Six degrees of sibling separation
Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which posits that any two people on earth are, on average, about six acquaintances apart from one another. The following reads like a cliché Hollywood movie, however, this is not the creative tale of a screenwriter, but rather one of fact that may actually become a Hollywood story one day. The following requires a bit of set-up, but the conclusion is worth the read.
On Christmas Day about ten years ago my mother pulled me away from family and friends to tell a story that left me in a state of disbelief. My mom went on to explain that nearly five years prior to my birth-date, she had given birth to a baby boy, whom she put up for adoption. A loving family, which included two sisters, adopted the newborn—he was however never told of his adoption, yet his entire life he’d felt a sense of disconnect. The adoptive parents were going to take the truth of their baby boy to their grave, however as an adult, his sisters insisted their parents tell their brother the truth. After an ultimatum by the siblings, the adoptive parents came clean and shared the facts of his birth. Some thirty years later, the adoptive child (Jeff) went on a quest to find his birth mother––on this Christmas day, my mom informed me that her first born had found her and she had recently had her first conversation with the now grown man.
After having some time to process the information of my newfound sibling, I was filled with a sense of excitement. I was actually the first family member to meet my half brother. The meeting with him and his wife was pleasant enough, but oddly, I felt little connection to this person—which begs the proverbial question, nature vs. nurture.
This is just the prequel to this Six Degrees of Sibling Separation story.
Fast-forward a decade. I received a call from my father telling me a story much similar to the one described above, however this one strengthens my feelings that we are all connected by six degrees.
A couple months ago, a car full of women stopped by my father and stepmother’s house in the Olympic Peninsula area of Washington State and knocked on the door. When my stepmother answered, one of the women asked if Jack (my father) was home. As my father greeted the women, they began to ask him some questions about his knowledge of specific people of his youth. After some pleasantries, my father invited them in. The women continue to chat about people my father grew up with and soon learned that some of these women were children of some of the friends my father knew as a young man. After about an hour, one of the ladies cozied up to my father and whispered in his ear, “I think I’m your daughter.” Taken aback, my father stared, then chuckled in disbelief. He told the woman that this would be impossible since he never had relations with the birth mother in question. The woman (Susanne) was pretty insistent and asked if he would be willing to take a DNA test…my father was very sure he was not her father, but to appease her, he agreed. When my dad told me this part of the story, he added the caveat, “no way she could be my daughter because I did not have sex with her mother…unless…unless, I was really drunk!”
Susanne had asked my father if he had any childhood photos. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) was really good about keeping scrapbooks of each of the kids and grandkids. As they were thumbing through the pages, there were photos of the fathers of a couple of the siblings in the room. It’s just amazing to think how these people are all connected. Apparently Susanne’s mom (no disrespect) was rather “friendly.” While some of the ladies chatted up my father, my stepmother Hattie went to make some coffee and Susanne followed to help. Hattie was telling Susanne how much she reminded her of my sister Carylee. A bit later Hattie took Susanne upstairs to show her photos of my sister and me. Susanne was asking questions about us…one of which was where we lived. When Hattie told Susanne that Carylee lived in San Diego, there was a pang in her heart…Susanne exclaimed, “I live in San Diego!”
Two weeks later, confirmation arrived…in addition to having a half brother; I now had a half sister. Already going through this experience once in my life with my half-brother, it did not come as such a shock this go-round. Regardless of the first experience, I was extremely interested to learn more about my newfound sister. The story and close encounters of how Susanne ended up initially meeting my/our father is quite fascinating and fortuitous, but I’m going to briefly delve into Susanne’s life and our connections. I should also preface the fact that I have yet to meet my new sister in person, but hope to do so very soon (perhaps a news crew will bring us together to help tell this amazing story).
Susanne was adopted and raised as an only child by elder parents who lived in eastern San Diego county, on a 120 acre chicken farm. While Susanne’s adoptive parents were quite loving, they were also quite poor. As she grew up, she knew at an early age that she was not destined to raise chickens on a dirt farm in rural San Diego. Full of energy, spunk and moxie, Susanne acquired a fake ID at age fifteen and began skydiving…logging 40 jumps before moving on to her next adrenaline rush. By age sixteen, and unbeknownst to her parents, she became a demolition derby driver; however after an injury that caused a herniated disk and forced her into traction, she gave up the sport. By age seventeen, Susanne left home to join the circus (true story) where she performed with elephants. Getting dressed up in sequins and wearing make-up with sparkles prepared her for her next adventure a few years later, when she became a Hollywood make-up artist.
While in Hollywood, Susanne met her second husband, George, and soon moved back to San Diego to help her husband get his law practice off the ground. They were a successful power couple living the American dream. For their 20th wedding anniversary, Susanne and George flew to Florida to go on a cruise. Upon returning from their cruise, George was working out in their hotel room when he suffered a cardiac arrest. CPR was being administered until an ambulance could arrive, but it seemed hopeless, so they were going to cease attempts to revive him. Susanne was insistent that they continue…this man was the love of her life. They made it to the hospital and George survived, but not without significant brain damage, which forced the couple to close the law practice and begin a new chapter of their lives in a much more humble manner.
