My earliest memory is me sitting in front of a fireplace with my brother Robbie. I was somewhere between one and two. Robbie was a couple of years older than me. I have remembered that scene my whole life. But it’s the only memory of Robbie i have. I don’t know what happened to him. As i grew up nobody ever mentioned him, and by th’ time i was a teenager, i began to think that maybe i’d made him up. That maybe he was just my imaginary friend or something. I mean, if i had a brother, surely i’d still have one, or someone would talk about him from time to time, right?
Then one day the phone rings. Mom answers it and gets really upset. She disappears into her room and i can’t hear th’ conversation. I was fifteen years old. Later on that day she tells me that my dad is not my dad. That he actually adopted me when i was two, after my real dad left without warning, abandoning both of us. She told me that he took my brother Robbie with him.
I didn’t know what to say. It’s hard to know what to say, when you’re fifteen, and you find out your dad isn’t your dad, and that your brother actually is your brother, and not your imaginary friend as you were just beginning to believe.
Mom pulled out an old photo album and showed me pictures. My dad was dark skinned with dark hair. He looked like an Indian. Mom said he was an Indian. He didn’t look familiar to me at all. I don’t remember him.
But then there was a picture of two kids, sitting in front of a fireplace. One was a little white baby in a saggy diaper. The other was my brother, Robbie. It was a photo of my memory. I can’t describe what seeing that photo did to me. It made sense out of something that i had always believed in, and was just starting to doubt. It gave me confidence in my own ability to remember. It let me know that i could tell the difference between fantasy and reality, even when everyone in my family had acted like the reality never happened. I asked mom why she didn’t tell me, and she said that she didn’t think i’d understand. That she thought i’d forget all about it. And in a way, she was right. I did forget all about dad, and that’s what she was trying to protect me from. She just never thought that i’d remember Robbie.
The next day the phone rang again, and it was my dad. My real dad. The one who’d left, who i didn’t remember. We talked for a while. He asked me questions, like do i like sports, what kind of music do i listen to, how old am i, that kind of stuff. I gave him straight answers, didn’t elaborate or tell him anything other that what he asked. It was awkward for both of us. He said good-bye and hung up the phone. That was th’ last time i heard from him.
When i was older, and had kids of my own, i looked online for Robbie and my dad. And i found Robbie on facebook. I wrote to him, telling him who i was, and asked him if he remembered me, and if dad was still alive. He said yes, dad’s still alive and no, he doesn’t remember me. He wouldn’t give me any contact info for dad, so i gave him mine and asked him to pass it along. He said he would. And that was that.