My little big sister!
What would she think about me? Her family is really religious and our family just never was when I was growing up. As an adult, that's not a path that I took at all. I hoped that she wouldn't consider me to be a bad influence on her beautiful daughters. From what I could see, they always wear skirts or dresses and I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. What do you wear to meet a long lost sister for the first time? Just be yourself. Jeans and a Husker t-shirt. Be comfortable. Just be yourself.
I also had a freak out session when I realized that I was the only one going to see them. Since I asked for this weekend off, I worked 9 days with just one day off and it's been really stressful at work. We're understaffed and gearing up for Christmas. Plus, they're totally revamping my section. Toxic combination. So much to do, so little time. I've been so exhausted and stressed that I can't remember who I told what to. I tried to call Brian and left him a voicemail earlier in the week, but hadn't heard anything back. I called Karen and left her a weird voicemail because I hadn't done my iPhone update and the call waiting rang and I thought it was her. It wasn't. And she didn't call back, either. I did talk to Tony and Naomi, but she was in a piano competition and they were busy all weekend. Karen and Brian were having a tough time with this anyway. It's funny how a new sister brings up all of the issues you've been pushing down about your shared father. We'd known about this for several months and suddenly I realized I was the token Wait.
What about going to the cemetery? She wants to go see Dad's grave! When and how do I tell her that he's not actually buried out there? How do you tell someone that your Dad's ashes are still in a box in your office? Do we save her a trip and take him along? Just in case she doesn't make it to Lincoln?
Which made me think doubletime about how it's really about time that we bury him. The ten-year anniversary of his death is coming up pretty soon... it's time.
Thankfully, Dane took all of my crazy behavior in stride (as he does) and kept me from totally going off the deep end.
The Balyeats were performing at the Old Time Rural Music Gathering up the road a ways in Fremont, so Dane and I hopped in the truck to see them. It would be a special bonus to see them perform, so we had a road trip mentality and treated it like any other trip to a concert while we listened to the Huskers beat the Fighting Illini 39-19! The familiar sounds of the cheering crowd and the play by play by the announcers kept our minds occupied as we saw rural Nebraska flying by from the comfort of his truck.
After a little over an hour, we finally arrived. I had to take a few minutes again to calm my nerves and texted them to let them know that we were in the parking lot. We thought we saw them a couple of times, walking across the parking lot to a big RV and as we walked towards the building, Nancy and her daughter MaryAnna were actually walking in at the same time. So we stopped and introduced ourselves before heading into the Christensen Field House where the event was being held.
It was a little awkward at first, as is is most of the time when you meet someone new as she introduced us to her family, at least the ones who still travel with them. Her son James, his wife Amanda, and their cute rowdy kids David and Matthew were there along with the girls Rose, MaryAnna, Charise, and Charity! Beautiful family!! There are 4 more older kids that aren't at home and don't travel with them. We didn't get to meet them this time. They showed us their booth where they sell CDs and Nancy's artwork, too. They're great hosts and showed us around a bit before we went out to the privacy of their RV so we could get to know each other and we could meet her husband Bob.
So there we sat for the next couple of hours talking and telling stories and trying to understand what transpired all of those years ago. She grew up being the lone blonde in a sea of brunettes and was under the impression that she had never met her birth father. Her Aunt had sent her the photo of her Mom with our Dad and let her know who he was. Other than that, she only had a receipt for a crib with Dad's name on it and some other random pictures that she inherited when her Mom passed away in the 80s. Little did she know that the little blonde boy brushing her hair in that picture was her brother.
Back when she was 12, her stepfather (and the only father she ever knew) told her that he knew how to get in touch with her birth father and asked if she wanted to meet him. Being TWELVE at the time, it's not something she was really ready for and declined the offer... over the years, she thought about trying to find him, but times were different then. It's only with the progress of the internet and the genealogy nuts that information like this is even out there now! Plus, timing is everything. Things need to happen in their own time. As was apparent that the very first day that her daughter MaryAnna really looked into Dad was the day that she found me. First shot! When it's right, it's right!
There were tears shed and old wounds opened again. But hopefully some of those old wounds can heal properly now. We talked about going out to the Ruby Cemetery to see Dad's grave, but before dragging her around Nebraska to visit graves, I just had to tell her...
ME: "Dad's not really buried there. He donated his body to science and we didn't get him back for a few years."
(picture 10 sets of huge eyes staring at me...)
"Then where is he now? "
ME: "He's in the truck."
That sure broke the ice.
By then, it was time for them to start getting ready for their performance. So Dane and I went in to watch some of the acts while they prepared. I looked around to see if Aunt Irene and Uncle Perry were there, but they weren't. It seemed like something that would be right up their alley.
Finally, it was time for them to go on! They were a lot of fun to watch and the crowd loved them. Instead of trying to describe it to you, I'll just post one of their performances that I recorded. Due to the format of this particular show, they only had 20 minutes. We really enjoyed the rest of the acts that we saw, though. John Rex Reeves is the nephew of Jim Reeves and performs his songs in their original format... and Terry Smith, who wrote the Johnny Cash song Far Side Banks of Jordan. Good times!
We stayed for a while afterwards and talked, but we'd had a long tiring day and still had a drive ahead of us so we left at around 8pm and headed home. Nancy agreed to come and visit us at our house on Sunday and we would play it by ear on whether or not we would make a visit to the cemetery! That's a whole other story... =)
Here are some of the pictures that I took on Saturday. I wanted to post a video, too, but it keeps erroring out. It's too late to work on it now, so I'll post this and then load the video another night. Good night!