I don’t usually post the same blog to my sites, but today is an exception because I’m looking for someone – family I didn’t know about until yesterday. So forgive me, please, this one time as I share a very personal experience …
I am an aunt!
It’s a strange feeling to discover, at age 65, that you have a niece you’ve never known about.
It happened yesterday – Sunday – when I did an online search for my brother, James Aubrey Hulsey, who died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in April 1970.
His photo and basic information are posted on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site, and you can leave comments in remembrance.
Among the comments was one headed “He was my father” – left by someone named Kay Howard.
I’m starting a search for her.
James Aubrey and I had a strange childhood. When I was two weeks old, our parents gave me over to our maternal grandparents to raise. Maybe it was because I was what they called (back then) a “sickly” baby. My birth parents moved around a lot, so maybe they figured I wouldn’t handle it well.
James Aubrey stayed with our birth parents. I had a feeling his life was pretty unstable. By the time he was in third grade, he’d already attended three or four different schools in that many different towns. He had to have been a pretty smart kid. Despite all that moving around, he managed to keep up with other kids at his grade level.
For a while – I think I was maybe 3 or 4, James Aubrey 15 months younger – our two sets of parents lived together in a little house on Nettles Drive in Tyler. Then our birth parents went on the road again, and he and I saw each other around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and occasionally (not always) on my birthday.
When I was 12, our birth mother disappeared. Our father’s story was that he came home from work (James Aubrey from school), and she was gone. None of her clothes (except what she presumably wore) were missing, nor were her purse, the little jewelry she had, nor any other of her personal belongings. After a time, our birth father moved to another town, and James Aubrey went with him. I lost contact with them both.
The last time I saw my brother was when I was home from college, and he came to visit us. I was 20 then, he was 18 … a good-looking young man already inches taller than me. We enjoyed a too-brief visit, then he went home. I returned to college.
Mother (our grandmother) called me a while after that to tell me that James Aubrey had contacted her – he’d voluntarily joined the Army and was heading to ‘Nam. I prayed for his safety, but it wasn’t to be. One April evening, Mother called my dorm, and when I got on the phone …
“Don’t get upset,” she said – which was always the flag that meant she had bad news. Then, “But James Aubrey is dead.”
We stayed on the phone quite a while. I know she gave me the details of how he died – but they didn’t stay with me. All I really heard – besides “dead” – was “helicopter” and “crash.” It was years later before I learned more about the crash, and when and where it happened.
It also took me a few years to stop being angry with him for voluntarily going to Vietnam, for putting himself in harm’s way … to realize he probably would have been drafted sooner or later … that he was, at 21, just one among too many young men whose lives ended much too soon, who never had a chance to start families, or left families that never had a chance to know them …
I hope to find Kay Howard, this niece I never knew about. But even if I don’t, I’m comforted by knowing that she’s out there, my brother’s legacy to a world he left much, much too soon.