Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The reunion

Estrangement is a strange thing. It's right there, in the middle of the word so you don't miss it, and can't possibly forget.


I am not privvy to all the circumstances that led to the fracturing of my family, though, over the years, I have heard a few stories. Stories that have been, no doubt, warped by the passage of time in a Chinese Whisper that led to us all missing out on precious time together.

He said. She said. This happened. That happened.

None of it involved me. I didn't even know it was happening; kept in the dark, I was the last to find out anything. All I knew is that my Uncle Buck, as we called him, was no longer at any family events and was only spoken of in hushed tones.

When you have a tiny little family like I do, one person missing is really obvious. Especially someone as funny and larger than life as him.

A year ago I wrote how I would send him a birthday message every year, and the lengths that I had gone to to make contact with him. Creating new email addresses to bypass filters, using contact forms for his office, and even straight out emotional blackmail by including beautiful pictures of us from my wedding day. Anything to trigger a response. Some recognition. Proof of life, if you will. I had decided that last year I wouldn't send him another one because it was too heartbreaking to be met with silence yet again.

Then, this year, his birthday fell just a few short weeks after my Aunty Steffi (his sister) had run in to him (chased him down is more appropriate) and was working hard to reconnect, so I wondered if maybe the lines of communication were starting to open? Perhaps I could try again even though I was opening myself up to pain and disappointment. I decided to send him a birthday message.

I sent it after I knew he would have turned his phone off for the night, crossing my fingers he kept the same habit as he did five years prior. I wanted to send it and just forget, rather than sit by my phone all day, jumping every time it bleeped at me and getting disappointed if it wasn't him.

I woke up the next morning and my plan had worked because I had genuinely forgotten that I had sent it.

Then my phone bleeped.

It was him.

The first contact in over five years.

I was shaking and crying as I read his response over and over and over again. I must have read it fifty times. "Darling Glow, you can see me anytime you wish. So make it soon. I'm not getting any younger. Love, Uncle Buck x"

He called me darling! He said love! He put a kiss! 

A few weeks passed and we arranged to meet. I was sick with anticipation. I had googled him countless times and seen his most recent picture, but what would he look like in the flesh? Would he still sound the same? Would he still make me laugh the way only he could?

I was so afraid that I would be unable to speak and just spend the whole time crying. I played out scenarios in my head, acted them out in front of the mirror, and rehearsed in the bath. Nothing sounded right so I gave up and decided to wing it.

We pulled up in our respective cars at the same time, and greeted with a kiss on the cheek like nothing had happened, right there on the side of the road.

I had so many questions for him.

Where have you been? Why didn't you reply to my emails? My texts? Did you read any of them or just delete them straight away? Do you know I'm a mother now? I've had two children since you last saw me. Did you not like me? Did you not want to see me? Were you wanting to but didn't know how? Do you know it's been FIVE FUCKING YEARS?

But I didn't ask any of them.

Not a single one.

Because the answers, in all honesty, just don't matter. 

The only thing that is important is that we are together now, as a family, moving forward.

We chatted, Uncle Buck, Aunty Steffi, Aunty Penny (lotta aunties there - Penny's my sister), and I, for a couple of hours. Sometimes Bobbin joined in, too. She was a fabulous buffer, as all babies are.

I didn't cry while he was there, much to everyone's amazement including my own, probably because I'd rehearsed this scene for the last four and a half years. But I did cry after he'd gone. A mixture of relief, happiness to see him and a lingering sadness from missing out on five years.

Where it goes to next, I don't know. But I hope one day it can be like it was. For now, I just keep going back to this photo we took the other day and smiling.

So good to have you back, Uncle Buck x

Slightly fuzzy photo because we were moving. It's OK, I look photoshopped :)

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