It's something we could not control. We suffered because of (our parents') mistake, and we can't make up for lost time. But we can take advantage of the time we have left. —Donnie Moore
CEDAR GROVE, Tenn. — Donnie Moore and his sister Donna refuse to dwell on the past, choosing instead to celebrate their newfound future.
Separated for 51 years, the siblings rejoiced when they saw one another for the first time this month.
They immediately decided not to get caught up in trying to sort out the past but to simply enjoy the moment.
"It's a jigsaw puzzle turned backwards," Donnie said. "Our parents divorced in 1963. I lived with our father in Dyersburg, and our mother went to Tampa (Fla.) with Donna."
The children's mother was originally from Florida and their father from Tennessee.
Donnie was 2 and Donna was 2 months old when their parents divorced.
"That was the last time I saw my mother," Donnie said. "Basically, it was an ugly divorce, and I've been trying to find (Donna) for over 35 years."
Too young to understand what took place when his mother left, Donnie was always curious and made it a personal campaign to locate his sister when he turned 18.
"My daddy's parents raised me," he said. "At age 18, I tried to make phone calls (to locate Donna). I talked to mayors, police departments and sheriff's departments. I did everything I could."
He hit a dead end when he contacted the Social Security Administration. It didn't help that Donna had married and changed her last name to Brunty. Donnie even talked to a psychic, although he doesn't believe in them.
Meanwhile, Donna was told by family that Donnie knew where she was but chose not to contact her.
"I knew he existed . Momma had told me about him," Donna said. "Momma always wondered about him; she always talked about him."
Donna said she attempted to find Donnie years ago but had no luck.
"My ex (husband) and I made phone calls to Dyersburg," Donna said. "That was in the '90s, and he called every D. Moore in Dyersburg. But by that time, our daddy was living in Humboldt."
Donnie got the break he needed when he learned of a television program called "APB with Troy Dunn."
"Troy Dunn, he searches for lost family members," Donnie said. "I emailed him and sent him a video, and I got a call the last day of July. They told me they were interested."
Three days later, Donnie received a telephone call. Donna had been found in Tucson, Ariz., where she has lived for the past 17 years.
Donnie and Donna first spoke by telephone on Aug. 12. They continued to phone each other almost daily until Donnie picked Donna up at Nashville International Airport last week.
The day after he first spoke to Donna, Donnie also talked to his mother.
Donna, a divorced mother of three, is employed in Tucson but said she plans to move to Tennessee and live next door to Donnie in Cedar Grove next year.
"I'll work," Donna said. "(Maybe) Donnie and I will do something together. For some reason, my heart has been in Tennessee, and I've always wanted to live here."
Her reunion with Donnie allowed Donna to meet her sister-in-law Melissa, her nephew Barry and her great-niece Alexis.
Donna returned to Tucson but said the reunion with Donnie brought her pleasure only equaled by the birth of her children and grandchildren.
"There was something always missing," Donna said. "I can't remember when I have ever been this happy. Unfortunately, I have to leave. I have people covering for me at my job, and I'm not able to stay any longer."
Donnie, who has been married 26 years and has a son, said he feels no anger or resentment about the circumstances that led to a sibling void of 51 years.
"It's something we could not control," he said. "We suffered because of (our parents') mistake, and we can't make up for lost time. But we can take advantage of the time we have left."
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com