Distant Relatives: Living in the Land Far, Far Away

After our niece was born, Ian’s sister would occasionally refer to us as being “from the land far, far away”. Because relative to the rest of the close family, we were quite a long way away in London. I’ve never particularly asked Ian how he feels not living closer, but I know that I felt a pang of regret after she was born that we would not see more of her. I also feel a slight sadness that I don’t live close enough to my sister in law to go out for lunch regularly, or pop in and see them.

But these things are relative. We *do* see them fairly often. It’s only a couple of hours in the car or on the train. And they’re in the same time zone, so telephone calls and internet chats are no problem at all.

By comparison, my own brother really does live in the land far, far away. Over 5000 miles and eight time zones away in fact. It takes the best part of a whole day to get there, and for two thirds of the day one or other of us is asleep. We often go a whole year without seeing one another in person.

Lately, it has hit me just how far away it really is and how our child will grow up without a close bond with their uncle. I know it’s not an absolute given. My own uncle lived overseas when I was born. However he subsequently returned to England and by the time I was old enough to have an independent relationship with him, he lived close and we saw each other reasonably regularly.

But my brother is happily married and I cannot see him returning, and certainly not imminently. If my brother has children, we’ll be in the same position. And our children will have cousins that are of a different nationality and live very different lives. That in itself makes me feel a little sad, as I grew up without any first cousins myself and had hoped that my own children would have cousins with whom they could be friends.

I feel sad at the best of times that there is this enormous geographical divide in our relationship, that stops us being close in other ways. Being pregnant and having a baby probably always brings these things to the fore, reminds you of exactly what you are missing. There is no solution to this problem though. We have to work with what we have and rely on technology to maintain the strands of our relationships. But for my son or daughter, they’ll actually have to establish a relationship that way too. That just seems so much harder to do. Will they know or understand who this person is? How will they ever feel close, or like members of the same family when they will so rarely be on the same continent?

There are no answers. Just sadness.

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