Every family has its tensions – and sometimes these interpersonal hostilities go back to childhood.
Personally, I think they go back lifetimes.
In my family, it’s been my sister Anne and me. Anne is five years older, and we’ve always fought. Ever since I can remember. I won’t go into why we’ve fought, but we just have.
There’s always been a huge tension between us.
And then I did the Camino and she started reading my blog. And one day, out of the blue during my walk, I got an email from her. I never get emails from my sister, other than to tell me what an asshole I am.
In this email though, she told me that I’d changed, and that I was now a nice person. That’s the word she used, nice. And she signed off Love, Anne.
This had a profound affect on me during the Camino. And when I got back home I called her, and we had a wonderful talk. I can’t remember when my sister and I have ever spoken on the phone without there being some underlying strain.
There was none on this call. She reiterated that while reading the blog during my Camino, she’d realised what a nice person I’d become. There’s that word again – nice.
Last night, at our family get-together, I saw her for the first time since the walk. She rushed up and gave me a huge hug and a kiss, (which again never happens), and she said to me: You’ve come back. Meaning, I’d returned to my essential being.
We sat together and we talked and laughed. In previous years I’ve usually found a way to sit up the other end of the table, and not say much to her. Last night it was like a huge veil had lifted – a veil that had separated us since childhood. And I could see her clearly, and she could see me clearly too. That we were brother and sister, we were family, and that we loved one another.
She wanted to talk to me about my Camino, about the towel, and how important it was that I give it back to Balazs. And the Korean lass at the Santiago Cathedral Pilgrims’ Mass, how she rushed over and hugged me. And my sister told me how she laughed and had tears in her eyes when the lass asked: You take taxi?
I was surprised to discover how keenly she’d followed each step of my pilgrimage – and last night we sat together and we laughed and chatted and I simply can’t remember the last time we’ve done that.
I told her my new niceness would now upset the whole dynamic of the family. And we laughed about that too.
When I think about it, this would have to be the most important thing the Camino has given me – it’s brought my sister and me back together again. After more than fifty years.
The Camino reminded us both that the only thing that matters is love.