I’m the youngest of five boys from my dad. Max is the only other one from my mother. I was brought up to call and think of my half brothers as “brothers.” Jamie, Rupert and Jeremy-Norman. Joan, their mum, is still alive and living in France. My mum was only a few years older than them, which must’ve been really weird for them growing up.
It was around this time last year that I understood that Jamie, my eldest half brother, was not going to live another month. He had been suffering with Parkinson’s, and with his weakened system he got MRSA during an overnight stay in hospital. His wife sent me photos of the drips he was on. I sent them to my friend Tara, a nurse, who confirmed they were end of life palliatives. My best friend and I jumped in a car, and drove to the south of France to say goodbye to him. We missioned it through the day and into the night, and caught him in his hospital room near Poitiers the next morning. On his back, flat out on morphine. It was desperate. The passage of time is so cruel and inevitable. We stayed a couple of days, and then, as we boarded the ferry to return, the phone call came. Another person that I had childishly assumed would always be there, taken. Just a year previously he had been vital and happy. I had given him my grandfather’s stamp album in a garden on a beautiful summer’s day. We had told stories and laughed.
I saw another brother, Jeremy, this evening, the middle brother of the five of us. He’s a dreamer like me. He’s been in Hong Kong for the last few years, but has just taken a job in Cairo teaching art. Like my father before him he has multiple broods of children. He was there with his youngest, Campbell, who is off to art college himself in Aberdeen in September. Jeremy is looking forward to Cairo – “At least it has culture”, he says. To be honest, I’m looking forward to him being there too. I might take the opportunity to go!
But it’s been ages since I’ve seen Jeremy. About 2 years. He’s been out in Hong Kong, so it’s not been easy. But I bet I could’ve found a way to see more of him and his kids. Family is important. Jamie was sick for years in the south of France. Not that far – it took a day by car when he was dying. I could’ve come and helped out a lot more before he got sick. We can get so swept up in our own lives that we leave other people behind, and you only get one family. I remember when mum died I felt terrible about the fact that her period of sickness had been over my final year at drama school and then the filming for my first movie. I beat myself up over what I considered to be prioritising my career over her existence. It took me years to forgive myself. I still find myself habitually deprioritising my needs over those of others all the time to compensate from some imagined neglect I did her by caring about my own shit too much.
I want to see more of my family, more of my old friends, more of my new friends. There’s nothing to be gained from rolling through the same groove day in day out. Hopefully I’ll get the part I auditioned for today. It’ll be 12 grand for 2 day’s work (!) so I’ll be able to fly to Montreal and Cairo and Scotland and America and Australia and see all the lovely people I never get to see. Look after your family, and your old friends. But I guess it’s worth remembering that your oldest friend is yourself. And they need looking after too, with a mixture of nurture, forgiveness and tough love.
I’m not going to post a picture as the only pic I have of Jamie is him dressed as Madonna. Plus this feels a bit maudlin and if I don’t put a picture it doesn’t get so many hits. 🙂