31 July 2017

Visit by my sister and father

This post will be a bit more personal than most. I try to blog about myself and leave other people in peace! But of course, no person is an island, and neither am I. In order to describe the visit by my sister and father I have to explain things that go back a long while. And for those who know about my family may be surprised to see which sister this post refers to.

When I was young we were a fairly standard old-fashioned family. My father was the breadwinner, my mother looked after the children. Unfortunately, my parents weren't a very good match, and my mother isn't the sort of person to find satisfaction in domesticity only. Things weren't going so well and when I was twelve, my parents divorced. We, the children, were all old enough to be heard by the court that dealt with the divorce, and we elected to stay with my dad. That made quite a change! My mother had been the sole ruler of the household; when she left, there was a power vacuum. My father did not fill it up.

You can imagine that a family with three teenage (or almost teenage; I would turn thirteen only two months after the divorce) girls brought up in a strained marriage and faced with a lack of parental authority can get a bit troubled. It did!

To make a long story short; the whole family is still blighted by discordia. A lot of people are not on speaking terms with each other. Some hard feelings remained. And we did not all develop a particularly close bond with my dad. (Nor with my mum, but that's not the scope of this post.)

Fast-forward a few decades and come out last year. My Finnish sister, Marieke, and dad had a meeting and some old feelings soared back to the surface. And my dad realised he had fooled himself for many years; he had convinced himself that the time we had as a family post-divorce was all tickety-boo, while it wasn't. And that he could still try to make amends. So he went on a mission! I already hinted at this mission when I wrote about my visit to the Netherlands in April, but things would get more thorough. A plan was forged for a three-way meeting in Wales. I hadn't seen them together since my sister's wedding in 2007! This was going to be special. And a lot more efficient than my dad travelling first to the one and then to the other. It wouldn't be a three-sister-thing as that is a bit too emotionally complicated, and my dad lives quite close to Petra, my other sister, and they are on good terms, so they can do all the talking they want in the Netherlands.

Well, that was quite an introduction! I hope this explains things without damaging the privacy of my relatives! And now I can get down to describing the actual week.

My sister arrived on Sunday afternoon. I picked her up from the railway station, and she was surprised I drove her home. She was keen on going into the mountains pretty much straight away! I just figured dropping off luggage and having a cup of tea would be a good idea. But when that was done we were off. I had picked yr Eifl for this occasion. Beautiful, new to both of us, and not too long a walk. Off we were! My father wouldn't arrive until the evening.

It was a nice walk! It was a bit foggy at the first peak but mostly the weather was nice. And Tre'r Ceiri hill fort is very impressive! I was a bit worried when I got a phone call from my dad which I picked up too late, and which wasn't followed by a voicemail or a text message. But what can one do.

 Tre'r Ceiri hill fort seen from the slopes of yr Eifl 

We went home and soon I had to go pick Wim, my dad, up from the station. Marieke volunteered to make dinner. I hoped Wim would be in the train he had planned to be in! But he wasn't. Then he appeared in the next. His plane had been delayed! He had tried to tell me that, but after the attempted phone call his phone had run out of battery. Oh well. It worked out. We had dinner and went to bed. I can just about fit three people (among which no couples) in my modest house overnight!

The next day the weather would be lovely, so we wanted to go for a walk. I had picked a walk involving some of the Anglesey coastal path, at Penrhyn Mawr. We parked at the wrong parking lot but otherwise all went well. It was beautiful! But no deep conversations were had. The moment didn't seem right.

When we got home me and my sister found out we had got burned in the sun. Me because I had forgot to put sun screen on one patch of skin; my sister because she had underestimated the strength of the sun. Oh dear.

That evening we had dinner in the garden. After almost 24 hours in Wales, Wim figured it was time to get down to business. He started the first deep talk. It got emotional, especially for my sister; my dad isn't very emotional, and I take after him more than Marieke does. We explained to him where he had missed signs of things being wrong, and what he could have done differently. It was hard, but it was exactly what he had come for. It was good. But then it was bedtime again.

The next day it would be nice weather again, so we went for another walk. This one was a bit more challenging than intended! We did a circular walk from Llanystumdwy. It was a cloudless day and there was little shelter. Our skins struggled a bit.

Group pic

When we got home we had a drink in the garden (with me in the shadow!). We continued the difficult conversations. Another heavy session! Wim was told some confrontational things but he handled it well. We made progress! But then we decided to engage in more cheerful activities. Marieke facetimed to Finland to catch up with important people and introduce us to them. We also freshened up for dinner; we would go dine out tonight, on Wim's last night! 

We walked to the Vic as they have a lovely beer garden, but we moved inside as Wim thought it might be chilly. He seemed a bit absent-minded. Maybe the discussions had taken their toll. We moved inside, but he couldn't really express himself. We got worried; he had had a TIA before and this started to look like another one. Oh dear! We decided to abort dinner and get him to hospital. And so we did. 

I dropped Marieke and Wim off at A&E and parked the car. I rejoined them, but left again to buy some food. We were all hungry! But by the time I got back they were already out. Wim was feeling better and knew hospitals can't do much with a TIA anyway. We would just go home! There we had a nice dinner with left-overs from the earlier nights, and some of the victuals I had bought. All's well that ends well! 

The next morning we brought Wim back to the railway station. In spite of the TIA, he was satisfied with his visit. Good! So were we. 

When he was gone we went on another walk. We went around Llyn Idwal; it was bucketing down so I didn't want to go up to Devil's Kitchen. It was nice in spite of the weather. We went home for lunch! And when the weather cleared we did another walk near Capel Curig. And that night I was glad to sleep in a bedroom again!

Marieke takes a selfie with a cow in a rainy Cwm Idwal

The next day we did two walks again! Near Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Again a fair amount of rain came down but it didn't spoil the fun. Sometimes it was sunny! And we saw quite varied landscapes.

A neolithic tomb we saw on one of the walks

We even managed a walk before Marieke took the train the next day! Another rather wet one, near Nant Peris. But then it was time to say goodbye.

I wasn't quite sure in advance how the week would go! Would we spent two days solidly talking? Would things get tense? Would things get claustrophobic with three people in my smallish house? But it was pretty much perfect! We did have the conversations, we did work on a better relationship and more mutual understanding, and we did more walks than you can shake a stick at. That also meant we were not home enough to get into each other's hair. And the walks were not just any walks: some were almost unprecedented three-people walks, and some were sister walks, which is also special. All good! And my dad got home fine. It was a success!

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