Coming out as gay, especially in an adverse environment (such as having ultra-religious parents), can be impossible. Some people, knowing that their parents will react in ways that could be painful both emotionally and physically, choose to avoid the conflict and leave the situation completely. That’s what allegedly happened to the brother of the man at the center of this story. Except instead of telling him that his brother had run away due to their intolerance, they told him he’d been missing for years — even after his brother got in touch to tell them that he was alive and well, just gay.
It all started three months ago, when a redditor posted a story about his missing brother, who disappeared with an older man when the narrator was just a kid, leading to one of those “creepy unsolved mysteries” stories we often hear so much about. The trail just went cold. But now the redditor writing the story realizes that his brother must have run away in order to save himself the trouble of having to deal with is parents. He got confirmation of this in college when he received some unsigned gifts and a Christmas card he felt only his brother could have sent:
My freshman year of college, I was part of a sports team that got national recognition. I remember my team’s picture was on ESPN and with our university’s name. A few days later, I got mail at my dorm. It was a gift basket. I thought it was from my parents, so I didn’t read the card. I threw it away immediately and ate what was in it, but it was nothing but candy. Nerds, jolly ranchers, Tootsie Rolls and Hershey’s Kisses. I called my dad and thanked him for the gift basket and he said he didn’t send one, neither did mom.
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. 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.
But it gets even weirder. In a follow-up to the original post, the redditor writes that he did some sleuthing, found that his brother had been removed from registries of missing children and decided to confront his parents — who also hate that he married a black woman and has a biracial son — about what really happened to his brother. Turns out, they had known what was going on the entire time. They’d just decided not to tell anyone, choosing to let people believe he was dead than admitting that their son was gay. In fact, they asked the narrator’s brother to stop sending him letters because it would “confuse” him and then, he claims, told his brother that the narrator hated him to make him stop.
I asked my parents–my dad, actually. My dad ignored me. My mom told me my brother is alive and okay (“as far as she knows”). They found my brother years ago–a very, very long time ago–and found out he was living with another man. He’s gay, and 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 adn wouldnt’ want to see him…..
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.
That’s not the most heartbreaking thing. Yesterday, we brought you a post about the most horrible things people have ever done to each other. This paragraph right here? It tops the list:
my parents let me believe my brother was dead or kidnapped forever, when in reality he just ran away and when he wanted to come back they disowned him.
Four days ago, the redditor posted a final update, one that was both heartbreaking and joyous. He tracked down his brother, called him up, and met him again years after their parents conspired to keep the two apart:
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.”
Soon after, the narrator’s brother arrived at the airport — an old lady got pushed out of the way as they happily reunited — and stayed with him for two weeks. He’s got kids, a great job, and a husband who’s an oncologist. He’d tried to get in contact with their parents, but they weren’t interested. The narrator writes that he’ll never be able to forgive them, but his brother went by his parents’ house, where he received a cold shoulder from his father and a hug and wishes of good luck from his mother, who also then shut him out of the house.
But it doesn’t end there. The two have so much time to make up for that they’re trying to find a way to live closer to each other and rekindle the bond that was so cruelly snuffed out by their intolerant parents. The story’s got a happy ending, but it’s a reminder of how much further we still have to go in terms of making sure that all people have equal right, and that parents become more and more open to the fact that they should love their children regardless of sexual orientation. A lesson, unfortunately, that this narrator’s parents never got and may be too late to learn.
But just in case you thought the world was all bad, the final paragraph of this story should give you some hope:
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, Reddit. I am so happy.
Like all stories on Reddit, this one should be taken with a grain of salt. Its impact, however, can’t be understated — if only due to the fact that it’s helping people come out and talk about their own painful stories about coming out, being disowned, and discovering that they, too, had been lied to by their parents about siblings they had, but were “an embarrassment.”