From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

It’s Not What You Think

There’s something about teenagers—they love to be together. Robert and our son, Calvin, had been best friends all throughout high school and it seemed quite natural that he should become part of our family. In our small town of Delburne, Alberta, a well-to-do German couple had adopted him when he was an infant, but Robert didn’t want to be “well-to-do.” He wanted with all his heart to be a mechanic. He felt more comfortable in a pair of greasy coveralls than he ever would be in a three-piece suit.

His mother didn’t consider this vocation suitable to his status, and this caused a lot of friction. Calvin approached us with the idea of taking Robert into our home. And after talking to his parents and getting their consent, this is exactly what happened. Robert was a sweet lad with a mischievous mind, full of tricks and life, just like our own son. That meant there was never a dull moment in our home.

The rest of the youth group began hanging out at our place, usually Sunday evening after the service while my husband John, the pastor and I were still at the church. And, as is usual with teenagers, they started pairing off. Robert already had a sweetheart. Debbie was a lovely young lady away studying at Bible College in another province. When he started paying attention to Cindy, a newcomer to the group, we became a bit concerned. We reminded him of Debbie, who was trusting him to remain faithful to her. But, to everyone’s dismay, Robert continued to spend more and more time with Cindy. In a small community like ours, it’s pretty hard to hide something like that.

Calvin hated to see his best friend being a cheat so he went to Robert’s room one night and said, “Either you stop seeing Cindy or I’m phoning Debbie! How can you hurt her like this? She is bound to find out!”

Robert said nothing and just shrugged his shoulders. Meanwhile I had taken Cindy aside into our bedroom and told her more or less the same thing. She hugged me and cried, “Oh, but you don’t understand! It’s not what you think. Robert is like a brother I never had. We have so much in common we just have to talk to each other. I wish you could see it our way.”

Then came the day we all dreaded. Robert had taken time off work and Cindy skipped college for the day. They headed for Calgary, a four-hour drive away. We were all disappointed and felt we had failed them along the way.

It was evening before they finally arrived home. Robert jumped out of his truck, ran around to the other side and hugged Cindy as she got out. They were both radiant as they came up the walk, hand in hand. As we watched through the dining room window our hearts sank. Here it comes, we thought.

At least you could have been a little more discreet about it, I thought to myself. But I said nothing. Robert spoke first. “Mom and Dad [that’s what he started to call us right after he arrived], can we have all the family together? We have some very important news to share with you.” Our hearts sank. After Calvin and our two daughters came into the room, Robert began to speak.

“You know Cindy and I have been seeing a great deal of each other lately, and we know you don’t approve. But honestly, we had to do it.”

We sat silent, waiting for whatever type of excuse would come next. He went on, “The more we saw each other the more we realized how much we had in common. Cindy really seemed to draw me. We discovered that we were both of Russian ancestry, liked the same foods and even disliked the same things. The more we talked the more apparent it became. So we went to the provincial courthouse in Calgary today.”

We gasped, “Oh no, you didn’t go and get married?”

Then Cindy said, “We searched old records for hours until we finally found Robert’s birth certificate.” Then, with a huge grin on her face she announced: “Robert is my brother!”

There was a stunned silence as the words hit our ears.

“All these years, I’ve known that I had an older brother who was given up for adoption at birth. But I never thought I’d ever find him. And here he had been living less than thirty miles away all that time. We got suspicious when we found out we were both Russian, and bit by bit things fell into place. But we didn’t want to tell anybody until we had proof and knew for sure.”

We all gasped as we heard the story—first in disbelief— and then with great joy! Lots of hugging and crying followed! We were all apologizing to one another for our critical and judgmental attitudes and then rejoicing again. It was all too incredible. It was the wee hours of the morning before we finally went to bed. None of us got much sleep that night.

In the years that followed, Robert became a journeyman mechanic—fulfilling his own vision for his life. And oh yes, he and Debbie did get married after all—with his sister Cindy there to catch the bouquet!

Greta Zwaan

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