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West Side Stories: A tale of forgiveness

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WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Jon Lehre was recorded live on March 6 at Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma, as part of the monthly “West Side Stories” story slam event hosted by Jeff Pokorny. Each month, storytellers are randomly picked from the audience to tell five-minute-long stories on a different theme each month. The theme for March was “Forgiveness.” At the end, the audience votes and a favorite is named. The theme for April’s West Side Stories, on Wednesday, April 3, will be “Pride.” For information visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

All right, so … I’m 20 years old, I’m moving out with my then-girlfriend, soon-to-be wife. We’re moving to San Francisco. We’re very excited. My mother comes to me the day before I pack up and move, in tears. She’s sobbing.

She says, “There’s something I have to tell you. And I need you to forgive me for it.”

I’m stunned. I don’t know what to say. So I’m waiting, going, “Okay. What … what is it?”

She says, (deep breath), “When I was in high school, your father and I had sex.”

I go, “All right. I forgive you.”

She says, “There’s more.”

“Okay.”

She says, “We had … a baby. And I gave her up for adoption. Before we were married.”

“And …?”

“No, that was it.”

I say, “Well, why wouldn’t I forgive you for that? That has nothing to do with me? You were young. You had sex. You had a baby. That’s … this isn’t my call, Mom, to forgive you.”

Tears are streaming down her face, and she says, “I’ve never forgiven myself, for giving her up. And now, you’re going to move to San Francisco, where I had her. And if she ever does a search, she’s going to find … you. Because of your last name. So I’m telling you now. Even though I never actually planned to. I’ve been ashamed, and hating myself, since I gave Christine up for adoption.”

She had Christine in 1961.

It was a different time, of course. Then she and my dad got married. So this is my full-blooded sister out there in the world somewhere. In 1963, they had my other sister, Jennifer, and in 1967, they had me. And then my parents got divorced, and life moves on.

And now I’m 20-years-old, and I know that I have another sibling, another full-blooded sister, out there in the world. And there’s nothing I can do about it. She simply exists now, in my mind. Time goes by, and I sort of forget about it, although I meant to sort of start to look at every woman who is six years older than me a little differently. Looking for blue eyes. Looking for features like mine. My sister Jennifer and I look almost exactly alike. You can tell. We’re almost like twins, even though there’s four years’ difference.

So, I’m looking for … her.

Time goes by, and time goes by, and time goes by.

And then, my sister — the one I’ve known my whole life — gets pregnant, and she’s “nesting.” And she thinks I need to know where my sister is, that I must have this person in my life. So we hire a private detective, and they go out, and they do the search, and the private detective is like, “Look, here’s the thing. This doesn’t always go great. I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of responses. Sometimes it’s fantastic, and sometimes they’re a crack addict. You need to be ready for whatever comes.”

We’re like, “That’s fine. It’s fine. We’re ready. We can totally deal with it. Please don’t let her be a crack addict.”

A month goes by. We hear nothing. Then out of the blue we get a phone call, from the private detective. They found her.

WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Jon Lehre was recorded live on March 6 at Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma, as part of the monthly “West Side Stories” story slam event hosted by Jeff Pokorny. Each month, storytellers are randomly picked from the audience to tell five-minute-long stories on a different theme each month. The theme for March was “Forgiveness.” At the end, the audience votes and a favorite is named. The theme for April’s West Side Stories, on Wednesday, April 3, will be “Pride.” For information visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

In Fresno.

So we’re still worried about the crack addict part.

She’s married, they have three kids.

We’re very excited.

I have just gotten a gift certificate for a massage.

And I go the next week and I get the massage, and it’s the greatest massage. I am so relaxed. This is awesome. And I go to my sisters, and she says, “Oh … she’s calling today.”

So much for the massage.

She calls.

We end up talking to her for an hour. She seems right. Doesn’t sound crack addict-y at all. And we arrange a date in the future. And comes up, with her family, and she’s got this beautiful little girl and these two little twins who were born so small they almost didn’t live, and her husband’s great, and we have this amazing moment. My dad comes, and we take this beautiful picture.

But the best moment was when my mom and my sister — whose name now is Wendy — are sitting together. And Wendy says, “Of course I forgive you. And thank you for my life. And thank you … for finding me.”