Sunday, 5 December 2010

Family Secrets

When my mum was little, her father’s brother was killed in a car accident and because his wife couldn’t cope with life, their son stayed with my mum’s family during the school holidays. My mum and her brother and sister became very close to him and looked on him more as a brother than a cousin.

The last time they were all together was at my parents’ wedding and then almost immediately afterwards, the two boys went to America to make their fortune. Soon after I was born, my mother’s sister who was only 20, developed a brain tumour and only had weeks to live. In that time, she wanted to see both her brothers. The trouble is neither of them had any money and between them they scrimped and saved enough for her real brother to come home but not enough for both of them.

Although my aunt was pleased to see him, she was desperate to see her cousin too and so my grandad took out a loan to buy an air ticket (which was very expensive in those days) to get him back. But, he got home just an hour after my aunt had died and in her last hours she had still been asking for him. He was completely gutted and everyone was grief stricken that such a beautiful young woman had been taken away from them. But my Mum’s grief turned to anger and she gave him a really hard time. She accused him of not caring enough to get a loan of his own, constantly telling him that my Aunt Sadie had been calling his name and that he didn’t have the heart to reciprocate her love, shouted that he wasn’t worthy of her love because he wasn’t even her brother and that from then on he was not dare consider her his sister because she wanted nothing more to do with him.

I only found all this out last week as suddenly, out of the blue, she told me all about him, including how horrible she was to him. Until now, I only knew about my Aunt Sadie, who I never met and my Uncle Charlie who I’ve only seen a few times as he lives in America. And now, I find out I have an Uncle Charles who also lives in the States and who is currently over here on a visit to the UK. He got in touch with my Mum and told her he was coming to see her whether she liked it or not and after all these years of bitterness, she finally relented and agreed to see him.

He came over last night and it was very emotional.

Ewan opened the door to him and welcomed him warmly and I was drawn to him immediately because he looks just like Uncle Charlie. He shouted my name when he saw me and gave me a big huge bear hug and I loved him straight away and then as he let me go, Mum came down the stairs slowly with tears streaming down her face and he ran to her and they hugged and hugged and she was sobbing and saying how sorry she was. This is one strong woman who never apologises but she seemed almost frail in his big arms as she held on to him so that I thought she might never let him go. He hugged Sasha and Kyle and told me he knew all about them as he had seen photos from Uncle Charlie and then we went into the sitting room and caught up with 40 odd years as Mum just sat next to him, holding his hand and looking at him, occasionally stroking his hair.

We had a lovely evening and we talked more over dinner. He told us he had got married the year after my aunt died because he had got a girl pregnant (!) but that they were married for over 25 years until she died suddenly and that he now lives with his daughter who he named Sadie (which made Mum cry even more) who is around the same age as me and married with a daughter. I gave him a lift back to his hotel in Central London and Mum came along too and we met his daughter, my second cousin Sadie and her daughter Naomi.

We’re all going out again tomorrow night. I can’t get over the fact that I have family that I didn’t even know existed and that last night, I met a woman who looks a lot like me with a girl who looks very similar to my Sasha.

I still can't quite believe it all.


  1. Oh my goodness. That's a lot to gtake in. I hope it puts an end to all those family secrets for you all. Has to be a positive that you're in touch and most of all talking!

  2. I agree with Rosie - that is a lot to take in.

    When my grandmother died my father's uncle and aunt came to visit and told my father that they were not his uncle and aunt but his brother and sister. They had been sworn to secrecy by my grandmother who was ashamed that she had children out of wedlock.

    It was a strange day for everyone - me included. All of a sudden I had an additional aunt and uncle and a whole load of cousins!

    I hope that you keep enjoying it!

  3. Wow. That's a powerfully emotional story... all the more touching for having a happy reunion after all those years. And to have one's family swelled in this way is surely a beautiful thing.

  4. Isn't that fabulous? Families had funny ways "back then" eh? I recall as a small child that my Mum's cousin "went up North", no-one ever spoke of her again but I gather that she got pregnant out of marriage and decided to keep the baby and was made to go way up into the North Island to be cared for until she had the baby. To this day I have no idea what happened to her after that, thanks to this post I'll be ringing Mum tonight to see if she knows! Thanks Selina, enjoy your new family! xx

  5. I'm glad the reunion worked out so well, sometimes they can go a bit pear-shaped. Hope you keep up the contact.

  6. Wow!
    That had my throat heavy.
    How interesting! I hope you all have a wonderful time!

    I just met my half sister last year and it was very emotional and sweet! :-)

  7. I think that is a wonderful story, Selina. As a journalist I have always been a sucker for tales like this, and reunions always top the bill. Thank you for it. It would actually make a very affecting film.

  8. Sasha has surely got to put this to music!

    Just think all those extra Christmas presents!

  9. Wow - it's amazing what kind of family secrets there are, isn't it?

    What a touching story.