Two Hundred Eighteen: Halves

“The only siblings I have are half-siblings. My nuclear family would have been an extra-suffocating threesome. Instead, I have an interesting brother and sister, in-laws, and darling nephews.”  – Jane Smiley

Thursday, August 7th

I have a brother I’ve never met. It’s his birthday today.

He is older than me by five years, the son of my biological father and his mother. The story goes that my father was not ready to commit to my Mom after having a bad marriage, and so he went on to marry another woman and have four more sons with her. But this is the story of my eldest half-brother Jeremy.

From what I’ve been told, he showed up on my biological father’s doorstep one day. He was in his late teens or early twenties and wanted to build a relationship with this side of his family. Yet he vanished as quickly as he appeared and it was confusing for the younger siblings. When I made the call to establish contact with my father again it was shot down by the boys’ mother. She allegedly had fears (being raised a Roman Catholic) that her children would talk of these half-siblings born of other relationships with her parents.

Things never seemed to go smoothly between Jeremy and our father. Jeremy’s girlfriend gave birth to a daughter and when the relationship with her mother failed, our father kept tabs on both his granddaughter and her mother. He brought his granddaughter out to see him and my younger half-brothers grew up with her as a sort of cousin. Jeremy started a new relationship and they had a son together. At some point, he and I connected via email and learned we had a shared love for photography and the outdoors. He told me he was bipolar and warned that it might be hereditary. It sounded like his life was a whole lot more complicated than mine. I wondered what he was looking for when he had showed up on our father’s doorstep.

My relationship has waned with Jeremy more than it has waxed. We will touch base and then we will lose touch again. He seems like a nice man, but I just don’t have the proximity to him to really start to get to know him. Our mutual half-sibling has made an effort to know us both, so I feel like I know more about Jeremy through him.

I wonder if I’m dropping the ball here. I have always felt a vague sense of being on my own in family matters. I have step-family and a mother who lives far enough way that it is difficult to make frequent visits. Cousins who live far away, most of whom I’ve met once or never met at all. I didn’t grow up with my biological father or have any contact with my half-siblings until I was 18. My grandparents passed when I was young. The family I do connect with is the half-brother Jeremy and I both keep in contact with, my younger half-brother that I am closest in age to, and Jeremy’s daughter. I might have an opportunity to know Jeremy better if I made the effort. This might bring some healing and connection to my life, and who couldn’t use more of that?

Do you have any weak connections in your family tree that could use strengthening?


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