The March family gathered at their parent’s home. This was more than just a reunion. They were about to meet their brother for the first time. He was the oldest of the siblings and had disappeared at the age of four. After months of searching, authorities had given up. His mother and father never gave up hope, but dead ends thwarted their efforts to continue. It had even been suggested they declare him dead. They refused.
Now twenty-five years later, he had been found. The wonders of the internet and two younger siblings’ tenacity to find their brother paid off. Genetic test and links led the way to a twenty-nine year old man living five hundred miles away. He was married, in his residency to become a neurologist, had a wife and a child. The irony of his journey into medicine was his real father was a physician with a practice in cardiology.
Dr. Oscar March had driven to the airport to meet his son. His wife Vanessa and the other children waited at home. Vanessa with Violet, her oldest daughter and one of the detectives in the case of the missing brother, and a daughter-in-law worked in the kitchen. They were adding the final touches to dinner. They had been planning it all week and wanted it to be perfect.
“I hope he likes pineapple,” Violet said as she put the pineapple dessert in the refrigerator. “Do you think he will look like Dad?”
“Well, he certainly favored your father when we…” tears came to Vanessa’s eyes. “Oh, to think I am finally going to hold my baby again.”
Violet and Teresa put their arms around her. “We are all so excited,” Teresa said. “I can’t imagine what it is like for you.”
Dr. March waited in the baggage return area waiting for the passengers departing the plane to parade down the steps. Other people waited with him, but none could share the nervousness and excitement balling up in his stomach. He wondered if he would recognize his son. Surely he hadn’t changed much from the little boy who used to hold his hand. He held a sign with his son’s name on it. It wasn’t the name he had given him. He swallowed at the lump in his throat and promised himself he wouldn’t cry.
The legs of the passengers were seen first as they began to descend down the stone steps. Dr. March stood up and reluctantly held up his sign. Then he saw him. There was no mistaking who the young man was. Dr. March approached him and said his name, “Anthony Heinz? I am Oscar March.”
The two men stared at one another. Anthony couldn’t help but think he was looking at an older version of himself. Oscar couldn’t help thinking at how much Anthony resembled him when he was his age. Neither one spoke. All their rehearsed words froze in their minds and on their tongue. So much time had passed.
“Daddy,” a tiny little girl with dark curls pulled on Anthony’s sleeve. “Who is he?”
Oscar suddenly became aware of a beautiful young woman beside his son. She was holding the little girl. She shushed her.
Anthony grinned. “This is the grandfather I was telling you about.” He extended his hand. “It feels funny, but I would like to call you Dad.”
Oscar smiled and the tears came. He threw his arms around his son. “I never thought I would ever see you again.”
The front door opened and the family all jumped with excitement. Oscar entered. “Sorry,” he said and tried to keep from smiling, “he wasn’t on the plane.”
“What,” Vanessa almost screamed. She collapsed on the couch.
Oscar rushed over to her with alarm. “I’m sorry Vanessa, that was a bad joke. He’s here.” He looked to the doorway where Anthony, his wife Claries and his four year old daughter stood in there waiting.
All eyes turned to the tall handsome man and his family. No one knew what to say.
Introductions were made and soon everyone overcame the awkwardness of meeting for the first time. Vanessa cherished every moment as she sat next to her son and held his hand. She never wanted to let it go.
After dinner, they gathered in the family room before the fire and waited to here Anthony’s story.
“Well,” he said and took a deep breath, “to begin with, I’m sorry I let go of your hand, Dad. The train platform was so crowded, and before I knew it you were gone. I heard you calling me and I answered, but you were so far away.” He gave a heavy sigh. “A man approached me and asked if I was lost. He had a kind face and I trusted him. He took me by the hand and led me away. He said he was going to help me.” He patted his mother’s hand. “He took me to his home and introduced me to his wife.” He paused for a moment. “She was a beautiful woman with eyes like yours, Mom. She embraced me and began to cry. She called Anthony and kept saying I never thought I would see you again.” He saw a tear run down his mother’s cheek and wiped it away. “Next thing I know, I am living in Nevada and my name has been changed to Anthony. They were my family and, well, over time I forgot who I used to be.”
“Who was Anthony?” Violet asked.
“Anthony was there son, he had died of cancer and Mama, I mean Mrs. Heinz was in a state of denial, I guess. I don’t think to this day she knows I am not her son. Daddy never told her and I just began to pretend I was.”
“Strange,” Vanessa said. “I feel sorry for her.” She patted his leg. “She did well with you. I can tell. She loved you. It shows.”
“I love her too, Mom and I will go back and be her son, if that’s okay with you.”
Vanessa threw her arms around him. “Just so long as you will be mine too.”
Anthony looked about the room. “Hey, it’s not every day I guy finds out he has two families. Oh, and just to let you know, I am the only child of the Heinz, so you siblings have no competition.”
And so the reunion ended but the connection of family never died. Five hundred miles may seem a long distance, but when love connects you it isn’t far at all.