Like the Christmas before, we didn’t send Christmas cards; we called my family in Canada. Ginny and I talked to my mom. We spoke to my uncles and aunts. I hadn’t seen any of them in seven years, and Ginny hadn’t met them yet, but she hoped to one day.

Those calls were completed, but I couldn’t relax. I still had one more call to make, and I was afraid. I paced the house. I wasted time at my computer. I needed to call but I couldn’t.

Five years before, I had received an email from my brother. At the time, I had been out of work for several months. My life was very stressful. My brother’s email was nothing terrible, but it made me angry.

I wrote back. As I typed, my anger grew. Months of frustration flowed into my nasty response. I said things that were not nice, but I hit “send” anyway. More thoughts occurred to me. I wrote a second nasty email.

I basically told my brother to go to hell. I didn’t care if I ever heard from him again.

The next day I received another email from him. I didn’t read it; I just deleted it, and then I blocked his email address.

For five years, he tried to get through to me, but I ignored him. I had lived with this terrible guilt. I thought about contacting him, but was ashamed of myself for what I’d said.

It was time to fix it. I picked up the phone and stepped outside. I wanted privacy. Ginny didn’t know I was calling my brother. I took a deep breath, blew out a cloud of my breath into the cold December air and dialed his number. Even after five years, I still knew it by heart. A phone rang 3,700 miles away in Nova Scotia.

There was no answer. I left a message. “Bob, it’s Mike.” I paused to take another breath. My hand holding the phone shook. “Bob, I guess I’ll start by saying I’m sorry. I said some things I regret. I want to wish you and Delores a Merry Christmas and hope all is well with you. I realize you may not want to talk to me, but I thought I would try. I want to make it right again. If you want to talk ...” I left my number.

I walked back into the house and looked at Ginny. “I did it.”

She looked puzzled. “You did what?”

“I called Bob.”

“Oh, honey!” She walked up to me and put her arms around my neck. “I’m glad. You needed to do it. It’s family, Mike, and it’s been too long.” She kissed me. “You did right, hun.”

Christmas came and went. I waited for the call that never came. I prayed for his forgiveness. The phone didn’t ring. Then a week after I called, I received an email. My brother left me a message on my Facebook page. He said he listened to my voice message over and over and knew I was sincere. In the weeks to follow, we emailed back and forth. The healing began.

Why had I let five years of my brother’s life slip through my fingers? Why was I too proud to call and say I was sorry?

If I had the answers, it would never have happened in the first place, but I knew I didn’t want it to happen again. I had wrecked my relationship with my brother. Like a jigsaw puzzle that has been dropped, the pieces had scattered everywhere. It was time to gather them up and try to put them back together.

Since then, we have grown close again. Even though I haven’t been able to afford the trip home, we are still family.

I swallowed my pride. I did it. Five years was too long.

After all, he’s my brother.