His Brother's Keeper

How the Internet brought together two half-brothers for the first time

On this warm April afternoon, Ryan Lane is nervous as he drives north on Interstate 5, bound for the Ball Road exit, headed for Anaheim’s Greyhound bus station. Wouldn’t you be if you were on your way to your first face-to-face meeting with your half-brother?

Ryan, a 20-year-old Costa Mesa college student, spoke to 22-year-old Ron Lane for the first time, on the phone, in January.

For the next five days, Ryan will have something he has never had before: a roommate. Ron’s mother, Deena, left his biological father, also named Ronald Lane, shortly after their son was born. The elder Lane died while his second son, Ryan, was still in the womb of his mother, Jeanne Rice.

Ron knew as a young boy he had a half-brother somewhere out in the world, but he never felt a burning urge to find him.

Ryan, for his part, desperately wanted to locate his sibling ever since being told about him, also as a youngster.

And now, thanks to Ryan’s noodling on the Internet and some direct hits on MySpace, Ron will soon be pulling up on a bus that departed Kingman, Arizona, overnight.

This is actually Ryan’s birthday gift. For the past couple of months, a surprise visit was planned by Ron and Ryan’s mother, Rice, whose photographs have appeared everywhere from OC Weekly to Rolling Stone.

Ron cleared his work schedule in Kingman and insisted on paying the bus fare to Orange County. That a brother he has never met is coming to celebrate Ryan’s birthday is, according to the birthday boy, “awesome.”

“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” he says, his eyes still glued to the road. “I thought maybe this summer.”

The anticipation is eating at him. The tiny Anaheim Avenue station is just up ahead.

“I don’t know what I’ll do when I see him,” Ryan says.

*     *     *

The rise in social networking in recent years has led to a boom in similar sibling encounters and reunions of long-lost loved ones.

Terri Fuller of Layton, Utah, created a MySpace page to announce she was looking for her son, whom she had given up for adoption three decades ago. In January 2009, Rustin Hawve, who lived hundreds of miles away, sent Fuller a message saying he believed he was her biological son. They reunited three months later.

In July of that same year, brothers John Mellinger of Spokane, Washington, and Dan Newburn of Las Vegas, Nevada, reunited after having separated 70 years before. They found one another through Facebook.

Bruce Marler, a domain-industry entrepreneur, discovered Rob Monster, CEO of Epik.com, was his long-lost sibling in April, after their respective blog entries were stacked atop one another’s on Domaining.com, a popular aggregator of blogs related to the domain industry. They are now planning projects together.

April Berger of Erie, Colorado, thought someone was playing an April Fool’s joke on her last month when she received a Facebook message that read, “Is that you, sis? If so, it’s your little bro.” It was her 13-year-old brother, Jesse, whom she had not seen since their mother was killed by a drunken driver seven years before. For most of those years, they lived in the same Colorado city without knowing it.

A meeting very similar to that of the Lane brothers happened in February, when half-sisters Elizabeth Delmonico and Sheri Drucker, who had been separated for two decades, reunited in Castle Rock, Colorado, thanks to a Facebook query. They had lived 20 minutes apart for much of their lives.

Ron and Ryan lived less than an hour away from one another for most of their lives. Ryan was raised in Costa Mesa and attended high school there; Ron spent his first 18 years in Whittier, moved to Rancho Cucamonga for a year and has been in Kingman for the past four years.

*     *     *

Sitting in his car, parked in front of the Greyhound station, Ryan says of the impending meeting, “It definitely couldn’t come at a worse time, or the greatest time.”

He explains it’s test week at Orange Coast College, a crucial time as he prepares to transfer to a four-year university’s film school. He’s also on the college’s successful crew team, which is preparing for the year’s biggest race, the Newport Regatta. And he has just started a new job, where the boss already told him not to bother coming back if he misses any shifts.

Despite the stress, he says of meeting Ron, “I’m glad we are not prolonging it. I’m still young. We can still do so much together. I’d rather we found each other now than later.”

He’s glad they found each other at all because, as far as Rice and the Lane family were concerned, Ron and Deena disappeared after she left the boy’s father. The search for them ever since has been a Rice and Lane family effort, especially by Ryan and Ron’s Aunt Stefani, who in recent years tried without luck sending messages through Facebook and Classmates.com that were never answered—or perhaps never even received.

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