I don’t really feel like going into the David Copperfield sort of stuff, but some background is necessary for the story I’m about to tell.
My mum died just over 3 years ago. A few weeks after her death a storm broke over her will. Dispute and acrimony ensued for the next 6 months. On the one side was my sister and I, wanting to uphold my mum’s final wishes. On the other side were the children of her second husband, my step siblings, demanding a greater share of it.
It was a very ugly phase of our lives. It was bitter and bad things came out of it and all in all it was unedifying episode.
One of the people opposing us was my step-sister, K. Now she and I had always been particularly close – closer to each other than we were to our true siblings. She was bright and attractive, and with an engaging personality (which I came to see as manipulative). We’d always had a strong connection to each other, and I think she felt particularly affectionate towards me.
In the circumstances of this breach this bond was broken, unsurprisingly. I felt particularly betrayed by her. I heard of things she said of mum that offended me. She sidelined me from some of the proceedings so that she – the step-daughter – took precedence over we, mum’s natural children (though the true blame for that is for the weak executor). I was disappointed that she had never tried to talk to me about, but instead had severed contact and gone adversarial. It was a shameless time I documented fully as it happened.
I’m telling you all of this because yesterday morning I woke to find a message from her on my phone.
The message at come near 1am, at a time I imagined she had possibly had a few drinks, which had loosened the inhibitions that normally kept her in check. There was photo attached, though it showed only the very top of someone’s head, and what looked like the interior roof of a car. The message was simple: “Hope things are good for you H (my name all in uppercase) x”.
I was surprised. I didn’t think I’d ever hear from her again. My first unfiltered instinct was to feel some sympathy for her. Three years later and she sends me a message – what does that tell me?
While I was surprised to have received a message, I found myself unsurprised that she still has thoughts of me. She was a warm character, a bright personality that people naturally were drawn to. She and I shared many things in common, interests, and lifestyle, and so on, but at its heart was a bond that had been created early on when my mum had met her dad when she was still a teenager. I think she had a crush on me then, which changed in form over the years but was never entirely dispelled.
In truth while mum loved no-one more than me, K would have been runner-up. We shared mum’s common affection, and found in that something more between us. It might seem a bold statement, but I often felt as if there was something deeper between us than what she had with her husband – a thoroughly decent and conventional guy.
Then all of this happened, and that was that. I wish I had a dollar though for every time since someone has commented on how close we were.
So, there’s the message on my phone. Ignore it, I thought. It’s probably drunken anyway, and she may not want a response in the light of day. Besides, I reminded myself, she did the wrong thing. How can I forgive her for what happened?
I haven’t responded to her, but as you can see I’ve thought a bit about her, and recalled memories that I had locked away. There’s a part of me that thinks it should be left that way. It’s slightly embarrassing to think I might be so forgiving – really, it was a diabolical time. She may not have wished it to be that way, and she probably regrets some of the things she said and did – but that does not undo them.
At the same time I remember how fond of her I was. And I imagine that her reaching out to me was surreptitious, and an expression of long suppressed angst over what happened, and what she had lost.
I found myself thinking of Fred, her father, a man I dearly loved. I have no connection with him any longer, and I suddenly realised that. I thought of mum. What would she want? She’d have been devastated over what happened, and devastated that K and I would have split because of it.
To forgive, or not to, seems an intellectual decision. It’s not my feelings that dictate it, but rather my flawed sense of what is right and wrong. There’s so much about K I came to mistrust and doubt. Can that just be set aside so easily?
Perhaps it’s not as complicated as that, and I’m making more of it than I should. I’m not sure what I’ll do. What say you?