Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 21

Easter Saturday dawned and it was another bright and sunny day At 10:20 Gwyn picked up Huw and they left in the car together to collect his grandparents. They were five minutes early arriving but Huw was amused to see them standing with their coats on outside their front door waiting. He noticed that Taid was holding a large canvas bag.

"Good morning, Nain and Taid. You really didn't need to wait outside for us," teased Huw. "Let me introduce my foster-father Gwyn. These are my Taid and Nain, Gwynfor and Anne Jones."

"Pleased to meet you," said Gwyn shaking their hands, "as you are Huw's grandparents and Gareth's honorary grandparents, can I assume that you are now my honorary parents too?"

They laughed and Gwynfor answered, "Well Gwyn bach, Anne and I are very short of family and so we'd be delighted to take on some new children as well as a new grandchild!"

"What's in the bag, Taid?" asked Huw.

"Nain and I thought that you might all like to see some photographs of our family so we've picked out a couple of albums that have a lot of you all. Most of them are when you came on holiday up here but we do have some pictures of you down in Aberfan," he answered.

"I'll enjoy seeing those -- I think," he said hesitantly.

"If they are too difficult, Huw, that's no problem we can always see them another time," said Anne kindly.

They jumped in the car for the 45-minute drive to Bangor and on arrival they made the party complete, Gwyn introduced Gwynfor and Anne to everyone. The twins were delighted to find that they too were quickly adopted and had gained new grandparents.

Lunch was a drawn-out leisurely affair and Megan and Janet had excelled themselves, having cooked a whole leg of Welsh lamb. They served it with roast potatoes, new potatoes, carrots, peas and roast parsnips. Hywel provided a very pleasant red wine which went beautifully with the lamb. Huw and Gareth had a glass of wine which Huw loved but Gareth didn't like very much. He continued the meal drinking orange squash with Betsan and Haddie. Pudding was a home-made apple tart with custard. Megan and Janet knew what men were like with apple tart and custard and so they had made two huge pies that morning. They were not surprised when both were finished completely!

After lunch was over and the washing up completed, the girls went out to play in the garden. The adults gathered round the dining room table to look at the photographs that Gwynfor and Anne had brought with them. Huw felt very emotional as he saw childhood pictures of his father and wedding pictures of his parents. The emotion changed to embarrassment when they showed some baby pictures of him completely naked. Teenage boys find that very hard to handle!

Suddenly, he was amazed at the picture in front of him as Nain turned the page. It was a picture of his parents, each of whom was holding a child in their arms; two boys of about 18 months old that looked identical: two children who looked just like him.

"I don't understand that picture," said Huw. "Which one is me and who is the other child?"

Gwynfor and Anne looked at each other worriedly. "Don't you know, Huw?" Gwynfor asked gently. Huw shook his head in puzzlement.

Another glance passed between his grandparents and his Nain began to look quite distressed.

"Huw cariad, that is your twin brother. He was called Gwynfor after me," answered Gwynfor.

The room fell silent as people absorbed the implications of Gwynfor's statement. "What happened to him, Taid," asked Huw slowly.

Nain walked around and put her arm around him, "We had no idea that you didn't know about your brother. He contracted a chest infection at 20 months old. It just got worse and worse until he developed pneumonia and his system was not strong enough to cope. He died in hospital."

Huw felt the room begin to spin and voices seemed distant. The colour drained from his face, his legs started to buckle and he collapsed to the floor. Gwyn and Hywel picked him up and carried him across to a large comfortable settee. Megan appeared a few moments later with a glass of water which she gave to him. He took a few sips and the colour began to return to his face.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make a fool of myself," he whispered.

"Huw bach, none of us could have coped with devastating news like that without reacting emotionally. I wonder why your parents never told you," responded Gwyn.

Gwynfor cleared his throat, "I can answer that. Your mother couldn't handle your brother's death. She was depressed for more than a year afterwards. Whenever we tried to talk about Gwynfor she immediately changed the subject and then told us straight out that we were never to mention him again."

"But Dad and I talked about everything, why didn't he say anything?"

Anne answered, "She said the same to him as to us; he wasn't allowed to say anything about your brother."

Huw shook his head sadly, "I wish I had known. It fills in so many missing parts of the jigsaw of my life. I have always felt a sense of loss and a feeling that there was a great hole in my life. I used to feel it before dad died and after Dafydd and Mair were killed in the slide there was always something else that I felt was missing, not just those three. Even though I feel I've lost mam as well, that still was not the full picture. It also explains some of the irrational behaviour that mam has had in recent years. I wonder if that was why she cut me off from Nain and Taid -- in case they told me about Gwynfor."

The adults tried to bring comfort and encouragement to him but he began to feel overwhelmed again.

"I need to be on my own for a while to think. Do you mind if I go for a walk?" he asked Gwyn and Janet.

"Of course, Huw bach. Do you want Gareth to come with you?" asked Janet.

