I just left my weekly visit to the grave of my late wife, Stephanie. We were married for almost 40 years, when she died from a very rare blood disorder. Our wedding anniversary was July 1, having been married in ‘68. Her death was almost four years ago, but it still felt like last week.
My name is Herman, but thankfully as a youngster I was kidded so much, I was allowed to go by my middle name of Gregory. I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1950, but raised in San Antonio, Texas for most of my life.
I met Stephanie in high school, we became fast friends and as friends sometimes do, we became closer then that – much closer. I didn’t tell my parents that I even met anyone, much less had a girlfriend. Stephanie didn’t mind, we had most of our trysts in the park - Now, we didn’t have ‘sex’ – even though this was the middle sixties – but we casually felt each other up and down, and kissed a lot.
I gave her my pin – that was old fashioned – but I remembered my parents telling me how it all worked. We finally introduced Stephanie to Mom and Dad as our junior year of high school was starting. They both approved. Following that – we went and did the same with her parents.
The inevitable happened, we got married and started to have our own family – quickly having four kids of our own - Marnie, Jeffrey, Steven and Debi. As they grew up, they each found a partner, fell in love and had children of their own – for a total of 14 grandchildren, Steph and I were ... very proud.
It was the two years before Stephanie died that I found out. On a visit to her parents, we were asked to sit down. Matt and Karen looked nervous and he was holding a folder with some papers inside.
“Stephanie, your mother and I have something to tell you. Please ... don’t be mad at us,” Matt said, leaning back and quietly tearing up.
We looked over to Karen, who was taking a deep breath. “Come on Mom, you’re making Greg and me awfully nervous,” Steph said.
Taking her hand, her mother said two words, “You’re adopted!”
Pulling her hand away and grabbing me tightly, Steph was instantly shaking her head and screaming, “NO!”
I lightly put my hand on the back of her head and pulled her to me. She cried on my shoulder for a while.
I looked at her parents, er ... her adopted parents and saw that that was only the first shoe.
“Steph,” I said, holding her head and looking in her eyes, “I think there’s another shoe to drop,” I turned to Matt and Karen and inquired, “Am I right?” They nodded in agreement.
To set the stage for this, Matt was 79, Karen 77 – while both Steph and I were 56. She had a younger brother Michael – although we hadn’t yet found out if they both were adopted or not.
“Is Michael her ‘real brother?’” I asked.
“No,” was the surprisingly short response, “But she did have a brother, well I should say ... she does have a brother!”
Both Karen and Matt looked at me while Karen made that remark.
“NO!” I said starting to cry my eyes out, “I didn’t marry my own blood sister? Did I?”
They both were crying as Matt handed me the documents that supported what’d been said.
Stephanie was enraged – “Why did you wait until we were almost in our sixties, with four children and fourteen grandchildren – Don’t they have a right to know?”
“Tell them, or don’t tell them – we know you’re mad at us, but to use your husband’s expression – there’s at least one more shoe in the shoebox – Greg and Sarah don’t know any of this!” Matt said.
“My own parents don’t know that I’m married to their ‘cast off daughter?’” I said, getting a smile and a slap from my wife.
“There’s one more shoe to go,” Karen said.
“Oh shit,” my wife said. “What!”
“To further complicate our genealogy, your mother and I – are sisters!” Karen said.
I broke into a big smile and a laugh, everyone else joined in. It was a great moment to release some tension.
Grabbing my wife of 38 years, I said, “Our marriage is illegal then, correct?”
I knew that would bring everyone out of their reverie, and it jolted everyone, especially Stephanie.
“Yes, that’s correct – nowhere in the United States is it legal to marry your blood sister,” Matt agreed.
“I don’t care,” Steph said. “I fell in love with this big hunk a long time ago, nobody’s going to take him away from me – nobody!”
“We understand that – but the two of us, and now you, are the only ones who know the truth. Here’s all of the documentation that proves all that we’ve told you – we want you to have it to do with as you will. Karen and I are getting on in age, so when we pass away ... the only way to prove anything is in this box of information or a comparison of your DNA,” Matt said.
“Thank you for telling us, I know it was a difficult decision,” I said as we left their house.
We got in our car, I turned to Stephanie and said, “Hey sis, you want to go somewhere and make out?”