They Ain’t Heavy

A week ago today, two of my three half-brothers arrived at Schiphol from Ireland. It should have been all three of them, but Ronan, the oldest, fell ill a few days before he was due to fly and was hospitalised. I thought Shane and Jason were playing a belated April Fool’s joke on me, but I quickly realised that Ronan really wasn’t waiting in the wings.

Over the initial disappointment, we piled into the car and headed for home.

It was the first trip for my brothers since they and I discovered the other party’s existence a year ago. In fact, the anniversary of that discovery fell during their stay.

Although I’d met them in Ireland last year, they were working by day and out with their girlfriends in the evening, so this trip to Amsterdam represented the first proper opportunity for us all to get to know one another.

I still can’t believe how fortuitously everything has turned out. I mean, it’s one thing to find long-lost relatives, but it’s quite another to actually like them. We grew up in different decades, with different families, in different cultures. We could so easily have turned out to not especially care for each other’s company. To my relief — and I think to theirs, as well — it hasn’t turned out that way at all. We actually like each other.

Apart from a lot of chin-wagging about this, that and the other, the boys (as their father calls them: I have taken to the same habit) found some time for a few tourist pursuits, including the all but obligatory visit to the red light district.

And then, in the twinkling of an eye, it was Monday and they had left again.

Eloïse and Lucas love their uncles and the feeling appears to be mutual. In that regard, it’s nice that I’m having my children rather later in life than a lot of people, because it means that their uncles and grandfather can still play an active role in their life, even though they, in their capacity of brothers and father, have been absent from most of my own. My children therefore don’t have to miss out on that side of their family.

Anyway, the stage is now set for enjoyable visits on either side of the Irish Sea, without any sense of family obligation being required to make such a visit actually happen.

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