A few months ago, I was cuddled up in bed with my mum when she started crying. She told me that she had been searching for a letter but had been unable to find it. She had received the letter 20 years ago and knew she had brought it with us when we moved house but could no longer find it. It was precious to her and she was frightened she had lost it; she was even more frightened that she would never get to speak to the writer again. Curious, I asked who the writer was. Her name was Alice, and she was my mum’s half-sister. My mum hadn’t known that she had a sister until 20 years ago when Alice had written to her; she explained that my granddad had been in a relationship briefly before he had met my grandma, and had conceived a child. The woman was disappointed with my granddad, she had wanted to marry an American, so despite the child, they split up and she moved to America where she brought up Alice.
I was still dubious as to whether this sister existed; I had only heard of this sister once before and that was whilst my mum was in hospital suffering with the side-effects of steroids. I asked my Dad and as far as he was aware, there was only my mum and her brother. Still, she seemed so desperate that I searched for this letter, going through boxes and cupboards until finally we found it. We sat together and I read it aloud. It was a beautiful letter, Alice told us about her husband and children, her upbringing and then expressed how happy she was to be in contact with my mum. My mum cried at that bit. She missed her sister and wished they had kept in contact. She knew that since Alice had written the letter she had moved house and suspected she had changed her surname; she wanted so desperately to talk to her again.
I got onto facebook and looked through my mum’s cousins facebook accounts, searching their friends lists for Alice. I found her! We looked through her pictures and began to imagine what kind of woman she was: “What cute grandchildren! And so many pictures! She must be a very involved grandmother!” “Dressed up, out for a meal… maybe she used to be a business woman?” My mum was so excited as I sent our first message to Alice. The message was desperate, more pushy than what I would normally have written, but my mum wanted so much to speak to her sister and I knew time was not on her side. Every few hours my mum asked whether Alice had replied. This went on for several days, when eventually I received a response asking whether we’d like to Skype. My mum was ecstatic! We worked out the time zones, and set a date. It was on!
But then the Skype date came, and Alice was busy so we postponed until the next day. My mum was heart-broken. She was worried that this would be one of those things that ‘weren’t meant to be,’ or that this was some divine punishment exacted upon her for ignoring her sister for so many years and that she would never get to speak to her.
When the next day came, my mum and I huddled together on the sofa and I met my aunt for the first time. It was so incredibly weird. Here was a total stranger, who because of the shortness of time, we were now trying to adopt an intimate relationship with at an unnatural pace. She was a lovely woman though and after an hour of chatting we agreed to make this a regular thing. My mum always looks forward to our Skype dates; she counts down.
She says that family is family, and that no matter what they do or how far apart you might drift, as long as the same blood flows through your veins, you’re family. She told me that you should never be afraid to get back in touch with a family member or an old friend, if they love you then they’ll always be glad to speak to you, no matter how much time has passed.
So a challenge: if you’re reading this and there’s someone you miss talking to or spending time with, give them a ring, send them a text or write them a letter. Don’t let the embarrassment or the guilt of time passed stop you from creating new memories. When you seek after a long-lost relationship, you never know what you’ll find.