. If I'm not mistaken I believe she was an only child too. I don't even remember clarifying this because we were so engrossed in each other. We tried catching up on years and shared dreams. Dreams of how one day soon we would finally meet each other. But for one reason or another it never came to pass. No one seemed willing to help us make our dream come true. Thatís all we had were the dreams. Therefore I had to become content with the letters that came sort of regularly. But after a couple of short years the letters came few and far between on both our parts. I can't tell you why except our lives became busy with us growing up and becoming adults.
By the time I was 16 my life had changed dramatically. I was pregnant, a mother at 17, starting college at 18 and married by 19. And as far as I knew Carenthia was in nursing school. But I do recall her sending me a high school graduation picture. She wrote on the back, "To a sister- that I hope I will meet very soon. That gap that has been there for years will soon close. Carenthia 68." So all I know is that I have a sister named Carenthia Miller. She graduated in June of 1968. And she was going to be a nurse. That's all the information I have. Not long after that we lost touch, completely. During the years I often wondered what happened to Carenthia. I never really started the venture to find her. I was always wishing something would just pop up. Maybe I was a little afraid. Maybe she might be mad at me that I didnít try to find her. Or maybe she thought I might feel the same way about her. Then I started thinking, where are those letters she wrote me? I've looked everywhere. I know I wouldn't have thrown them away. They're probably somewhere safely tucked away just hoping and waiting to be found.
In March of 1996, my father became ill. It took some time before he was actually diagnosed with cancer. The disease took its toll on all of us physically as well as emotionally. But thank the Lord Daddy was functional for over a year until his last weekend. On his last Monday my father was taken from our family home in the early morning hours. And he did not come back. My Daddy was gone within the hour and I thanked God for taking him so quickly. Because for the short time he had been ill he had suffered enough. It took my mother, my daughter and myself so long to come to terms with his death. My mother had been with this man for 44 years. How was she going to survive this? We had to make sure she did. You know, even though youíre aware death is coming; you're never really prepared for it.
But we all survived and carried on. Then almost a year to the day of Daddy's first anniversary, a letter found itís way to my mother's house. She calls to tell me she's just received a letter from Carenthia. It felt like someone had sucked all the air out of my body or time had stood still. My mother bought the letter to my house. There it wasÖ. the letter. I hadn't heard from my sister in over 25 years. I'm sort of trembling as I touch this letter with the beautiful handwriting. I truly can't remember if I read the letter or had my mother to tell me what she wrote. That part is an absolute blur. But I remember Mommy saying Carenthia said all her personal effects had been destroyed in the earlier years and once again no one would help her find us. And now her children and grandchildren were asking about their grandfather. So she felt that it was time to try to make a connection and close this huge gap of over a quarter of a century.
My mother and I are now looking at each other with the same thought in mind. How are we going to tell this woman, my father's daughter and my sister that she is too late? Her Daddy is gone. OH MY GOD! The magnitude of this whole event was unimaginable. I could barely breathe. How were we going to handle this? Carenthia did give us a number to reach her. We couldn't call right away because neither of us had the words or the voice. I felt anxiety, fear and confusion. It was a whirlwind of emotions going on. After a few days my mother called her and explained everything. I wish she had waited for me to be there. I don't understand why she did it that way and I never questioned her about it. Mommy told me they talked briefly and Carenthia was in shock. I could only imagine how the news was taken. I decided to make my call a couple of days later. There was no answer. It was as though she had dropped off the face of the earth. That was the very last contact we ever had from my sister. Iíve made several attempts after that trying to make contact through phone calls and letters. The phone was disconnected and no one lived at that address any more.
So to this day, I have nothing and know nothing of my sister Carenthia of Valdosta, Ga. My quest to find her is still a priority. Sometimes it hits me so strong. I'm almost 50. And it's just my mother, my daughter and her family plus myself. My son lives out of town with his family. My Mom just lit her 73rd candle in August and still spry as ever. But were all getting older. I want my sister, I have one and I want her. There's no big speech about it. That's it in a nutshell. I've tried several times to link to something, anything on the Internet. I've even had a lawyer friend to look up postal information and driver's license but to no avail. I'm really at a lost and don't know which way to turn.
One day last year my Mom bought me 7 letters she found tucked away somewhere in her house that Carenthia had written to my father. Postmarked from Phillipsburg and Chesterfield, Virginia. The year was 1966 and one was 1964. When my mother placed those letters in my hand I felt a wave go through me like an electrical current. Now I had to prepare myself to go back in time. These are someone's private memoirs I was peeking into. So after my Mother left, I took these 7 precious letters upstairs with me. I sat in my favorite chair in my room. Not quite sure if Iím ready for the unknown. These letters seems to be around Carenthia's 16th year because there was mention of graduation soon. More or less the letters were about a daughter needing and wanting her father. So poignantly written, I would never divulge the secrets of those 7 letters. But I felt her every word. This made my search even more imperative. But you know what? I'm always wishing. Sometimes miracles really do happen. God works in mysterious ways. Things may not happen when you want them to but He is always on time.
I love you Carenthia and I always will.