A brother out of the blue
How does it feel to discover that you've got a secret sibling?
Friday 21 May 1999
Michaela Skelly, 27, has something in common with the former Prime Minister. Fifteen years ago she discovered that she had a half-brother. She is now in regular contact with 37-year-old Ray Pillidge, a social worker from Boston.
WHEN I was 12, he just turned up at the surgery in New Zealand where my mother worked as a physio. He said: "I have reason to believe your husband is my father." My mother, who was in fact divorced from my father, knew nothing about this man, but because he looked just like my father, she just thought, "oh my God!" He was adopted, and had been searching for us for a couple of years. He'd been passing through the small town where we lived, and looked up all the Skellys in the book.
My mother was pretty cool about it, which looking back seems surprising, and invited him back to our house that night. I was totally excited. I was hoping for someone who looked like me, because the rest of the family didn't. The others are blue-eyed blondes, and I was really pleased when I saw that he was dark with olive skin, just like me. I felt an immediate bond with him. I was really goggle-eyed and impressed with my older brother, and went to get him a cup of tea like a geeky 12-year-old. He was friendly, and said he realised that it was a bit of a shock, but he really wanted to get to know us. We talked about art, which we both loved, and our interest in social work.
I seemed to have more in common with him than I did with the brother I'd grown up with. It was an amazing thing, I felt we'd know each other for ever; we just had to fill in the details. We were definitely on the same wavelength. He left that night, and said: "When you're older, look me up."
He kept in contact with Christmas cards and then, many years later, when I was 26, I was travelling around the world and decided to call on him when I was in Boston. It was Christmas time, and I wanted to be with my family, and everyone else was on the other side of the world. I ended up staying with him for six weeks. He was married, with one kid and another on the way. It worked really well, even thought he didn't know me at all. He was so excited about my staying with him and introduced me to people as his sister, with a big grin on his face. It was really funny.
This hasn't changed my relationship with my mother, except that I appreciate her even more for staying in touch with Ray. I've never talked to my father about it. I always meant to, but now we're estranged (for unconnected reasons).
I've now discovered that I've got another, younger brother, who's living somewhere in New Zealand. When I feel the time is right, I'll get in contact.
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