Back before the world made sense and I was a wee teenager, my very best friend in the world sat me down one night, which immediately raised my hackles because we were more the prankster type than the "let's have a deep conversation" type.
"Becky," she said, her voice low, even though we were all the way up in her bedroom having a sleepover. "I think my dad has another family."
I choked a little bit on the Diet Coke I was drinking and stared at her, my eyes as wide as dinner plates.
"You're joking, right?" I asked in stunned disbelief. My parents may not have always had the best relationship, but I couldn't imagine any half-siblings running around out there.
She shook her head no, her shoulders slumped.
"How do you know?" I asked incredulously.
"Well," she confessed to me after taking a huge breath, "you probably think I'm crazy for this, but last night, the house phone rang. I thought it was you, so I picked it up."
I nodded, waiting for her to continue.
"I picked up the phone and heard my dad on the other line downstairs. Normally, I'd hang up, but I couldn't understand why he'd gotten the phone on the first ring. SO not like him."
I nodded knowingly -- my dad would rather gnaw off his finger than answer the phone.
"I should've hung up. I SHOULD have hung up," she began sobbing. I took her in my arms and hugged her. This MUST be bad if my bad-ass best friend was crying.
When she regained her composure, she continued. "There was another lady on the line, and they started talking about these kids like they were HIS. How can that happen?"
I shrugged, unsure.
"Then the lady on the other line got all into, 'when am I going to see you again? Our kids miss you!'" and he responded with, "Soon baby, soon. I just got to get [my mom's name] off my case so we can be together with the kids forever."
My mouth flapped open. Whaaaa? He had ANOTHER family?
"Then my dad goes, 'How do you like [my mom's old car]? Isn't it amazing?' See, Dad got rid of the car because it was 'too expensive.' Apparently he gave it to his OTHER family!"
She burst into tears again.
"Oh dude, I'm so sorry." I hugged her again. "Does your mom know?"
"I don't know," she replied, "but it's time to tell her. This can't continue. My mom deserves better than that."
And tell her my brave best friend did. The very next day. Soon, they were divorcing, and while it was the right thing to do, the fear of a man having another family has stuck with me since that fateful night.
Have you known anyone with two families? How did they cope with it?
Image via breahn/Flickr