June 25th, 2008

sp by streetlamp

Family ties // topical

First off, thanks to all. I appreciate your thoughts for the spirit in which they are offered. But I should perhaps elaborate somewhat more on the situation so you don't feel perhaps . . . cheated. It's not that I don't ever want your sympathies, quite the opposite actually. When one is in the middle of terrible events that tear at the heart, it can be quite comforting to know you're not alone and others are there to feel with you. I'm no different. It's just that, for me, the way I was raised and believe, having my grandparents die isn't a sad thing.

Let's start with the 'closeness' of my extended family. Or rather, the utter lack thereof. When I was younger, I am told, my family was closer. Doesn't matter much, really, since for most of the growing up I can remember family get-togethers were those things we did twice a year, generally Thanksgiving and Christmas, because we had to do them. They were a chore for myself and whichever parent I was with for the affair, and while it was nice enough to see the relatives it never seemed to be worth the effort. Speaking of relatives, I can only remember really getting along with one cousin, one aunt and one uncle. I am told I was my paternal grandfather's favorite grandchild, and he and I used to spend hours together. I have no memories of him, though, he died when I was quite young (or, young enough to not remember him at least). The one uncle I remember really liking died a while back. He's a bit of an extreme in the lacking close family bonds, being that he up and walked away from the mess long ago. I was probably ten or so when he left the family and went out to live on his own. I'm told he would sometimes call his mom and let her know how things are going, but he wouldn't have anything to do with anyone else in the family. I was informed of his death when my dad called and said "you probably don't remember, but you used to have an uncle named . . .". That was a few years back, I think. Something like that. Even though I say he's an extreme, it's not that far removed from the rest of the family. The one cousin I really get along with is the daughter of an aunt of mine that has also pretty much removed herself from the family. At least she will tell some of her siblings when she moves, or gets a new phone number, but generally we don't hear from her and she doesn't hear from us and everyone involved seems to like it that way. The last time she gathered with the family was to celebrate one of the big birthdays for my paternal grandmother (can't remember the birthday, just that it was a big deal). It served to remind the family of why it had been a decade since they last got together. We used to joke that they would have to take my grandmother's corpse on a tour so each child would get a chance to see her. Turns out they decided to just have one service, and there were a few notably absent faces.

But that's my father's side. My mother's side, who's maternal head died yesterday, is more close-knit. Somewhat. In their own odd sort of way. Well, all of them except my mom I suppose. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's go back a little further. I was never really accepted into that family. I wasn't sporty like one group of cousins and I wasn't 'cool' like another group, so at every family gathering I got to just kinda sit off in a corner minding my own business. Which was perfectly fine with me, I generally had plenty to keep occupied with. But all this meant that I don't feel any particular connection with any of them. Every time I see them at any get-togethers (such as the recent wedding of one of my cousins I went to) I'll shake hands and smile, make small chit-chat catching up on their accomplishments and congratulating them appropriately, and then we have a nice awkward silence when that runs out before one of us excuses ourself to go somewhere else. The aunt that I really like is in that family, and she and I would have some nice conversations when I was growing up. We still do get along rather well when at meetings but she generally has more catching up to do with her siblings. As expected, of course. My grandmother? Well, she was nice enough to me but had no problem stating that she didn't understand me. Me and my crazy notions, like not celebrating Christmas. I was the only one at the time willing to be openly non-christian around her, and I think that put some distance between she and I. I loved her, as much as I loved anyone in my family, but I wasn't really close with her. This point was exacerbated when my mother was separated from her family. I'm not going to say if she withdrew from them, or they cut her away, but the end result is the same. For almost ten years now my mom has had little to no contact with her family. No invitations to gatherings, no phone calls from siblings, nothing. This of course trickles down to me not having any contact with them. So whatever distance there was between me and my extended family was allowed to grow unabated by the annual meetings. Heck, at this point I can't even remember the names of two of my cousins. She is trying to re-form ties with her siblings, which I think is great, but that is her family and I'm not all that interested.

And then there's the fact that this wasn't a sudden death. She had a stroke a number of years back from which she never fully recovered. I saw her once since then and for some reason I felt I wouldn't see her again. I expressed my love for her (like I said, I did love her, I just didn't know her and we were not close) and said what I had to say. Sure enough, between her mental condition getting worse so she could no longer leave the home and my mother and her family not talking much at all, I never did see her again. But that's okay, I expected it. Plus, I'm told she had gotten really bad near the end. She had developed cancer which they couldn't work on since she was too weak, and it had spread to pretty much everywhere. I'm told that she hadn't eaten in a week, either. So yeah, not a "quick" death by any standards. Will I miss her? Sure, but I've missed her for many years now.

So here I am, down to one grandparent left. And I say that not in a sad way, not in a happy way, but just as a matter-of-fact kind of thing. I do appreciate your show of support, and you are all good friends I enjoy having in my life (no matter how remotely), but this isn't something I need support for. Thank you all the same, though.

(this is another problem with txt messages, you can't really sum all that up in 140something characters, but I wanted to jot when I had heard the news.)
(I really need a more updated self-portrait icon -- I haven't worn hats in at least a year or two)