Get ready to grab a tissue, because this is an incredibly beautiful and sad story of a real family coming together.
Three months ago a Reddit user, who we’ll call John, went through his old things and found a Nintendo 64. It was only then he remembered a memory from his childhood living in the US Bible Belt.
He was in his room playing while a guy, almost his dad’s age, had come over to the house while his 16-year-old brother was babysitting him. There was a big age difference between the two brothers at the time, but John would always do as his older brother, who we’ll call Ryan, said, as Ryan would pull him around in a wagon and babysit him often.
While he was asleep, John woke up to his brother whispering outside the front door. ‘Don’t worry, he’s asleep’, he said. The older guy then said something he couldn’t hear, but John could make out the word ‘visit’.
‘The next morning–the day he disappeared–my parents were at work,’ John said. ‘My brother was acting very strange. I remember he kept checking the clock. In the afternoon, I remember him picking me up and asking me if I wanted to go in the wagon. I was too hooked on Nintendo 64 and said no. He almost begged me and I said no again.
‘Then he told me he had to run to our neighbor’s house for something, I don’t even remember what he said. I said okay. He reminded me to not open the door for anyone, only mom and dad. I shouted at him “OKAY!” because Super Mario was getting on my fucking nerves and he wasn’t helping.
‘He gave me a hug and told me he loved me and left. He never came back.’
Ryan was declared missing, making the news, as a ‘creepy unsolved mystery’.
During his freshman year of college, John was part of a sports team that got national recognition, his picture on ESPN. A few days later, he got a gift basket. He thought it was from his parents so threw away the card. He ate what was it in it, and it was full of candy from his childhood. After calling his parents to thank them, they told him they didn’t send one.
‘Then I got to thinking: all of those candies were what I used to eat as a kid. Literally all I ate for the earliest years of my life were those candies. I tried to find the card, but I couldn’t,’ John wrote. ‘Then I began to think about how my brother would wheel me in the wagon to the gas station close to our house so I could get candy after dinner, even though it was a punishable-by-death “no-no” from mom.’
This seed soon grew, wondering whether his brother was still alive. The card sent with the gift basket was missing.
John decided to contact the detectives who worked on the case. They informed John that Ryan was no longer on the missing persons register, and hadn’t been for several years by his parents’ request. It turns out Ryan had contacted his parents to tell him where he was, he was gay, and living with a man. Over the years he had tried sending letters, but they were always rebuked or thrown away.
‘It disgusted my parents. He tried reaching out to them. They told him they didn’t want anything to do with him and that I didn’t remember him and wouldn’t want to see him,’ John said.
‘I went ballistic. My parents weren’t fazed by it. They sincerely hate my brother for who he is–for being gay. They kept him a secret from me all my fucking life. My brother missed the birth of his nephew, he missed my wedding, graduations, EVERYTHING. Just because of my parents. They lied to me.’
He added: ‘I’ve been able to get a phone number and contact information from police officers. my brother left it all open in case anyone from our family wanted to contact him. i still can’t work up the nerve to call him. The address I have for him is across the fucking country. But he’s alive. My brother is alive,’ he added. ‘I haven’t talked to my parents in weeks and I never plan on speaking to them again. not for what they’ve done to me, or my brother.’
The day after calling his parents, John told his wife. (She’s black, and his dad refused to speak to his son for two years after John married her). She insisted John call his brother, taking herself and their son out for a day together.
‘About an hour of pacing and drinking two glasses of scotch at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I called the number again. It rang three times. I panicked. I hung up. But this time, the number was calling me back. I swear to whatever God(s) above, I thought my heart was going to stop. I almost threw up right there. I answered the call,’ John wrote.
‘The first thing I heard on the other end of the line was a guy laughing in the background. There was wind on the phone. The person on the other end was outside and it was windy. “Who is this?”
‘It was his voice. I knew that voice. It was my fucking brother. My brother! Who had been gone for my entire life! I covered my mouth with my shaking hands and just sat there. He kept asking me who it was. The guy in the background was trying to talk over him. He hung up on me. I called him back right away. He answered again.
‘Me being a creepy ass, the first thing I said after decades of not seeing him and thinking he was dead, I blurted: “I got your number.”
‘He asked me who I was and what I wanted. I said, “It’s me.” There was a really long pause. I thought the call had dropped. Then I heard him tell someone to turn the radio down and roll the window up. The sound of wind stopped… and then he asked me my name. I told him and he said that I was lying. I told him I got his number from the missing children’s network and detectives. I heard him gasp. He asked me what color shoelaces he wore to a picnic when we were kids, and I remember my mom getting mad at his orange laces with blue shoes. It was the last time we were together as a family.
‘I could tell he was crying. The first thing he asked me was: “Where are you?” and I told him I lived a few hours away from home. Without hesitating, he told me, “I’m coming.”
‘He went straight to the airport without any luggage, bought a plane ticket, and flew straight to me. We stayed on the phone with each other the whole time. When he was walking through the gate, I knew who he was right away. He is middle-aged; salt and pepper hair, muscular. He looks just like our dad, only better. I know if I told him that, that would make him mad.
‘I literally pushed an old lady out of the way and I just hugged him. He’s about two inches taller than me. He was able to pick me up. He was crying, I was crying. I was having a breakdown. We went to a bar at the airport. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He kept holding onto my arm. He kept telling me how unreal it all was. He apologized to me. He kept crying, telling me he felt horrible. I told him to forget everything and tell me about his life.
‘He’s married. His husband is a doctor—a pediatric oncologist. They live in the Pacific Northwest. They have two children—girls, 12 and 8. He works as a legal consultant and has his own firm. He has an amazing life. He told me that he thought I hated him and wanted nothing to do with him. We sat at the bar for hours. Literal hours. I think we sat for about six hours before I begged him to come home and meet my wife.’
He added: ‘We got home, and my wife was a mess. She hugged him and insisted he stay with us. At this point, his husband was going insane and kept calling him. He had no idea what was going on. He thought he had eloped or something. It was crazy for a couple of days until everything was explained and out in the open.
‘My son and my brother were like two peas in a pod. Honestly, I never wanted children. My son was an amazing accident, but I’m not good with kids. I’m always afraid I’m going to break them. But my brother is a pro. Kids love him.
‘He stayed with us for two weeks. And in two weeks, everything about my life changed. His husband and two daughters flew in to stay with us. My brother-in-law and my two nieces. My family. They were my family. They are my family.
‘My brother wants my wife and I to move to be closer to him. My wife is on board. I work as a professor at a university and have already started to send out feelers to see if there are any open positions, and I’ve found one that is actually tenured and higher pay.
‘I do not plan on forgiving my parents, but my brother still loves them. He went by their house and knocked on the door. My father shut the door in his face. My mother gave him a hug and told him to take care of himself. Then she shut him out. I can’t forgive them for that. I have no reason to stay close to them. I want to be with my family. I want to make up for all the lost time.
‘It’s 2am right now and I’m drinking a tall glass of scotch and grading papers. My beautiful, wonderful, smart, amazing wife is asleep on the couch. She likes to watch me grade papers. My son is asleep in his room cuddled up with all the stuffed animals his uncle brought him. And I’m here, so happy, so fulfilled knowing that my family has grown and doubled in size so suddenly. My heart is happy. I am so happy right now.’