What we do 

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Reunited, and it feels so good! Marie Styles with her brother Phillip.

He Ain't heavy, he's my brother! 

Remember that Terry Scott song My Brother? It went something like this: "who put salt in the sugar bowl, who put fireworks in the coal, who put a real live toad in the hole” you guessed it, my brother.

Now I want you to imagine if you had a family member and they went out of your life for whatever reason not for a week, a month or even a year, but 35 years. Well that is what happened to my sisters and me, writes Marie Styles. It wasn’t quite 35 years for my sister Joan, but it was nearly 30 years for her too.

My siblings consist of my step-sister Kathy, 21 years older and now sadly departed this life, my sister Joan, 10 years older and my brother Phillip, 7 years older. So, you have guessed, I’m the baby of the family. 

I idolised my brother. He was someone I looked up to. Memory is a funny thing as I thought we did everything together, but now I’m not so sure.

My mother died when I was 11 years old and my brother was told to look after me and take me places. I think this was because my father went into a black phase and couldn’t cope with my mother’s death. Us as children had total rejection from him so we consoled ourselves in each other.

My sister had an unenviable task of housekeeper with trying to keep a full time job down and being married and moving out. Phillip joined the Royal Navy when he was very young and I missed him, but when he was on leave we took up with ease and then he did something awful in my eyes... he got married!

So in the space of a couple of years three of my family members were no longer under the same roof, Kathy having already moved out several years previously. This all took place in Llandaff in Cardiff.

My father then uprooted me and we went to live in a beautiful seaside town, Llantwit Major on the South Wales coast. This was all before 1970. There I stayed, got married, started a family and life went on. My brother was in and out of our lives, my sister has always been there for me.

My father died in 1983 and his funeral was the last time I saw Phillip. I had moved to Chester-le-Street by this time and had three children when we travelled to London to the funeral. My father was a Chelsea pensioner so it was close by to the Home for old soldiers. I was so excited to see my sister, and especially my brother, as we had met up only a few times during those years, but I guess the feeling wasn’t the same for him for whatever reason. 

To this day I don’t know why or what happened. It’s like a fog. No big rows, no family arguments over a Will, nothing to say about it.

Over the years Joan and I tried to make contact using various numbers and addresses etc. Then a couple of months ago my nephew “found him.” He was actually living not too far from me in Shrewsbury.

This time seemed right for him and he went to see Joan and her family first in Weston-super-Mare. Then I rang him and he came a few days later here to see me.

I can’t begin to tell you all just how it felt. So much has happened, so much water under the bridge, as they say. There was no “surprise, surprise” as in Cilla's day just a hug, hello and "how are you?"

We look alike but what got me more than anything was how he looked like my dad, and that’s really strange as both he and I looked like my mum growing up. His voice the soft Welsh lilt.

He’s been again a second time and it seemed more cautious, both of us trying to enjoy the moment I guess, not wanting to bring up hurt from the past about how did we let 35 years go by. We both have so much in common, the main one being musical theatre.

It’s great to catch up on the years. I’m still really sad years were wasted. It’s hard trying to explain my family to him as now I have six children. It confuses me, let alone him!

So I’m now trying to process it all. I found it hard and confusing in my mind as I became little Marie again and not the person I am today. We stopped growing together and so had time, plus we don’t know why.

When he’s in the room I can’t stop looking at him and strangely, when I close my eyes and imagine him, we are young again in my mind’s eye. My sister says this is the same for her too. The brain is a funny thing and now I must try to bridge the gap somehow, but it’s a tall order.

The prayers we have been sending up asking if he was safe have now been answered. Sometimes God does take a little longer to answer us. I started with a song and will leave with one that used to really upset me when I heard it. The Hollies, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother:
The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where?


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