My chiropodist, Catherine, came to the house some weeks ago. She began telling me of the relationship she had with a client who came to the UK during the last war to fight for the freedom of his country, Poland. He crossed Europe in the most hostile conditions and told Catherine all about the privations and dangers he faced. Sadly, he died earlier this year so all those stories have died with him except in the memories of people such as Catherine. It’s too late to get them onto paper where they would be preserved for the future.
Our conversation inevitably led me to tell her about Are You Averill? and my birth father’s experiences. Consequently she bought and read my book. On Thursday at my appointment she told me she had been moved by what she had read and had shed a few tears. This in turn gave her the opportunity to share with me the life she has led, not as an adopted child but as one who was born late in her parents’ marriage.
Both her parents had been married before. Her mother had two children and her father accepted them and brought them up. However, the two children he had did not follow him and he was not allowed to mention them. If he did there would be trouble from his wife, Catherine’s mother. Catherine’s relationship with her mother was difficult as it appeared she found it very hard to show affection. Her older brother found this too and at the earliest opportunity left home. Much later he married and had four children of his own, the eldest being only three years younger than Catherine. One day they visited Catherine’s home and stayed for two weeks. She was overjoyed and felt she had a brother. But they left again and whilst promising to stay in touch it was Catherine who did all the work. They lost touch. Sadly the brother’s wife died and suddenly Catherine learns her brother has been trying to trace her through social media. They meet, renew their relationship but once again it was one-sided. Catherine feels she is constantly losing people from her life or feeling shut out. She has her brother’s email address and one day she feels so angry she writes to him and explains just how his careless behaviour has made her feel.
There, effectively, on paper are her thoughts and feeling of resentment which have been building up from childhood. Encouraged by her husband she presses ‘send’ and the message whizzes off. Within days a reply comes back. The brother is shocked and mortified by how he has made his sister feel. None of it was intentional. They meet again as a family, his new wife, the children, Catherine and her husband. And now they are reunited and keep regularly in touch. This has made her more content.
But Are You Averill? has sent her thoughts in a different direction. As she read, she began to be very drawn to my newly found brothers’ and sister’s points of view at the point when I stepped out of the past on finding my birth parents. She is now thinking: what of my father’s two children who I’ve never met? As her mother and father died some years ago there is no one to ask. She is contacting, for a second time, the records office in the area of Scotland where they all lived many years ago. They won’t know she even exists. Will she find them? What will they think of her? Is she doing the right thing?