It’s all in the art of being related.
It’s all in the art of seeking unity.
It is a special, precious experience.

Jimi and Cindi hiking the Sandia Mountains

2 ½ years ago, my nephew Rob Hendricks was perusing Ancestry DNA and discovered a woman in our family tree who shared 27% of my DNA. After thorough consideration, we deduced that she could only be the daughter of my older brother Chuck, who died in a car accident in 1980.

Her name was listed as Cindi Q., and from her current age, we determined Chuck would have been 22 when she was born. I’m convinced Chuck didn’t know he had a daughter, because if he had known, I would have known—we were that close.

After much deliberation, I decided to contact Cindi Q. through the Ancestry DNA site. I wrote, “My name is Jim Hunter, and I believe I’m your uncle. You are the daughter of my deceased brother who never knew you were born. If you want to know more about your dad, uncle, aunt, cousins, and grandparents, I’m attaching a copy of my autobiography. I will respect your privacy and not contact you again unless you contact me.”

Within days, Cindi contacted me by email and then by phone. I discovered that she currently lived in Sandia Park, New Mexico, with Price, her husband of 35 years. She had two grown sons, Chancy and Pryor, who lived outside of their childhood home. But interestingly enough, for the first 20 years of her life, she never lived more than ten miles from my brother, her biological father. At age 20 she actually lived in Los Gatos, less than a mile from where Chuck and I once lived, and where Jen and I live today.

Cindi’s childhood isn’t mine to share other than to say it was challenging. The father listed on her birth certificate left when she was only a year old. Her mother was in and out of her life and she was raised primarily by her elderly grandparents. When Cindi was in her 20s, her mom died of cancer. She then contacted who she thought was her real father, who told her, “I’m not your dad.” Ever since that time, Cindi has been searching for her biological father, eventually completing a DNA test on Ancestry DNA. In my mind, she had a hole in her life, that she had to fill.

In addition to communicating with me, Cindi also reached out to Jen, my sister Holly, and her cousin Rob, who had originally found her on Ancestry DNA. We all agreed that we should get together someday and so this past April we finally made it happen.

Holly, Cindi and Jimi

Cindi found us a place on Airbnb almost next door to where she lives with Price. Jen and I drove down from Denver, where we were visiting Libby and her family, and Holly and her husband Ed drove up from Ft. Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, Rob and his family couldn’t come because of work commitments. Cindi’s sons Chancy, his girlfriend Kat, and Pryor traveled from their own homes to join in the remarkable reunion. Other than communicating with Cindy, no one on either side of our family had ever met one another. I think we were all apprehensive about how this was going to turn out. What would we do if these people turned out to be weirdos? Worse yet, what if we were the weirdos?

I’m happy to report that no one was weird, we all had a grand time and felt like we had known each other for years. It turned out that our two separate families shared many familiar characteristics and talents—too many, in fact, to list here.

Cindi and Price really laid out the red carpet for our visit. Their two-acre ranch was made for entertaining. They have a spacious house and kitchen and a huge dining room table where we all gathered for delicious family meals. Outdoors, they had numerous sitting areas, beautiful gardens, a waterfall, and lots of eccentric yard art. During the day we took hikes, rode bikes and visited local hot spots. At night, we had campfires around which Price and Chancy played their guitars and we soaked in hot tubs underneath spectacular starry skies.

visiting and listening to music in Sandia Par, NM

Holly gave Cindi a pretty ring that was once my mother’s, along with a framed photo of Chuck that used to sit on my mom’s dresser. We gave her many pictures and personal mementos of him so she could better understand who he was. Holly and I were especially happy to finally meet the daughter of our beloved brother Chuck, but we were also sad that it had taken 57 years to do so. We all speculated how different it could have all been if we had known Cindi when she was born.

mementos of Chuck and her Grandmother given to Cindi

At that time, Holly was 12 and I was 17 and we were, of course, living at home. Our family would have wanted to bring Cindi into our lives. My mother, who lived for family, would have loved her like only a grandma could. My dad, an Army Officer (Reserve) and a professional Scouter would have acted on duty and honor and provided for his granddaughter. Holly would have gladly shared her bedroom with her niece and loved her like she was a little sister. More importantly, knowing that he had a daughter might have motivated Chuck to grow up, and likely he wouldn’t have been killed drinking and driving at 37 years old. But that was not to be. 

The good news is that Cindi, as resilient as she was, somehow found a way to turn her childhood trauma into pure gold. She is a happy and vibrant woman, a wonderful wife to Price, and a loving mother to her sons Chancy and Pryor. In short, she is a woman who transcended her circumstances and created the wonderful life she enjoys today.

Jimi, Price, Cindi, Holly, Ed and Pryor out visiting the galleries of Madrid, NM

This two-day “Unification Project” ended before we knew it. After a few tears and lots of hugs, we said our goodbyes and promised we’d all get together again. Jen and I drove back to Denver, Holly and Ed to Ft. Worth, Chancy and Pryor back to their homes. I felt so proud of all of us for making this entire experience so unforgettable.

What the future may hold, I can’t say, but I can tell you this: at long last Cindi now knows who her father was. She knows that he was a good person, too young to be a father, but someone who came from a close family that would have stepped up and been a family for her if we had only known. She also knows she now has a family that will always love her and be here for her in any way we can.


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