It’s been a disappointing day, so far. I was supposed to be meeting an aunt for lunch, but have had to cancel because she has to look after a sick relative at the last minute. This aunt I haven’t seen for ten months, and I was awfully looking forward to seeing her again. She suggested I come over to the sick relative’s house, but I’ve never been comfortable going there, and my presence probably wouldn’t have helped matters. So I’m sitting at home now, mulling over what a day it could have been.
My meetings with this aunt have always been special. I’m going to have to explain a lot of family history now, because it wouldn’t make sense otherwise. This aunt, let’s call her M, is my father’s sister. Since my relationship with my father has always been non-existent, aunt M is the only remaining link that I have left with that side of the family. She’s been there all my life, substituting for my father because he wouldn’t face up to his responsibilities. In the beginning she would regularly report back to him on how I was doing; now that he has made clear his lack of interest, she reports to me how he and his new family are doing. My interest in his new family is significant, because I have three half brothers who I never see.
I’ve only met my half brothers about three times in the past five years. I know nothing about them except for their names. I don’t know what stuff they like; I don’t know what schools they go to; I don’t even know their birthdays. This is because no one’s ever told me. I could have asked, but it’s awkward talking to my family about stuff like that. On the three occasions when I got to see them, I found it difficult to interact with them. I was younger, more nervous and at the time I was only really interested in having a relationship with my father. He had agreed to see me every now and then, after I first made proper contact with him at the age of 19. I’d go to his house and have Sunday lunch. But I was never in denial about the fact that it wasn’t a genuine family set up. I was the outsider, always.
Four years ago, it became clear that he had no intention of being a father to me. Happy to be an acquaintance, he would invite me to his house and explain to me why things had never worked out between him and my mother. But when I wanted more, it got too much for him. I was in a desperate situation at University during my first degree, on the verge of being forced to leave because I had no money, so I asked him to bail me out, as my mother had already helped me enough. Reluctantly, he agreed to lend me a moderate amount of money, making clear that he expected repayment as soon as possible, and that he hoped I wasn’t just trying to take advantage of his good nature like my mother had done when she deliberately got pregnant.
Mortified, but not surprised, I slowly began to accept that my dreams of the father-son relationship which had eluded me all my life were just dreams, and no more. In 2005, I finally broke all ties with him, telling him honestly for the first time how much he had hurt me and how little I respected him. All this was in an e-mail: I couldn’t possibly talk to him about it face to face. I ended the e-mail saying I didn’t see the point in meeting up with him again. That was the last contact I ever had with him.
Since then, I’ve continued to see Aunt M every now and then, and she’s always made it clear that she is on my side. She agrees that her brother has been a complete failure as a parent. She also hopes that one day I might find it in my heart to forgive him, and make contact again. As it stands, I have no plans to do such a thing. If he had any intentions of being a father, don’t you think he would have done it by now? Thus, my meetings with M now mainly serve the purpose of me getting stuff off my chest. She’s the only person I can have an honest conversation with on the subject of my father. Apart from my parents, she’s the only person who’s been there all along, who’s seen everything that’s happened. She understands the situation and I desperately need that contact, that ability to vent the frustration to someone who really knows what it’s like. Ever since she first helped me to contact my father, her relationship with him has suffered, because he blames her for ‘interfering’.
I was looking forward to today’s meeting so much because I was going to talk about making possible contact with my half brothers. Up until now I’ve always kind of ignored the fact that they exist, because I was so much more interested in my father. Now that it’s at a point where I need to move on from what he’s done, I’ve come to realise that I don’t need a relationship with my father to have one with my own brothers. My family is so screwed up, the only possible way I could get in touch with them is with M’s help. I couldn’t just go round and see them, like any normal person. I can never speak to them on the phone or e-mail them.
I don’t expect to start seeing them every weekend, but it would be nice to send them Christmas and birthday cards. I’m sure M will love the idea, but it would be nice to have a conversation with her about it first. Hopefully, with any luck, she’ll be free next weekend. I know I must sound selfish, expecting her to drop everything to see me so I can talk about my issues. Well, I don’t expect her to do that. I could have gone to the sick relative’s house today and made my presence felt, but I chose not to. I’d much rather talk to M about this stuff when she really is available.
What do I hope to achieve by sending my brothers a Christmas card? Well, of course it would be nice to imagine them receiving the card and thinking: ‘wow, I have an older brother out there who really cares.’ I know for a fact that when I was a kid, I would love to have had an older brother out there somewhere, dying to meet me. Maybe one day, when they’re all grown up, it can develop into something more of a brotherly relationship. At the moment they’re still kids and I can’t imagine their mother being any more keen for them to know me than their father is.