During my initial conversation with Susanne, I asked her what part of San Diego she lived in? She asked me if I was familiar with the area. I told her that I’d lived in San Diego a couple times and used to work on Harbor Island as the Director of Marketing for a large yacht dealer. She asked me if I knew a guy and provided me with only his last name, Macintyre…I said “Will Macintyre?” and she said yes. “I worked in the same office as this guy,” I exclaimed. She told me that she and her husband were friends and neighbors (I’d actually been to Will’s house before). Susanne then told me that she lived in Arizona a couple times, including the Phoenix area. I asked her where, and when she told me, I said that we used to live in that same area when we were kids. I asked her when she lived in the area…she told me the year they moved away, I told her that we too moved that same year…to Texas.
Some of these six-degree-of-separation stories were really beginning to freak me out. To further incite me, Susanne then told me about how she was showing pictures of me and my full sister to a good friend of hers, explaining that these were her new biological half siblings. Her friend pointed at my picture and said, “I know that guy!” I came to find out that her parents own the jeep tour business in Wickenburg, AZ where my mother and stepfather live—where I was just visiting and had produced a tourism video for the town.
Apparently, Susanne’s friend’s parents had shared my video with her. Just to add more intrigue to the story, after learning of this story from Susanne, I asked my mom if she knew the owners of the Jeep tour business. She said “yes, as a matter of fact they are clients.” My mom picked up the phone and called the Jeep tour people and started to tell them the story, when she was interrupted and asked, “are you talking about Susanne?” My mom was floored. While the Jeep Tour folks knew of this connection between Susanne, and me, they had no idea that I was the son of my mother. In other words, they had no idea that the guy who produced the tourism video was the son of their bookkeeper.
There is a linchpin, a piece of the puzzle that nearly didn’t happen, in order for the previously explained chain of events to occur—to be discovered and connected. Susanne had been looking for her birth mother for nearly forty years, one of the reasons it had taken so long was that she thought her birth name was “Prat,” when in fact it was “Prater.” Over the years, Susanne had hired a number of adoption agency specialists, but to no avail. Just a couple years ago she hired Omni Trace, who, for whatever reason did not do anything with her case for a couple of years, not until Susanne demanded some results. Within a few days, Omni Trace had all the information Susanne needed to really begin her earnest search for her birth family.
Susanne discovered that her birth family still lived in the Seattle area, where she was born. She reached out and learned she had several brothers and sisters, three of whom were from different fathers. She also learned that her mother had passed away ten years earlier and that she also missed meeting her twin mother’s sister, who had just passed a couple months before Susanne found her birth family. With initial introduction out of the way, Susanne made plans to visit them all and flew up to Seattle. Many of the family members met her at the airport and would make plans a couple days later to meet and spend some quality time together. Susanne had made no efforts to find her birth father, and from what she had learned through her investigations was that no one knew who the father was. For all she knew, he died in the Korean War.
Susanne was staying at her brother’s house when the family decided to organize a get-together…in an effort to get to know one another and try and answer all of Susanne’s questions. The siblings were all together, except for one. One of her sisters was late due to an accident that prevented a ferry from leaving on time. While they were waiting, one of the other siblings said, “we know who your father is.” Stunned, Susanne began to ask questions, when one of the siblings whipped out their iPad and began searching for our father. My folks own several pieces of property around the state, which is public record—so apparently they were scrolling a list of properties, when at random they picked one and decided they would take a drive and see if they could find Susanne’s birth father.
Six Degrees close encounter…
As soon as the delayed sibling arrived, the family boarded a ferry en-route to Kingston, WA. A 30-minute drive later, and as luck would have it, they were in the vicinity of what just so happened to be my folks’ primary home. Unfortunately, the area is a bit rural and the GPS was sending them in circles. Seeing a real estate sign, Susanne asked one of her siblings to pull over so she could grab a flyer and get an address. It just so happened that the flyer she picked up was for my Dad’s home. Astonishment aside, they meandered down the long driveway and saw that someone was home.
Had Susanne’s sibling not been late, they would have gotten to my folks’ house and found no one at home. Come to find out, my folks were on the same ferry as Susanne and her siblings. Talk about fate!
After meeting everyone on her maternal side of the family earlier this summer, a couple months later Susanne flew back to Seattle to meet the rest of her paternal family members. Everyone that is, but me. I think she saved the best for last. 🙂 In just a few weeks I will be making my way to San Diego, where both my sisters live, to meet Susanne for the first time. It’s going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. Who knows, perhaps one of the local news stations will want to tell this story.
If you’ve ever been reunited with a lost sibling, as I’ve just outlined by six degrees, please leave a comment below…I’d love to hear your story.