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.
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