A busy Saturday afternoon filled with laundry, household chores, and kids was interrupted by a ringing phone. I had no idea that answering the phone that day would bring such unexpected news.
“Hello, is this Cathy Atchley?”
“Yes it is. Who is this?”
“Um, My name is Jill and I am a friend of your mother’s. I am in town visiting and wondered if she was living back in Charleston by some chance?” My mother hadn’t lived in Charleston since I was a very young child. I was confused by the question and wondered why a friend of my mother’s would think such a thing.
I explained that my mother was still living in Nevada. The young woman on the other end of the phone asked a few more puzzling questions and then asked for my mother’s phone number. I explained that my mother’s job took her to different sites during the week. Phone service was often limited. I offered to take her information and pass it on to my mother the next time we spoke. She gave me her address and phone in Chicago, Ill. Again, I was confused.
“Thank you for your time. Oh, may I ask you on more question? What was your maiden name? I paused for a moment. That’s an odd question. I answered without questioning why.
“Hard question to answer,” I laughed. “My name was Altman but before that I was Keaton. I was adopted by my grandparents when I was 4 years old.” There was a long silence and then a rather hushed goodbye.
I told my husband this was the strangest phone call I have ever had. It made no sense. My mother has been married several times and I wondered if perhaps it was one of her ex husbands trying to track her down. I imagined other scenarios as well when the phone rang again.
“Hi, This is Jill. I wanted to tell you the REAL reason I called.”
I paused and said, “Well, I didn’t believe the reason you gave me on the first call.”
“Claudia Sheldon is your mother, right She used to be Keaton?”
“Yes, that’s right.” I still had no idea what was coming.
“Well, Claudia is my mother.” I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. She must be talking about someone else. I have one brother and my mother’s “female” problems prevented her from having more children. Surely I would know if I had a sister.
“I’m sorry. Did you say Claudia is your mother? Are you sure? I don’t understand.”
Jill told me the story of her birth and adoption. The dates and times fit. I had a new sister. We talked for about an hour. We decided to stay in touch. A call later that night with my mother confirmed Jill’s story. I already had a wide array of half and step siblings so Jill was added to the mix. Since that time we have built a friendship and claim each other as sisters.