‘I would spend sleepless nights worrying about my missing brother. Is he dead? Two years of searching led me right to him, shocked by a reality I wasn’t ready for.’

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“The absence of my mother and the disappearance of my little brother has played a major role in my development. I found my younger brother in January 2019 after eleven years without contact and two years searching for him. Anthony’s disappearance made me uncertain I would ever see him again. I didn’t even know why. It really hurt my heart after I discovered that his disappearance was purposeful. Although I’ve made efforts to try and bring my family closer together, childhood abandonment by our parents set the example that Anthony eventually followed.

Ayo Dre

I would spend sleepless nights worrying about my missing brother. Is he dead? Locked up somewhere? Maybe he has a secret, and he is afraid I will not accept him if I find out. Recently, I discovered  he’s been running. Running so long it’s all he knows. The last time we spoke I was turning 21. It has been far too long, over a decade of lost time. Anthony had been away for so long, that now he was used to being away from me.

Ayo Dre

Two years of searching for Anthony led me right to him, only to be shocked by a reality I wasn’t ready for. After I left my adoptive family at age eight, Anthony and I would only see each other once a week during supervised visits at the Boys and Girls Club in Albuquerque. These visits would always quickly come to an end. Some weeks he didn’t show up without warning. Eventually he wasn’t coming around at all. When I asked Anthony about what happened between him and his adoptive parents, he responded, ‘They left me.’ They had put him in a boarding school to get rid of him. The year of his graduation, they wrote him a letter telling him not to come home. They would not be there for him. He came searching for the adoptive family who abandoned him. I can only imagine how he felt and what he went through, even though he did nothing to deserve such treatment.

Ayo Dre

At the end my recent conversation with my little (grown) brother, I gave Anthony my final words, ‘It’s your decision if you want to continue this relationship into your future lil’ brother, just know one thing. Out of 20+ years, our mother never gave our reunion a chance, but me being the man I am, I took the necessary steps she should have. I found you! You didn’t find me, remember that.’ After hanging up that call I was beat, but at the same time thankful I found him.

We haven’t spoken since that night. Knowing our family’s past, can I blame him for being distant? We were stripped from the custody of our mother not too long after my birth due to her own struggles, and spent most of our childhood in foster care. As an adult now, I felt abandoned through my many of years growing up, knowing she was never there. Knowing I wasn’t important enough to look for — I mean who has kids just to neglect them? For most of my life, I’ve beat myself up about their absence. Maybe I was the reason they ran away. Now, as an adult, I refuse to believe I am the cause of their decision to remain distant.

I am one sibling out of five, possibly six, born in Cleveland, Ohio, later to be moved to Detroit, Michigan, where my forced separation from my family began. Since my time under CYFD’s custody, I have lived in over 6 group homes, 4 foster homes, several treatment centers, and spent numerous nights in Juvenile Detention dealing with treatment coordinators, therapists, staff members, and peers. When I say my childhood was rough, I’m only giving you a tiny piece of what I went through growing up. From ages 21 to 29, I saw the county jail every year. I spent years on adult probation while trying to figure myself out. I got heavy into the streets in dealing drugs, hustling, and living my life like I would not make it to see the year after.

Ayo Dre

In 2015, I was imprisoned for a trafficking case during which I spent 18 months of my life behind bars watching other prisoners go to the visiting room to see family/friends. Here I am, stuck alone. The only people that ever came to visit me since I was a kid were either my social worker, probation officer, parole officer, or my public pretender (defender). They never gave me anything positive to rest on. I swear my jailhouse mattress was more supportive than any conversation I’ve shared with those people.

After I was released from county jail, my older brother had me in contact with one of his friends so I would have a place to go. My sister Meloney had kept in touch with me my last couple of months — she is the reason behind my contact with my mother. Meloney put me in contact with two of my mothers sisters (my aunties). They started filling me in on my mother’s life. They were all placed in foster care during their childhood as well. My family has been affected by this situation for generations. It’s not like my aunts looked for me either. I took my mothers contact info and prepared to contact her for the first time.

