Like many families these days, my family is complex. Some of you already know that my parents are divorced, and each parent has found a new partner. My father has had two more children since remarrying, so now I have siblings and half siblings.
My feelings towards my half-siblings have always been different to my feelings for my brother and sister. I have never lived in a household with my half-brothers (I'll call them Soccerboy and Bookworm). I never woke to their cheeky smiles or soothed their nightmare tears, as I did with my brother and sister. I only see them when there is a family get-together, every couple of months. Occasionally, I take them to a movie, or to the museum, but my life is so busy with my own family that this is only happens twice a year or so. One of the oddest aspects of my relationships with my half-brothers is that they are much, much younger than I am - Bookworm is less than a year older than MY eldest child. So in many ways, I feel more like an auntie than a sister to Bookworm and Soccerboy. I often feel guilty that I seem to love them in a fond, but absent-minded way. There is love, but it is muted, it is not always in the forefront of my mind; it is not a powerful love that reaches down into the depths of my stomach.
Last night, around nine o'clock, my father dropped around unexpectedly. He looked tired and his face was creased with worry, though he tried to act matter-of-fact.
"I've just come from the hospital," Dad commented calmly. "Soccerboy has a bad pain in his hip, and a high fever. They're not sure what's wrong with him".
Immediately I felt a rush of worry, and wanted to go to the hospital. Soccerboy was lying there alone, because my father and my stepmother had decided not to stay over. I suppose Soccerboy was being brave, and told his parents he would be fine, but I wanted to drive to the hospital straight away, just in case. I wanted to see if he was frightened, or in any pain. I wanted to be with Soccerboy. I thought about him as I tried to get to sleep; I woke with a headache.
In a few minutes, I will go to visit my sick little half-brother. I want him to know I am worried, I want to see if I can help in any way, and more than anything I want him to know I love him. Maybe he thinks my love for him is half-hearted, lukewarm; maybe he feels unimportant to me. If that's the case, I need to do a whole lot better. Going to visit him will be the start.
UPDATE: Soccerboy's MRI scan shows he has pyomyositis (an infection within a muscle) in his pelvic muscles. This is a fairly rare condition, but generally responds well to treatment. Soccerboy is being treated with intravenous antibiotics, but yesterday afternoon was still feverish and vomiting at intervals.
I am going up to visit Soccerboy after I drop my daughter at school this morning, because my father has an eye appointment, and my stepmother has a dental appointment this morning. Yes, you heard right, they are going to these appointments, and therefore will not be in to visit Soccerboy until the afternoon. They left him at 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday. Don't get me started on this.