Homophobia from within a Reddit user’s religious family nearly destroyed one man’s family life, but decades later two brothers were able to reconnect in an emotional tale of perseverance and love.
The man, John, explained in a post on the website Reddit that during his childhood in the US Bible Belt, his brother Ryan had suddenly gone missing.
“He told me he had to run to our neighbour’s house for something,” John recalled.
“He gave me a hug, told me he loved me and left. He never came back.”
It wasn’t until John’s freshman’s year of college, when he was part of a sports team that got national recognition, that he got a gift basket. It was full of candy from his childhood but, after calling his parents to thank them, he learned they hadn’t sent it.
Puzzled, John began wondering whether his missing brother was still alive. He found out that Ryan was no longer on the missing persons register, and hadn’t been for several years at his parents’ request. It seemed that Ryan had contacted them to tell him where he was and that he was gay.
“It disgusted my parents. He tried reaching out to them,” he said.
“They told him they didn’t want anything to do with him and that I didn’t remember him and wouldn’t want to see him.”
John managed to get a phone number and contact information and, after much deliberation and several false starts, called his brother.
“He asked me who I was and what I wanted. I said, ‘It’s me.’ There was a really long pause. I thought the call had dropped. Then I heard him tell someone to turn the radio down and roll the window up,” John said.
“I told him my name and he said that I was lying. I told him I got his number from the missing children’s network and detectives. I heard him gasp. He asked me what color shoelaces he wore to a picnic when we were kids, and I remember my mom getting mad at his orange laces with blue shoes. It was the last time we were together as a family.
“I could tell he was crying. The first thing he asked me was: ‘Where are you?'”
Upon realising that they only lived a few hours apart, John explained, “Ryan went straight to the airport, bought a plane ticket and flew straight to me. When he was walking through the gate, I knew who he was straight away.
“I just hugged him. He was crying, I was crying. I was having a breakdown. He kept telling me how unreal it all was.
“He’s married. His husband is a doctor. They live in the Pacific Northwest. They have two girls, 12 and 8. He works as a legal consultant and has his own firm. He has an amazing life.
“I do not plan on forgiving my parents. I want to be with my family. I want to make up for lost time. I’m so happy, so fulfilled knowing that my family has grown and doubled in size so suddenly. My heart is happy. I am so happy right now.”