My dad has 5 kids; two sons and three daughters. With me being the youngest of all and the only one born and raised in the US. My dad had a falling out with my other brother, one of my sisters passed away before I was born and another recently moved to New Jersey and has limited conversation with my dad. This is about that third sister.
For as long as I can remember my dad would tell me about a sister I had that was still in Haiti. My dad always played favorites (the falling out with my brother makes sense) and would openly say me and his daughter, Jennifer, who was about a year younger than me (Yea me and my dad need to have a talk about how I have a sibling from another mother who’s so close in age with me but that’s another conversation), were his favorite children. Jennifer lived in Haiti with her mom while I lived in Massachusetts with my mom, dad, and my three brothers from my mother (Yea siblings all over the place).
For years my dad would force phone conversations between me and my sister that would for the most part just annoy me. My creole was limited and so was her English, so the conversations were pretty short and choppy. But, every time we spoke this girl would be so happy to talk to me and would say my name as many times as possible and would end the conversations with “Goodbye, I love you my brother”. I would just say ok I love you too and run off and go do ride my bike or play video games or whatever else younger Baudelaire felt like doing. The phone calls were usually every month or two and they were almost the exact same every time. I didn’t think much of them and since I had never actually met the girl on the other end of the call, I didn’t think about them too often. I could tell she loved them, and so did my dad, so I never refused to have them.
Then in the fall of 2009, the beginning of my senior year in high school, my dad told me Jennifer would be coming to live with us the following summer and would live with us from that point on. I thought it was cool and that she was coming but I was just starting what would be one of the most fun years of school of my life so I didn’t think about it much.
Soon after my birthday that year (December 20th), my dad told me he was going to Haiti. He had business to take care of and was going to help Jennifer get her papers together so she could come in the summer. I didn’t think much of it since my dad went to Haiti at least once a year so I said my goodbyes when it was time to go and knew he would be back. This time was a bit different.
My dad didn’t call me when he landed as he usually did but still, I didn’t think much of it, sometimes it was tough for my dad to get to a phone so I just went on with my life figuring he would call me when he could. A couple weeks go by and I’m still not giving it too much thought.
Then, on January 12th, the earthquake happened.
My calm about not hearing from my dad instantly turns into panic; he was all I could think about.
People would ask “I know you’re Haitian, did you have anyone affected by the earthquake?” I’d respond no. Days later I would eventually start telling people the truth.
A few days later, my mom gets a call from one of my dad’s relatives saying that he is alright but he is an emotional wreck right now. See before the earthquake my dad, who lives in the countryside, was with my sister and really wanted this certain type of food that my sister was really good at cooking. My sister told him she would make it but said she would have to go to the capital to get the proper ingredients. My dad told her it wasn’t necessary but she insisted that since her father was here, she would cook whatever it was he wanted, in celebration, if you will.
My sister then went to the capital on the day of the earthquake and passed away.
Finding out about my sister’s death was a weird pain because she was someone I never actually got the chance to meet, but I know I was supposed to. She loved me so much and I never really understood it. How can you love someone you never actually met? I completely understand that concept now.
My dad would return from Haiti months later and he would never be the same. Still the Dad I’ve loved my whole life but something since then has always been a little “off”. I guess losing your daughter can do that to a guy.
I’ve always wanted a sister, and for most of my life, I had one. At every major point in my life whether it be an internship interview or even the plane ride to London, I always felt Jennifer was with me somehow. I plan to pay tribute to her by one day naming my daughter (if I am lucky enough to have one), after her, so once again there will be a Jennifer Ceus.
Here I am in London. A place Jennifer probably only dreamed about, if that. I’m going to appreciate this opportunity for the both of us and live it to the fullest.
Now, I’m going to go rent a bike and explore London.
Condolences make me really uncomfortable, I think that may be why I, until now have shared this full story with about 5 people.