James and I talked for over an hour, and neither of us seemed to want the conversation to end. We agreed that we would ring, write and email, and then arrange to meet in the near future when we’d got to know each other a little better. I told James that I’d been brought up as an only child and so I’d never had a brother before; his answer? ‘Well, you’ve got one now’! I had never craved siblings at any time in my life, but now that I had one I was thrilled, and what a wonderfully warm welcome he had given me.
A few days later, not only did I receive the photographs and a letter from James (what a handsome brother I had!), but also a letter from Rebecca, my younger half-sister. James had already told me that she was a single mum to two girls and studying for a degree. Therefore, she relied fairly heavily on her parents for childminding and was very close to them, particularly to her father. However, her letter was very pleasant; she was happy to find out that she had another sister and would like to be in touch with me. I rang her and we had a really nice chat, although I have to be honest and admit that the conversation didn’t flow in quite the same way as it had with James. Again, we agreed to keep in touch for a while and then make arrangements to meet, although my instinct was telling me that I might have to work hard to keep this relationship going (so this was the ‘grey’ response!).
I was totally unprepared for the letter that arrived the following week from Sally, my elder half-sister. I had obviously been so pleased by James’ and Rebecca’s letters, that to receive any different from Sally would be out of the question. Sally’s was not only typed but was written in an extremely formal manner, as one might write to a business associate. It was four pages of pure anger, hatred and vitriol. I have never received anything like that directed to me before and truly hope I never encounter such a letter again. She had given me strict instructions on what order in which to read the letter – two pages were written on receipt of my initial letter of contact, and two pages written after she had discussed me with her parents. Oh, I mentioned the anger but I didn’t mention the lies…these were more hurtful than the tone of the letter. Here was one very angry lady – but why? Often when an adoptee puts in an appearance, the child who thought they were the eldest is pushed out of pole position, but this wasn’t the case with Sally – she was still the eldest in spite of me. I have no doubt that she wished to remain loyal to her mother, first and foremost, but perhaps learning of my existence had brought questions to her own mind. Or maybe she had wanted to trace her own roots and make enquiries regarding her own birth father but had been afraid to talk to her mother about it. I tried for a long time to make allowances for her behaviour but I still couldn’t see myself as the blatant troublemaker she was making me out to be. Sally was under the impression that I had been blackmailing her parents; I was appalled at this accusation as I had certainly never had anything to do with her father. I’d only used his name once, and that was on a gift card which I’d sent to Wyn and her husband when they moved house. I even checked the meaning of the word ‘blackmail’ in the dictionary in case I had been under a misapprehension, but no, it was as I thought – it meant either extorting payment, or using threats or moral pressure. Wow, what an accusation! This letter was becoming somewhat surreal; I know that we hadn’t been brought up as sisters, and hadn’t even known of each other’s existence until so very recently, but I still could not comprehend how someone could behave in this fashion towards a blood relative. Sally’s letter finished with a flourish – she would instigate legal proceedings against me if I ever dared to contact her, her parents or her sister ever again. Part of me wished that she had bothered to get to know me, so that she would realise what a wrong judgement she had made of me, but the other part of me thought ‘Well I’m just relieved not to actually know this person’.