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My Imaginary Brothers Were Real

Updated on August 25, 2018

This has to be the most infuriatingly difficult and unbelievable story I've ever been lead to write. The only place I can think of to start is at the very beginning. I was born in February 1961 in what was a small town in South Carolina. My mama was 43 and daddy 47 when I came along. It took mama 16 years for a successful pregnancy. She miscarried once before I was conceived and again when I was less than 6 months old. The second miscarriage led to a hysterectomy, so I was raised an only child. Her pregnancy with me left her bedridden between months 6-9.

In a way I was spoiled but in a lot more ways I was raised with a very firm hand. I learned fast not to back talk and not to admit being bored. Talking back earned a whipping and claiming boredom meant being put to work in the house or the garden . I could sew, cook and garden by the age of 9.The only thing I really missed was a sibling.

My imaginary brothers came to life when I was 10 years old. All of my friends had parents much younger than mine and they also had brothers and sisters. So I began telling everyone that I had two older brothers. They were grown and already moved away from home with families of their own. Since my parents were old enough to have grown children no one questioned my story. I even gave them names. David and Richard. Let me explain that while they were imaginary, it wasn't like I was talking to someone who wasn't there. They existed for the sole purpose of my not being an only child. It didn't take long for David and Richard to grow in my great imagination. They were adults. Many years older than me. I didn't talk as much about David as I did Richard as Richard was named after my daddy.

I still remember the day I brought them up while mama was washing dishes in the kitchen. She told me that day about the two miscarriages and explained my brothers as the children she'd lost before they were born. Her explanation didn't stop me from thinking about my male siblings. I rationalized they didn't visit me because they didn't know I existed. Daddy was a little more receptive. I remember the night I asked him where my two brothers were. It took him a little too long to answer. Did he think I was crazy? Sometimes I look back on that day and reflect what went thru his mind. He told me I was the only child he and mama had and they loved me. He did go as far as to admitted he would have liked for me to have 2 brothers.

I kept up the imaginary brother routine thru junior high school. I didn't have pictures of them but my friends mostly believed my stories. The year I entered high school daddy died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He'd previously had 5 heart attacks, one was a massive coronary and we almost lost him. I didn't realize how close he came to death in 1967. In May of 1976, the year he died, a quadruple bypass was preformed. He went in for a six hour surgery that took 15 hours. In late October of 1976 he suffered the hemorrhage and died within 24 hours. I had foreseen his death two weeks before it happened and totally freaked out the one person I told-our neighbor Edna.

When mama and I returned from the burial she turned my life upside down.

I was in her bedroom and she told me I needed to sit down because she had some important things to tell me. The first thought to go thru my mind was "Am I adopted." Which I immediately dismissed because I resemble my daddy. She went into her room and instead of waiting I followed her. She opened the top drawer of his chest of drawers and removed the paper liner. Underneath that she pulled out a stack of papers. She didn't complain that I had disobeyed her by following. She sat me down and handed me the papers one at a time and explained each one.

My Brother-the picture I carried 30 years

The picture of my brother receiving awards for his service in Vietnam
The picture of my brother receiving awards for his service in Vietnam

Family Skeletons and Finding the Truth

The first was a picture of my brother Richard. He was being awarded a Purple Heart for serving in Vietnam. The accompanying article stated he was my daddy's son. And that he had graduated the Citadel in South Carolina. The second thing she handed me was a death clipping out of the local newspaper. It was from 1965 and told of my brother Charles David. There was also a graduation announcement for Richard when he graduated high school, a few pictures and a letter Richard had written to my daddy. I often wonder if daddy ever knew about ANY of this. Mama was a homemaker and got the mail and could have hidden it. It's too late for me to know the truth since mama and daddy are both gone now.

The truth was and always has been that daddy was married before and I had 2 half brothers.

The sad thing is mama used to drive by the Anderson Recreational Center near our home and tell me of a boy who was seriously injured jumping into their swimming pool. She failed to mention it was my brother David. The few times I asked her if she knew where Richard was she told me Connecticutt. I don't know if she was trying to help or hinder me in my search.

I vowed to myself to not pursue the matter at that time. It was hard enough on both of us dealing with daddy's death. Mama was in bad health herself. The next thing I knew I was starting a family and just put everything on the back burner in my brain. David was dead and I didn't have a clue on how to find Richard.

Mama died in 2001 and I was no closer than before at learning the truth. I did manage to get a few names out of her over the years and spoke with a few of his relatives. No one had heard from him in several years.

My search ended in April of 2005. The week I got my first computer, I went on the search of a lifetime. I learned Richard was known by his middle name Gary and I spent hours online searching. I emailed the Citadel Alumni and explained the whole situation to them. Not only did I need to find Gary for myself, I needed to find him for health reasons. Just about every male on my dad's side of the family has died of coronary artery disease. I felt an urgent need to warn him. Daddy was 61 years old when he died. Gary would be around the same age. A week passed and then another. I was sleeping before another 3rd shift at a security job when the call came. I was with Archie and he was the one to answer the phone as I was asleep. Gary told Archie to let me sleep. That he'd call me back later. Archie told him I'd been waiting 30 years for that call (40 if you count the imaginary years). We had a VERY long talk. Needless to say I arrived at work with a very bad sleep deficit! Gary told me I reminded him of his brother David. Davjd and I have the same sense of humor. I had a very eerie feeling during that conversation with my brother. I realized later that Gary had my daddy's voice. I was in shock for days after that call.

There is one strange coincidence in all of this. We both have a daughter with "Elizabeth" in their name and they are almost the same age. If not for his Elizabeth "Liz," I'd know almost nothing. Gary still hasn't accepted me. I think he's in shock on learning he has a sister. I've only spoken to him that once and that was 5 years ago. He emails me from time to time and we exchange Christmas cards. In his defense he does have a hectic work schedule. When he retires I hope he'll have more time for me. Liz stays in touch and she's planning a visit as soon as she can afford to come out here. They live out near Denver, Colorado. Gary also has a daughter Cathi and we're not in touch. She has a family and kids of her own.

Liz is so much like I was at her age. We even like the same movies. She's still trying to get me and her dad together.

I asked Liz the other night what David had died from. She said she believed it was meningitis. That can be caused from a head injury so I still don't know if the swimming pool story mama told me was true.

When I began this story, I didn't know which category it should fall under. I still don't. There's so much I knew that I shouldn't have. Things have always been that way for me. I'm sure many of my grade school friends remember my imaginary brothers. So should this be classified as a Christian story or an unexplained mystery? God did bring us together. Hopefully I'll understand more one of these days.

It's definitely unexplained. How did I know about them right down to their names? I sensed daddy was about to die before he did. I did the same with mama 2 weeks before she passed.

Does ANYONE understand how hard all of this has been for me to deal with? I can only imagine how my brother feels. My REAL brother!

OMG! I'm a sister! I have a brother and a sister-in-law. I'm an aunt, and a great aunt. WOW!

To this day I don't know why all of this was kept secret.


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