My Sister Far Away

This week I’m launching my new book The Magic of Stories. There are fifty different stories all divided into sections depending on the genre. So there should be one you will like.

It wasn’t until I was putting the book together I realised all the poetry I’d included were simply stories in rhyme.

In 1988, one of my sisters enlisted on an experimental cultural exchange programme sponsored by the American Institute for Foreign Study. She left her hometown in Bury, Lancashire, on a the two-year programme to Massachusetts.

She eventually settled with a family of eight, and having been brought up with foster children, Joanne was well qualified. Our parents fostered for almost fifty years, so being around children was second nature to her. Joanne found she loved it so much that when the two years were over, she stayed on.

It was difficult for us, her family, because we didn’t see her again for six years. This was the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties, so there was no Facebook, and very little internet. The only way to be in contact was by letter or telephone calls. The latter was expensive because it was all land lines back then, too.

I was the mother of two little children and she had her hands full nannying so letters were infrequent but we did write over a course of time. It was scary because I felt I’d lost touch with her, usually a phone call helped but I missed her like mad.

The family she was with helped her get a green card which meant that although she could always leave the country, she couldn’t return until she had it. When the card was issued, it meant she was an American citizen. It took some time to adjust to the thought that she was not going to be part of our lives any more.

During those years, I began to suspect she may be gay and wrote to ask the question. It seemed a long wait for a response. I was worried in case I’d got it wrong. Eventually, she rang and was pleased it was out in the open. It was a shock and one better done face to face but that was out of the question. It was never an issue but the miles between us made it one because there was always questions I couldn’t get answers too. These all resolved themselves over time. Now we don’t even think about it.

These days, communication is instantaneous and younger people take it for granted. I suspect some don’t realise it was not always like that. These days, Joanne and I share photos, text messages, and video calls. The distance between us is no more, I can ‘speak’ to her any time I wish. I don’t feel the distance and for all families apart, it has to be a good thing.

Her visits to the UK are frequent, and we’ve been over there, too. I’m glad people don’t have that strain of being apart any more. Important issues are easily discussed, and many of them are not an issue anyway simply because of instantaneous communication.

In The Magic of Stories book, I’ve written a poem especially dedicated to Joanne to show how I missed her, and still do. I don’t know when I’ll see her again but know I can video call her at any time.

I found the original article that appeared in the local paper and have included it in the book along with the poem.

I’d love to hear your stories of being parted from love ones, especially in a time when communication was an issue.

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Joanne and I in 2018 and us in 1982

 

 

My Two Dads

I came across this on an old blog I used to keep, and thought it appropiate to post for Father’s Day.

Once upon a time I had two dads, one with hard brown eyes and the other with soft ones.

The dad with the hard eyes was a police officer who worked long shifts. He had a short temper and shouted at us for making too much noise.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, long hours, four children, and a wage that was barely enough to support a family.

I hated it when mum used those words, “Wait till your dad gets home!” The sound of the front door closing made me dread those hard, flat, angry eyes,

“Apologise to your mother,” or “Get up to your room now!” Was what he usually said.

It was worse when I got older and given a curfew,  as all my friends were allowed to come home when they liked. Dad always wanted to know where I was going and who I was going with. He disapproved of my ‘going into town’ because that was ‘his patch’ and he knew all the bad pubs and clubs. Without explanation he would ban me.

Now I know he was being protective and although it caused conflict,  I hated him laying down the law.

Now I just wish he was back here with me where we could talk about it, and I could tell him how I finally understood.

My other dad, the one with soft brown eyes, would make me laugh. “Give me your hand and I shall tell your fortune,” he would say. Then taking hand he’d peered at it, “I can see a farmhouse,” I looked closely and saw nothing but a criss-cross of lines. “And here,” he said, “is a pond.” Then he spat in my hand.

“Dad!” I would scream, and it was funny as I watched him do it to my siblings.

Holidays were fun too. We’d walk up hills and down the other side. We’d collect seashells on the beach and climb rocks. He built us, not just sand castles, but racing cars with seats and steering wheels.

He’d cover us in sand so that just our head was showing, or take us to a field where we would chase moles that only he could see.

Whereever he went, we followed. He’d do silly things like walk with a limp and we’d copy him, or he’d run and then walk and we’d all bang into each other.

He couldn’t tell a joke because he’d always forget the punch line, or the laughter in his eyes gave it all away.

The police officer finally hung up his helmet and the hard brown eyes became soft all the time.

Now we’ve grown up and left home, Dad and Mum had a their second family, four adopted children. They never saw the policeman with the hard eyes.

Dad eventually ran our of energy to run along beaches and began to walk with a real limp.  He still continued to tells fortunes, and his laughing eyes always gave away the jokes.

He died of pancreatic cancer in September 2010. Every father’s day, I remember these things and they make me smile.