Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lost and found

This is the story of my long lost brother.

The tale of how he came about really begins with two teenagers in the summer of 1963, but as far as I was concerned it all started with a 7 year old girl twenty years later and her unwavering wish for an older sibling.

You see, I had been wishing for siblings since I was about 3. When I was 5, I got two younger ones, and since that worked out so well, I decided it would be nice to have an older one too; somebody to stand up for me, to advise me, and be in solidarity with me during those difficult teenage years.

When I was 12 my wish was granted. An older brother had materialised and wanted to meet us. When dad told me the news, that he'd had a son when he was 19, and this person had been in touch, I burst into tears. Partly sadness that I hadn't known about him before,  partly happiness that I had an older brother after all, and partly a knowledge, as far as my young mind could comprehend, that this new information was big and complicated and was going to change how I saw the past and the future.

Andrew on a visit to Sydney,  circa 1992

My new brother was 24 years old - positively ancient as far as I was concerned, and already had a mum and dad who had raised him and a sister. He also had a new biological mother to get to know. Plus he lived in Melbourne. None of these factors were conducive to the instant solidarity and closeness that I had been expecting. But I retained an open mind.

I can't remember much of what we talked about that first meeting. We probably shared family photos, he must have mentioned his work as a librarian, and I think dad made plans for him to meet the grandparents. I suspect us kids were asked to give a short violin recital. I do remember him telling me that he used to really annoy his sister when they were teenagers, and I filed that away as evidence that maybe I had gotten the best of both worlds after all. Everyone thought he looked more like Uncle David than any of us, although he did share dad's strong dislike of capsicum, which gave a certain validity to dad's claims that it was a genuine health condition.

Overall, dad was just stoked that his son hadn't turned up as some tattooed bloke on a motorbike. That seemed to be his main fear, so it must have been comforting to see that Andrew is undecorated and prefers 4-wheeled transport. The other fear was that Andrew and I would meet, fall in love, then discover we were related and end up on "The Oprah Winfrey Show". That was thankfully no longer a concern either. We also learned that he is incredibly considerate, sociable, thoughtful, tells a great story and has an exceptional memory for people and places. None of us could have asked for a more delightful long lost relative.

And so began the getting to know you process. He sent us birthday cards, and if he was in Sydney or any of us were in Melbourne, we would meet up. He gradually became part of our lives, not wanting to intrude too soon, and for many years was something between a cousin and a good friend. Since we never lived together as siblings, I still think of myself a little bit as an eldest child. And besides, his sister in Melbourne has the only legitimate sibling claim over him because of all the teasing she put up with during adolescence. We have to respect that, but I did feel extremely proud introducing my new brother to friends and relatives at my 21st. He and Richard had flown up 'specially, which meant a lot to me.

In my twenties during a visit to Melbourne I asked Andrew and Richard about the secret of their relationship success. It was a tentative request for brotherly advice. They celebrated 20 years together just last year, and are one of the happiest couples I know. "Oh, I think it helps that we're boring" Richard offered, after a longish pause. "Yes" agreed Andrew. "I like looking at open houses and Richard likes seeing planes take off. We do those things together". I have yet to find a direct application of this advice to my own life, but was very glad to receive it.

Six years ago, Andrew and Richard moved to Sydney and bought a house just a short walk over the creek from mum and dad's place. While they were house hunting, Andrew stayed with my parents, and he and Mum bonded over beautiful sunsets, chats over a morning cuppa and a love of books. Since then there have been plenty of opportunities to connect more. At family get togethers Andrew and I enjoy entertaining others by carrying on a conversation in pidgin English or giggling and gossiping about the antics of each other's friends and family. When we reminisce about the early years, Andrew will remind me that when we met I was 12 whereas the twins were only 6, and I feel like one of "the older ones". We have the solidarity thing that I always wanted. It's turned out very nicely.

Well and truly part of the family, 2013

So, here we are 25 years later. Am I glad he wanted to find us? Only on a daily basis! Would I have liked to know about him earlier? Kinda! Just like Tom Cruise's character in "Rain Man", I sometimes feel it just would have been nice to know that I had a brother. But over time the lost years diminish in proportion to the found years and it matters less. Instead of regretting what we missed, or how things could have been, I am just so glad he is in my life now. And it is a reminder that even the most unlikely of wishes can come true!

1 comment:

Colin Hesse said...

Really lovely Aletia. A credit to you and your family.