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It’s no secret my father and I have a strained relationship. I’ve opened my heart to speak about our troubled pasta past that’s flooded with mistakes, unkindness, selfishness, and heartbreak for many. 

My father left my mom, met other women, and settled down and married someone years later. Sue. She was tender. She was kind. She was immensely forgiving. She took me under her wing. Sadly, my relationship with my father was broken so for most of my life I didn’t spend much time getting to really know her and forming a bond with her. They went on to have two boys, and I’m honored to call them my brothers. The same goes for them, though. I wasn’t a large part of their life, and they weren’t present in mine. My mother and I lived in another state with my stepdad, and to be honest, my maturity (or lack thereof) to forgive my father’s mistakes prevented further visits outside the custody agreement. 

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I moved on with my life, and my immediate family felt normal. As time passed, I started to embrace the idea of rekindling a father-daughter relationship with my biological father (for the 100th time). 

So imagine my surprise when the “other woman” present during my mom’s (and stepmom’s) marriage messaged me on Facebook out of the blue one day telling me she had a son . . . with my father.

Perfect timing. Right after I was forgiving. 

Rage. You think you know mad? I was beyond hateful and disgusted. I was appalled. Mortified. So ticked off that I wanted to forever write him off. Not for the missteps, but for the lying. Because that’s what it’s always been about. Hiding things. “Protecting me” is what I had heard across the board. Is he really my brother? How many more are out there I don’t know about? What do I do now? 

Heavy-hearted, I prayed for peace and understanding and I went to sleep with a pit in my stomach. I woke up and decided I didn’t want this kid to bear the brunt of my frustration. He already didn’t have his father around his whole life, he didn’t get to know his siblings either. He was alone.

And in that moment of true empathy, I added him on social media and sent him a message. 

Later, I met him. I can’t explain the fear and excitement of being in your 30s and meeting someone in their 20s trying to form a bond and approach a stranger with loving open arms.

“Hi, nice to meet you. Wanna discuss our childhood traumas?”

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Undeniably, he is my brother. It has to be said. As sad as it is for my stepmom, mom, and his own mom, that’s just the cards we were all dealt

I saw myself in his eyes. I left feeling relieved. There’s a bigger plan for all of this. I’m sure of it. 

Stepbrother, brother from another mother, half-sibling, any way you choose to word it, I have a brother I never knew I had. He isn’t half worthy, or a dreaded step I have to deal with. (Frankly, we should all do away with these words. They are hurtful. Family is family.)

I have a brother I never knew God gifted me. Sometimes gifts are delivered on time, and sometimes they are late.

Sometimes out of the darkest of storms, something bright forms. Perhaps all those doors slammed in our faces were hurdles to get to a larger gate that, once unlocked, led to a journey of finding peace from unfortunate circumstances as a child. 

I had to let grace take over and do what was best for me, and what makes me sleep better at night. And that’s embracing a young man who is completely innocent in my father’s affairs and who deserves a family. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. 

Sure our family is split 10 different ways. We aren’t your ordinary family. But it’s better late than never. It’s better forgiveness than regret. It’s better love than hate. It’s better to have open arms than closed hearts. 

RELATED: Here’s to the Stepparents Who Show Up

To the brother I never knew I had, I’m sorry you weathered so much alone. I’m sorry your life wasn’t fair. I too had an empty graduation seat, and I hope you know next time, I’d love to take up a chair for you. You turned out to be a really fine young man, and with as much meaning as it can hold from a seemingly stranger ice cream dateI am proud of you. We may have lost out on 30 years, but there’s 30 more ahead we can make the most of. My heart and door are always open for you.

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Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.

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