The idea gnawed at Lennia “Nia” Hayes for weeks, months even.
She knew she had an older sister whom she’d never met, but she was scared.
What if the woman wanted nothing to do with her? Would she be opening a Pandora’s box? She already had a big, loving family — four sisters, a brother, her mom and lots of aunts and uncles. Her dad, Lonnie Hayes, died in 2012.
His sudden death at age 63 shattered the family, and with him went the answers to questions that bubbled to the surface, Nia Hayes said. One of the questions: Did he really have another family?
They had long heard about another girl, another sister; Nia Hayes even saw a random baby picture in the family photo album.
But that’s all her immediate family knew. They had no details, no explanations, at least none that the siblings can recall.
They wondered if their dad had been making it up. After he died, they let it go, not wanting to cause their mother more pain.
It took a push from Nia Hayes’ new co-worker, and perhaps a little divine intervention, to bring two strangers — two sisters — together.
On Monday, Nia Hayes, 35, and Lana Hayes, 42, became friends on Facebook. On Tuesday, they became sisters for life.
The two have lived within a mile of each other here for eight years. They’ve been shopping at the same stores, eating at the same restaurants, living separate lives.
Now, 24 hours after speaking on the phone for the first time, the two are laughing easily and crying occasionally on the couch at the younger sister’s home. They may have been anxious before the meeting, but minutes after that first long hug, no awkwardness is in this room.
The women are half sisters, but both say they now feel whole after finding each other.
“I feel like I’m looking at myself a little bit,” Nia Hayes said as she looked at her older half sister. “We’re still getting used to it; we just keep looking at each other.”
And with that, they laugh — a loud, contagious laugh.
“It tickles me that we have the same laugh,” Lana Hayes said.
They also have the same eyes, the same sense of humor, the same fun-loving spirit and the same father.
Lana Hayes, who grew up in Rushville, Ind., with a half sister and a single mom, doesn’t remember her father. He and her mother divorced when she was a baby.
She doesn’t know why she never saw him again, but she did call him once.
She was about 19, and she had looked up his number in the phone book, she said. A child answered the phone; she could hear younger children playing in the background.
She froze, then hung up. She never called again.
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SOURCE: USA Today / The Indianapolis Star – Maureen C. Gilmer