Alex Parsley (left), Leah Parsley (center) and Tiffany Parsley (right) were estranged sisters living on separate continents before a Facebook message brought them together in 2009.
The life of an only child is an adventuresome one filled with endless games of make-believe and imaginary friends. My childhood was very similar to this, only my friends weren't quite so imaginary. Their names were Tiffany and Leah, and they were my sisters. You see, I didn't know them. I had never met them. But they existed.
In the early 1980s, my father worked for the Office of Special Investigations, stationed at an Air Force base in southern Germany. He met a native lady, fell in love, and was married shortly after. They traveled Europe together, and were very happy. Soon, my father heard the wonderful news that his wife was expecting. Tiffany was born in 1984, and Leah followed in 1985. The girls grew up bilingual, staying in contact with my father's family back home in the States. They also made a few trips overseas to explore dad's homelands. They visited state parks, rode roller coasters, went camping - all of the fun things associated with a typical American upbringing. But, problems arose when dad made the suggestion to stay in America permanently.
They made the nine-hour flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta as a family, just as they did each time they visited, only this time with a bit more luggage. They settled in a quiet woodsy area in Arkansas, near dad's family. It wasn't a quite a full year before his wife was homesick and ready to leave. At this point, dad had been honorably discharged from the Air Force, and had no further business on German ground. Obviously this was going to pose an issue. Fights grew worse - everything seemed to be falling apart - and unfortunately led to divorce. Under the international circumstances of custody, the easiest thing to do was to grant full custody to their mother. My dad has always said that a little girl needs her mother more than anything in the world, and he wasn't going to take that away from them. The girls were 6 and 4 when my dad said his last goodbyes, face to face.
Dad sent presents and countless letters to Tiffany and Leah. Years went by, and his relationship with the girls' mother deteriorated even further. Soon, there was no contact, even with the girls. He made videos for them, but eventually, instead of sending them, stored them away in hopes of one day being able to show them to Tiffany and Leah himself. His spirit was crushed, he would tell me later.
His little girls grew in to beautiful ladies. They graduated from school, and set off to start careers of their own, but their mother grew very ill, and was often admitted into the hospital for long periods of time. She passed away while the girls were in their early 20s and they were left without a parent. Not long after, the youngest, Leah, decided to look for their father.
Alex with her father Morris Parsley in 2008.
This is where I come in ☺. My name is Alex and I am 18 years old. At the time of Leah's search, I was 14. Like just about every teen on planet earth, I had a Facebook account. One weekend, after staying with a friend, I came home to find my parents crowded around our computer, staring at my login screen. They saw me, and without a hello, said, "Log in to Facebook!" Obviously, I was a bit confused, but did as they asked. My mother had said she had seen a post on my wall from a girl named Leah who was asking me to contact her, and they wanted to know if she had personally messaged me any further information. I clicked into my messages to find the most invigorating sentence I'd ever read: "Hi, my name is Leah, I am looking for my father Morris, if you have any information regarding him or his family, please contact me. Thanks."
That note changed my life. I messaged her back, explaining that I was her sister, and our father was very much alive and well. Trying to explain the joy and shock that crossed my father's face that evening is impossible. The tears in his eyes... I can only explain them as a mix of relief and disbelief. The changes in him, as a person, after finding his daughters are remarkable. It's like he has been reborn. Not long after we made contact, we created a Skype account, and for the first time in 20 years, dad spoke to his little girls face to face.
Tiffany, Alex, and Leah at a family gathering in Germany in 2010.
Tiffany, the oldest, and her husband Marcus paid for my plane ticket to meet them all, less than a year later. When I was 15, I arrived in Frankfurt airport, alone. It was too expensive for my dad to come along, but he wanted us girls to meet more than anything in the world, so he gladly agreed to let me fly solo. I walked through the gates at the pickup station on June 13th, 2010 and was staring into familiar eyes, quite similar to my own. I was immediately embraced in the most loving and emotion filled hug I had ever felt.
I had waited my entire life for this moment, and we were united at once. Tiffany and Leah didn't know they had a baby sister, but I had always known about them. I had always dreamed up how they looked, acted and thought. The reality of it all was a billion times better than my expectations. It's crazy how you can be so similar to someone you've never even met. My father saw Tiffany in person almost two years after our first encounter. He flew her in as a surprise for my high school graduation. We are still waiting for the reunion with Leah, but we're hoping to bring her to the States when she finishes her college degree.
We've taken a lot of pictures in our time together so far, but the one I am dying to see is of my dad and all three of his girls. On that day, I know his dreams will finally come true.