(sin­gu­lar)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Sara Bolton Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

I was an only child un­til I was 61. There are two types of only chil­dren: those who revel in the at­ten­tion of their par­ents and ben­e­fit from gifts far costlier than those re­ceived by chil­dren of large fam­i­lies; then there are those who hate be­ing the only one.

I was one of the lat­ter sort, for­ever con­scious that I lacked some­thing but never quite sure what it was — only that oth­ers had it and I didn’t.

So­cially lim­ited un­til my mid-20s, I was blessed with meet­ing a per­son who had such gen­eros­ity and joy in life that it opened doors wher­ever he went.

Although we have long since fol­lowed dif­fer­ent paths, his ease with peo­ple taught me to move out­side the bub­ble I had in­hab­ited be­fore. Through the years that fol­lowed I raised my own sin­gle child, fe­ro­ciously off­set­ting his iso­la­tion with day­care, play dates and drama, be­liev­ing that with cre­ativ­ity you can live any life you would like to.

I didn’t look back on my own child­hood much in those years. It was not un­til my late 40s that I started to feel a cu­rios­ity about my back- ground and in­creas­ingly to look at the past. The in­ter­net al­lowed me to look for in­for­ma­tion I had never con­sid­ered be­fore, and I spent many hours trac­ing my fa­ther’s rel­a­tives back to the turn of the 18th cen­tury.

I stood out­side the pa­per mill his great­grand­fa­ther had man­aged un­til 1873, told my­self this was where I came from, but felt no con­nec­tion.

Fi­nally, in my 50s, I be­gan to look at what had hap­pened in my early life and saw ques­tions rather than facts. I started to see my child­hood nor­mal­ity through the eyes of oth­ers and re­alised it was not, in fact, a cred­i­ble pic­ture.

I moved from laugh­ing about the pos­si­bil­i­ties to re­al­is­ing they were the only ones that made sense. Even­tu­ally, af­ter sev­eral years of not dar­ing to go there, I sent an email to the only per­son whose ad­dress I could find on­line who might know. That per­son con­firmed he was my brother.

He was the other child of my bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther. He was an only child, iso­lated in his own hated bub­ble but, un­like me, he had known for 30 years he had a sib­ling.

We have met twice now, and I am grate­ful for his trust and his open­ness, his will­ing­ness to recog­nise me as fam­ily. At 61, I am no longer an only child but have a half-brother, half-niece and half-nephew.

At this stage of our lives, is it too late to be real sib­lings? I can only hope that, sin­gle as we have al­ways been, we can work to­wards some­thing we both al­ways wanted and now, so late in life, fi­nally have.

wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to Who won the Sir John Sul­man Prize for last year? Which opera fea­tures the char­ac­ter Gof­fredo and his daugh­ter Almirena? Who pre­ceded Tim Fis­cher as leader of the Na­tional Party of Aus­tralia? Which Aus­tralian has won the most Grand Slam ten­nis sin­gles tour­na­ments? The Me­so­zoic Era is fol­lowed by which era?

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