2015 was the year I first spoke with my mom via telephone. How do I talk to her? What should we talk about? Do I badger her with questions? Will she lie to me? The social workers did. Therapists, ex-girlfriends, friends, foster parents, adoptive parents, and the list goes on! Will she be like the rest? What does she look like? So many questions rested heavy on my conscience, but the very first question I asked was, ‘Where is my dad?’  The man who accompanied my mother in my production. I should have expected she had no clue, which my sister disagrees with.

I’ve heard stories of my pops, but like my mother, I’ve never had an exact visualization of who he was. Who is this man Meloney speaks of? The supposed college basketball star who would eventually miss his calling with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mom doesn’t speak too highly of him — I can sense a long history of jealousy and abandonment through her tone while explaining who he was from her point of view. Distracted by the drugs, women and party life, his dream would soon be shot down by a life of addiction, eventually leading to his downfall. She still blames it all on him, taking no responsibility for her actions. I say to her ‘Mom I didn’t put us in foster care and neither did my siblings. We are not the reason for this unfortunate situation.’ She cries every-time I start asking questions about it. She doesn’t see any of this as being her fault. When I asked her why she didn’t look for me she tried to use the fact technology wasn’t as advanced then as it is now. ‘I had no way of finding out anything about you guys,’ she said.

Ayo Dre

As a kid, I didn’t have a mother around to raise me, doctor me when I was under the weather, to comfort me in my lowest moments. I find myself not only parenting the children in my custody, but also still parenting myself where the system has failed me. Here I am at 30-years-old, still finding out what I’m allergic to! I only found out I was lactose intolerant when I had my first and only son at either 25-26 years old. I currently assist my girlfriend in the raising of four beautiful young children, ages four to nine. Their fathers are all currently absent from their lives. Knowing that, I stop at nothing to make sure they experience life differently than I did. I involve them in my musical journey, teaching them not only basic life skills, but also showing them how to dream. Growing up, I had no energy to dream. I was always adjusting to new environments, and as a part of the CYFD system, was consumed by many medications, treatment plans, and running away from unwanted realities. I never really had the chance to enjoy my youth and adolescent years. Here I am, finally the man of my house and I now have a chance to make a positive impact on these children’s lives.

Ayo Dre

I’ve experienced a lot of loneliness as a foster child. Holidays such as Thanksgiving were the worst for me. While everyone went around the table being asked what they were thankful for, the one thing they all had in common was the mother and father they all loved so much as well as each other. When it came to my turn, I was stuck. What do I say and will I look stupid if I claim their mother as my own? I find myself thanking the family for taking me in and giving me a place to stay. Family gatherings always made me feel unwanted, like that feeling you get when you make a mistake and all eyes fall on you. ‘Who’s kid is that?’ They would whisper silently, giggling and making jokes. You haven’t felt the true weight of neglect until you’re sitting in front of a family or in my case, numerous families and you can’t relate to that relationship.

Growing up without parents of my own was extremely painful. At the same time, it taught me the true value of love. The value of having a mother. I look at people disrespecting their parents the same way Mexicans look at American currency. When you don’t have it, you will see it differently once you gain it. It takes a factory worker in Juarez a whole month to make $300, but when they come to America they realize they can make that in a week. Many immigrants come here and do so well because they appreciate the value of having it while also understanding how it feels to be without it. I feel that way about family, inspiring me to be a role model to the children I raise.

Ayo Dre

On my phone call with my mother, before finding Anthony, I finally told her:

‘Mom, I love you and will always love you because you gave me life. Here I stand to tell you: Thank You. You were never there for me when I needed you the most, but I understand life comes with a side of many unfortunate situations. I don’t know how your health is today, but just know, I’ll be coming back home to visit you face to face. You don’t deserve to leave this earth without seeing one of your greatest creations follow his dream as a musical artist. Your oldest daughter is a successful mother of two, and a loving wife to one. Adrian just got released from prison, Anthony is still MIA, and Melissa’s whereabouts have been unknown for years now. But I am fine, momma. Bad decision-making and distance will never be the reason I turn my back on you! My job is not to be like you, but to be better. I forgive you, Momma, for everything.’

As I ended the phone call in tears, I felt relief for the first time in my life”

Ayo Dre

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ayo Dre. You can follow his journey on Instagram and his website. Submit your story here. For our best stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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