Drawing the Line

Faye Harris

Half sisters and half brothers don’t look anywhere near half of anything when they’re raised with the previous ‘wholes’. At least it was like that in my case.  Dad married this much younger woman and she had plans for her own ‘sprouts’.  For my step-mother I was a built-in baby sitter as she racked up two girls and two boys of her own.

Even today, with my youngest half-brother celebrating his 70th birthday, he still looks at me like a second mom.  Why, just last week he sent me a Mother’s  Day card...and added the word ‘substitute’ in front of the word ‘parent’.  It originally read ‘The best Parent ever.’

Isn’t it odd that he actually found a mother’s day card that had the word ‘parent’ on it?  I guess the reason for the use of that word is...should one happen to purchase the card for one parent...and misplace it to find it later they could still use it.

For us step-children sharing a siblings’ mother didn’t enter into the picture when anyone asked us how many sisters and brothers we had.  We just tallied up the number of children who lived in our house who had the last name of ‘Howard’, subtracted one for ourselves and gave that number as the answer.

As we grew older I found that all the Howard kids were sisters and brothers forever.  Rodney, my first half brother, was a Viet Nam veteran.  One day he called me, said he was dying of cancer...and that his wife had to work...and would I come stay with him.  “Sis,” he said. “I’m afraid to stay alone.”  I went.

For two months I lived a hundred miles away from my husband.  Gail (Rod’s wife) had to get her rest so she could work...and night duty was a part of the package.  When Rod died it was a relief to know he wouldn’t suffer the extreme pain anymore but the pain in my heart at his loss remained.  (My husband however, was glad to have me return home.)

As the oldest surviving sister all my live sisters and brothers kept in touch.  Although mom’s and dad’s departure wasn’t pleasant I slid easily into the slot of minding my siblings.  When three of the eight died...it was like the loss of my own child.

One thing that is now planted indelibly in my mind and heart is that those we’re raised with...whether siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings or just other children who lived with us...they share an inheritance with us.  Genes aren’t everything!

Actions do often speak louder than words...and we all pick up some of these from others who have a vested part in our family...regardless of where nature drew the line.  Caring forever for my half-siblings because of the small ‘chunk’ of humanity that we share was discussed with my sister before she died.  “Well,” she informed me...”We all had the same roots.  I believe,” she continued...”they were called ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’.”  You know...she was probably right...according to our family history book...called The Bible.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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