If there's a song that always makes me sad, it's She's Out Of My Life, which Michael Jackson recorded for his 1979 Off The Wall album. The way he sings it gets to me every time. In 1979 I was actually in mid-relationship, but it touched me nevertheless. There has always been someone in my life who has just slipped through my fingers - or seems about to.
Shortly before New Year's Eve, A---, my ex-stepdaughter in New Zealand, whom I thought had given up on me completely, got in touch with a personal email.
She had never stopped sending me 'general release' emails with chatty news and family pictures, but these were shared with lots of other people in her address book. They lacked any words entirely specific to myself. This latest email was however for me alone. It was brief, but the urgent language she used suggested that she was worried about me.
I'd actually been quite close to writing her off. Keeping up our connection had become very difficult; a bit too draining on my battered emotions, and for no reward.
I'd become that way since 2012, when her longed-for visit to me proved such a failure. We had not been close. We'd not had that vital one-to-one conversation about why I was Lucy, and what it meant for both of us. She still hadn't got to grips with what had happened to me, and was clearly still unsure what to make of me. There was no building bridges, nor any discussion of where we would go now. Afterwards I followed her down to Cornwall to create an opportunity for (say) a two-hour walk on some beach, to thrash things out. But she still kept her distance, and no meetup took place.
The huge geographical distance between us was clearly a big factor. I wasn't in her day-to-day life. There was no practical purpose in her facing the issue. I had remained unfamiliar and strange, and disturbing.
I had looked at the situation, and had decided that it might be best if I maintained a silence, and just let her drift away. Then we could get on with our separate lives 12,000 miles apart, with no connections left.
But now this email from her. I immediately threw away all thoughts of staying silent, and responded at once. I had no idea what she'd make of what I said - which was basically that I was fine, was very glad to hear from her, and had been feeling resigned to losing her.
Then, while I was eating smoked salmon at V---'s on New Year's Eve, she emailed me again. She explained what had been going on in her life, the pressures as well as the pleasures. We'll skip those. The important thing was that she still loved me, was on my side and would always be, and wanted us to stay in touch.
I was overwhelmed as I read this, and couldn't stop the tears of joy running silently down my cheeks. These tears were noticed, but sympathised with: they revealed that I had a heart that could be reached. It was the best possible thing that I could have wished for, knowing that we were not finished, but still had a future to explore in the time to come.
Of course I sent her another email next day. And I will henceforth keep her up to date with big news. I will keep in touch by any means open to me. She needs contact, so that she can get used to me, and move towards full acceptance all the faster. She's now stopped calling me by a version of my old name, J---. It was 'Dear L', which is a significant advance! A--- is not blog-minded, but she likes photos and will make a special point of viewing my Flickr site as often as she can. So I'd better keep that well-stocked with shots of new adventures in the year ahead!
So she's back in my life, albeit at great global distance.
Less than half a mile away lives another person who has lapsed into silence. And I worry about her. But a protective barrier has been erected. I don't think M--- will risk the pain that might be involved in opening up a dialogue. I can't blame her.