Hey gang,

I know it's been a while since I've posted on the site.  Other than hanging out on the OCC, I really have found myself losing an interest in this site's functionality and it's apparent shift of focus from the community.  But, that's to be expected with a growing company and their hunt for the phat stacks.

As with most of my journals, I tend to disclose some personal information, mostly because at my advance age (40 in April, ugh!) I think maybe some of my life experiences can offer some kind of perspective to someone out there looking for a little direction.

Well, today's story isn't some kind of life lesson, but rather an Hollywood script I'm living out right now.  It's some Lifetime or Oxygen Hallmark special come to life, and quite frankly after I'm done, it'll leave you in need of a smoke and a pancake.

Let's see, where do I start?  Family isn't necessarily an ugly word to me, but I've always been a black sheep of mine, so spending time with such a chaotic bunch has a physical impact on me.  Don't get me wrong, I love my family and wish them nothing but the best, but when controversy arises, I'm never shocked.  And as for family gatherings, well, I don't mind them, but I do limit my exposure for the sake of my own sanity.  Holidays, after a few hours, I'm ready to head out.   I find it better for everyone.

Now my wife, Joann, isn't cut from the same cloth.  She and her family are very close.  Her sisters are her best friends. She practically raised her little brother.  But, they've always had a strained relationship with their dad.  The history with their parents is filled with complicated drama, but basically, their parents were never in love and her father found a relationship with the nanny, whom he eventually married and had a son with, before she passed away due to cancer in '99.

I'm giving you some pretty specific info, because it helps when you following along, and I don't have time to create a scorecard.  So let's carry onward:

Joann and her father haven't spoken in seven years.   When we moved to Austin, she felt that a higher power was calling her here, and she was going to find out what it was.  Then last week, there was a church shooting.  You might have heard about it....a small church in Sutherland Springs where a madman shot and killed 26 people and injured 20 more.  It turns out that my father-in-law lives one mile from that church.  Shaken up, Joann thankfully learned that he was alive and well.  This even made her rethink her relationship with him, and a need to open that door once again.

We fast forward a week.  Joann and I drove to his house for his 70th birthday.  Most of his children and grandchildren also made the trip. Joann and I drove over to the gas station and the church, sites of the event and memorial.  This is a town a few hundred people, where everyone knows everyone. To say you could cut the tension with a knife and feel the raw emotion engulf you would both be gross understatements.  See, the person at the gas station, she saw the gunman shortly before the event, in full combat gear.  She didn't think otherwise of his attire and didn't call the police.  You could see that regret and guilt weighing her down.  

My niece and I went to the local store to grab marshmallows to roast on the fire.  You walk in, and the somber mood, coupled with the conversation of locals discussing who they lost and how they feel...well...it's hard not to get emotion when the empathy kicks in.  After we left the church, we went to finally see her dad, seven years without any contact.  Overall, we had a pleasant afternoon catching up and he seemed to be both in good spirits and working to make amends with his kids.  Since we live 90 minutes away, it was best for me to come home and tend to the pups and Joann would stay at his house for the evening with her two sisters and little brother and all the grandkids.

Things were very calm Sunday morning until I received a text that would pretty much change the face of their family, along with attributing to my lack of sleep the last 3 days.

Saturday evening her father was giving out some of his earthly possessions, maybe as a way to preserve their memory.  Part of this process involved giving each of the 3 daughters (Joann and her two sisters) a box full of pictures.  In Joann's box was a very interesting photo. This picture looked to be of a girl, roughly 2 years  of age, taken in the early 80's.  In the past this was dismissed as a baby photo of Joann's stepmother, but something in Joann's heart always told her something was different....something was off.

Her gut reaction was to ask her father once again, 30-some-odd years later about that little girl, and who she really was.

"Well, that's your other sister..."