“Sometimes I just wish I could roll back the years and start over.”
“Hard to imagine it. Life would have been very different.”
Our what if’s are wistful, laced with regrets. Not that we had any power over what happened – we were only children when decisions that would affect us forever after were made.
My brother has been visiting from New Brunswick, and we are piecing together the stories of our lives. We share a mother, but did not grow up together.
“I don’t really remember moving east,” Laurie tells me. “Can’t even tell you what car we drove in. I was really torn up though; my whole life was left behind.”
“I can’t imagine.” I share with him what I know: that Mom and my dad had gone to court to win custody of the children, and won. Than my dad had started proceedings to adopt the four of them so we’d all have the same last name.
“What your father did was tantamount to kidnapping,” I conclude. “The outcome would be very different nowadays.”
Laurie raises his eyebrows at this revelation and nods. “Yes…it would.”
“I didn’t know you were my brother for years.”
“Who did you think I was?”
“A cousin. That’s what they told me.” It was taboo in those days to talk about divorce. “Thing is, I knew all Mom’s relatives and I couldn’t figure out where you fit in.”
“Great way to screw you up.” We both laugh.
“When did you first know?”
“I was eleven. You were staying with an aunt and uncle in Toronto and we came to visit you. Reggie was there too. He was sixteen.”
At sixty and seventy, this is first time we’ve really sat down and discussed our past. Laurie was the oldest of Mom’s six kids, twin to Joanne who died in her 40’s. There is so much ground to cover, so many holes in each of our stories.
I love this brother, who is gentle as a teddy bear, and quick to laugh. We see each other infrequently, seldom call or text, and yet the bond is undeniable. We share strange preferences, and are delighted that some of our habits coincide.
I was still in the womb when he was torn away, along with our other brother. His twin was facing a terminal illness and without health care at the time, my parents couldn’t afford to go after the stolen siblings. As soon as he was able to travel on his own, he returned home to find us.
What if? is the question that lingers between us as we hug goodbye, now that we have cleared away the cobwebs of deceit and lies.
Is it too late for us now, or is this just the opening we’ve needed?
(V.J.’s weekly challenge is questions.)
Photo: playing Snakes & Ladders with her Great Uncle.