"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

‘This is your sister’

By on July 29, 2019 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Ute and Juergen (Jay) pose for a family photo after finding each other.

By Jay Young

May 26, 2017 is a day I will never forget. 

As is my usual routine, I got up, cleaned up and sat down for breakfast while checking my e-mail. A strange looking name popped up, Ute… Hmm interesting I thought. 

I hesitated a bit, but finally opened it. I was greeted with the words, “Hello Juergen (my real German name), this is your sister.”

Since I only had a brother in my lifetime, this sent a wave of disbelief over me. 

So let me start at the beginning. 

I was born in Germany after WWII. I never knew my father as he left my mother and me when I was 2 years old. I am from a small town in the Black Forest region of Germany. Our town was in the American sector and when I was 6 my mother re-married, this time to an American army soldier. 

Shortly thereafter, my stepfather was transferred to the United States. In order for me to leave Germany my mother had to get my father’s permission. Seems strange to me now that they were in contact but I had absolutely no contact with him. 

The agreement was that I could go if my mother gave him a bicycle. I still have the document that he signed. Sometimes I get angry, other times I realize how fortunate I am to have made that trip to the U.S. and lived the life I did.

Our first stop was in New Hampshire. 

I didn’t speak English and so when we got here, I had to repeat the first grade and begin my journey to Americanize. Around the age of 13, my step-dad was transferred again, to Aurora, Colorado.

During this trip I asked my mom how come I was at their wedding as a 6-year-old. It was at that point that I found out about my early life. 

I have to admit it didn’t affect me. My life was good, I had a stable home, good loving parents a cute but annoying younger brother, I was happy.

As I got older, at times my curiosity took over and I would ask my mother about my father. She never said much, but got sad and basically said it was not a good time. 

At one point she gave me a picture that she had and we left it at that. I took the picture out periodically and wondered about him, but there was no way I was going to hurt my mother and search for my father, as I felt that would only do harm and not help.

In 2011 my mom passed away and as time passed, my curiosity grew. I was still teaching and coaching at Wenatchee High School, so curiosity was as far as it went. 

As I talked it over with my wife, Diane, I came to realize that the idea of finding him required asking a myriad of questions.

In 2016, after retiring, a trip to Europe was planned. Our son lived in London and there were many cousins that I hadn’t seen in many years. Plus I wanted to go to Ettlingen, the town of my birth. When we arrived in Ettlingen, I enlisted the aid of one of my cousins and we set off to find some answers. 

One thing I discovered was the German government is quite meticulous in their record keeping. 

We went to the town hall in Ettlingen and then to their archive section, and there I found the marriage license, the divorce proceedings and wonder of wonders where my father moved to — a smaller town even then Ettlingen — Oppenheim. 

All right, I thought now we are getting somewhere, an actual location, bless the German need for detail. 

Sadly our time in Germany was ending, but my cousin is somehow related to Sherlock Holmes. She was on the trail and determined to find out more. 

After returning to the U.S., I kept in contact with her. She discovered that my father had remarried and had a daughter, Ute. His new wife died in a car accident when Ute was 12 and as the years passed Ute had left the home and had relocated in Düsseldorf. 

From that piece of information my cousin found out her married name and wrote her saying she had a brother in America, and asked if she would like to make contact. 

That brings me to that morning of May 26, and the e-mail that brought new joy to my life. 

Ute and I wrote almost every day those first few months, sent pictures of our father, of our families and talked of a thousand things. 

Then one day we spoke of meeting and seeing each other. It was decided that Ute and Peter (her husband) would travel here during the 2018 Apple Blossom time. 

I also discovered that four years earlier, when we did not know of each other, they had been in Washington — at Bickelton, a tiny town not too far from Goldendale. 

Peter loves rodeos, and they had attended the Bickelton rodeo, the oldest in the state. We were that close to each other and had no clue. 

You have no idea the feelings that went through me as we waited for them to come up the escalator at Sea-Tac. What if this didn’t turn out well? 

I found out later Ute and Peter had an exit strategy just in case. It appears they had the same thoughts. 

However it turned out so well. That first hug was beyond description. 

That first night we talked late into the night. It appears when she was around 8, her grandfather told her she had a brother in America. But that was the only information that she ever received. No one would talk about it and she had nothing to go on. No name, no location, nothing but an idea. 

Along with his sister, Ute, left, and her husband, at right, Jay discovered a nephew and the nephew’s family he never knew about.

It appears her childhood was a lot tougher then mine. She persevered and now is a geriatric nurse in Düsseldorf. She has two wonderful sons, with families. I am now an uncle and grand-uncle. 

Ute always wanted a daughter and now she has a niece and our daughter and son have an aunt and uncle they never knew existed. 

This past spring, May 2019, we visited them in Düsseldorf, saw where Ute worked, went to the village of her birth, met my nephew and his family. It was delightful. 

And as I left, knowing we would continue meeting and caring, I fully realized I have a sister. 

Jay Young was born in Germany and has traveled to every state except Alaska. After retiring from teaching at Wenatchee High School, among other things, he became a volunteer at the Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center.

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