Sunday, November 29, 2009
into ether: water
Ian was told that his mother died.
My mother recalls finding a photo in her husband's bible, which was 'snatched away'. There is a young child perhaps one or two years old, in his mother's arms. She says it 'was not an open topic' and that she was 'sworn to secrecy.'
My brother Michael had been very ill as a child. He has a vague memory of being shown a photo or a newspaper clipping of a young man and woman, possibly Ian's wedding. 'This is your brother.'
It was not uncommon for British planters to have children with Nepali and Tibetan women who worked on the tea gardens. Many of these children were taken away from their mothers and sent to one of the orphanages set up for abandoned or destitute children. Out of sight, out of mind.
Ian was not abandoned. Almost unquestionably out of love for his son, his father sent him to the UK to be cared for by his grandparents. And although the issue remained 'a closed door' for so many years, the gratitude of my brothers for this decision was deeply felt during the short time that we knew him.
Ian and his family had made attempts to locate John and Michael. When efforts through official channels failed, he travelled to Sydney with his wife. There, they worked their way through the surname listings in the White Pages but my brothers both lived outside of the city and metropolitan area.
Timing is everything and we were incredibly lucky in so many ways. Within a few months of finding Ian, my older brother John and his wife were on their way to meet him and his family. Although many questions will never be answered and old bones can still be heard rattling around, the discovery of a brother on the opposite side of the world is an extraordinary gift. For Ian, his longing to make contact with his brothers finally happened. Who would have thought that some words posted on the internet would have such an impact on our lives.
We are in the dining room setting the table for dinner. I apologise for my continual staring, catch myself in astonishment. At times, I cannot take my eyes off him. His arms, his hands, a slight rounding of his shoulders as he leans in and listens to one of his grandchildren. His mannerisms and gestures mirror those of my older brother. Over the few days we stay here, I see them again and again.
He is telling me about saying goodbye to his father and the sea on which he is about to sail. There are tears running down my cheek and into the corner of my mouth, salt like a distant ocean.