Falling Upwards

By Theresa Davis

A moving memoir about family, addiction, transitioning and living authentically.

My story begins not at the beginning but at an end.

It was late on a Sunday evening in April I was laying on the bed in a 4-star hotel we had booked as a special treat to celebrate Helens’ birthday. Chilling after our evening meal idly flicking through social media, I decided to search for some of my family. Now for various reasons that will become clear along the way I wasn’t connected with any of my family on Facebook, but I would occasionally look up the one or two that I had been able to identify. On opening my youngest nieces page, I came across a photo of my sister, I realised that this was a picture from a few years ago when my sister and her husband had renewed their vows. Puzzled as to why she had posted this older photo I opened the comments, as I read my heart sank further with every line. Each one was an expression of sympathy for her loss in one form or another. I couldn’t believe, the implication of what I was reading. There could only be one conclusion, something had happened to my sister and she had died. I had no idea as to the cause of her death; she was only 52 and there was no mention as to what had occurred.

As I scanned further down the list one name that I recognised as belonging to one of my nephews popped up. With some trepidation I made a reply, asking him to clarify what had happened to my sister. It was a relief of sorts when a few minutes later my nephew Clifford answered back in a personal message, telling me that my sister had collapsed on the Friday and had been rushed to hospital where unfortunately they were unable to save her. Shortly after another name I partly recognised also replied to my original message. I reached out, asking a question. I was correct with my guess that other comment had been from my eldest niece, Amanda, I hadn’t fully recognised the name as I didn’t remember her married name.

It had been a fairly typical family of husband and wife with two kids, who shortly after I was born at the end of 1970 had moved from Aylesbury to the small rural Northamptonshire village of Irchester, where my father had accepted the job of the village postman. I had never really been close to my sister due to us being raised in separate households after my parents split when I was about 7. My sister had remained living with my father while I had gone with mother. Having lost both my parents and grandparents in the 90s, Sarah was the only family that I had left. Now even she was gone, and I was the only one left.

At this point I broke down in tears.

I had always wanted to patch up the rift between myself and my sister, but it was now too late. I know she had been upset when I had changed my name, as she was closer to dad than I was and was upset that none of my children had the family name, and as I had changed my surname so the line of my father’s side was now ended. This and the fact that her husband was not the most, shall we say enlightened man in modern social issues, and upon hearing of my situation had in fact threatened to kill me if he ever saw me, so understandably I had kept my distance. I slept a very restless sleep that night, trying to process everything that I has just learned. There was the thought do I go back to the UK. Something inside said that I should, especially when I received another message in the morning it turned out to be another of my nieces Carrie-Anne. She was so happy to have found me again, after 20 years since she had last seen me. I was torn, not quite knowing what reactions I would get returning back to this small corner of Northamptonshire I had avoided for so long. Should I risk the possible family rejection and even the potential of physical harm? At the end of it all, Sarah was my sister and I was the closest family. I had to go.

As the assorted tourists were discussing which hiking route, they would take that day or which quaint rural villages they would visit over breakfast at the hotel. Helen and I were discussing the logistics of me going back to the UK. Of course, Helen didn’t have a problem with me going to sort things in the UK. It was something we had done before when family issues had arisen in the past, but this time it was different for me, I was voyaging back into history and the unknown.

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