Family was not something I thought about for many years. I fell out with my parents in my teens and got a bit bored with my siblings. But I come from a very small family - small, but perfectly formed obviously. There's me and my siblings, our families and my Dad. There's also my Dad's brother, his wife and family, but they live in Australia. And that is about it. I have great aunt, and there are second cousins somewhere, but I don't really know them.
Everything changed when my Mum fell ill. There was no-one else, so we had to pull together. And devastating as it was, Mum's final illness achieved something that nothing else had: it brought the family back together again, and made me appreciate those who are closest to me. Living overseas, I did very little during this crisis. The Irish Ferries plus motorway trek a few times a year with the three kids was about all I could manage. It was very hard for my Dad as well. But a new hero emerged. Drums roll!!! My bro stepped up to the mark and, as the crisis deepened, somehow he found the strength to keep us all going, and to help any family member who needed it.
Since we lost my Mum, he's carried on being the Atlas of the family. He arrived on the boat in Dublin on Friday on a hunch that I could do with a break. And yep, he cooked, which was fab. Fixed a few things that would have taken me months or years to screw up the courage to tackle. And told me that he loves coming over cos he finds my house relaxing :-S.
But his most valuable contribution is just in being there for me this weekend: problems always seem to grow legs when you are trying to deal with them on your own. When Angel was little, the first thing I learned was that hooking up with other Mums was the best way to stay calm on the journey through babyhood. Now Angel is almost an adult, but it's not fair to burden her with too much adult sh*t. You need another adult to share it and put it into perspective.
So here's to you bro! And since this is effectively my Gratitude post for the week, to everyone who contacted me during the week and arrived on the doorstep with wine and hugs, a huge THANK YOU!