He nodded and the lads put on their jackets and walked out of the house along Holyhead Road towards Thomas Telford's iconic Menai Bridge. The lads walked over the bridge to Anglesey and Gareth directed them down a footpath on the left to the northern shore of the Menai Straits. They continued for a few minutes and turned on to a causeway leading to an island in the Straits. Their conversation, such as it was, consisted only of comments or directions on their surroundings. They walked past a graveyard and Gareth led them into a very old church which, to Huw's surprise, had no electricity. It was lit by oil lamps. The lads sat down in one of the pews in the beautiful church which was already decorated for the Easter service the following day. For 15 minutes neither said a word but eventually Huw turned towards his friend.

"Thanks Gareth, bach. I needed company but I wasn't ready to talk," he said warmly.

"That's just as well," responded Gareth, "because I would have had no idea what to say to you."

Both boys laughed. "I don't know what to think anymore," said Huw. "I keep thinking that life can't throw any more shit at me but I was wrong. Strangely enough, I'm happier that the sense of something missing that I have always felt has been explained but I realise now, I've always missed the brother I never was able to grow up with. Nine months in the womb is a long time in such a small space and I expect we shared a cot in the first few months of our life. With mam in depression for a year after he died, I suspect that any bond between mam and me was loosened because every time she looked at me, I reminded her of Gwynfor." Gareth nodded but did not say anything.

"Come on," said Huw, "Let's get back to the house. It's not really fair on Nain and Taid for me to abandon them with all these new people. I'd bet my sisters are running them ragged!"

They walked home quickly, chatting about all sorts of inconsequential things with Huw visibly brightening as the journey progressed. When he got home he was pleased to find that the adults were totally relaxed together and Nain and Taid were laughing as much as everyone else.

Angharad threw herself at Huw as soon as he arrived. "When are you and Gareth going to come and play with us, we've been waiting for you," she whined.

"Sorry Haddie," said Huw, "we'll come and play with you now." The four of them moved to the garden and they played together for the best part of an hour. Eventually, they were all called in for tea and sent upstairs to wash their hands. Gwyn took Huw aside before he could follow the others to the bathroom.

"Is everything all right?" he asked concernedly. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine now thanks Gwyn. I just needed space to work through the bombshell. Strangely enough, I was explaining to Gareth, there is a positive side to it all in that I understand a lot of things which confused me a great deal," he responded.

"OK, bach, we'll talk another time if you need to," said Gwyn.

He smiled his gratitude and turned to follow the others up to the bathroom.

After tea, Gwyn and Huw took Nain and Taid home after a great deal of hugging and kissing and promises to get together soon. Huw was amused by it all but secretly thankful that his grandparents were going to be part of his new and fully functioning family again, rather than just another sad memory in his life.

The rest of the holiday was uneventful but the boys enjoyed themselves hugely. They applied themselves to their revision but they took plenty of trips out to the countryside and the mountains by bus and by bike. Huw borrowed David's bike for these trips which took them into the Snowdonia National Park and across the Menai Bridge to Anglesey.

There was no more tension between the lads in their bedroom as Gareth seemed to have accepted that they were just best friends and there was no indication from Huw that they would be anything more than that. Huw was not always wise in this respect as he was a tactile person and quick to hug Gareth and even give him the occasional peck on the cheek, as that had been part of his family's life as long as he could remember it. Gareth resolved not to read too much into these displays of affection although it caused him a great deal of confusion and some sadness.

One important subject he did raise with Huw was that of which school he would attend when he moved to Cwm-y-Glo. Although the school in which Gwyn would be teaching was only two miles away from Huw's new home, Gareth's school was only two miles beyond that. Gareth suggested that he might prefer not to attend the same school as his foster-father but could come to school with him. This would only be for two years before university, if he achieved the necessary grades at A-level to go on to university. The two of them discussed this proposal with Gwyn and Janet on one of their visits during the holidays and Gwyn assured Huw that he was happy with either option. He pointed out that Huw would need to make his own way to school if he chose the Caernarfon option, either on the bus or on his bike. He finally suggested that the decision should be Huw's once he decided which A-levels he wanted to take. Gwyn suggested that he should to take a trip up to North Wales after his GCE exams so that he could visit the two schools and make up his mind then. Huw was very happy with this solution. When he travelled back to Caernarfon, he explained his plan to David and Beth who immediately offered to accommodate him when he was doing the school visits.

The holiday finally ended. On the Friday before school resumed after Easter, Gwyn arrived with the family at 8:30 in the morning and they loaded the car with Huw's luggage. He tried to hold it together as he said goodbye to David, Beth and Gareth but being the emotional Welshman that he was, he couldn't stop his eyes filling with tears as he hugged them all goodbye. They agreed that he would come after his GCEs, sometime in June, to stay for a long weekend so that he could visit the schools and spend some time with them all.

The journey home was, not unexpectedly, quite gruelling with many people travelling home after the holidays and with the normal volume of traffic that hits the road on Fridays. It was past four o'clock when they finally pulled into Gwyn's drive and disgorged the passengers. Two very fractious little girls had found the journey boring and uncomfortable and had made sure everybody knew about it.


Surviving twins can find help at www.lonetwinnetwork.org.uk

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