In last week’s column, I shared about learning the amazing news that I have an older half-brother I never knew I had.
My dad, Thomas Ernest “Doc” Harris a teen-aged sailor, met a young lady while he was on shore leave in New York. She was originally from Alabama and perhaps they were drawn to each other’s southern accents. He returned to his ship and set sail never knowing that the young lady would be expecting his baby. On May 22, 1930, Paul David Clanton was born.
How the revelation of this situation came to light borders on the miraculous. It began some four years ago when Paul’s daughter, Barb, decided to help her dad learn the identity of his father. She contracted with ancestry.com to help in this quest that seems so far out, being able to solve it seemed impossible. After all, Paul was born 85 years ago and my dad has been dead almost 40 years. Somehow, following the thread of DNA down through the ages, the agency was able to finally narrow down the identity of his father.
It took me awhile to process the fact that Paul’s dad is my dad but the irrefutable facts of the findings eventually began registering with me. After corresponding with Paul and his children, it was time to lay eyeballs on each other, so the arrangements were made to do just that.
Paul lives in Eustis, Florida, my sister and I live in north Louisiana so we agreed on meeting at about the half-way point, Pensacola, Florida. Two of Paul’s three children accompanied him, daughter Barb, and son John. Older son, Paul, Jr., lives in Denver and was unable to make the trip. Traveling with me were my sister, Linda, and my two daughters, Cathy and Kayla. Although understandably anxious, we were also excited to meet our newly-discovered kin. I’m sure the Clanton’s felt the same.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I had when I saw my half-brother for the first time. Photos his family had shared were telling but when we met, I could see my dad, my late brother, Tom, and some of our uncles in his face. All doubt was removed; Paul David Clanton is indeed my father’s son; my half-brother.
One of the most telling characteristics Paul has that reminded me so much of my dad was his quick wit and sense of humor.
We enjoyed an exciting two days visiting, sharing meals together and simply getting to know each other. Apparently, DNA can reflect the love for fishing among family members.
Dad loved to fish; he taught my brother, sister and me to fish. I learned that Paul is an avid angler as well along with his son John, a serious fly fisherman. John brought his fly rod along to Pensacola. He and I spent an hour early one morning on the beach with him demonstrating fly fishing technique to me, a novice whose only experience with a fly rod was with one I purchased from a discount store for $19.95. I could never seem to do it right – the line always seemed to wrap around an ear or an ankle – while he handled the rod in his hand with the expertise of a maestro conducting a symphony orchestra. My dad, “Doc” Harris, the consummate outdoorsman, would have loved it.
After returning home, I reflected on the amazing event I had been party to. The dad I knew was a dad any boy would love to have. He taught us how to hunt and fish, he was a good provider for our family, a faithful husband to my mother and wonderful father to my brother, sister and me. I rest in the realization that he went to his grave never knowing about the young lady’s little baby boy.
Before the trip, I received a text from John who noted that he was looking forward to our meeting, mentioning the fact that we come from totally different backgrounds and the hope that we would all get along. I think John would agree that we did. After all, we’re family now.