I’ve always taken them for granted, you know. They’ve just always been there, and I never even gave a moment’s thought to what things would be like without them.
Granted, Chris, my older brother, was never my favorite. But he’s still my brother, and we had some pretty good times growing up . . . until he went sort of crazy.
And Darin . . . well, he’s a typical little brother. What can I say? For a while, when I had a driver’s license and he didn’t, we got pretty close, since I automatically became his appointed chauffeur. Now that he drives, I don’t see him much anymore.
Charlene and Cynthia, my little sisters, have turned out to be pretty cool. When they were little, they did tons of crying and screaming, and were extremely obnoxious. But now they’re growing up a little, and it’s easier to be nice to them. Charlene idolizes me, ever since I pulled her out of that fire at the skating rink, and Cynthia thinks I’m the greatest big brother that ever walked the face of the earth. So . . . I’m not going to argue.
And, of course, Mom and Dad have always been there. And they’ve done a decent job of raising us kids, even if I do say so myself. They’re good parents, and they’ve always done their best to provide everything we needed: physically, as well as spiritually and emotionally. We’re a pretty regular family—nothing all that special.
But this experience put everything in a different focus. All of a sudden, I got thinking, what would things have been like without Charlene or Cynthia? I don’t mean if they were never born. I mean, what if one of them had died when she was little—like in an accident or something? How would we get along without her? Would we think about her a lot? Would we be sad for months and years? Would we keep her room the way it was? Would we wonder what she would have looked like all grown up?
And, even worse, what if one of them just suddenly disappeared? Like if some man—some evil, uncaring, despicable beast of a man—were to take her away when we weren’t looking. How would we deal with that? All the same questions would apply, plus a hundred more! It would be even worse than if she had died, because there would always be the “not knowing.”
Where is she now? Is she safe? Is she healthy? Is she pretty? Does she remember us? Does she still love us? Is she being loved and cared for?
Every time we saw a girl that same age, we would wonder, is it her? Would we even be able to recognize her if we saw her again? What if she’s being mistreated, deprived, or abused? What if she’s not growing up in a good home? What if she doesn’t have good morals and values? Heaven forbid . . . what if she’s not even alive?
The list is endless. We’d never know. Life as we knew it would cease to exist. Mom and Dad would probably never let any of us out of their sight again. All holidays and birthdays would become memorial days. It would be like losing a vital organ. The family would be forever crippled and deformed—never quite right—never whole.
And then, what if, by some fantastic miracle, we found her again? Or she came back! Or someone else found her ten or fifteen or even twenty-five years later! What then? Would she be excited to see us? Would she want to come back? Would she be interested at all in her true family?
Or would she break all our hearts by staying with her “other” family? Would she ignore us like we didn’t even exist? Losing her the second time would be even worse than the first. It would be a fatal blow to our fragile existence—knowing she’s there, but no longer ours.
Yeah, I took them all for granted. A family is a family is a family . . . blah, blah, blah.
Until the year I started college—the year I learned how valuable children really are.
The year I rescued Jean Jewell . . . and Trieste . . .