My dad remarried and had a son, my half brother, who I had met once.
I wanted to know more about my dad, who died in 2011, so I lied to my brother to meet up.
We learned that we're more alike than we thought, and it's brought us closer together.
I have a younger half brother on my father's side. We met once when I was a teenager, but as adults, we knew each other only from social media. I'd always been curious about my father's side, but it was one of those things I assumed I'd get around to exploring.
My relationship with my mother's side is strained. Lately, I've felt the loss. I knew it was time to act if I wanted family members I could be close to.
"I have a work event in Nashville," I lied to my brother in a message. "Do you want to have coffee when I'm in town?"
There was no work event. Coffee was a low-stakes meeting I could get out of if it didn't go well.
"That sounds awesome. I'd love to meet up," he responded.
Just like that, I planned a 1,500-mile road trip tomeet a sibling I hadn't seen in over three decades.
I wanted to know more about our father
I wondered what we'd talk about. I wanted to know who he was and how it was growing up with our father, who'd remarried and moved when my parents divorced. My father was a bassist in Nashville, Tennessee, touring with stars like Reba McEntire before he died in 2011.
I reserved a hotel with an atrium; depending on how things went, my brother and I could talk for hours without the constraints of a coffee shop, or I could excuse myself due to "work obligations." I was nervous because the meeting held so many possibilities.
I recognized my brother immediately. We embraced without words, and it felt almost like a homecoming. I forgot about my nervousness as we settled into our conversation.
I had endless questions about our father. I learned he was one of those cool parents — fun with few household rules. I imagined being a teen in that home, instead of spending those years in foster care. We connected over shared family dysfunctions and memories of our father introducing us to the intricacies of music.
We were very similar
My brother and I were more alike than I'd anticipated. Our childhoods and teenage years were troubled. We were each our family's black sheep. We'd both gotten ourselves on track as adults. I rarely meet others like myself, yet our lives had so many parallels.
"I don't have a work thing here," I admitted. "I didn't want it to be weird that I drove 10 hours to see you." He laughed, saying he understood. He teased me a bit about the white lie.
"Have you been to Lower Broadway?" I asked during a lull in our conversation.
I'd heard of the downtown neighborhood described as a combination of Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip, something fun for us to experience together for the first time. He shook his head. He'd moved away as a child. He'd been back in Nashville for only a few weeks.
"It looks crazy there," I said. "Do you want to go?"
We arrived at dusk, and the streets were packed. Almost every storefront was a bar with live music playing in the open windows. Each had a unique neon sign. The aroma of aged liquor wafted out of the bars as we passed, blending with cigarette smoke and musky perfume on the street.
Our conversation shifted in that environment. We shared war stories, the most extreme things we'd done growing up and into our 20s. I haven't confessed like that to friends at home; in many incidents, I was old enough to know better. In his stories, so was he. It was the first time I admitted to my worst, most fun, and most dangerous adventures and knew the listener would have their own tales, rather than judge me for mine.
When I reached out, I was prepared to drive almost anywhere to meet my brother "for coffee." I hadn't fully articulated to myself what the meeting would mean, but I got what I was looking for. Carried along with the crowds in that anything-goes atmosphere, we forged a richer, more honest bond than we could have found at the hotel.
Considering how deeply we connected, beginning almost as strangers, maybe we'd been destined to spill our secrets to each other all along.
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