Monday, 28 April 2008


I got an email the other day from my long lost sister. Except she didn't think she was lost!

I personally had not heard from her for a good few years - her email address no longer worked and I had moved house several times. My mum, who was the only person in the family that she conversed with had lost contact with her too. Mail was returned and she didn't have a phone number that worked. I did not try to trace her because she lived on a Spanish island and if she wasn't still there we didn't have a clue where to look.

My mum spent the first year worrying a little and the second year thinking that no news was good news. Then she resigned herself to the imagined fact that Caroline was happy with her mother-in-law as family and didn't need anyone else.

Then I found an email from her. It was in an old email address inbox that I don't use anymore but am reluctant to cancel for reasons such as this. It had been there for half a month. She wasn't writing to me really. She wanted to know mum's new email address. Well, mum had stopped using the Internet a few years ago.

I started to email her back but stopped because I felt a bit emotional and a little hurt and emails can be misinterpreted so easily.

She had a web address of her business at the bottom of her email. I checked it out. I felt quite proud that my little sister seemed to own a thriving business. I noticed a phone number on the site so phoned it. She answered. It seemed really odd to say 'This is Patricia - your sister'. Odd that she would not know who Patricia was or recognise my voice. We had not spoken to each other since my dad's funeral about 12 years ago. I had tried to email her a few times but she never replied.

We had a nice conversation, and that was when I realised that she didn't know she'd been lost or even missed. She just didn't feel the need for relationships other than her immediate family (even her mother-in-law). She told me that she thought of my mum each night and sent her love at that time.

Caroline has always held a special place in my heart since the day she was born when I was 7 years old. I didn't particularly like the rest of my family but felt that here was someone who I could love. I remember choosing her name. I don't know if I came up with the name or that I just agreed it was the name for her, but it was a family decision because she was a surprise late addition to the family. I remember thinking it was a lemon yellow name.

It saddened me that because I left home when she was 11 and did not have a good relationship with my parents at that time, I hardly had any contact with her.

I wonder if the separation all these years, which I have found painful, was the returning karma of not being there for her when she needed someone during her troubled teenage years? I was at college, and setting up home with my husband during that time. It did occur to me to consider if she could come up and live with us but I don't think it occurred to ask her to stay for a visit.

I remember her as a bridesmaid of mine. We didn't have the traditional dresses - no money for that - and we couldn't find a dress that would fit her top and bottom half so we settled for a smart t-shirt top and skirt, while her sister, the maid of honour, wore a summer cotton frock. Caroline felt awkward and unhappy the whole time.

She certainly seems a happier adult. It will be interesting to see how much contact we have now.