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Where are you, Joel?

September 20th, 2011 at 05:23 am

I mentioned in my last post that I had not heard back from the ad agency looking for a freelance writer. I had completed and returned a test editing assignment to them, and I assumed the ensuing silence meant I didn't get the job.

Yesterday I sent a brief follow-up email anyway, and was delighted this morning to find a response from the agency owner, who said my work was "fine" and that he was now looking for a paid assignment for me and would arrange it "at the first opportunity."

Yahooey! Of course, we haven't discussed money at all. Now the only thing I have to worry about is that he doesn't offer me a ridiculously low payment.

But that's 2 for 2, this job and the money manager guy. It's up to me to do my best and ensure neither of these are one-time scenarios.

Aside from thinking I hadn't gotten this freelance job, there was another reason, I think, why I was feeling so glum yesterday (and still am today, to a certain extent).

I got to thinking about two people from my distant past of over 30 years ago...a step-brother and step-sister I had when my mother was married to their father. I was never close to either of them, a boy and a girl, but I did live in their home my first summer after my first year in college, a time I was very lonely and homesick and feeling rather lost.

They lived in a beautiful old Victorian home in a very tony town in Bergen County, New Jersey. When I moved in there for the summer, I remember being given a choice of two locations for my bedroom; one of those choices was a small room in the attic under the eaves, with just a single, round window for light. That's the room I picked, because it was so private.

I was never very close to them, didn't really have the chance. The boy, the elder of the two, was as I remember, a year or two younger than me. He was very smart, and a little shy. But we discovered a mutual love of badminton that summer, and we spent some fun times batting away at the birdie with vengeance in our hearts.

His sister had the same outgoing personality and cheerful demeanor that her father had. It was a little hard to take sometimes. All I remember of her, really, is that she absolutely loved the theater and would often see shows on Broadway with her high school friends.

Their own mother lived in the Seattle area, on an island. Possibly Whidbey Island. Are there other islands in that area?

Anyway, I have wondered from time to time whatever happened to them. My mother and their father were married for about 10 years before my mother divorced him. She said he was an alcoholic. I know he drank, but I never saw him being abusive. I wasn't there enough to know for sure, and like a lot of drinkers, he was probably able to hold his liquor pretty well.

I had mixed feelings about him at the time, as I did for my first step-father. Mixed feelings, because I was loyal to my own dad, even though for much of my 20s, I didn't have much of a relationship with my dad. But my step-dad always had a kind word and a cheerful smile for me. The kindest thing he ever did for me was to encourage me as much as he did to go to the best college I could, and he always was eager to hear my stories about my college experiences. It was something my mother could never really do, as she hadn't gone to college.

He was a former Presbyterian minister. When my mother married him, he was a federal government employee, working at a Housing and Urban Development office in the city.

So I spent some time online trying to find information on the two children, now grown. I knew that my step-father had died years earlier, after my mother and he divorced.

I figured I should be able to find some information, as I had both their names and knew where they grew up. I also knew that my step-brother had attended school at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio.

I just couldn't find any info. And I assumed my step-sister could have married, making it more difficult for me to track her down. I vaguely remember my mother telling je years ago that she became a missionary in Africa somewhere. I did find someone with her name, and a married name, on Classmates.com, but without more information, I couldn't confirm that was her. So I sent that person a brief note, saying I wasn't sure she was the person I was looking for, but did she have a brother named J.? But she won't be able to read that note unless she has a paid account with them.

Later, I came upon an issue of the Case Western Reserve alumnae magazine that had J.'s name in it. The issue was available online. I went through all 60 pages of it, scanning many lists of alumnae donor names. Then, toward the end, I came upon J.'s name. It was on a page headed In Memoriam, for those who had died. It indicated that someone with J.'s name, of Redmond, West Virginia, Class of '82, had died, exact date unknown. The issue's date was 2010, just last year.

I was really shocked. I could never have imagined this. I sought to do more research to verify this was my step-brother, getting nowhere. I looked up Redmond on a Map Quest map to see what larger cities it was near so I could look for an obituary in the local paper. Couldn't find it in the archives, or they charged for the information.

I think the terrible thing is that he is dead, because what are the odds that someone with the same first and last name went to the same school at roughly the same time?

I kept trying different search terms, using what info I had. Then I came up with someone who said something to the effect that their fraternity brother had unexpectedly died in the prime of their life. The link led to the same issue of the Case Western alumnae magazine.

I went through the whole magazine again to find out who said that, because if I knew their name, I could possibly get in touch with them to confirm the news. But still, I couldn't find it in the magazine. I mean, it would have to be in there somewhere, right, if it shows up in Google results?

It's really a distraction, wondering, but not knowing, if he is alive. I'm not sure why it bothers me so much, i mean, 30+ years have gone by. But I guess I always assumed they were alive and well, leading their lives somewhere.

The only other thing I came up with was info from one of those data mining companies, could have been Intellius, that indicated the the woman with the same maiden name as my step-sister, with the married name I mentioned earlier, was RELATED to the man with the same name as my step-brother. While the alumnae magazine indicated only a middle initial, the Intellius listing indicated the full middle name, and it started with the same letter as that indicated in the alumnae magazine. But they charge you for more information.

It just makes me feel very sad, especially knowing that if I'd gotten serious about finding them just a year or two earlier, I could have possibly found him...alive.

4 Responses to “Where are you, Joel?”

  1. CB in the City Says:

    I can help you. Send me a private email with his name, age and any city he might have lived in.

    I look for lost alumni all the time as part of my job.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    ((Hugs)) I hope at the very least you might get in touch with your step sister, she might like knowing that you were looking for them, especially if he has passed on.

  3. My English Castle Says:

    That is sad news. It's completely understandable to be so sad and distracted. I often think how much certain people touch our lives without knowing it.

  4. baselle Says:

    I am sorry - that is sad news. Hope CB can help you out. Regarding islands near Seattle, there are many besides Whidbey: Bainbridge, Vashon, Blake, Camano, Fidalgo, Lopez, San Juan ... and those off the top of my head.

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