Holmsey, Distant relatives

By Chris Cornford Mar 1, 2021

As the newspapers delight in telling us, all’s not well in the Royal Family. I think it’s a huge comfort to the rest of us, whose own families are similarly conflicted. I can’t think of a single person I know who doesn’t have some kind of internal family difficulty and, sadly, these things can last a lifetime.

Twenty-five years ago, one of my brothers abruptly stopped talking to me because of a silly business dispute. Until then, we had been particularly close, so at first I brushed it off, believing he’d soon cool down. Regrettably, he didn’t. He dug his heels in and a few years passed in silence before sadly he died before we were reconciled. I take at least some comfort knowing that just before his death, he told several people it would all be OK; we would be reconciled.

We all plough our own furrow in life; our parent’s hopes and aspirations are just that, dreams. Some of the cleverest kids I knew in my teens made poor life choices, proving family fallouts are not just about academic ability. Your kids may not have your incredible work ethic. They may not want what you wanted in life; we all know people who don’t bother or do the bare minimum. And as kids become adults, all parents become less influential in their day to day lives. You certainly can’t dictate how siblings feel about each other and, just like Harry and Meghan, partners are introduced.

Sometimes these new people seem like good choices, sometimes not so. My grown-up children have partners, and I have to say I’ve experienced various degrees of enthusiasm for the choices they made, even on occasion I think I preferred the boyfriend/girlfriend to my own child. When we really got on, I stayed in touch with a few exes long after the relationship ended, because no-one asked me not to.

In my professional life as a funeral director most weeks we encounter adults who’ve fallen out badly. The real cause can be lost in the mists of time but tend to revolve around the treatment of parents and/or money. At funerals we often see middle-aged adults so disconnected they refuse even to stand near each other outside a crematorium chapel. They enter and sit as far apart as possible during the actual service. After its conclusion both leave in silence, ignoring everyone present. The worst of it is their partners and children are helplessly dragged into these feuds. Innocent adult cousins, whose parents have fallen out, completely ignore each other too. It’s deeply depressing to witness; discourtesy is a polite way of saying rude, and frankly there is no-one I’ve ever fallen out with so badly that would make me discourteous, particularly at a funeral or wedding. Bad manners are bad manners, even when the person you loathe is a close relative.
None of us is perfect and, yes, there are always two sides to a story. Over a lifetime we’re almost certain to offend those we love occasionally. Marriages may end in an amicable divorce, but you can’t divorce your parents or siblings, so you’d best learn to be tolerant.

A friend had serious issues with a close family member and tried counselling. She was told to cut out negative people from her life, but that’s easier said than done. Too many family events are ruined by bad blood, so I wish the Windsors luck with all future gatherings. Hopefully they will set a good example to the rest of us.