I was on my Facebook account yesterday, and randomly I click on the Followers link as I see the number has increased. I scroll down, noting that they’re either people I don’t know or people who have submitted friend requests I haven’t approved—all, that is, except one.
I give a start as I read the name of my stepsister, someone I haven’t been in contact with since about a month after my mum’s death.
We used to be very close. I was easily much closer to her than I was to my own sister, and she was a favourite of mum too. She was the daughter of the man mum married, and I met her first when she was 17, a beautiful girl still carrying some puppy fat.
In the early days she had a bit of a crush on me, which is almost clichéd – the son of the woman your dad is in love with, older, more worldly, a little bit dashing, and giving you the time of day. To be clear, I was very fond of her too, but our relationship shifted from borderline inappropriate to fond and affectionate, which is how it remained up until the day mum died.
It changed after that. It’s ancient history now, but when mum’s will was promulgated all bets were off. Any bond between us was set aside in favour for the family ties – she had an older step-brother she’d never been close to, but now found it convenient to ally herself with. Things turned nasty, and at some point, she unfriended me. The whole thing still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
About two years ago, there was an attempted contact by her via Facebook messenger. It was post-midnight, and after she’d had a few wines I’d figured, and I didn’t get it until the next day. I pondered it for a while. I was torn, angry still, but with a residue of affection remaining. In the end, I did respond, but not till a few weeks later, enquiring if she was okay. She never answered.
That’s where it remained until yesterday. I don’t know how long she has been following me, but probably not more than 6 months. I note that she is still friends with a cousin of mine on Facebook, which means she has probably had access to my newsfeed.
I felt very strange at seeing her name. I clicked on it and was taken to her profile. The first thing I noticed is that she’s reverted to her maiden name. Her marriage had always been fraught, and it would be no surprise to hear that they had split. There were photos of her children, now nearly grown up, and pictures of her too, just as I remember her – a handsome, engaging woman.
I was curious, but I also felt stalked. I was surprised it was so easy. And though I’d felt initial surprise on seeing her name, on reflection the surprise lessened. I’m sure she reflects on that time with regret and sorrow, and may even feel remorse at some of the more extreme things done. I’m sure she feels just as affectionate for me – I did nothing wrong except abide by mum’s wishes. And, as the bond was deep, it becomes unsurprising that her thoughts might return to me, years later, her life moved on, and her husband gone.
The question is, what do I do about it?
It’s funny, I was explaining the circumstances of what happened back then to someone about a month ago? She suggested that perhaps it was time to patch it up. I heard, but didn’t think it was time – or perhaps I felt embarrassed by the notion, my pride sticking, thinking that it was not for me to do the patching.
One thing I’ll say about myself is that I can’t bear a grudge. Passion runs hot sometimes, and I’d happily kneecap someone who does me wrong, but give it time, and it seems pointless. That ability to move on and keep moving on is one of the things that allowed me to survive my travails. Now, faced with this situation, I have to ask myself, do I still want to stick to a point five years old?
In my heart, I think not. I was greatly disappointed in her at the time and saw something in her ruthless and calculating I didn’t like. It was a very unsavoury episode. But we had more than twenty years of being as close as a brother and sister can be. We were simpatico throughout, chemically connected.
I think it was stronger on her side than mine – I think had it been allowed she’d have chosen to take up with me. Even when married, it felt as if we had an easier, more natural relationship than she did with her husband.
People get stuck on things as if they’re written in stone. It’s very common. I’ve never wanted to be so inflexible, and never understood it because it was foreign to me. I suspect ultimately I will send her a message. I think it’s probably the right thing. And given I’ve set myself the task of being more open and receptive, then this is a good test of that, and aligns with those principles. Better yes than no, almost always.