He found the life he wanted

A Family Affair; Oscar Long is 24 and once worked as a keeper at London Zoo. Five years ago he went on the trip of a lifetime to Canada and met the girl he is marrying this year. His mother, Vivian, 49, who runs her own catering business, is putting on a brave face
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Oscar

When I first went out to Canada I was only 18 and I know mum was quite worried about whether or not I could cope. Arriving in the country, I couldn't believe how much space there was. I had gone out there with a friend to try out for an ice hockey team. We travelled all over the northern part of Canada which was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. I have always preferred the outdoor life, so Canada was perfect for me. I'm really into winter sports so I was in my element. And then I met Heidi.

I was actually quite ill with shingles at the time and her parents [Hilde and Steve] took me in and looked after me. They treated me just like I was part of their family. When I recovered I asked if I could stay on and pay rent. It was during this time that I fell in love with Heidi. That coincided with finding work on a dairy farm, and I seemed all set to make a fresh start.

I took Heidi back to meet my parents and they got on really well. Mum seemed to really like her. She treated her just like a daughter. For a while we were going back and forth between Canada and England.

Finally, on one visit, I asked Heidi to marry me and she said yes. We went back to my house and told my Mum and Dad. They seemed genuinely pleased, and I went back to Canada feeling I was a lucky man.

We have already planned what we are going to do out there. I have made enquiries about jobs and Heidi is all set to do a catering course. Of course, I will miss my family and friends. But I know if I don't take this opportunity I will spend the rest of my life wondering if it would have worked out. I am under no illusions. It will be difficult to begin with, but I am used to hard work, and Heidi and I are very close and provide strength for one another. Eventually I plan to own a smallholding or a farm and build up a business. I like the idea of the good life and I am still young and enthusiastic enough to get the experience I need. I feel very secure in Canada.

Heidi's parents have been amazingly supportive. I suppose I am like the son they never had. I know mum will be sad, but she has a very strong philosophy that people should follow their hearts. She knows that this life is going to make me happy, and she also recognises it is a real opportunity for me to be successful.

Vivian

When I waved off on the plane to Canada the very first time - call it a mother's instinct if you like - I intuitively knew he would not come back for a very long time. Driving back from the airport I just howled. It was a real primeval cry. I just knew in my heart that had found the life he wanted. And I was right. He didn't come back for two years. And when he did come back it was with Heidi in tow.

The first time we visited he was already living with Heidi and her parents, Hilde and Steve. I felt a little bit jealous that he had settled in so easily with a new family. It felt unreal. Watching him chopping logs as if he was their son, both Pete and I felt a terrible pang of sadness. He looked as if he had lived with these people all his life. And the life he was leading was so different to the one he had in London. We are such an urban family. We're Londoners through and through, and it seemed odd seeing how at home was in his new lifestyle.

I hadn't really figured out that this was how we would feel. Of course, Heidi's parents made us extremely welcome and they obviously adored , but it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that we had lost him in a totally strange country. When we returned to England I felt very empty and very sad.

When he brought Heidi over to England, again, I knew instinctively that they would marry. I did have a bit of a panic, and thought: "Oh my God I'm going to lose him forever. He'll marry this girl and he'll go and live in Canada and I'll never see him again." For a while it felt like a death. I felt I was grieving for the fact that was going to leave forever.

I have come to terms with it now. If you don't let your kids go they don't come back, spiritually. It's like when a love affair's over - if you really love someone you don't cling on.

I know when we leave after the wedding in August it will hurt, but I also know he is making the right decision and I want him to be happy.

Of course there have been tears. There was one time when we were leaving Canada where we all cried. God knows what Heidi thought. Both Pete and I wanted the reassurance that would always love us - that he wouldn't forget us. We knew he wouldn't really forget us, but when there is that distance between you, it's important to hear it.

Sometimes I do feel sad that if and when they have children I won't be able to see them very often. It does hurt a bit to know that Hilde and Steve will be involved and we won't be there. But I've got to let that go too. I don't feel jealousy because I know Hilde and Steve love him.

I won't hope for him to come back. I know he'll make a go of it. There's nothing over here for young people, and knows he has got something to offer Canada. He's got loads of energy, he's strong and healthy and he can make a life out there.

He is such a well-balanced boy, I couldn't ask for more, and maybe that's the irony - he knows we love him and that has made him secure and confident enough to go for a better life.

Interviews by Liz Bestic

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