After her friend's death, their families were combined into one
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps. In 2016, Jennifer Hidrogo, a single mother of five, moved into a new apartment building. Her new neighbor, Glendon Booth known as Junior, was raising three young kids. The two families spent a lot of time together. About a year later, Junior was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which is when Jen made a promise.
JENNIFER HIDROGO: He was scared about what would happen to the kids if he died. And I remember telling him, look; I know that this would be a big responsibility, but I would be willing to take them if something happened to you.
MARTIN: Junior died soon after that. At StoryCorps, Jen sat down with her 16-year-old daughter Charlee and Junior's 12-year-old daughter LilyRose to talk about what happened next.
CHARLEE: Were you scared to move in with us?
LILYROSE: I would admit I was. I thought my whole life was ruined. I was like, I can't live without my dad. There's no way I can live with my neighbor, even though we were close. I'm like, this is still a stranger to me. But my fear was, when my dad died, that I was going to probably end up in foster care, and I didn't want that to happen to me. And I knew that my whole life was going to change.
CHARLEE: Yeah. It made me have to grow up faster because, all of a sudden, I have little siblings, and I had to step up. It just changed so much. And, like, I had to share my mom with three other kids.
LILYROSE: And we got raised differently. We didn't have the same rules.
HIDROGO: That's been tough for me. But, I mean, we're doing it, right?
CHARLEE: You know, we fight sometimes because we're siblings. When I talk to y'all, I say mom. Like, it's not like I say, my mom. It's like we're all just a family. It's normal. When we had the adoption ceremony, I was happy 'cause it was official that you're my sister.
LILYROSE: I didn't have my dad there, and I felt like I was moving on. But honestly, I'm not because I still think about him all the time. It was such a happy moment.
HIDROGO: Y'all became officially my babies that day. Y'all had already been that to me. But to have all of y'all there, all my eight kids (laughter), that was beautiful to me.
CHARLEE: I'm just very, very thankful for you in that you're my - you're, like, the backbone of everything.
LILYROSE: I kind of feel the same way.
HIDROGO: I'm thankful for that, for sure. It's been a hard road for all of us. But it is growing us in so many ways, you know? And y'all are the best parts of that.
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MARTIN: Jen Hidrogo talking with Charlee and LilyRose for StoryCorps in Austin, Texas. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.