The Quest to Unify My Family — After Nearly 30 Years
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because family is family, no matter how spread apart everyone is.
The summer morning was young when I lifted my bags and carried them toward reconciliation. If all went according to plan, I was going to bring my children together for the first time in their lives — at our family reunion, nearly 30 years in the making. If even for no longer than an hour, I needed them to look around at each other and see the same eyes, lips and cheeks that God had given me through birth.
As a father, mentor and shepherd of my five children, from five different mothers, it was my responsibility to guide them here together. I needed to give them an opportunity to dwell in one place. As I boarded a plane to Texas, I knew that what I wanted wouldn’t necessarily be what all of my children needed. So I began to lower my expectations. I squeezed into my seat, next to a lady traveling with a young child. I couldn’t help but think about how safe the child must have felt, strapped in tight with her mother. I buckled up for the most sobering ride of my life.
After tossing and turning through the night in a hotel, I was awakened by the Texas sun. My journey toward closing the gap in my children’s lives had begun. Within hours I would learn that my oldest son would not be attending the sibling reunion. I remained focused in my quest to see this through. Several hours before we were all to meet Todrick, my youngest son, at his show Straight Outta Oz, I would find out that my second-oldest son would also choose to be absent from the gathering. Was I sad that my eldest sons didn’t feel the need to be unified with their siblings? Sure, but I had to quickly remind myself that this reunion was not about a single individual. And I remain hopeful that, in time, they will unite with their siblings. I respect their decisions about where they were that day, or where they might be tomorrow; the love for my children shall remain forever in my heart.
I must admit that I was nervous — not so much for myself, but for her. I wanted it to be a surreal moment, something that she would never forget.
There were still my three other children: Emmanuel, Todrick and Elyscia. I had gotten a room for Elyscia and her husband, and it would be a few hours before she would meet Todrick. When I saw her, I felt like she was the little girl on the plane. I could tell she was nervous about meeting her brother, and the sight of her father seemed to prove comforting. On the ride over, I could sense her nerves, and those of her husband as well. He loves her so, and he looks after her like I did when she was a girl.
My son Emmanuel reached out to let me know that he was running late, but would still be coming. The show began and Elyscia’s eyes touched her brother for the first time, in person, in 29 years. She sat through the first half of the show — barely moving, tapping her feet or clapping her hands. Around intermission, I turned to her and said: “Let’s go.” She knew what I meant. She sighed deeply while looking into my eyes, and I asked her, “Are you OK?” She replied, “Yes.” I asked if she was ready. “If you’re ready, I’m ready,” she said. And soon we were headed backstage.
I must admit that I was nervous — not so much for myself, but for her. I wanted it to be a surreal moment, something that she would never forget. I didn’t want her first meeting with her brother to be met with disheartening results. When Todrick first saw Elyscia, he stopped everything he was doing. He walked over to her and said, “You are beautiful.” Then he turned and added, “Hey, everybody, this is my sister. We have never seen each other before — isn’t she gorgeous?” I exhaled, smiling. This was their moment; two pieces of our family puzzle were now in place.
Elyscia floated back to her seat for the second half of the show, smiling. With Emmanuel finally present, our union brought solidarity. These were the youngest of my children, and the youth of our family won out. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of family as I embraced the smiles in the room. This moment wasn’t about me, but I realized that my efforts would bestow a measure of peace within my children, allowing them the opportunity to not only grow together but also to feel a spirit of unity instead of seclusion. And it gave me the chance to do right by my children before eternal darkness calls me home.