In their 70s, half sisters meet for the first time
Cubbage spent her early childhood on a farm near Grafton with her grandparents, Henry and Julia Holt. She said that as a young child she always believed she was a Holt as well. When her mother remarried when Cubbage was 8 years old, she returned to Grafton for her daughter and introduced her new husband as Cubbage’s father. The young child believed that to be true in every sense of the word. From that day forward she was Patricia Davies. However, when she was visiting her grandparents at the age of 12, Cubbage found a letter with the name of her biological father in it.
“I asked my grandmother who Rex Goutermont was. When she told me he was my father, I was very confused,” Cubbage said. “I was one mixed up kid.”
Cubbage’s mother never discussed Rex Goutermont with her daughter. While she was growing up, her family moved around a lot, living in eight different states. The day after she graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Cubbage came back to Grafton. She married Bill Desautel, and together they raised their children – Julie, Jill, Rock and Judy – here. She later moved to Pratt, Kan., where she still resides.
When Pat was 22 years old, she met her “real dad” for the first time when he came to Grafton for a family member’s funeral. It was the first time she ever saw him. She exchanged a few letters with him and met her brother, Wayne Goutermont, a few months later. That is when she learned she also had a sister. Wayne visited her a few more times, then his visits and the letters from her father stopped. Except for Christmas cards and an occasional picture she received from Wayne and his wife, she never had any further contact with the family. She believed the Goutermonts wanted nothing more to do with her. What Cubbage was not aware of is that Jessen was never told that she existed.
About three years ago, Cubbage also began receiving Christmas cards from Wayne’s son and his wife, who live in Alaska. When Cubbage sent a card in return this past Christmas, she inquired about Jessen. Their nephew’s wife then sent a shocking text message to Jessen.
“On Jan. 4, 2014, I received a text message from my nephew’s wife that said ‘Your brother has a half sister, so I guess you do too,’” Jessen said. “I texted her back ‘WHAT’ with about 10 question marks behind it. It was the first I had heard of it.”
After receiving the text message, Jessen called her mother’s youngest sister and asked if she knew of her half sister.
“She answered ‘Well’ and then hesitated,” Jessen said. “I knew then that she knew.”
Jessen learned that it was her mother who was opposed to the Goutermont family having any contact with Cubbage and swore everyone to secrecy. Even on their death beds, neither of Jessen’s parents spoke a word about Cubbage to their daughter.
Jessen quickly began to make the connection with her sister. The next day she called Cubbage and told her that she was 71 years old, and no one had ever said a word. She was angry that her brother had known for 57 years that they had a sister and never told her.
“I called her, and I knew as soon as I heard her voice she belonged in my family,” Jessen remarked. “When I saw her picture, she looked so very much like me. There are so many similarities. We are so like our father.”
From the day of that initial phone call the sisters continued to call each other once a week and corresponded through letters. They soon began planning for the day they could meet. Jessen lives in Alexandria, and Pat comes to Grafton every summer to visit her son and his family. Sunday, June 22, they were together for the first time at the Rock and Patty Desautel’s home.
“It was exciting, but I was kind of nervous too,” Pat said. “She said she felt like she had known me for years, and I felt the same. We hope we will have a lot of years to make up for the ones we didn’t have.”
Jessen told Cubbage about her father, what kind of man he was, her childhood and her four children – three sons and a daughter. She gave Cubbage a photo album she made containing pictures of the Goutermonts and photos of Cubbage’s family that she had received from Cubbage or found on Facebook.
“This has been an absolute awesome, wonderful experience. I totally loved her instantly,” Jessen said. “It is really fun to have a family member that shares unconditional love. She is truly an unbelievable gift that God has given me.”
Cubbage said saying goodbye when her sister had to return home just two days after they met was difficult. She called Jessen the next day, and they talked for 45 minutes.
The sisters have decided to let the past be the past and make the best of the future.
“We both decided to forget about the pas. There is nothing we can do about it,” Cubbage said. “We are going on from here, starting a new chapter in our lives.”
“You are never supposed to look in the rearview mirror, so I feel we have a future yet,” Jessen added. “It has nothing to do with quantity time, it’s about quality time, and I look forward to that quality time I will have with her and her family.”
Reprinted with permission of The Walsh County Record, Grafton, N.D.