KIHEI - When David Braxton greeted his brother in the driveway of his Kihei home this week, it felt like they had "never been apart."
But the brothers had been apart, for more than 45 years.
Braxton was just 2 years old in 1965 when his mother had placed his infant brother up for adoption. Raised as an only child in Pasadena, Calif., Braxton didn't even know he had a younger brother until his wife, Kelli, learned of his exis-tence through an adoption registry while doing genealogical research online this spring.
Kihei resident David Braxton (left) listens while his brother, Jim Marcotte, talks about their reunion Thursday. The brothers met each other last week after being separated for more than 45 years.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
After months of phone calls and emails, Braxton and his long-lost brother, Jim Marcotte, were reunited Tuesday on Maui, in a visit organized by Kelli as a surprise for her husband.
After doing an initial double-take, Braxton, 48, said it felt completely natural to invite his brother into his home and into his life.
"It was like it wasn't the first time I'd met him," he said. "I feel like I've known him my whole life."
"I didn't feel like I was talking to a stranger," said Marcotte, 46. "There's something there that's not like just having a good friend. I'd been looking for that my whole life."
Braxton had known from childhood that he had an older brother who had been given up for adoption after his parents' divorce. But his mother never told him about her youngest child, and she died when Braxton was 17.
"The secret died with her," Kelli Braxton said.
With an interest in tracing her family's genealogy, Kelli Braxton signed up with an online adoption registry several years ago, looking to learn more about her husband's side of the family tree, including his older brother.
But when she entered information about her husband and his older brother into an ancestry website, "up popped three birth certificates - and one of them was younger than my husband."
By cross-checking information with the registry and online, Kelli Braxton was able to confirm the existence of the younger brother, find out his current name, trace his contact information via family members on Facebook and send him a tentative email asking if he'd be open to contact.
"Jim sent me a message back and said, 'I've been looking for my family for 45 years. This is something I've been waiting for all my life,'" she said.
Marcotte said he was "overjoyed, crying, emotional," when he received the email.
"That will be a day I remember for the rest of my life," he said.
Marcotte, who now works as a software engineer in Seattle, said he feels lucky he was adopted by "great" parents who raised him in a comfortable life and gave him a happy childhood.
But knowing he was adopted and raised as an only child, Marcotte said he had always felt a sense of being on his own. When he learned about his brother, he recalled telling his wife, "I'm not alone anymore."
Since then, he's learned his birth mother kept him for more than two months before placing him up for adoption. He said he's "curious" to know what happened and regrets he's not able to talk to her to find out. Marcotte said his adoptive mother has told him she doesn't want to talk about it, so it may always remain a mystery.
"I really have no complaints about my childhood," he said. "There's no reason for me to go back and stir the pot at this point. I have questions, but they're not driving me."
David Braxton and Marcotte said they have also found information about their older brother but learned he is not in a good situation in life.
"We're not sure if it would be a good thing to contact him," Braxton said.
But Braxton was able to help Marcotte get in touch with his father's side of the family, including five half siblings. Marcotte said he has made some initial contacts via Facebook and hopes to meet them some day.
So far during their weeklong visit, Marcotte and Braxton, a golf pro at the Elleair Golf Course, have been golfing, parasailing and look forward to surfing and spending time at the beach. They've also been learning about some uncanny similarities, including that they are both left-handed, have flat feet and are becom-ing far-sighted as they get older.
In the future, Marcotte wants to bring his wife, teenaged sons and stepchildren to Maui for a "full-fledged family reunion." He said there's no question that he will keep in touch with Braxton.
"I'm not going to let this go," he said.
"He's my brother," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.