Father’s side Reunion: Sister-Niece Slumber-party and other Shenanigans!
It must be said first, I wanted and want nothing more than to meet my biological father. Yet, this could not be achieved because of his untimely death at age forty-one to suicide. I have spent the past year, however, getting to know his family over video chats, calls, texts, and some handwritten letters.
I made a decision to visit the family over the week of Halloween. I knew that this holiday would not interrupt my adoptive families’ plans, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas would. In my mind, I reasoned this could be a holiday maybe we could make a tradition even. I decided a week long trip would be the necessary time to really achieve a proper connection.
I drove five and a half hours up to New Albany, Indiana to their hometown. The drive was smooth and allowed for good reflection and a lot of excitement to be worked out through song. I received a text message on my way, my sister was going to be at her boyfriends’ parents’ house for pumpkin carving upon my arrival. We decided to go ahead and meet whilst they were there.
Arriving, I was excited and nervous. This was a houseful of people I didn’t know aside from my sister and niece. This was a big moment, to see them and meet with them in person for the first time. Our first moments together would be around people I did not know; Inherently shy, my heart was racing as I walked up to the house in anticipation of meeting them and everyone else.
As I walk up to the house, her boyfriend welcomes me asking, “ Are you Meag?” He tells me that my sister and niece are inside and so we walk in. Someone called out for my four year old niece, telling her I was there, she came and gave me the most heartfelt hug. My eyes welled up, she whispered in my ears, “I love you, Aunt Meag.”
I wished I could hold onto this moment forever, and yet, of course I wanted to know her mother and her far more intimately than one moment would allow. For the remainder of the evening we connected as a family while pumpkin carving and talking over bowls of white chili. The spirit in the house that night was one of love and excitement as children of various ages played, laughed, and adults talked around tables. In reflection, it was the perfect evening for a meeting such as ours, I felt welcomed and able to connect in spite of it being a big gathering which often makes me a tad nervous. When we left the party that night my sister and her boyfriend were very kind to drive to the hotel to show me the way. I got out of the car and said goodbye to all and hugged the girls goodbye for the night.
We had discussed before my arrival that at some point we would have a slumber party just us girls at the hotel. We bought popcorn to have at the hotel and we brought a DVD player from her home to watch movies.
Due to our DVD player having issues connecting to the network, upon my niece’s suggestion we pretended to be ninjas and sneak down to the front desk to “steal” the IP address. She being so young believed we were actually doing this; So, my sister took a very funny video of us in our pajamas, sneaking to and down the elevator, sneaking under tables and hiding behind a column.
Ultimately, we ended up having more fun with our ninja mission and a pillow fight my niece was very excited about. My sister and I laughed about the fact that the pillows were about as big as our little angel girl. She really went after us with them too, she’s quite the little fighter. We danced and she was entertained by being able to ask “Alexa” to play specific songs for us
Near the end of the evening my sister asked her who she wanted to read her a book, thinking she would ask for me. Instead she wanted to ask “Alexa!” We laughed really hard about this and luckily Alexa’s story was quite a bore, so I got my chance. So I read a story and we snuggled for a time and then I went and crawled into my bed for the night.
In the middle of the night my niece started to cough, I went over to her and asked if she wanted water. She agreed, and I went to fetch it. I felt compelled though to snuggle her; I picked that girl up and rubbed her back as she fell back asleep. It was a very special moment. A year ago, we were just getting acquainted and here we all were, having a slumber party and I was able to lull my niece back to sleep on the bed.
On our last day together, my sister, niece, and I played around the house. My niece brought out a game of “LOL Surprise” for us to play in the living room. We played this according to her rules, which was much more fun than the rule book, we figured. Sis had made pumpkin seeds and we chomped on those happily as we played our silly game.
There is a little play tee-pee in my niece’s room; a look inside reveals a huge bundle of her dolls. She, pretending to be a policewoman, had cuffed me and locked me up in tee-pee-jail with all the other bad dolls. After being locked up, I cried out, “I’m lonely” and my sister got on all fours looked in through the opening and said “Sister, are you okay?” I was more than thrilled to be locked up with my nieces’ dolls, there with family around me, she could have locked me up and thrown away the key.
Family reunion can be tricky, there are a lot of emotions wrapped up in sometimes very short periods of time. Adoptees can try their best to focus on the positive and still find themselves weepy over the losses. For me, I know my father’s loss is huge to his siblings, my sister, and now it also impacts me in that I will never get to meet him. I see it from a special lens as an adoptee. I know that my sister has to wish our father could be healthy and present with his granddaughter too.
I find it important to connect with my siblings, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I feel this way because it is a part of my story, a part that I longed for for a long amount of time without being able to express it properly. Now that I feel strong enough to express it, there are challenges I did not account for. I knew I was stepping into the unknown, but I did not know how heavy it was on my soul. There are days it feels like pure joy, like in the tee-pee jail, and reading to my niece, and pillow fighting. One must understand the complexities though, and I believe this takes reading adoptee perspectives.
There is far more to write on my father’s side reunion, a lot of wonderful and some sobbing moments I had. Meals with aunts, cousins, and a chance encounter that I believe was not chance, but God’s assistance. For now though, I was adamant about presenting a piece that mostly covered the fun and rewarding aspects of reunion, that can be if you open yourself up to the possibilities. I know that not every adoptee gets this kind of connection. The reality is that it is a mystery in many cases until one goes hunting it down and finding the facts.
I am so blown away by the hope I have been given in connecting with my father’s sisters, his daughter, and his granddaughter.
I am grateful for every phone call, text, and ever so grateful to be able to video chat due to some distance between us. This trip was a success and in many ways life changing for me. I learned so much to take away in other aspects of my life as well.
On our final day of togetherness, I gave my sister and niece matching bracelets which I felt I found by something more than a stroke of luck. The bracelets beads say “HOPE” on one side, and “MIRACLES” on the other. This really signified my feelings about the trip, and I knew that it was strongly representative of my sister’s feelings about her child, and my niece! The three of us had a teary-eyed group hug before I left in which we expressed our love for one another.
P.S. I haven’t posted all the best pictures yet to Facebook.
P.P.S. Thanks for reading!